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    MONTREAL—Did Stephen Harper’s approach to Quebec accelerate the decline of the sovereignty movement, or was the former prime minister just the accidental beneficiary of a collective desire on the part of Quebecers to move on from the deadlock over the province’s political future?

    In a text published in the magazine L’actualité on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Parti Québécois’ short-lived 2012 victory, former Harper adviser Carl Vallée argues the Conservatives deserve significant credit for having contributed with their policies to bring the Quebec conversation in line with that of the rest of Canada.

    There is no doubt that the Harper decade was not a good one for the sovereignty cause.

    By the time the Conservatives lost power in 2015, support for Québec leaving the federation had fallen to its lowest level since the early 1980s.

    The Bloc Québécois was a spent parliamentary force, having failed in two consecutive elections to win the 12 seats required to qualify for official party status in the House of Commons.

    The Parti Québécois was back in opposition in the national assembly after premier Pauline Marois’ bid to trade a minority mandate for a governing majority after 18 months in power backfired. The party has yet to recover from that defeat.

    This weekend, its rank and file will hold a vote of confidence in its latest leader. The upcoming first year anniversary of Jean-François Lisée’s leadership victory next month will be no cause for celebrations. With a year to go to the next Quebec election, the PQ is in third place in voting intentions, well behind the ruling Liberals and the second-place Coalition Avenir Québec

    According to Vallée, Harper contributed actively to this steady deterioration of sovereigntist prospects by practicing a less invasive form of federalism than his Liberal predecessors and by systematically refusing to engage in rhetorical debates with his sovereigntist foes.

    After the PQ formed a minority government in 2012, Vallée says Harper was urged by the civil service to become more proactive in showcasing Canada and the federal government in Quebec. But the then-prime minister was wary of strategies that he found reminiscent of the failed Liberal sponsorship program. Instead he opted to decline to take whatever bait premier Marois threw his way.

    In doing all of the above, Vallée argues, Harper had a major hand in shifting the Quebec conversation from federalism-versus-sovereignty to a left-versus-right axis more aligned with that of the rest of the country.

    It is possible to agree that Harper’s net impact on the standing of federalism in Quebec was positive and to also find that it was not as much the product of a deliberate strategy as a case of unintended consequences.

    Harper’s hands-off approach to the federation’s social union for instance had as much to do with the former prime minister’s ideological distaste for government activism on the social policy front as with a Quebec strategy.

    For the record, it was Liberal prime minister Paul Martin — not his Conservative successor — who updated the template for asymmetrical federalism by spelling out Quebec’s right to determine its own health spending priorities in the 2004 Health Accord.

    No recent prime minister was as unpopular in Quebec as Harper. That went a long way to make the virtue of not engaging in battles of words with his sovereigntist counterpart a necessity. These were fights he would have had little chance of winning in Quebec public opinion. Elsewhere in the country, they would have drawn attention to his limited capacity to champion Canada effectively in a referendum

    Harper’s decade in power was a game-changer in Quebec but maybe not in ways he necessarily intended.

    In presenting Quebecers with a version of conservatism that was alien to the majority that make up its progressive mainstream, he provided them with an incentive to reconnect with national parties liable to oust his party from power.

    A critical number of Quebec voters did accept the sovereigntist premise that the values that underpinned Harper’s policies at home and abroad were at odds with theirs. But most of them rejected the conclusion that leaving the federation was their only remedial option.

    From that perspective, Harper was not only an architect of the demise of the Bloc Québécois but also a driving force behind the 2011 orange wave and the 2015 Liberal revival in Quebec.

    Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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    I can’t walk by a department store without looking for a piece of clothing for my one-year-old niece who I love more than anything in the world. The only downside to this compulsion is that I have to sift through the kids’ clothing section, an experience I don’t love, an experience not unlike walking the Vegas strip because you aren’t likely to see any colours that exist in nature.

    First there’s the girls’ section: the dresses and jumpsuits appear to have been vomited on by all four Teletubbies, and no matter how hard you try you cannot escape the endless selection of graphic T-shirts that declare obvious truths such as “Fall is here!” and “I love my Mommy!”

