- RSS Channel Showcase 1045959
- RSS Channel Showcase 8643141
- RSS Channel Showcase 4626917
- RSS Channel Showcase 4086779
Articles on this Page
- 08/31/17--16:58: _Calgary MP Darshan ...
- 08/31/17--15:12: _Yonge St. businesse...
- 08/31/17--14:43: _Firefighters hopefu...
- 08/31/17--13:34: _Meet Iggy, a child’...
- 08/31/17--16:27: _Are PCs looking to ...
- 08/31/17--10:15: _Georgia cop fired a...
- 09/01/17--04:01: _Woman, 18, shot in ...
- 08/31/17--19:23: _U.S. and Canada wan...
- 09/01/17--03:00: _Family describes fi...
- 09/01/17--12:55: _GOP ability to dism...
- 09/01/17--12:58: _Utah officer handcu...
- 09/01/17--14:51: _I used to hate the ...
- 09/02/17--04:54: _EB express lanes cl...
- 09/01/17--12:57: _Migrant flight to C...
- 09/01/17--15:58: _There are plan-maki...
- 09/01/17--14:33: _Doug Ford set to ru...
- 09/01/17--13:55: _UN calls out Ottawa...
- 09/02/17--03:30: _Piers Handling to s...
- 09/02/17--05:32: _Post-Harvey problem...
- 09/02/17--03:00: _Michelle Kungl's in...
- 08/31/17--15:12: Yonge St. businesses to get reduced property tax bills
- 08/31/17--13:34: Meet Iggy, a child’s best friend in Toronto court
- 08/31/17--16:27: Are PCs looking to talk Doug Ford out of running to be an MPP?
- 09/01/17--04:01: Woman, 18, shot in face at popular restaurant near Pearson
- 08/31/17--19:23: U.S. and Canada want NAFTA deal by end of year, Trump says
- 09/01/17--03:00: Family describes final days of 15-year-old shot by Peel police
- 09/02/17--04:54: EB express lanes closed on Hwy. 401 in Mississauga after collision
- 09/01/17--12:57: Migrant flight to Canada has big impact on Miami’s Little Haiti
- 09/01/17--14:33: Doug Ford set to run against John Tory in mayoral rematch
- 09/01/17--13:55: UN calls out Ottawa over lengthy immigration detention stays
- 09/02/17--03:30: Piers Handling to step down as head of TIFF
- 09/02/17--05:32: Post-Harvey problems plague Texas as funerals for dead begin
- 09/02/17--03:00: Michelle Kungl's incredible journey
OTTAWA—Embattled Liberal MP Darshan Kang resigned from caucus Thursday night, releasing a statement that said he will focus on clearing his name in the face of accusations of sexual harassment.
The Calgary MP has previously affirmed his innocence as a Parliamentary investigation continues into his alleged conduct toward a young female staffer who worked in his constituency office.
The Hill Times, which revealed the harassment investigation on Aug. 11, reported Thursday that a second woman who worked for Kang when he was an Alberta MLA has come forward with allegations against him.
The Star was unable to reach the woman for comment Thursday.
In an emailed response to questions Thursday, Charles-Eric Lépine, chief-of-staff to the Liberal government whip, confirmed they have received allegations from a second woman. He said they forwarded them to the Chief Human Resources Officer, Pierre Parent, who is carrying out the investigation into Kang’s conduct.
Lépine noted that the allegations occurred when Kang was an Alberta MLA and said his office “suggested that, if she feels comfortable doing so, she should share her story with the local police.”
The Hill Times reported that the woman claimed Kang repeatedly groped and kissed her against her will when she worked for him in 2011 and 2012.
The Star could not independently verify the woman’s allegations.
Earlier this week, the father of another woman who worked in Kang’s office alleged in an interview with the Star that the MP offered her $100,000 to keep allegations of sexual harassment from her parents. These included unwelcome hugs and hand holding, as well as an incident in June in which Kang tried to give the 24-year-old wine, take off her jacket, and then force his way into her hotel room to talk, the father alleged.
The father said the Liberal party’s deputy whip in the House of Commons, Hamilton MP Filomena Tassi, travelled to Calgary in June to interview his daughter about her allegations — suggesting the government has known about the accusations against Kang for two months.
Tassi has not responded to interview requests from the Star this week.
None of the allegations against Kang has been proven.
In his statement Thursday, Kang said he appreciates that the Parliamentary process under which he’s being investigated allows him to give his “perspective” on the allegations.
“However, I do not wish my present circumstances to further distract from any of the good work being carried out by my colleagues in the government,” Kang said. “I wish to focus my efforts at this time on clearing my name.”
The resignation comes one day after Kang proclaimed his innocence and said he would defend himself at all costs. Kang also said that he was placed on medical leave for stress related to the allegations.
He did not respond to a request for comment from the Star on Thursday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was criticized this week by the NDP for failing to suspend Kang from the Liberal caucus while he’s being investigated for sexual harassment. Earlier instances of alleged harassment and assault resulted in caucus expulsions, such as in 2015 when two Liberal MPs were accused of harassing female members from the NDP.
Trudeau told reporters this week that a new process that was put in place in 2014 is being followed, and declined to comment further.
“The whip’s office is very much engaged, as it must be in this process, and we will allow this process to unfold as it should,” he said.
The human resources office investigates claims of harassment, abuse of authority, misconduct and sexual harassment among MPs and Parliamentary employees, including workers in constituency offices.
During the 2016-17 fiscal year, the office received 19 cases and deemed two serious enough for investigation, according to its most recent annual report. Both cases were found to be “not substantiated.”
The provincial agency that assesses property values has agreed to lower the value of some Yonge St. properties hit with exorbitant tax increases, but says it’s up to Queen’s Park to change how such calculations are made.
“The affected small businesses have already been made aware of the reduction and MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corp.) will issue official reduced property assessment notices in September,” an MPAC spokeswoman wrote in an email.
Mayor John Tory this week wrote to Finance Minister Charles Sousa asking the province to fix the methodology to allow for a “more realistic” appraisal of the downtown commercial properties.
Recent property tax reassessments by MPAC left business owners with “sticker shock,” that led many to close or consider closing their doors, Tory wrote in his letter.
MPAC calculates properties’ current value assessment (CVA) based on a comparison of nearby land sales, which have spiked due to land speculation for condo development.
“MPAC is using the direct sales comparison of Yorkville’s 1 Bloor West development project at the corner of Yonge St. to forecast the highest and best use for every other commercial building on Yonge St.,” Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam wrote in an opinion piece in last weekend’s Star.
“This approach contributes to a speculative real estate market where projected future values appear to be reported by MPAC as current values.”
Officials at Queen’s Park directed all inquiries to MPAC.
“MPAC’s role is to administer the property assessment system in Ontario, while the methodology itself is defined by the government of Ontario under the Assessment Act,” an emailed statement said.
The vast majority of the Yonge St. businesses are tenants, not building owners, so many are trapped in leases in which their contracts force them to pay any additional annual taxes, according the Yonge Street Small Business Association’s web site.
Some of the storefronts, facing increases of up to 500 per cent, have hung signs in the windows declaring a “tax revolt” and blaming the mayor, though he had no control over the increases.
On Thursday, Wong-Tam said while she welcomes MPAC’s “willingness to reassess the properties on Yonge St.,” it is a “short-term solution.”
“The necessary change in policy goes beyond MPAC,” she stated.
The mayor “sees MPAC’s statement today as a good first step,” said Don Peat, director of communications.
“As his letter stated, he looks forward to working with Minister Sousa to find a way to fix the provincial assessment system.”
Indigenous firefighting experts are hopeful that the federal government’s recent cabinet shuffle will help improve fire safety and prevention on reserves.
“I don’t fear change. I fear increased levels of bureaucracy. Hopefully that’s not the direction we’re going in,” said Six Nations fire Chief Matthew Miller, who is also president of the Ontario Native Fire Fighters Society.
“Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic,” Miller said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a shakeup at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), splitting the department in two and handing responsibility for the delivery of services for Indigenous people to former federal health minister Jane Philpott.
Minister Carolyn Bennett, who had previously been responsible for the sprawling INAC department, will now lead the government’s effort to replace the Indian Act and improve Crown-Indigenous relations.
In March, Bennett committed the government to creating new legislation that applies a basic fire and building code on reserves, and putting in place a national Indigenous fire marshal’s office to oversee the resumption of fire-related data collection on reserves, something the government had abandoned altogether in 2010.
Those promises came on the heels of a Star investigation that found at least 175 people have died in house fires in Indigenous communities since the federal government stopped tracking the death toll. At least 25 of the dead are children.
Now Philpott’s department will be responsible for following through on Bennett’s promises, something she and her staff take seriously, according to a statement from her office.
“Minister Philpott is committed to continuing the work that Minister Bennett has advanced over the past two years, including work on the fire safety file,” the statement said.
“Over the coming days and weeks she looks forward to receiving detailed briefings in her new roles as Indigenous Services minister,” Philpott’s office said.
Miller said he sees the splitting of Indigenous Affairs into two departments as a positive step towards solving not just the house fires crisis, but many of the larger issues plaguing Canada’s Indigenous communities.
“There’s been a lot of reconciliation rhetoric thrown around” by this government, Miller said. “This is potentially the first time I’ve seen a significant move in that direction.”
Blaine Wiggins, director of the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada, agrees with him.
Having Philpott handle service delivery while Bennett tackles the self-government negotiations and the eventual dismantling of the Indian Act is a smart move, he said.
“We feel that the recent announcement will not hinder our projected plans and outcomes but may in fact expedite them,” Wiggins said.
Minister Bennett’s office said in a statement that work on the file has been progressing well over the summer. The working group is currently trying to hash out costing and timelines for the new legislation and the fire marshal’s office. That work will continue through the fall and winter, Bennett’s office said.
Miller said the months since Bennett’s promises have seen significant progress, but there have been some hiccups along the way.
The federal government has struck a working group on the issue that includes the Aboriginal Firefighters Association, the Ontario Native Fire Fighters Society and the Assembly of First Nations.
Earlier this summer, Indigenous Affairs’ team leader on that working group left for another position, Miller said, which meant time was lost bringing the replacement up to speed.
That’s left Miller also worried about the time it may take to get a whole new department caught up.
With fall around the corner, many Indigenous communities will soon have to start relying on the dangerous wood stoves, stoves that are known to cause many fatal house fires.
In an attempt to head that off, Miller and the Ontario Native Firefighter’s Society has spent the summer trying to get as many smoke alarms installed in as many First Nations homes as possible.
“We have an ambitious plan to have smoke detectors in every First Nation home in Ontario,” he said.