    And then there’s the boys’ section, one I always assume might be a little more dignified than the girls’, but is also filled with cringeworthy T-shirts and onesies. A few of my least favourites that seem to turn up everywhere I shop: “Milk addict” and “Mama’s little Farter.” If you were an alien sent to earth to study human infants you might conclude, based entirely on the outfits their parents put them in, that female children are happy dolts defined by an eagerness to please and male children are flatulent creeps. (The latter may be true about a lot of people, but must our children lead with this information?)

    All this is to say, when news broke this week that major U.K. department store John Lewis announced plans to ditch gendered labels on its children’s clothing, and adopt instead the unisex label “Boys and Girls” for its kids aisle, my reaction wasn’t one of feminist approval (smash that gender binary!) nor abject conservative horror (preserve the status quo!) but rather, indifference. It’s well and good that a major retailer has eliminated gendered labels on clothing, thus liberating scores of prepubescent lesbians from having to beg their mums to “please let me look in the boys’ section now” (not to mention scores of effeminate boys who can at long last browse dresses and trousers at the same time). But I have to ask: what great use is the elimination of gendered labels in a clothing aisle if the clothes themselves aren’t subject to change?

    If such a trend catches on in North America, and Winners, for example, ditches the gender binary in the kids’ aisle, I’ll still be sifting through embarrassing and demeaning graphic tees. The only difference will be that both the boys and girls selections will be hung together on the same rack or folded on the same shelf. This might make it harder for parents to find what exactly they are looking for, but it isn’t likely to change what they purchase and for whom they purchase it. In other words, even in a genderless clothing aisle, parents are still likely to buy pink graphic T-shirts that reference the weather (“Spring has sprung!”) for their baby girls, and blue graphic tees that reference lactation (“Milk Junkie”) for their baby boys. They’re still going to put little Heather in the bright pink pullover that says “Smiles Change the World” and little Max in an army green T-shirt that says “Weekend Warrior.”

    So while it may be admirable to advocate for the erosion of gender labels in kids’ clothing stores, I believe that doing so is ultimately meaningless if we don’t also demand that retailers cool it on the tacky gendered graphic tees and offer up instead some more ordinary clothing. Plain old jeans, sweatpants, T-shirts and overalls with no subliminal messaging or catchphrases — kids items that for some reason appear to be easily available at higher end stores but are in short supply at affordable department stores.

    Maybe there’s a way to move into a gender-barrier-free future by unearthing looks from fashion’s past. In the 1950s, for example, babies didn’t wear onesies that said, “Daddy’s little Girl.” They wore onesies that said nothing. History wasn’t kind to those who cross-dressed, but people, generally speaking, dressed well. Progress is a good thing but it would be nice if in the process of shedding the rigid gender norms associated with fashion’s past, we could revive some of its class.

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    HALIFAX—Nova Scotia’s chief justice has ordered an investigation into complaints against a provincial court judge who presided over a high-profile case involving a taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated female passenger who was found unconscious in his cab.

    Justice Michael MacDonald issued a statement Thursday saying a three-member review committee will look into allegations of misconduct against Judge Gregory Lenehan.

    Lenehan faced intense public scrutiny in March when he issued an oral decision that concluded the Crown had failed to prove the woman’s lack of consent.

    Read more: Halifax judge finds cab driver not guilty of sexual assault, says ‘a drunk can consent’

    Anger over Halifax taxi driver’s sexual assault acquittal spurs letter writing campaign against judge

    Nova Scotia judge’s ruling more than a failure to just one woman

    He followed up by saying, “Clearly, a drunk can consent,” then acquitted 40-year-old Bassam Al-Rawi.

    Lenehan’s choice of words set off a storm of social media criticism, a letter-writing campaign calling for a judicial council to investigate, and two public protests.

    The Crown is seeking an appeal of Lenehan’s decision. A hearing is scheduled before the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal for Nov. 22.

    The complaints were initially reviewed by Alan Tufts, associate chief judge of the provincial court. He referred the matter to the chief justice in his role as chairman of the province’s Judicial Council.