Miller said he doesn’t yet have updated statistics on how many smoke detectors got installed over the summer, but anecdotally he said the work has so far gone well.
“We’ve been working to support the Be Fire Safe program, which exists because of the federal partnership,” Miller said. “Coming into the tail end of August, we’re doing another push. It’s a lot of work.”
On the 11th floor of 890 Yonge St. lies wunderdog Iggy. He’s sleepy but still eager to show off his toys, begging for belly rubs and rolling onto his back with an orange plush fox in his mouth.
At two years old Iggy — a Labrador-Bernese Mountain Dog cross — is not like most dogs.
When ambulance sirens blare past below, he doesn’t flinch. He’s uniquely obedient, too. There’s the usual set of commands: up, off, sit, lie down.
But there are others as well.
He doesn’t walk until his dog-mom Karyn Kennedy says “forward.” When she says “visit,” he immediately rises and rests his head in her lap.
These are the commands that make Iggy friend to even the most timid children.
Iggy, trained by National Service Dogs, is the first dog approved to support children in Toronto courts.
He’ll work with the Boost Child and Youth Advocacy Centre to guide victims through the court process’s interviews with police, medical exams and testimonies.
Iggy has been trained to provide light pressure by putting his head in a child’s lap or deep pressure by lying across them. It’s his job to help boost a child’s sense of security and reduce anxiety through snuggles or reassuring nudges.
The dogs that are picked for the Boost Accredited Reliable K9s (BARK) program are calm by nature, according to Danielle Forbes, the National Service Dogs’ executive director.
“These children have suffered abuse and trauma. They can tend to be closed down, talking to adults especially if those adults seem big and scary and especially in a court situation that is very official,” Forbes said. “(Iggy’s) amazing at breaking down those barriers. (He’s) a non-judgmental ear so the children can tell their story to the dog.”
Iggy’s behaviour acts as a model for the children to follow while in court.
“If a dog is in there and they’re super chill, the children will tend to go there with them and feed off that low-energy, relaxed persona,” Forbes said.
Interviewers can use Iggy to redirect a child’s attention too.
“What I’ve seen personally is they’ll give the dog little kisses on the head and pet him and hug him. As they get more comfortable and more relaxed the story comes out,” Forbes added.
Iggy is Boost’s second special canine. His friend Jersey recently began working out of their Peterborough office.
The pair were bred by National Service Dogs, raised by volunteers from eight weeks to 18 months and then brought into kennels where they were trained by paid professionals. By two years old they were designated to Boost.
Kennedy, who is also Boost’s CEO, has been Iggy’s handler since April. They ride the train to work together.
Kennedy looks after Iggy’s busy schedule and makes sure he’s groomed and ready to go when Boost’s police officers (who work in the office on rotating shifts), children’s aid workers or court workers need him.
All of the area judges have met Iggy and approved him for service in their courtrooms.
“The kids love him, especially the adolescents, which we weren’t really expecting,” Kennedy said.
Sponsored by the Canadian Pet Expo, Iggy will meet visitors as part of the Facility Dog Team at the Sept. 9-10 convention.
A portion of the expo’s proceeds go to supporting both of Boost’s Ontario court dogs so that their services can be provided at no cost.
“In today’s day and age whether it be stress, poor diets, poor sleeping, everybody needs that little bit of support,” said Grant Crossman, the expo’s director. “For kids, (Boost is) a phenomenal program for their PTSD.”
On Sept. 11, Iggy will make his first of many appearances in court.
“He’ll do this for the next 8-10 years and then he’ll retire,” Kennedy said, smiling. “He’s an amazing dog. I’ve had dogs my whole life, I’ve never had a dog like this before. He’s very, very intuitive. He seems to know what kids need. There’s something really special about him.”
Call it the Ford conundrum.
As Doug Ford promises to finally reveal his political plans for next year, some Progressive Conservatives are quietly looking for a way to talk the controversial ex-councillor out of running for them.
The Tories view Ford as a double-edged sword: they know he is their only hope of winning Liberal-held Etobicoke North, but worry that his shoot-from-the-lip style could undermine leader Patrick Brown’s province-wide campaign in many other ridings next spring.
“We don’t need him talking about how great Donald Trump is in the middle of the campaign; that’s not what Patrick is about,” said one wary PC insider, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations.
Ford said he finds it “comical” that anyone would think the Tories don’t want him to run provincially.
“Never once. Total opposite. (Brown) has encouraged me to run. So has Walied (Soliman, the PC campaign chair) encouraged me to run. I’m welcome to run. They’re encouraging me to run,” he told the Star on Thursday.
“They wouldn’t be doing that, asking me to go out to Sault Ste. Marie with them and door-knock and go out to all these events and speak on behalf of the MPPs and show up at events that he calls me to.”
However, sources say Brown’s inner circle has been quietly working on a strategy that would allow the former one-term city councillor to bow out of a provincial run and still save face so he could take another shot at the Toronto mayoralty next year.
Insiders say a senior Conservative emissary, such as a former premier or cabinet minister, could be asked to approach Ford to explain the problems his candidacy could cause for the rookie PC leader, who plans on running a centrist campaign.
Tories admit the matter is delicate because of the egos involved and the fact they don’t want to alienate Ford, whose late father and namesake was a Tory MPP from 1995 to ’99.
“Doug has been a good soldier; he was in Sault Ste. Marie pulling votes (for the June 1 byelection victory) and helped Raymond (Cho win Scarborough Rouge River byelection last Sept. 1),” said another top PC source.
Political adviser Nick Kouvalis, who helped put both Doug’s late brother, Rob Ford, and Tory in the mayor’s office, tweeted this week that he expects Doug will announce he’s not running as an MPP.
“I hear the PCs have rejected Doug Ford as a candidate and that is why Doug is rushing to save face before they publicly disallow him,” he said on Twitter.
The two men are not on good terms despite their history together on Rob Ford’s victorious 2010 campaign.
“Ford plays all for fools,” Kouvalis said in another tweet. “Announcing that he’s not running for MPP allows media to speculate for months about mayoralty. He craves attention.”
Asked about that, Ford said: “That’s just Nick playing political games.”
“I don’t buy all the Tory insider crap. I can guarantee you one thing: I have great respect for Patrick. I’ve been working my back off for him and the public ever since he’s been elected. And he’s going to be the next premier,” Ford said.
Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are hoping the outspoken Ford runs provincially, because they will use any of his pro-Trump statements, or other outrageous claims, to taint Brown.
A cornerstone of Wynne’s June 7, 2018 re-election bid is to tie the Conservatives to the increasingly unpopular U.S. president.
“We think it’s only fair to remind voters of what change for the sake of change can look like,” said one Liberal insider, speaking on background to discuss the party’s plans.
Wynne, herself, outlined that Trump-centric strategy in a major speech Apr. 24.
“We cannot simply assume that President Trump will do the right thing or make the right choices,” she warned.
However, linking Brown to Trump in the minds of Ontarians is easier for the Liberals if a candidate such as Ford is on the ticket.
Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal beamed when asked at Queen’s Park of Thursday about that prospect.
“I know the leader of the opposition will expect Mr. Ford to abide by whatever platform elements that the leader of the opposition wants to talk about during an election campaign,” said Leal.
“You’re always, every day, responsible for the comments you make during a campaign; it’s a team game,” he said.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins noted that Brown may have enough challenges already since he has yet to tell Ontarians what he would do if elected.
“Patrick has sufficient deficiencies in terms of his lack of policy that he’s been able to articulate,” said Hoskins, suggesting Ford could have an impact on this perceived challenge.
“There may be other individuals that, if he can attract (them) to his campaign, that may sway things one way or the other.”
Ford, 52, has always said his other option was an attempt to return to Toronto City Hall.
But political observers believe Ford would face an uphill battle in a rematch against the still popular incumbent, who is seeking a second term.
Ford, naturally, doesn’t see it that way.
“I’m the only guy in the entire country who can give him a run for his money.”
Tory has brushed aside any threat Ford’s candidacy may pose.
In 2014, Tory captured 394,775 votes compared to Ford’s 330,610.
That year, Doug Ford spent $558,724 of his own money to run for mayor after his brother Rob’s cancer diagnosis forced him to drop out in September. Doug Ford raised $356,167 in donations.
Tory, 63, didn’t spend a nickel of his own money to get elected. He received $2.8 million from more than 5,000 donors, including many prominent names in the business world who donated the maximum $2,500.
In 2015, Ford told the Toronto Sun he would drop a half million dollars “in a heartbeat” to run for public office at any level, municipal, provincially or federally.
But the campaign finance rules have changed for 2018, and the maximum contribution a candidate can make to his or her own election campaign is $25,000.
Previously, there was no limit on what a candidate could spend as long as he or she didn’t exceed the overall spending limit, which was $1.36 million in 2014.
Ford played down the new spending cap, noting he had only “four weeks to raise money and put a campaign together” in 2014.
“I don’t see a problem either way if I run provincially or if I run municipally about raising money.”
Ford says he’ll announce his future plans at his family’s semi-regular Ford Fest barbeque next Friday in Etobicoke.
MARIETTA, GA.—A police lieutenant in Georgia who was recorded on video during a traffic stop saying “we only shoot Black people” is being fired, the police chief said Thursday.
Dashcam video from July 2016 shows a car stopped on the side of a road and a woman can be heard telling Cobb County police Lt. Greg Abbott she was scared to move her hands in order to get her cellphone. Abbott, who is white, interrupts her and says, “But you’re not Black. Remember, we only shoot Black people. Yeah. We only shoot Black people, right?”
Announcing his decision to fire Abbott, Police Chief Mike Register remarked that “there’s really no place for these types of comments in law enforcement.” Speaking at a news conference, Register added, “I feel that no matter what context you try to take those comments in, the statements were inexcusable and inappropriate. They’re not indicative of the values that I’m trying to instil within the Cobb County police department and that I believe the county holds.”
Register said he learned of the comments after television station WSB-TV obtained the video and made the department aware of it. Abbott, who had been an officer for 28 years, was placed on administrative duties while the department investigated the video.
Abbott’s attorney, Lance LoRusso, did not immediately respond to an email Thursday seeking comment on the firing. He had earlier said in a statement that Abbott was co-operating with the investigation, and his comments were meant to “de-escalate a situation involving an unco-operative passenger.”
Register said he’s worked hard since becoming chief in June to strengthen the relationship between the department and the community.
“It’s sad to think that several seconds of video has the potential of tearing that apart, and I hope that is not the case,” he said, later adding, “This badge and this uniform should mean that there’s justice and fairness for all.”
The department plans to rework its policies for reviewing videos to better catch problems, Register said.
Register said he’s known Abbott for many years and has known him to be an honourable man. The report from the internal review indicates that Abbott was trying to be sarcastic and to address the situation as he perceived it, Register said.