    The review committee will include a judge from the provincial or family court, a lawyer appointed by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, and a public representative appointed by provincial Justice Minister Mark Furey.

    The committee will investigate each complaint and decide whether to dismiss it, resolve it with Lenehan’s agreement, or refer the complaint to a hearing of the entire Judicial Council.

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    Grade 9 students at Oakwood Collegiate weren’t the only ones entering new territory when they stepped through the doors for their first day of high school on Tuesday.

    The school itself is forging new ground as the first in the Toronto District School Board to eliminate all applied-level courses for its youngest pupils.

    This year for the first time, its 95 Grade 9 students are no longer separated into university-bound academic level classes versus the more hands-on applied option.

    Instead, the two streams have been integrated into one, ensuring students keep their options open for post-secondary school and in turn, their career paths. The move, which affects English, math, science, geography and French, has implications for many Grade 9 students.

    Last year, about 40 per cent of them were enrolled in at least one applied-level course. Their remaining three Grade 9 courses, including physical education, art and music, are open to all students.

    “There’s tremendous excitement,” said principal Steve Yee, who describes the de-streaming plan as “a bold move to do something differently” that was generated by teachers and widely supported by parents.

    “We wanted to raise the level of excellence for all students in our building,” said Yee. “There was a strong feeling from staff that we wanted to provide them with the most enriched experience. We wanted to push them and we wanted the kids to realize they can do it and that we believe they can do it.”

    Academic streaming has become a contentious issue in the province because of the way it has been shown to impact the most at-risk and marginalized students.

    Other TDSB high schools have launched “de-streaming pilots” over the past few years, and found that pass rates have actually increased as higher levels of achievement were expected from students.

    The school will review plans for Grade 10 applied courses later in the year.

    Oakwood has taken extra steps to support students who in previous years might have enrolled in applied courses. Grade 9 classes are capped at 25 students, versus the usual 30-plus for academic courses. Staff are committed to collaborating and providing students with extra help where they need it, Yee said.

    Students identified in Grade 8 as needing extra support were enrolled in Grade 9 learning strategies, a class that earns them a credit while also providing time and extra help to work on other courses as they start to understand their learning styles and begin to advocate for themselves.

    Lunchtime and after-school help is also available, Yee said.

    “Grade 9 is an important year and if we teach them well they’ll learn and develop the skills, that will set them up for the future.”

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    Starting next year, students from kindergarten to Grade 12 will bring home new report cards that showcase skills such as creativity and critical thinking as part of the Ontario government’s education “refresh.”

    The government is also looking at changes to standardized testing as well as curriculum updates — especially in math, given recent results on province-wide testing showing just half of all Grade 6 students met provincial standards, and less than two-thirds of those in Grade 3 did.

    “We do need to look at whether we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that kids are getting those math skills,” Premier Kathleen Wynne said Wednesday at Toronto’s Lawrence Park Collegiate, where she and Education Minister Mitzie Hunter announced the changes.

    The government is already pouring $60 million to boost the number of math teachers and provide professional development, and those changes “haven’t had a long time to set,” Wynne said, but additional measures are needed.

    The new report cards, to be in place for 2018-19, are expected to include teacher evaluations on “transferable skills” — with less of a focus on areas like organization that are a part of the “work habits” section on current report cards — while retaining marks for individual classes.

    Hunter said the process is still in the early stages, but changes will be made only after consultations with experts, educators and parents.

    Unions, too, “for sure will be at the table as we transform and refresh the system, including the report card aspect,” she said later at Queen’s Park.

    “We are focusing on the learning skills and work habits and really moving toward the transferable skills, which we know are really needed in terms of measuring those things that really matter to how kids learn and how they apply that learning into the real world, after school.”

    Hunter said standardized testing — administered in Grades 3, 6, 9 and 10 — will also be looked at, but teacher unions won’t get their wish to have it eliminated.

    Chris Cowley, the new president of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, said he realizes provincial testing — known as EQAO — is here to stay, but “there’s a more effective way to do it.”

    “I think you can get just as good results from random sampling. Teachers spend weeks preparing for EQAO, weeks that they could be delivering the curriculum in a different way. It takes up a significant amount of time.”

    He said curriculum changes are welcome, but shouldn’t be rushed and teachers must receive timely professional development.

    “Regardless of the (upcoming provincial) election or the political reality, we want to make sure the curriculum and report cards and everything around that is rolled out in the right way,” he said.

    Curriculum changes will happen over the next three to five years, and Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said he hopes it’s done “in a positive light and in a thorough way, and with the input of front-line workers.”

    On EQAO testing, the union’s position is that it be eliminated, he added, “because that’s $100 million could go toward special education programs and students in the system.”

    He also supports any move by the government to “declutter” and refine the curriculum, focusing on a few key concepts, given the criticism that there are too many expectations for teachers to cover.

    However, Hammond also warned that if a report card revamp is in the works for the next school year, with consultations “there’s some concern that is a short timeline.”

    NDP education critic Peggy Sattler said while the Liberal government’s changes “are important and will benefit kids, the real concern is there are fundamental issues in public education that remain unaddressed,” such as underfunding and school closings, that must be dealt with first.

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    OTTAWA—Pat Stogran, the former veterans’ ombudsman and NDP leadership candidate who called the party “fundamentally flawed” when he dropped out of the race in June, has thrown his support behind his former rival Charlie Angus.

    In a press release Thursday morning, Angus said he asked Stogran to join his campaign to work on military and veterans issues and help develop “an independent and progressive foreign policy that will re-establish Canada’s international credibility.”

    Stogran, a retired colonel who led Canadian troops in Afghanistan and served as the country’s first veterans’ ombudsman from 2007 to 2010, said in a statement that he trusts Angus to stand up for veterans.

    “Charlie is a stand-up guy, who isn’t afraid to say it as it is. That is what we need in Ottawa these days,” Stogran said.

    Stogran launched his own bid for the NDP leadership in April, when he billed himself as a scrappy populist who would reject what he called “politics, incorporated” — a euphemism for the political and bureaucratic culture in the capital.

    “Our system of government is morally and functionally bankrupt,” he said at his campaign launch in April.

    “I want to break the system.”

    Three months later he dropped out of the race, blaming NDP insiders for trying to prevent his victory. In a video posted to YouTube, Stogran said the party he was trying to lead will never form government in Ottawa unless it reforms itself.

    In the days following the announcement, Stogran declined to be interviewed about his resignation.

    Angus, an Ontario MP, is one of four remaining candidates trying to take over the party from current leader Tom Mulcair. His opponents are Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton and Quebec MP Guy Caron.

    The party is holding its final leadership debate of the campaign in Vancouver on Sunday. Voting by mail and online begins Sept. 18, and the new leader will be chosen in October.

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    They’re the centre of attention at the Toronto International Film Festival — unless they don’t want to be.

    So just how do you hide a movie star?

    It’s a challenge, a bit like smuggling an elephant into a room underneath a washcloth. But there are ways. A limo to the stairs of a private jet, a brisk hustle through a hotel kitchen or ducking in through an inconspicuous entrance can be a celebrity’s best friend.

    Red carpets, after-parties and onstage screening appearances are when the famous are working at the festival. Otherwise, they’re off the clock and, at least for some, trying to stay out of sight.

    1. The ‘other’ Pearson airport

    The game of hide-and-seek begins as soon as they land in Toronto. Big stars tend to arrive via private plane.

    You may have noticed the huge Skyservice Business Aviation building across from the main terminals as your plane taxis at Pearson International Airport. The other half ends up here if they’re coming or going by charter jet.

    The 31-year-old Canadian company has what’s known as a fixed base operation, or FBO, at Pearson. It includes a sizable “luxury” private lounge with a wall of windows overlooking the runways.

    This private mini-terminal is open 24/7 for guests to shower, nap, or have a pre-arranged meal, from a fast-food burger to a gourmet feast. A 24-hour concierge is available to look after requests.