“He made a mistake,” Register said. “I don’t know what’s in his heart but I certainly know what came out of his mouth. It’s inexcusable.”
Black community leaders applauded Register’s quick action.
“Although we applaud them for their transparency in this regard, the officer’s interjection of race into the stop was particularly troubling and may be systematic, a deeper issue in the department,” said Deane Bonner of the Cobb County chapter of the NAACP.
“Police misconduct is not news,” said Ben Williams, chairman of the Cobb County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “The real story here, in my opinion, is the behaviour of this police chief in Cobb County, Georgia.”
“To be here today and to stand with Chief Register as he pulls the shades up and exposes the sunrise here in Cobb County as that pertains to the conduct of the Cobb County Police Department, that’s the news,” he added.
An 18-year-old woman is in critical condition after being shot in the face at a popular 24-hour restaurant in Mississauga early Friday morning, police say.
Just before 1 a.m., Peel Regional Police were called to Zet’s Restaurant on Airport Rd., near Pearson airport, and found the young woman suffering from gunshot wounds. She was rushed to hospital in what paramedics describe as critical but not life-threatening condition.
The restaurant was open at the time. No one else was harmed, but police say there were numerous witnesses in the area and that they are cooperating in the investigation.
No suspect information has been released yet.
OTTAWA—U.S. President Donald Trump, who threatened to walk away from NAFTA after complaining Canada and Mexico were being “difficult” at the negotiating table, now says he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agree on one thing: they both want a new NAFTA deal quickly.
The White House released a statement saying Trump and Trudeau spoke Thursday about the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the two leaders “stressed their hope to reach an agreement by the end of this year.”
Trudeau’s office made no mention of this in an official summary to Canadian media of the leaders’ conversation.
The Prime Minister’s Office said only that Trudeau offered condolences and Canadian assistance for the recovery effort in flood-stricken zones in the southern U.S. (Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the U.S. federal emergency management agency, FEMA, formally requested from Canada supplies such as hygiene kits and baby supplies for Hurricane Harvey victims.)
Mexico has been pushing for a trade deal according to Trump’s timeline all along, ahead of presidential elections looming in Mexico next year.
And it is Mexico that provided the clearest picture yet of how wide the gaps are as the second round of NAFTA talks begins Friday in Mexico City.
Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo told Mexico’s Senate that failure at the NAFTA table is a real possibility, while the Canadians insist it’s early days yet.
“We have to have an alternative plan perfectly prepared. A scenario without NAFTA is something we have to think about,” said Guajardo, according to an Associated Press report.
Guajardo said key sticking points include U.S. demands to modify NAFTA’s dispute resolution process and tighten labour standards, and that about 15 of the 25 negotiating groups have run into differences after the first round of talks that ended Aug. 20 in Washington. Canadian officials won’t discuss this kind of detail.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto dispatched top ministers to Washington to push back at Trump’s heated political rhetoric and to stress the need for serious negotiations, not threats. Mexico says it will work on a “Plan B” to diversify its trade options.
In Montreal, Trudeau continued to project calm, telling the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada national convention on Thursday that his government is focused on increasing labour and environmental protections. “We’re going to get a fair deal for Canadian workers,” Trudeau said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, several senior Canadian officials told the Star that Trump’s threats are seen as “a negotiating tactic.” It was always known that this was “an arrow in their quiver,” said one official, although not one Canadians expected to be deployed at this early stage.
Another senior official said nothing has materially changed, and it is hard to see “how that really affects the dynamics in Congress, which is where a deal has to be ratified if a new one is on the table.”
However the Canadians believe John Kelly’s appointment as Trump’s chief of staff was a “good development” overall, because, while he hasn’t stopped the president from tweeting, the retired general knows Canada well. It’s said that during the state visit to Washington in February, at a meeting between Canadian ministers and Trump cabinet members, Kelly, then homeland security secretary, said “the only problem we have with the northern border is that it’s too slow.”
Some stakeholders who are advising the Canadian negotiating team say Canada has nothing to fear from Trump’s rhetoric. They want Canada to toughen its own stand at the bargaining table in favour of strong labour and environmental protections.
Speaking from Mexico City, Jerry Dias — national president of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, representing more than 310,000 workers — called Trump’s threats “comical,” adding if the U.S. were to walk away now, it could hurt American autoworkers even more.
Dias argues if NAFTA is terminated and no longer applied to the auto industry, the default would be a 2.5-per-cent tariff that the U.S. applies to imported vehicles. “At least in Canada, our tariff on imported vehicles is 6.1 per cent,” he said. Dias said American, German and Japanese auto companies would be happy to pay a 2.5-per-cent tariff and move even more production to Mexico, where labour and environmental protections are lax. Dias says if Trump is serious about raising labour standards to ensure a level playing field, he would have to insist on enforceability and significant penalties, which would, then, also mean taking on American states in the south that have right-to-work or anti-strike laws, and put up barriers to unionization or free collective bargaining.
“The emperor has no clothes,” said Dias.
Dias says Canada has proposed adhering to international labour standards, but the U.S. is unlikely to agree, having signed only two of eight International Labour Organization conventions. “So they (the U.S.) are going to have to do a lot more than just talk tough, because it doesn’t scare anybody.”
Dias wants Canada to insist on tougher rules for North American content in autos and auto parts. Dias says U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has indicated to him he wants a “significant” increase in American content, but Dias wouldn’t reveal the number Ross told him.
The 15-year-old boy who died after he was shot by Peel police in late July was an outgoing Mississauga high school student who recently came to Canada from Jamaica to start a new life.
Ozama Shaw — among the youngest people killed by police in Ontario — died at the Hospital for Sick Children on Saturday, after undergoing 11 surgeries and procedures in 30 days to treat a gunshot wound to his abdomen. Crowded around his hospital bed when he died were his mother, stepfather and 17-year-old brother.
“They allowed me to go on the bed with him, so I held him,” Kadene, his mother, said in an interview in her Mississauga home this week, tears running down her face. “I still refused to believe, because I didn’t want to let go of my baby. It was the hardest thing to do.”
Shaw’s name and the details of his final days are available only because the family confirmed his identity to the Star.
His death is under investigation by Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which said earlier this week that it would not release the name of the young male. Jason Gennaro, a spokesperson for the SIU, told the Star in an email that the watchdog did not have family consent to release the name of the youth, which the family confirmed to the Star.
Gennaro also said the SIU has a separate policy about naming youth, but did not provide the details by press time Thursday.
Critics of the SIU naming policy argue the identities of the deceased in police shootings are critical to understanding and preventing such deaths.
Shaw was shot in the early hours of July 27 in Mississauga’s Credit Valley Town Plaza, where Peel police had been called for a gas station robbery. According to police, the teen had been part of a trio trying to rob the station. The SIU said two of the males then fled in a car, while the third stayed behind, attempted to rob another business and tried to gain entry into three occupied vehicles.
One witness told the Star that an armed male attempted to get into her car and pointed a gun at her, but that she scared him off and called 911.
Surveillance footage obtained by CBC News also shows a young male armed with a gun attempting to rob a Pizza Pizza. In the video, which had no sound, the cashier reaches for the gun and grabs the barrel, then lets go and backs up, hands in the air. The SIU has not confirmed that Shaw was armed when he was shot.
For Shaw’s family, the events of July 27 are difficult to reconcile with the outgoing student who would have been starting Grade 10, a teen who played offensive lineman on his football team and riddled family and strangers alike with questions.
“He had a very curious mind. He just wanted to know things,” Kadene said.
In their Mississauga home, Shaw smiles warmly in a large framed photo on the family’s dining room table, donning a cap and gown at his 2016 graduation from Tomken Road Middle School. A sympathy card from neighbours in the family’s tight-knit condo building is propped up next to it. Shaw’s prized BMX bike leans against the wall outside.
Shaw’s older brother is upstairs, doing well considering the circumstances, Kadene said.
She pulls out her phone and begins swiping through photos of Shaw, first as a boy in his native Jamaica, then as a young man in Canada. She stops at a picture of him sitting in the window seat of a plane on Sept. 14, 2015 — his first flight, on his way to Canada after obtaining permanent residency status. “That was a very exciting day for us,” Kadene said.
“When the chance came up for him to socialize or do something that was adventurous, he just couldn’t resist,” said David, his stepfather, who bonded with Shaw on waterslides during his visits to Jamaica before Shaw’s move to Canada.
Shaw’s family says he was doing well in his new home — he enjoyed his teachers and loved Canada, snow and all. But more recently, they say he had fallen into the wrong crowd and had friends Kadene didn’t approve of. He was a good kid, they said, but he had started acting out, coming home well after curfew or disappearing for days at a time.
They believe that at the time of the shooting, Shaw may have been on the party drug “molly,” also known as MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy.
David and Kadene also believe Shaw was carrying a toy or BB gun. David said he doesn’t understand why the three drivers Shaw allegedly approached wouldn’t have simply given up their cars if they believed the gun was real.
In the days before the shooting, Shaw had barely been home. Kadene said she called Peel police to report that he was missing six days before the shooting.
She said an officer came by the house a couple of days after she reported him missing and took a statement, but nothing came of it. David and Kadene also claim they asked the Children’s Aid Society if Shaw could be placed in temporary care, so he would be looked after when he refused to come home. “I begged for help,” Kadene said.
Sgt. Josh Colley, spokesperson for Peel Regional Police, said in an email Thursday that because the SIU is involved, he had “minimal knowledge of the incident.”
Two days before the shooting, Kadene said Shaw came home briefly for a shower. She said she tried to find out where he had been and what was happening, but he refused to answer and left.
While watching the news early on July 27, she saw that a teen had been shot by police in Mississauga and instantly knew it was her son — “I could just feel it,” she said.
The SIU contacted her on her cellphone as she was driving to the police station with Shaw’s identification, which he never carried. Watchdog investigators then took her to Sick Kids hospital, where she kept vigil until her son’s death.
For the first few weeks, Shaw was conscious but could not talk, so he nodded his head, blinked his eyes and squeezed hands to answer questions. But he later lost consciousness, the family said.
After he died, the family donated Shaw’s muscle and tissue; he had been too sick to donate organs.
Asked how she felt about police actions, Kadene said she has been solely focusing on her son, but that her family in Jamaica are in disbelief that he was killed by police in Canada.
“He deserved another chance. He had so much potential,” David said.
David said he and his wife are “eternally grateful” for staff at Sick Kids and Ronald McDonald House, where Kadene stayed during her son’s hospitalization.
The family is now attempting to raise money to take Shaw’s body back to Jamaica, where his father, grandparents, aunts and childhood friends are reeling over the death. They are expecting hundreds of people at his celebration of life. He was well loved by everyone back home, David said.
“He always made sure everyone knew him,” he said.
Shaw is believed to be the youngest person killed by police in Ontario, alongside 15-year-old Duane Christian, who was killed by Toronto police in Scarborough in 2006.
Wendy Gillis can be reached at email@example.com .
WASHINGTON—Senate Republicans will soon run out of time to rely on the barest of their majority to dismantle the Obama health law.
The Senate parliamentarian has determined that rules governing the effort will expire when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, according to independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. The rules allow Republicans to dismantle the Obama health care law with just 51 votes, avoiding a filibuster.
“Today’s determination by the Senate parliamentarian is a major victory for the American people and everyone who fought against President Trump’s attempt to take away health care from up to 32 million people,” Sanders said in a statement. Sanders heads up Democrats on the budget panel and took the lead in the arcane arguments before the parliamentarian, who acts as the Senate’s non-partisan referee.
Republicans control the Senate 52-48 and were using the special filibuster-proof process in the face of unified Democratic opposition. Now, if Republicans can’t revive the repeal measure in the next four weeks, they will be forced to work with Democrats to change it.
Senate Republicans pulled the plug on their Obamacare repeal effort in July, after falling short in a key vote. It has languished since, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for senators to keep trying.
The ruling by Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough is likely the final nail in the coffin, since it means Republicans would have to revive the effort and wrap it up in just a few weeks. Congress returns to Washington next week to face a packed agenda including Hurricane aid, a temporary government-wide funding bill, and raising the government’s borrowing cap to prevent a default on U.S. payments and obligations.
The bitter battle, and struggle among Republicans, over health care consumed the early months of Trump’s presidency. Now, the administration and its allies in Congress are eager to turn the focus to overhauling the tax code.
SALT LAKE CITY—A Utah nurse said she was scared to death when a police officer handcuffed and dragged her screaming from a hospital after she refused to allow blood to be drawn from an unconscious patient.
After Alex Wubbels and her attorneys released dramatic video of the arrest, prosecutors called for a criminal investigation and Salt Lake City police put Detective Jeff Payne on paid leave Friday.
“This cop bullied me. He bullied me to the utmost extreme,” Wubbels said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And nobody stood in his way.”
The Salt Lake City police chief and mayor also apologized and changed department policies in line with the guidance Wubbels was following in the July 26 incident.
Wubbels, a former alpine skier who competed in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, said she adhered to her training and hospital protocols to protect the rights of a patient who could not speak for himself.
“You can’t just take blood if you don’t have a legitimate concern for something to be tested,” Wubbels said. “It is the most personal property I think that we can have besides our skin and bones and organs.”
Payne didn’t return messages left at publicly listed phone numbers, and the Salt Lake Police Association union did not respond to messages for comment. The department and a civilian board also are conducting reviews.
“I was alarmed by what I saw in the video with our officer,” Police Chief Mike Brown said.
Police body-camera video shows Wubbels, who works in the burn unit, calmly explaining that she could not take blood from a patient who had been injured in a deadly car accident, citing a recent change in law. A 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling said a blood sample cannot be taken without patient consent or a warrant.
Wubbels told Payne that a patient had to allow a blood sample to determine intoxication or be under arrest. Otherwise, she said police needed a warrant. Police did not, but Payne insisted.
The dispute ended with Payne saying, “We’re done, you’re under arrest” and pulling her outside while she screamed and said, “I’ve done nothing wrong!”
He had called his supervisor and discussed the time-sensitive blood draw for over an hour with hospital staff, police spokeswoman Christina Judd said.
“It’s not an excuse. It definitely doesn’t forgive what happened,” she said.
Payne wrote in a police report that he grabbed Wubbels and took her outside to avoid causing a “scene” in the emergency room. He said his boss, a lieutenant whose actions also were being reviewed, told him to arrest Wubbels if she kept interfering.
The detective left Wubbels in a hot police car for 20 minutes before realizing that blood had already been drawn as part of treatment, said her lawyer, Karra Porter. Wubbels was not charged.
“This has upended her worldview in a way. She just couldn’t believe this could happen,” Porter said.
Wubbels and her attorneys on Thursday released the video they obtained through a public records request to call for change. She has not sued, but that could change, said attorney Jake Macfarlane.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said that the video was concerning and called the police chief to ask for a criminal investigation.
The department is open to the inquiry that will be run by Salt Lake County’s Unified Police, Judd said. Gill’s office will review the findings.
In response to the incident, Judd said the department updated its blood-draw policy last week to mirror what the hospital uses. She said officers have already received additional training.
The agency has met with hospital administration to ensure it does not happen again and to repair ties.
“There’s a strong bond between fire, police and nurses because they all work together to help save lives, and this caused an unfortunate rift that we are hoping to repair immediately,” Judd said.
The hospital said it’s proud of the way Wubbels handled the situation.
The patient was a victim in a car crash and Payne wanted the blood sample to show he had done nothing wrong, according to the officer’s written report.
The patient, William Gray, is a reserve police officer in Rigby, Idaho, according to the city’s police. They thanked Wubbels for protecting his rights.
Grey is a semi-truck driver and was on the road when a pickup truck fleeing from authorities slammed into him and his truck burst into flames, police reports say.
Some people love the Canadian International Air Show, and others, like myself, see it as a loud annoying tourist trap — that is, until today.
Gliding above the city, circling the CN Tower, I joined the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team in the cockpit of a Second World War plane that took off from Buttonville Airport ahead of the weekend Air Show at The Ex.
“You have to be individually trained to fly this plane,” my pilot, Kent Beckham says. “Many modern day pilots would never be able to take this off the ground.”
The Canadian Harvard, which first debuted in 1941 for combat operations, is held in a high regard among pilots. “If you master flying the Harvard, you can fly anything,” Beckham and his team joked before takeoff.
Beckham, who flies full time for Air Canada, says that the air show is his ‘fun break,’ flying alongside the four-man fleet for around 10 years. He loves it especially because of the novelty and history behind the Harvard.
“There are no computers on this plane, just your hands, feet and your eyeballs,” he continued. “It’s incredible.”
From liftoff to touchdown, the pilots seamlessly synchronized the four planes in the air, following the lead pilot’s orders over the radio. The aircraft swooped over and under one another, all while maintaining a concerningly close distance, almost wing-to-wing. I was able to clearly see the pilot and passengers in the other three planes — one of them even took photos of me from their seat.
“It just looked absolutely beautiful, three four feet away from each other, it’s incredible,” Garry Wilks, an aviation enthusiast who flew in one of the Harvard planes said. “Formation flying is amazing. It gives you a whole new appreciation for the skill of flying.”
Wilks also hopes the younger generation will become more interested in keeping the air show tradition alive.
“The history is very important to maintain, it is by which everything our society has grown from. That’s why the air show, these planes are incredible.”
As a millennial, once sour to the thought of coming anywhere near The Ex or the ‘annoying’ air show, flying in a piece of Canadian history took my head out of the clouds.
The Canadian International Air Show will be running over Labour Day weekend at The Ex from Saturday to Monday.
The eastbound express lanes on Hwy. 401 are closed from Hurontario St. after a collision involving a tractor trailer.
Ontario Provinical Police say a tractor trailer believed to be carrying wooden skids collided with the guardrail just before 3:30 a.m., and prompted the need for a cleanup across all lanes. No injuries were reported, and the collector lanes were able to open again two hours later.
The express lanes remain closed as the cleanup continues.
MIAMI―Out of nowhere, the Caribbean Airline Ticketing Center on the edge of Miami’s Little Haiti neighbourhood started receiving unusual customer requests. About 40 people a week were booking flights from Fort Lauderdale to Plattsburgh, N.Y., a short drive from the Canada-U.S. border.
“We didn’t even know where the town was until it all started,” said Regine Maximilien, who operates the travel agency with her husband, Pierre.
The customers were Haitian. The transactions included desperate stories of the journeys people had taken to get this far and the admission that they were on the move once again ― this time headed for Canada.
“These poor Haitian people have endured so much misery,” Pierre Maximilienlamented.
Since the wave of migration began in July, Plattsburgh has been the destination for thousands of predominately Haitian nationals making refugee claims in Canada. They arrive by bus or airplane, and then take a taxi up to a ditch in the middle of a sleepy country route that connects Roxham Rd. in the town of Champlain, N.Y., to Chemin Roxham in the village of Hemmingford, Que.
Once in Canada, the migrants are detained and processed by border agents to begin the process of claiming asylum.
Some are facing imminent deportation to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. It’s a place where, as the U.S. government notes, endemic poverty, corruption and low levels of education “have contributed to the government’s longstanding (in)ability to adequately provide for the security, health and safety of its citizenry.”
Many others are recipients of a special immigration designation in the United States, known as a Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, which has been granted to more than 300,000 people from 10 countries in the grip of conflict or ravaged by disasters.
About 58,000 Haitians in the U.S. received this special status after the 2010 earthquake that levelled the capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed more than 200,000 people. In May, it was extended for the fourth time, because of the slow rebuilding effort, a massive housing shortage, a cholera epidemic that killed 10,000, and a hurricane last year that tore through the country, which shares the island of Hispanola with the Dominican Republic . But, this time, the extension was just for six months and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent letters urging people to use the time to get their papers in order and prepare to go home.
Instead, many have made their way to Roxham Rd. and into Canada.
Some seem to have been lured by a frequently cited seven-month-old tweet from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted in response to a proposed ban on travellers from Muslim countries entering the United States. Others have been guided by widely shared videos on social media giving dubious advice.
One video was recorded July 23 outside a YMCA shelter in Montreal that serves as an emergency residence for refugee claimants. As of this week, it had been viewed 116,000 times on Facebook and been shared by 5,500 people. The man in the video addresses viewers in Haitian Creole before switching to English to reiterate his message.
“Come to Canada! They opened the door for the Haitians, for the other nations that don’t have papers. You can come here like the same as me. I came in 2007 and now I am a Canadian,” the man said, pulling a Canadian passport from his back pocket. “I am from Florida. All my family lives there, but now I am in Montreal. We are waiting for you!”
The perception that Canada has simply opened its borders to those fleeing President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies prompted the Canadian government to dispatch Haitian-born Montreal Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg to Miami last week to explain, among other things, that about half of all Haitian refugee claims were denied in Canada in 2016.
The tough message may be getting through. From a peak average of 250 people a day crossing into Canada, the daily numbers have slowed to about 100, said Scott Bardsley, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
Regine and Pierre Maximilien’s travel agency hasn’t sold a flight to Plattsburgh in the past week.