    “TIFF is our Christmas,” says Catherine Vettese, Skyservice manager of marketing and communications. “It is absolutely by far our busiest time of the year in Toronto. At any time of day you will see row after row of private jets parked.”

    Perhaps even going into the FBO lounge is too much visibility for a star. A Canada Border Services Agency officer can board a private jet and process passengers in their seats. There’s no waiting at the baggage belt or even the curb: the limo or luxury SUV pulls up, luggage is loaded, and the stars come down the stairs and slide into the car.

    2. The greeters

    Boldface also arrives on commercial flights, where “they just come through as a regular passenger,” said Tammy Smith, associate director of terminal operations at Pearson.

    As soon as a celebrity exits the baggage hall, there is a TIFF greeter waiting, as well as staff working for the film, to guide them to transportation at the curb.

    That’s usually where photographers get the familiar snap of stars either smiling behind sunglasses, or looking slightly rumpled and doing the head-down-quick-walk move.

    3. Staying on schedule

    Once downtown, it’s not that Matt Damon or Nicole Kidman don’t want to see fans, explained long-time movie publicist Charlene Coy. They have a schedule to keep.

    “Their TIFF . . . is so overscheduled from the moment they wake up until that premiere; every minute is accounted for,” said Coy, who has worked TIFF for 15 years.

    Coy once arranged to hustle actor Robert Pattinson through the Thompson Hotel’s kitchen to get him past fans when he was here for the (non-TIFF) 2012 premiere of Cosmopolis.

    “I have to say the Thompson was brilliant for me,” Coy recalled. “It was right (around) Twilight and we had to take him through the kitchen and the back elevators, and he had a cap on and three security guys, and we’re taking him through this packed kitchen. But we had no choice.”

    4. At the restaurant

    Coy said it’s also part of her job to ensure stars get in a quick lunch break while on a media day.

    “We’ll call a restaurant to ask for a private room. It’s rare they’ll shut down a restaurant,” Coy said. “When we have to move them, we’re very strategic; underground garage to private room. A lot of the journalists have no idea they’ve even left the hotel.”

    5. Meeting the press

    Lunch leads to the invariable afternoon media-room greeting: “We’re running late.”

    The spot where those of us covering TIFF hear that most frequently is the InterContinental Toronto Centre on Front St. W., the main press junket hotel for the festival since 2012.

    While the stars don’t stay there, most will spend a few hours in the InterContinental in hotel rooms stripped of beds and furniture to become interview rooms, and makeshift TV and photo studios.

    In all, 50 to 70 of the hotel’s 584 rooms become TIFF media central, with stars coming to the hotel by the dozens all day throughout the festival.

    So how do they keep them out of sight? “By not telling anybody,” said Mary Ann Gamboa, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. She has no idea who is arriving when.

    6. The secret entrance

    The InterContinental has a way of getting stars inside that sets it apart: the underground ramp to a hotel entrance off Simcoe St. It’s off limits to autograph seekers and fans.

    “The underground entrance is unique,” said Darryl Hill, InterContinental director of safety and security. “It’s 100 per cent private property, an area we can control with security staff and video surveillance and things of that nature.”

    Some stars take the escalator to the lobby; others prefer to be taken to an elevator that’s kept solely for TIFF VIP use. It goes directly to the junket floor.

    Public areas, including the Azure restaurant off the lobby, can be stargazing areas.

    “We find that most of our guests are very respectful,” said Hill, saying there have been a “very few” incidents where security was involved to deal with “aggressive fans.”

    7. At the hotel

    The 202-room Shangri-La Toronto is also sold out for TIFF. It’s both a popular place for the stars to stay, and home to media junkets and a private screening room on the third floor.

    They often cut through the lobby to get to restaurant Momofuku next door, or the always busy and star-packed Soho House adjacent to the hotel. The Lobby Lounge can offer some prime stargazing after screenings, while adjacent dining room Bosk is where George Clooney had a burger at the bar during TIFF 2015.

    “We can’t hide that. He chose to be there,” said Aynsley Knight, director of communications, who said the hotel determines “who wants privacy and who doesn’t” beforehand.