The migratory flight to Canada is taking its toll in Florida, which is home to more than 40 per cent of the Haitian diaspora living in the U.S.
Desperation and panic are widespread.
Edelyne Jean received the Homeland Security letter urging her to prepare to return to Haiti, but she refuses to accept the possibility the life she has built here could be so suddenly taken away.
“I prayed. I prayed to change my mind. . . . I believe in God, so I know he will do something,” she said after finishing work as a nurse’s assistant in Hollywood, Fla., and before heading to the library to study for a test to become a registered nurse.
The 35-year-old left her home in Cap-Haïtien on a boat with two dozen others in June 2007. It took two weeks to reach the United States. Once here, she learned English, then enrolled in nursing school.
“I built a life here. I want to stay here,” she said. “Before Trump, I felt like I an American. Before him, I felt like I was home.”
Jan Mapou, who runs the Libreri Mapou bookstore in Little Haiti, said the January 2018 deadline, when the TPS designations will either be renewed or expire, has sent a chill through the community. People are selling houses and possessions. Children have been pulled out of school. Those who have not already left are drawing up plans.
The Haitians with TPS who are still in Miami are the fighters, the ones with long-shot options or those holding out hope that the Trump administration will reverse course and grant them an extension.
They are people such as Gerdine Verssagne, who was nine months pregnant when she arrived in the United States by boat on March 13, 2009. Thirteen days later, she gave birth to a little girl, an American citizen. She has since had a son. He’s 5 and also has U.S. citizenship.
Verssagne works as a housekeeper at the opulent Fontainbleau Hotel in Miami Beach and is a union representative with Unite Here, which represents hospitality workers.
“I don’t like when people put me down, so I always like to stand up for myself,” she said, speaking through a Haitian Creole interpreter.
Her children are blissfully unaware of the dilemma that their mother faces, but Verssagne said she is stressed and scared. A friend left for Montreal less than two weeks ago, but she has decided to stay, particularly because her sister, two other children and a niece in Haiti rely on her for financial support. Most recently she sent $1,000 of her $1,400 salary to help pay for tuition and school supplies.
“I’m going to wait and see what they’re going to do,” she said, referring to the Trump administration, which must decide by late November if it will again extend the TPS for Haitians or allow the protections to expire on Jan. 23.
“If nothing happens here, I’ve decided I will take my kids and move to Canada.”
None of this was what the Haitian community in Miami, where almost half of the Haitian expatriates in the United States live, had been expecting.
One year ago, when Trump visited Little Haiti as the Republican presidential nominee, he spoke words that are quoted verbatim in nearly every discussion about TPS recipients: “Whether you vote for me or not, I really want to be your biggest champion.”
Some Haitians even voted for Trump instead of Hillary Clinton, angry about how the Clinton Foundation had managed the rebuilding effort in Haiti after the earthquake.
“The Haitians with TPS feel generally that President Trump, himself, will not keep his promise, because of the way the administration has been targeting immigrants,” said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, a group holds community meetings every second Thursday to provide information to TPS holders and rally support for an extension.
“We were shocked when our community organizer called for our organizing meeting last week. A lot of people answered that they were already in Canada,” she said.
Bastien has been advising those with TPS to stay, wait and fight for an extension, rather than risk being deported from Canada to Haiti, but she understands the fears that motivate them.
“It must be the hardest decision any parent has to make, but they feel they are doing the best to protect their families,” she said. “It’s all about finding stability and a safe haven. Any human being placed in that position could understand why.”
Rony Ponthieux, who was dressed in blue scrubs after finishing his shift as a registered nurse at a Miami Beach hospital, said he is also thinking of his two U.S.-born children, who are 16 and 10. Their future is what drives the 48-year-old, who came to the U.S. in 1999, to gather the papers necessary so an Orlando hospital can sponsor him for a U.S. work visa. If that doesn’t work out, Ponthieux said, his family will probably try its luck in Canada.
Alex Saint Surin, owner of the Radio Mega network, which broadcasts in Haitian Creole to listeners in Miami and Haiti, is using his platform to support the campaign to extend the TPS, but he believes Haitians are obligated to work toward the political, economic and social improvement of their native land.
“I’m not for people going to Canada; I’m for them staying in their country and build their country,” he said at Radio Mega’s Miami studio, a day after returning from Haiti.
At the moment, he admitted, the burden of offering employment and education for so many people returning from the U.S. is too great for Haiti.
“The numbers talk for themselves; there are 4.5 million people willing to take a job, who want a job. But officially we have 250,000 who have got a job, and what kind of pay have they got?” Saint Surin asked. “It will be a very heavy burden for the country if all those people come back.”
Farah Larrieux refuses to consider the possibility that she could be ordered out of the U.S. The first time she faced deportation, it nearly ruined her.
She arrived in 2005 and married a Haitian-American, but her citizenship claim was rejected and deportation proceedings began in 2007. The stress ended the marriage. She was depressed and said she thought about suicide. In 2009, she was months away from being deported when the earthquake hit and Haitians citizens living in the U.S. were granted a reprieve.
“The earthquake saved a lot of people. You can say it. The earthquake helped a lot of Haitians,” Larrieux said.
The reprieve allowed to her to start over and build a career as a television personality and launch a Haitian entertainment management company in Miramar, Fla.
“It gave me the opportunity to rebuild. Step by step, I was able to get back the work permit, then the driver’s licence . . . hoping that, at some point, I would get to a residency path. That was the expectation,” she said.
“Now, I’m facing the same situation that I had to face 10 years ago. I’m stronger, yes, but, out of the blue, you have to look for an option to start over whether it’s Haiti or another place. It’s starting over at 38, when I should be in a better position in my life, financially and professionally.”
As Ponthieux, the nurse, races from his good home to his good job in his good car, he said he also feels that TPS recipients are being unfairly caught in the broader political campaign against illegal immigrants that swept Trump into the White House and that threatens to disrupt the United States, a country he has come to think of as his own.
“We are not criminals. We are not bad people. . . . I work nightshift, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., taking care of people, and to get this job,” Ponthieux said. “We’re working very hard. We contribute. We pay taxes. We have a house. We are part of the American dream.”
New York’s Parks Commissioner, Mitchell Silver, has a theory that there are two kinds of cities when it comes to how they are built: plan-making cities and deal-making cities.
He mentioned this during a panel discussion in Toronto at the Economic Club of Canada luncheon last November.
Some places have these rules laid out in a plan that people follow. In other places, the rules amount, in effect, to a proposal to “make us an offer.”
Toronto’s chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, was on the panel. She immediately nodded as if he’d crystallized something elusive and essential.
Toronto, she said, is totally a deal-making city.
And the concept does seem to crystallize a lot about how Toronto development happens (or doesn’t) and the flare-ups in the news we hear about it along the way.
I was reminded of this exchange this week as I followed the arguments about a proposed eight-storey condo building on Davenport, opposed by Margaret Atwood, Galen Weston and some other high-profile Annex residents.
The contours of the arguments are by now familiar: “Developers running roughshod over the rules that protect our neighbourhoods” on one side versus “entitled NIMBYs hate new housing” on the other.
We know this fight because we have it all the time.
It can be fun! It plays to our snobberies and assumptions.
The one-liners are already written.
“This is an illegal assault on our community!”
“This is just what the city needs in a housing crisis and what our guidelines call for!”
“Which developer greased your palms?”
“Why do you hate those less fortunate than you?”
If some nuance is lost about what people really want or don’t want, that’s just standard operating procedure.
In fact, I think the system we have — call it Let’s-Make-a-Deal city-building — virtually ensures we have these fights, again and again.
I don’t know if that’s for better or for worse.
But it’s certainly not for easy understanding.
Let’s go back to Silver’s point: Toronto does have a plan. Officially. It’s called the “Official Plan.”
And it calls for intensification — more units for people to live in — on main streets, such as Davenport. Specifically, it says we need to accomplish this by getting developers to build mid-rise buildings.
An eight-storey building on a street such as Davenport is something we want to encourage.
That’s the plan.
But that isn’t the rule.
The rules, laid out in the zoning bylaws, say that you cannot build anything higher than two storeys, unless you get a specific exemption from the bylaw. Any neighbour could look at that and plainly see: an eight-storey building on that street is a violation of the bylaw! It’s against the rules!
So our plan says we want to encourage something, and our rules seem to say that same something is forbidden.
What’s that all about?
The zoning bylaws are not intended to be interpreted as rules that explain what the city wants and expects. In fact, many of the homes and businesses that have been standing for generations in our most apparently successful and beloved neighbourhoods do not conform to the zoning bylaws. These aren’t rules; they are the opening offer in negotiations.
If you’re a builder, you can take them as they are and have no further fuss, or you can make a counter-offer.
For instance, you could propose building something that the city, in it’s official plan, says it wants to encourage.
And then the negotiations continue: neighbours get to weigh in and ask for changes; the city might ask for cash for community benefits through Section 37 of the planning act; the developer might offer to trade one thing (a floor of height or a certain number of parking spots) for another (giving cash for a park, or changing the building materials, or including some affordable units).
And, if no one can come to a deal, then the Ontario Municipal Board can rule for one side or another. The OMB has long stood as the ultimate judge in this adversarial framework.
There are benefits to the city, and city councillors, from this system: they get to be involved, site-by-site in designing any proposed building and can extract dollars to build community amenities.
Councillor Gord Perks has explained, on Twitter, that the zoning bylaws and accompanying process shouldn’t be interpreted as forbidding anything, but as identifying a threshold at which community consultation and approval is needed.
It’s a threshold at which you need to get democracy involved in development . . . if you look at it from a certain perspective.
But there are drawbacks; it’s natural that people who live in a neighbourhood will object to changes to it, especially changes that might give them less privacy, or create more traffic on their street, or spoil their view, or bring down their property values.
Very often they are right that the change will have some negative effect on them, even if it benefits the city.
Now, if there were clear rules saying that something was allowed to be built, then those objections might be washed away as just the way things work in the big city.
But the existence of zoning bylaws that depict the proposal as “illegal” will only tend to harden their conviction that they are being wronged by a shady developer, and give fuel to their rhetorical depiction of the change as unjustified.
And, in the meantime, the deal-making nature of the process gives incentives to everyone involved to begin at more extreme ends of the spectrum than they otherwise would, so that any compromise that they settle on ends up closer to what they actually want.
Developers have often said it can be as hard, long and expensive to negotiate a midrise building as it is a highrise — and much less profitable.
So why not go up, up, up, if you’re going to endure the hassle anyway?
Would we be better off with clear plan-based rules, than with case-by-case deal-making? I don’t know. Silver said unequivocally that New York, where he works, is a deal-making city. But I see online that he’s given lectures saying plan-based cities can be most successful, because of the clarity they offer, and that, in deal-making cities, plans “lose credibility and public trust.”
What does seem obvious to me is that the Selfish NIMBY vs. Greedy Developer headline battles we usually see are a perhaps inevitable byproduct of the way the oppositional case-by-case development system is built. These fights are just part of the deal.
Doug Ford will announce next Friday that he plans to challenge Mayor John Tory in the 2018 Toronto election, sources say.
Ford has quietly been building a team in his bid for a rematch against Tory, who beat him in the 2014 municipal vote.
Joe Reis, one of the federal Conservative Party’s top campaign organizers, has been phoning around to elicit support for the former city councillor.
“Right now, I’m just shaking the trees and seeing if the people that I worked with before will come out for him like they did for his brother (former mayor Rob Ford, who died last year),” he said Friday.
Reis, who is also well-respected in provincial Progressive Conservative circles, said Torontonians are wary of a bloated civic bureaucracy that fails to deliver on key services.
“We go back to what his brother used to say: be there for the taxpayer. Drain the swamp . . . although I think that was another bushy-haired guy,” he said, referring to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been likened to Rob Ford.
“It’s the same principle, right? Stop the gravy train. I think they’re getting back on the gravy train.”
Even though the current mayor was leader of the Progressive Conservatives from 2004 until 2009, “the only thing Tory about that man is his name,” Reis joked.
“I don’t think he’s conservative enough. We need someone who will really pull the purse strings back together and make sure the city understands why they’re there,” he said.
Asked what the response has been to Ford’s nascent campaign, Reis said: “very good, it’s been excellent. I’ve only had pushback from one person, who will remain nameless, because he has a vested interest in seeing that John Tory is returned.”
“I understand his personal vested interest . . . and I respect it, but I think, on the whole, people have been supportive. It will be a good run. I think Doug will have a good team,” he said, adding hastily “if he decides to enter.”
Ford, who had been toying with running for Patrick Brown’s Progressive Conservatives in the June 7, 2018 provincial election, told the Star to “wait until Friday,” when he will announce his plan at the family Ford Fest barbecue in Etobicoke.
Tory’s campaign would welcome a reprise of the 2014 election, which was a referendum on Rob Ford’s tenure when Toronto was ridiculed around the world for the ex-mayor’s exploits, which included smoking crack.
“People vividly remember the chaos and dysfunction of the Ford years, and they don’t want to go back,” said one source on the Tory re-election effort, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal strategy.
“Also, Toronto voters find Trump-style politics repugnant and will not be inclined to look favourably on a candidate who embodies them and has publicly expressed his admiration for the guy,” said the insider, referring to Ford’s praise of Trump.
Amanda Galbraith, Tory’s former director of communications and his campaign spokeswoman in 2014 before she became a principal at Navigator Ltd., also made the comparison with the mercurial American president.
“Doug is basically Donald Trump Light. If he wants a rematch, I think voters will take one look at him and say, ‘No, thanks. We’ve seen this movie. We’ve got the T-shirt. We’ve moved on,’ ” she wrote in email.
Galbraith added that a reboot of 2014 would be “an election and narrative the mayor has fought and won before.”
“From a political perspective, Doug will drive voters from (the) left to the mayor. It’s a narrative that works for him. If I were Doug, I’d stick to making stickers,” she added, referring to Ford’s decals-and-tags business.
Ford said Friday he knows Tory’s “little game will be to try to compare me to Donald Trump,” but rejects any parallels.
Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals want him to run for the provincial Tories, because they believe the Trump comparisons will hurt Brown.
“I used to take it as a real insult when they compared Rob to Donald Trump; Rob Ford was Rob Ford, and the Fords are the Fords, and we’re going to do what we’ve always done for 25 years for the taxpayers,” said Ford.
The next municipal election will be held Oct. 22, 2018, four years after the last election, in which Tory received 394,775 votes compared to 330,610 for Ford, who only entered the race after Rob Ford dropped out for health reasons, late in the campaign.
There have been changes to election rules. The campaign period is now shorter. It used to be that nominations could be filed on Jan. 1. Next year, nominations can be made May 1.
Campaign finance rules have changed, too; the maximum contribution a candidate can make to his or her campaign is now $25,000.
Previously, there was no limit on what a candidate could spend as long as it did not exceed the overall spending limit, which was $1.36 million in 2014.
That year, Doug Ford spent $558,724 of his own money to run for mayor, after his brother Rob’s cancer diagnosis forced Rob to drop out in September. Doug Ford raised $356,167 in donations.
Tory, who didn’t spend any of his own money, received $2.8 million from more than 5,000 donors.
A United Nations committee has urged Ottawa to limit the use of immigration detention and drop a bilateral pact that turns asylum-seekers back at the U.S. land border.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination makes the recommendations in its recent review of how Canada’s government policies and programs are affecting minority groups.
“The Committee recommends . . . immigration detention is only undertaken as a last resort after fully considering alternative non-custodial measures. Establish a legal time limit on the detention of migrants,” said the report released in Geneva this week.
Canada should also “rescind or at least suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States of America to ensure that all individuals who attempt to enter the State party through a land border are provided with equal access to asylum proceedings,” the report said.
Ottawa has been under intense criticism for its handling of migrants in detention and the surge of asylum seekers attempting to cross into Canada at unmarked points along the U.S. border.
A Star investigation, Caged by Canada, this year into immigration detention in Canada found a system that indefinitely warehouses non-citizens away from public scrutiny in high-security criminal detention facilities.
Some of the detainees are former permanent residents who were convicted for crimes and await deportation. Others are failed refugees waiting for removal or people deemed inadmissible to Canada, flight risks or dangers to the public. More than 100 of the detainees had spent at least three months in jail, and one-third of them have been held for more than a year.
“We raised the issue of indefinite detention of non-status immigrants and their children, and the committee has listened,” said Shalini Konanur, director of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario.
The Safe Third Country agreement, introduced in 2004, prevents refugees from making asylum claims in both the U.S. and Canada, which clogs the system. Claimants are barred from entering the other country for asylum unless they belong to one of four exemption groups.
However, the ban does not apply to those who sneak through unmarked points along the border, pushing some asylum-seekers to trek through no man’s land, mostly commonly in Quebec, B.C. and in Manitoba, where hundreds walked in the dead of winter this year, sometimes overnight, to Emerson.
“Given the current xenophobic political climate in the U.S.A., it is no surprise that the committee has called on Canada to rescind or at least temporarily suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement. Canada cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening down south,” said Debbie Douglas of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.
A Harvard University Law School review in February also warned about the negative effect of President Donald Trump’s administration on refugees and urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to consider pulling out from the bilateral deal.
Hursh Jaswal, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said Canada has a robust asylum system and the Safe Third Country Agreement is an important tool for the orderly handling of refugee claims on both sides of the border.
“While the executive order affected the U.S. system for resettling refugees from abroad, it did not impact the U.S. system for handling domestic asylum claims,” Jaswal said. “Our government is monitoring the situation closely and will carefully evaluate any new developments for potential changes to the domestic asylum system in the U.S.”
On immigration detention, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government is committed to improving the system.
“We need to minimize the use of provincial jails and try to avoid, as much as humanly possible, the holding of children in detention,” said Scott Bardsley, adding that Ottawa is investing $138 million to expand alternatives to detention, improving detention conditions, providing better mental health services and reducing reliance on provincial jails for immigration holding.
“Under the new government, the number of immigration detentions has decreased, despite an increase in visitors to Canada,” Bardsley said.
The UN committee also raised alarm over the treatment of migrant workers in Canada.
“Although the temporary foreign worker program conducts inspections, temporary migrant workers are reportedly susceptible to exploitation and abuses, and are sometimes denied basic health services, and employment and pension benefits to which they may make contributions,” it warned.
The report called on Ottawa to collect race-based economic and social data to improve monitoring and evaluation of its programs that aim at eliminating racial discrimination and disparities.
On a positive note, the committee praised Ontario for establishing the anti-racism directorate; Quebec, for passing a bill on combating hate speech and incitement to violence; and Ottawa for its condemnation of Islamophobia, as well as progress made in addressing discrimination against Indigenous peoples, resettling 46,000 Syrian refugees and restoring health care funding for refugees.
The 42nd Toronto International Film Festival is days away, but it already has its first show-stopper: Piers Handling is stepping down after nearly 25 years as head of the cinema giant that transformed both the city and its global image.
His departure will be a slow credits roll rather than a sudden fade to black. Handling will remain as TIFF’s director and CEO until the end of 2018.
This is to allow the TIFF board time to choose a successor and to get him or her up to speed on an organization that has grown from its 1970s spark as a week-long movie celebration running on brio and credit cards into one of the world’s top arts institutions, operating year-long in many guises with a $45-million annual budget that contributes an estimated $189 million annually to Toronto’s economy.
The main event is still the annual 11-day fall festival, which this year runs from Sept. 7 to 17.
“The timing feels right for me, it really does,” Handling said Friday in an interview.
“I did a lot of thinking over the course of this year . . . I’m excited about what’s going to be in the future for me.”
The urbane Handling, 68, has a lot planned for his post-TIFF life, including a book — something film-related but not personal memoirs — and more of the world travel and mountain climbing that have long been among his other passions. In all, the former film professor will have been at TIFF for 36 years, nearly half his life.
“I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish when I started with this organization. It’s constantly surprised me in terms of the potential that was here and what I was allowed to do and what we could do, which was to dream large and just do big things.”
Handling anticipates a “robust transition of power” and his most likely successor would seem to be Cameron Bailey, TIFF’s artistic director, who was for several years in the past decade the co-director of the fest with Handling.
“He’d be more than an obvious candidate, but I certainly don’t want to comment because it’s not my job to actually choose my successor,” Handling said.
“It’s the board’s job, and I’m sure they’ll go through a very detailed and exhaustive process to make sure they end up with the right candidate.”
Whoever is chosen will have their work cut out for them. TIFF recently announced it is embarking on a five-year transformation plan called “Audience First,” in response to industry-wide drops in movie attendance, including a single-year drop of 49,000 people in 2016 over 2015 to showings on the five public screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox, the fest’s year-round headquarters at King and John Sts.
TIFF plans to move from simply showing films to offering “transformative experiences through film,” which would include more hands-on involvement with online services and through such popular attractions as the digiPlaySpace interactive children’s exhibit.
But Handling says he’s confident the organization can weather any storm, and he’s seen big ones in his time. They include the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which occurred midway through the 2001 festival and resulted in numerous red-carpet cancellations, although the films continued to screen.