    There is out-of-sight access to the hotel through the parking garage, while “back of house there is a whole route and path” to get celebrities around without being seen, said Knight.

    8. In plain sight

    Of course, many stars do want to be visible.

    Red carpets are a big part of TIFF and we do everything in our power to make this their time to shine,” said Robyn Mogil, co-founder of Taro PR.

    “There’s a reason why they come to town, and they want to be seen and they want to be heard,” Coy observed.

    Coy recalls suggesting to Rachel Weisz, at TIFF with The Whistleblower in 2010, that she might prefer to leave the hotel by a less conspicuous door.

    “She said, ‘I am totally fine to walk out a front door,’” Coy recalled.

    And then there was screen legend Lauren Bacall.

    “She got swarmed and she loved every minute of it,” said Coy. “She stopped and signed every single autograph. She knew she was walking out in front of an audience.”

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    As the worst of Hurricane Irma departed Antigua and Barbuda’s reef-ringed beaches early Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Gaston Browne boasted that “no other country in the Caribbean would have been as well prepared as we were.”

    The problem with this statement, as Browne later acknowledged, was that Barbuda was left “barely habitable” — and now things might get worse: Hurricane Jose is strengthening and appears to be coming for the same islands already devastated by Irma.

    At 11 a.m., the National Hurricane Center released an ominous bulletin about the new menace is looming in the Atlantic: “......JOSE EXPECTED TO BECOME A MAJOR HURRICANE BY FRIDAY ... WATCHES ISSUED FOR THE NORTHERN LEEWARD ISLANDS.”

    Already reeling from Irma, Antigua and Barbuda issued a hurricane watch for Jose on Thursday.

    Barbuda, the smaller of the two islands in the eastern Caribbean, sustained damage to about 95 per cent of all properties, Browne told local media after flying over the area.

    Aerial footage showed homes with walls blown out and roofs ripped away. Those who lived through it described a night of pure terror when at least one person, a young child, was killed on Barbuda — one of at least 10 deaths reported across the Caribbean in Irma’s aftermath.

    “I felt like crying,” Browne said after seeing the destruction, which he called unprecedented. “But crying will not help.”

    Read more:

    Hurricane Irma brings death, ‘wide-scale’ destruction to the Caribbean

    15 photos that show Hurricane Irma's devastating destruction

    Quebec man on Saint-Martin calls Irma the most terrifying experience of his lifeEND

    As Irma continues a merciless, historic churn toward the U.S. mainland, those first islanders left in its wake are only beginning to decipher the scope of devastation — or, in some fortunate cases, a surprising paucity thereof.

    Barbuda. Anguilla. St. Martin. St. Barthelemy.

    These jurisdictions are part of the Leeward Islands, a vulnerable, isolated chain arcing southeast from Puerto Rico.

    Browne, the prime minster of Antigua and Barbuda, said that parts of Barbuda, a 62-square-mile island, are “literally underwater.” Most of the island’s 1,300 residents live in the town of Codrington.

    As the sun rose, and people throughout the Caribbean took stock of what's been lost, there was confusion, desperation and worsening fear that another hurricane, Jose, appears to be coming for them, too.

    The looming storm now has sustained wind speeds nearing 90 miles per hour with even stronger gusts. Its potency is forecast to grow over the next 48 hours.

    To the west, Irma raked the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where nearly one million people were without electricity Wednesday night.

    The Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands are next in its path. Closer to Florida's southern tip, the Bahamas remain in danger, and mass evacuations are underway.

    At 8 a.m., the National Hurricane Center said that Irma was heading for Turks and Caicos.

    The United Nations has said that Irma, a Category 5 storm, could affect as many as 37 million people.

    The majority are on the American mainland. But it's the residents of tiny islands in the Eastern Caribbean who were hit first — and hardest.

    Some 60 per cent of Barbuda’s residents were left homeless, Browne told the Associated Press. The prime minister has vowed to evacuate everyone there to Antigua ahead of Jose’s arrival.