The biggest challenge of all, Handling said, was the SARS epidemic of 2003, which spooked so many Hollywood denizens, it looked for a time that there wouldn’t be any celebrities on that year’s red carpet, and maybe not even a festival at all. The logjam began to break when Canadian rocker Neil Young said he’d be coming to TIFF to premiere his film Greendale, SARS or no SARS.
“It’s just been so rich and rewarding and all driven by being a complete and passionate cinephile,” Handling said of his time with TIFF, which has brought him numerous global honours that include the Order of Canada and France’s Chevalier des arts et des lettres.
“So to be able to see film and to rub shoulders with all the creators and to think about it and curate it and bring it back to Toronto has been extraordinary.”
HOUSTON—One week after Harvey roared into the Gulf Coast, residents of a Texas city struggled with no drinking water, fires continued to erupt at a stricken chemical plant and funerals began for some of the mounting toll of victims.
In Beaumont, Texas, home to almost 120,000, people waited in a line that stretched for more than a mile to get bottled water after the municipal system failed earlier this week.
Thick black smoke and towering orange flames shot up Friday after two trailers of highly unstable compounds blew up at Arkema, a flooded chemical plant in Crosby, the second fire there in two days.
And in Houston, friends and family gathered Friday evening to remember 42-year-old Benito Juarez Cavazos, one of 42 people whose deaths are attributed to Harvey. Cavazos came to Texas illegally from Mexico 28 years ago and was in the process of getting his green card.
“It’s very unfortunate that right when he finally had hopes of being able to maybe go to Mexico soon to go see his family it all went downhill,” his cousin, Maria Cavazos, said. “Sadly, he’s going back to Mexico, but in an unfortunate way.”
President Donald Trump announced plans Friday to make his second visit to the region devastated by Harvey. On Saturday, he will be in Houston and Lake Charles, La., to survey the damage. The White House said he would have time during the visit with the first lady to talk to residents.
Earlier Friday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that ongoing releases of water from two reservoirs could keep thousands of homes flooded for up to 15 days. He told residents that if they stayed and later needed help, first responders’ resources could be further strained.
Residents of the still-flooded western part of Houston were asked to evacuate due to the releases from two reservoirs protecting downtown. The ongoing releases were expected to keep some homes flooded that had been filled with water earlier in the week. Homes that are not currently flooded probably will not be affected, officials said.
Some of the affected houses have several meters of water in them, and the water reaches to the rooftops of others, district meteorologist Jeff Lindner said.
Turner pleaded for more high-water vehicles and more search-and-rescue equipment as the nation’s fourth-largest city continued looking for any survivors or corpses that might have somehow escaped notice in flood-ravaged neighbourhoods.
Search teams quickly worked their way down streets, sometimes not even knocking on doors if there were obvious signs that all was well — organized debris piles or full cans of trash on the curb, for instance, or neighbours confirming that the residents had evacuated.
Authorities considered it an initial search, though they did not say what subsequent searches would entail or when they would commence.
Turner also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide more workers to process applications from thousands of people seeking government help. The mayor said he will request a preliminary aid package of $75 million for debris removal alone.
The storm had lost most of its tropical characteristics but remained a source of heavy rain that threatened to cause flooding as far north as Indiana.
By Friday evening, Harvey had dumped more than 23 centimetres of rain in parts of Arkansas and Tennessee and more than 20 centimetres in spots in Alabama and Kentucky. Its remnants were expected to generate another 2.5 to 8 centimetres over parts of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia.
National Weather Service meteorologists expect Harvey to break up and merge with other weather systems over the Ohio Valley late Saturday or Sunday.
An estimated 156,000 dwellings were damaged by flooding in Harris County, or more than 10 per cent of all structures in the county database, according to the flood control district for the county, which includes Houston.
Figures from the Texas Department of Public Safety indicated that nearly 87,000 homes had major or minor damage and at least 6,800 were destroyed.
Harvey initially came ashore Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days. The storm brought five straight days of rain totalling close to 1.3 metres in one location, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental U.S.
Far out over the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma was following a course that could bring it near the eastern Caribbean Sea by early next week. The Category 2 storm was moving northwest at nearly 20 km/h. No coastal watches or warnings were in effect.
Michelle Kungl was pulled from the womb with a broken neck and a grim prognosis.
Limp and unable to breathe, nobody expected her to survive the difficult forceps delivery 34 years ago. Her parents and doctors were preparing to remove her from life support when suddenly, an elated nurse noticed something miraculous — Michelle’s tiny hand, twitching.
It was the beginning of an astonishing journey that would see the bright-eyed baby — who had no movement below the neck and was attached to a ventilator to breathe — eventually learn to talk, sit up, walk and even ride a tricycle.
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Michelle became a media darling. The Star and other local newspapers wrote stories about the little dynamo at the Hospital for Sick Children who couldn’t go home because she relied on a ventilator. She was featured on CBC and CNN as a youngster determined to live like any other child.
Michelle would spend the first seven years of her life at Sick Kids — the hospital’s longest in-patient — before she was transferred to Bloorview Children’s Hospital, where she was finally allowed to go home for the first time with a nurse. Another seven years would pass before the province’s health-care system provided the support for her to live at home full time.
Doctors never thought she would live independently. But now 34, Michelle has her own apartment in Richmond Hill with on-site attendants. She drives a 2013 Dodge Caravan Crew SE, enjoys playing video games with her boyfriend, and earns more than $42,500 as a full-time credit card fraud investigator for a bank.
Michelle overcame impossible medical odds as a child. But as an adult she is fighting her most frustrating and seemingly impossible battle yet — convincing Ontario’s narrow and rule-bound social assistance system that she is disabled enough to receive help to cover her extraordinary medical and disability-related expenses.
“The impact this is having on her life is devastating,” says her lawyer Brendon Pooran, who specializes in human rights and financial security for people with disabilities.
* * *
It is early July and after 11 months of emails, phone calls and meetings, Michelle believes York Region’s Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) office has finally sorted out her monthly payments and extended health benefits.
The bad news comes first thing in the morning on July 6, when Michelle’s ODSP worker calls to say her provincial support has been suspended for about the 50th time in almost 14 years.
Today, it is because she received three bi-weekly paycheques in June and has — once again — exceeded the program’s monthly income threshold.
“I don’t believe that they care at all about me — I’m just a number, a case file,” she writes in an email to her mother.
“They give you as little as they possibly can and turn away from you like you are invisible.”
Since she finished college in 2003, Michelle has had to choose between her health — even survival — and being an active and productive member of society.
The irony is, she knows exactly what she could do to make these headaches disappear overnight.
“Everything would be so much easier if I just didn’t work,” she sighs, placing her index finger over the tracheotomy tube in her neck to steady her voice.
And yet Michelle, who achieved “top performer” status at work earlier this year, loves her job.
“When you are working it helps your mental health. You have friends. You have something to look forward to,” she says. “You have more income — more than what you get on ODSP (alone.) You have activities where you meet new people. It’s better than staying home alone, isolated.”
Working also keeps her moving, which is good for her overall health, especially her fragile lungs.
While living in hospital, Michelle learned to breathe without her ventilator, a process that requires her to think about every breath she takes. But she still needs her ventilator when she sleeps and is at home relaxing, in case she nods off.
“If I forget to breathe, I’m dead,” she says, only half joking.
Every time her income crosses a certain threshold, Michelle’s benefits are suddenly cut off, leaving her scrambling.
This day’s latest setback is particularly worrisome because her accessible van is being serviced and she is expecting a bill for more than $2,300. As she has explained dozens of times to ODSP workers who have questioned these expenses, she needs the van for work because accessible public transit doesn’t accommodate her hours.
To make matters worse, July is when her tenant and auto insurance are due. Michelle pays these expenses annually to save on both premiums and paperwork.
And it is a mountain of paperwork. Every year, Michelle collects scores of receipts and fills out dozens of forms to convince ODSP to help cover more than $25,000 in annual disability expenses that keep her healthy and able to work.
Keeping up with the paperwork has become a part-time job for Michelle and a full-time job for her mother Lyn, a 62-year-old artist, retired gallery manager.
“It’s hard watching your kid struggle,” says Lyn. “But this is beyond that. This is a human rights issue.”
Michelle can’t work, save money for a vacation or even consider marrying her boyfriend without losing critical financial support, she notes.
Michelle’s employer allows her to work set hours instead of the usual rotating shifts. Her Friday to Tuesday afternoon/evening work schedule accommodates the one-hour attendant care she receives every morning as well as an extra two-hour appointment every Wednesday when an attendant helps her do laundry or clean the circuits on her ventilator.
Michelle’s days off are packed with household errands, medical appointments, trips to her wheelchair service technician or auto mechanic and the ever-present administrative burden of keeping track of expenses she must submit monthly to prove she needs ODSP to survive.
Lost receipts mean lost support and more precious time fighting for reinstatement, so once a month she drives the documents to the ODSP office to ensure nothing goes missing in the mail.
As of June, Michelle was approved to receive $767.24 a month to offset what she and her mother estimate are almost $1,700 in monthly work-related disability expenses that allow her to hold down a job and remain active in the community. Life-sustaining medical equipment related to her ventilator adds another $507 to Michelle’s monthly costs that she recoups through her company benefits plan and ODSP extended health benefits.
But as the latest call from her ODSP worker shows, it is never a sure thing.
From the time she moved into her own apartment and began receiving ODSP in 2003, Michelle’s support has been questioned. There were disputes over her supplies, such as the “trach tie,” a collar she wears around her neck that holds her tracheotomy tube in place. The only brand the program covered cut into her neck until it bled.
When Michelle’s part-time work hours grew, the program would spit out form letters informing her she was cut off for earning too much.
Finally, in 2007, while living in Toronto, Michelle’s local legal aid and ODSP workers devised a “creative solution” that ensured her extraordinary disability costs would be taken into account so the cut-off notices would cease.
Her monthly income support and medical benefits remained relatively stable until last summer when she relocated to an apartment in Richmond Hill closer to work.
“When she moved, the whole thing fell apart,” Lyn says.
York Region ODSP didn’t recognize how her case was handled in Toronto, she says. “They told her go home. Deal with it on your own. You are making a salary and you should be able to look after this by yourself.”
Complicating matters — and adding to the paperwork — was Michelle’s promotion to full-time last fall which entitles her to company benefits.
Since ODSP is a “program of last resort,” Michelle can no longer submit an annual list of medical supplies to her local pharmacy, order what she needs every month, and have everything covered.
Instead, she must pay upfront. To get her money back, she has to submit the bills to her company benefits supplier, which covers 80 per cent of most items. Then she has to bring the benefit statement toODSP to cover the balance. Wheelchair repair costs are handled the same way.
It is an onerous process that usually takes two months and explains why Michelle carries 14 credit cards to juggle the costs. She figures she owes about $30,000.
* * *
Dr. Karen Pape was in the neonatal intensive care unit at Sick Kids on Dec. 19, 1982, when Michelle arrived by ambulance from Women’s College Hospital, barely alive.
And it was Pape’s ground-breaking use of electric stimulation to Michelle’s inert muscles about three years later that changed the course of the young girl’s life.
But the neonatologist who has since retired from clinical practice, confesses she was shocked when she reconnected with her former patient several years ago while writing a book about innovative treatments for children with early brain and nerve injuries. After everyone worked so hard for Michelle as a child, public systems seem to have abandoned her as an adult, Pape says.
“She has really been failed. She has chronic ventilatory dependence. This is not a joke. She will die a respiratory death.”
As far as Pape knows, Michelle is the oldest person with a neonatal spinal cord injury who is partially ventilator dependent and living independently.
Adults with Michelle’s level of injury are usually in institutions and costing the public hundreds of thousands of dollars, she notes.
Instead of the constant paper chase and hour-long drive each way to Newmarket to submit her income statements and expense receipts every month to ODSP, Michelle’s time should be spent living her life and looking after her health, Pape says.
She should have a massage and physiotherapy once a week, an athletic trainer to keep her mobile and an occupational therapist to monitor her for safety and medical aids, the doctor says.
But none of this is covered by Michelle’s employer or ODSP. Her company benefits cover the equivalent of just one physiotherapy treatment a month.
Pape was the catalyst for Michelle’s move to Richmond Hill last summer where she lives in an accessible, ground-floor apartment in a non-smoking building with underground parking. Second-hand smoke, which was common in Michelle’s subsidized apartment in Toronto where she lived for almost 13 years, is particularly dangerous for people on ventilators, she notes.
“She was on the eighth floor of a building where the elevator used to break down. She couldn’t get up the stairs. Her father had to be called to carry her up,” she says, trying to control her exasperation. “She had to scrape the ice from her car in the outdoor parking lot in the winter.”
Michelle’s new apartment is a huge improvement, Pape says. But even that arrangement comes with a hitch. Now that Michelle is working full-time, her subsidized rent of $352 a month is expected to spike to a “market rate” of more than $1,100 after her annual rent review this fall.
* * *
“Hope you weren’t expecting Driving Miss Daisy,” Michelle quips, as she roars out of her underground parking garage in her gold Dodge Caravan. When Michelle is behind the wheel, it is nothing like the 1989 film about an aging Jewish widow and her African-American driver.
Her license plate — “Sparky8” — is a nickname from her years at Brother André Catholic High School in Markham. The blue butterfly tattoo on her left shoulder blade and an image of the moon and the stars inked on her lower back are also high school relics.
“Why not look at the moon when you are looking at the moon?” she says with a smirk.
The van, with a price tag of about $25,000, cost her more than $80,000 after accessibility modifications were installed to accommodate her electric wheelchair. Her 10-year, biweekly loan payments average about $941 a month, an expense that must be paid until 2022. Now that the warranty has run out, her service costs will escalate.
But the van is Michelle’s life-line.
Her first stop is almost always Starbucks drive-thru for a venti Caramel Frappuccino “no whipped cream, extra drizzle” or Tim Hortons for a large S’mores Iced Capp.
Michelle frowns as she pulls into Costco and looks for a wheelchair parking spot. The specially designated spaces often don’t work for her van, which requires at least five metres of clearance for the electric wheelchair ramp that extends out the right-hand sliding door at the push of a button on her keychain. As a result, she parks in a regular spot at the far end of the lot to avoid getting boxed in.
As she searches for a deal on plastic cups for a work pot-luck, she zips by startled shoppers in her electric wheelchair barking “careful now” in a “don’t mess with me” voice.
“People just don’t look where they are going,” she says. “And I hate it when people see someone in a wheelchair and just assume you need help.”
Michelle smiles in the check-out line where clerks greet her by name.
Growing up amid hospital routines, rules and regulations have given Michelle an intense, if not extreme, respect for authority, confidentiality and protection of personal information in both her professional and private life.
Punctuality and precision are also touchstones. “I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late,” she says describing how she allows 90 minutes for the 30-minute drive to work.
“Wheelchair breakdowns, accessibility ramp glitches and difficulty finding wheelchair parking spots. Having a disability takes time,” she says wryly.
* * *
Lyn has spent more than three decades fighting for her eldest child’s right to live a normal life. While raising two younger boys, she pushed for Michelle to leave the hospital with a nurse so she could attend school with her peers. She insisted her daughter join the school choir, become a Brownie and a Girl Guide, take taekwondo, go to summer camp and go on family vacations.
When Michelle became a young adult, Lyn insisted her daughter work part-time and attend college where Michelle lived in residence and learned to drive.
Michelle credits her mother for her fierce independence.
But her years of hospital life and Lyn’s constant advocacy have forged a difficult mother-daughter relationship.
“My mom and I both have different ideas about how I should be conducting myself,” Michelle says diplomatically.
Strong-willed and extremely private, Michelle refuses to introduce her mother to her boyfriend, a man with spastic cerebral palsy she has dated for more than two years.
And she is annoyed by Lyn’s discomfort with suctioning.
Because Michelle can’t cough, she carries a portable medical vacuum mounted to the back of her wheelchair that sucks the mucus from her lungs through a clear narrow catheter. When she sticks the catheter into her lungs through a tracheotomy tube in her neck, the machine whirrs and makes loud slurping noises.
“I suction wherever I want. But for some people, it makes them feel sick, so Lyn feels I should do it in the bathroom.”
As a teen, when she finally moved into the family home, Michelle was angry Lyn forced her to leave her wheelchair in the garage and walk or use her walker.
“She thought it was better for me. Which of course it was,” Michelle concedes.
Lyn loves her daughter. But she admits Michelle is sometimes hard to like.
“Michelle’s point of view is f-you. I’m disabled. Get over it,” Lyn says.
She frets about her daughter’s hygiene and diet. “I find it hard to go to her house and see bags of potato chips and packages of Mr. Noodle everywhere.”
“Michelle feels I have never accepted her disability,” Lyn says. “And she is right. I’ve never had the luxury of feeling sad for my daughter because I’ve been so busy fighting. I’ve always been the difficult one. I had to be. Because feeling sorry for Michelle was never going to get her where she needed to go.”
But Lyn knows she has to let go.
“Michelle is an adult. I have to let her live her life. We all have to let her live her life. And that is what this fight is all about.”
* * *
“Hey there, whatcha doing for dinner?” Michelle texts.
“Call me — easier that way.”
Michelle’s dad Werner, 60, a bronzed and burley auto mechanic who came to Canada from Germany when he was 18, suggests they meet for dinner at The Keg at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night.
As often happens when couples have a critically ill child, Werner and Lyn’s marriage collapsed under the stress of Michelle’s traumatic birth and a subsequent failed medical malpractice lawsuit. But as Werner is quick to point out “we are all friends now.”
“Your mother deserves all the credit for getting you where you are at. It is all your mother,” he tells Michelle as he digs into his order of Baseball Top Sirloin. “She was always there for you. She is a very strong woman . . . Me? I’m just the comic relief.”
The restaurant rings with Michelle’s distinctive chortle as Werner recounts the time he took her to summer camp, drove onto the highway shoulder and told her the noise from the rumble strip was a helicopter circling overhead.
“I made you look,” he jokes.
Werner pulls out his cellphone to share photos of Michelle in a bikini, marching in the gay pride parade and riding on the back of his black Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Michelle is still laughing when Werner mentions he and his partner have just joined Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park, a local nudist colony.
“Maybe you want to join too,” he suggests.
“Could I take my wheelchair?” she shoots back.
“I can never say no to you,” her father replies. “Except when you ask for a Ferrari.”
Michelle’s youngest brother, Dane, 30, runs a tow truck company and is often around her father’s Markham auto shop. “I know he will always be there if I need him, especially if my van breaks down on the road,” she smiles.
But she is closest in both age and spirit to brother Ryan, 33, an electrical engineer, currently studying dentistry in Australia and about to apply to medical school.
“When I see Michelle I don’t see her disability,” he says over Facetime from Brisbane. “She has never been defined by her disability and has never asked for any handouts.”
Ryan, the peacemaker in the family, struggles to describe his frustration over his sister’s battles with bureaucracy.
“What I would hope for Michelle is to see her be supported by a program that gives her a fighting chance at continuing to lead a normal life in the face of extraordinary circumstances,” he adds. “A program that covers her basic medical needs without all the hassle of endless paperwork and red tape.”
Disability rights lawyer Pooran, is outraged by Michelle’s struggles with ODSP.
“This constant flow of paperwork — the monitoring and compliance requirements — has had a devastating effect on her physically, emotionally and psychologically. And it has to stop,” he says.
For more than two decades, Pooran and other disability advocates have been urging Queen’s Park to ease the onerous reporting requirements and strict income and asset rules that govern ODSP. He is accompanying Michelle and Lyn to a meeting with provincial officials early next month to discuss her case.
Although Pooran acknowledges Michelle is somewhat unique — few with her level of disability work full time — her experience highlights the problem most people on social assistance face when they try to work or receive income from other sources. More than 900,000 Ontarians rely on social assistance, including more than 490,000 on ODSP. Barely 10 per cent of individuals receiving ODSP have employment income.
It is a key issue Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek asked a provincial working group to address last summer as part of a review of Ontario’s income security system. The group’s 10-year blueprint for reform, is expected in October.
In the meantime, a ministry spokesperson said the government has already increased the amount individuals and families can deduct from their earnings for disability-work related expenses from $300 to $1,000 a month.
The ministry is also planning to ease the burden of monthly income and expense reporting by allowing people to submit records electronically.
“We understand it can be inconvenient, onerous and at times a frustrating process for individuals,” said Kristen Tedesco. “We know we have more work to do and we look forward to the recommendations from the Income Security Working Group in order to further improve social assistance programs in Ontario.”
* * *
When the Kungls lost their medical malpractice lawsuit in 1989, it was a crushing blow to Michelle’s financial future.
As the judge warned in his ruling: “I cannot help but feel that the law has failed the infant plaintiff Michelle. Society must not fail her.”
The words echo as Lyn continues to battle for her adult child.
“Our society should be looking after disabled people,” she says. “Our programs should be looking after Michelle’s medical expenses. If she was not working, it would all be covered. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Lyn confesses she urged doctors to take her severely-injured baby off life-support.
“I can tell you there were times when I wished for the pain of watching Michelle’s struggle to breathe to end,” she says.
“She is a woman now. But the struggle to have a life — a life that you and I take for granted — has always been beyond her reach,” she continues. “This is the pain that I share with my child who lives.”