    To the south, in the French territories of St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, at least eight people have died. Ghastly images, captured on mobile phones and circulated on social media, showed cars and trucks almost completely submerged in the storm surge, and several buildings in ruin.

    French President Emmanuel Macron said it’s too soon to determine how many victims there may be. He has dispatched the country’s overseas territories minister, Annick Girardin, who told reporters while en route to the region that evacuations may be necessary, it’s too soon.

    In Anguilla, part of the British West Indies, the local government is “overwhelmed” and desperate for help, Attorney General John McKendrick said late Wednesday. Officials were barely able to communicate among one another and with emergency response teams, he said. With most lines down, they were dependent on instant messaging.

    It appears at least one person has died in Anguilla, McKendrick said.

    “Roads blocked, hospital damaged. Power down. Communications badly impaired. Help needed,” he wrote in one message. In another, McKendrick said, “More people might die without further help, especially as another hurricane threatens us so soon.”

    Jose remains deep in the central Atlantic for now, but as it gathered strength Wednesday, forecasters said it’s expected to become a dangerous Category 3 hurricane by Friday. It’s possible the storm could approach the same islands this weekend.

    The United Kingdom’s international development secretary, Priti Patel, announced Wednesday that the British navy, along with a contingent of Royal Marines and military engineers, had been dispatched to the Caribbean with makeshift shelters and water purification systems. While some in England criticized the response, McKendrick said that he’s worried they, too, will quickly become overwhelmed by the amount of work that must be done to restore a sense of normalcy.

    Elsewhere on Anguilla, some informal reports were less bleak. The Facebook page for Roy’s Bayside Grill, for instance, remained active as Irma passed.

    Around 7:30 a.m., the page broadcast a brief live video, about a minute of footage of the storm captured from inside an unidentified building. With rain pelting the windows and wind whipping the treetops back and forth, a narrator calmly describes the scene outside. “Can’t see very far at all,” he says. “We’ve got whitecaps on the pool. Water is spilling out. And it’s quite a ride. But thought I’d check in and let everyone know we’re still good.”

    Phone lines to the restaurant appeared to be down by the afternoon, and messages left with the Facebook page’s administrator were not immediately returned.

    At 1 p.m., a panoramic photo appeared showing several buildings. The decking on one appeared to be ripped apart, and debris was scattered about the beach. One industrial building had a hole in its roof, but by and large everything was still standing.

    “We made it through,” the caption reads, “but there is a lot of work to be done.”

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump’s eldest son has told Senate staffers he was open to receiving information about Hillary Clinton’s “fitness, character or qualifications” when he accepted a meeting with a Russian lawyer last year.

    Donald Trump Jr. made the comment in an opening statement delivered Thursday to staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was interviewing Trump Jr. privately.

    The statement focused on the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower involving Trump Jr., the Russian lawyer and others.

    He also says that neither he nor anyone he knows colluded with any foreign government.

    The New York Times was first to report on Trump Jr.’s prepared statement.

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

    Donald Trump Jr. made an opening statement of about 15 to 20 minutes before taking questions behind closed doors from staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, one of several congressional panels that have been investigating Russian interference in the election. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., a member of the committee, said Thursday that Trump Jr. delivered an opening statement and then described the meeting and “his recollection of it.”

    Trump Jr.’s appearance marks a new phase in the Senate’s investigation and reveals continuing interest in the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. Emails he released in July show that Trump Jr. was told before the meeting that he would receive damaging information about his father’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, as part of what was described to him as a Russian government effort to aid his father, the GOP nominee.

    Special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate Intelligence committees also are investigating that meeting, which was also attended by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. A grand jury has heard testimony about it.

    Senate aides also could pursue other possible connections that the president’s family had with Russia.

    Trump Jr. agreed to the interview after the committee chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, subpoenaed him and Manafort. The committee withdrew the subpoenas after the two agreed to be interviewed privately by staff. Grassley said they both would eventually be questioned by senators in a public hearing.

    Trump Jr. also was expected to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee at some point.

    Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the committee, said the panel wants to speak with others who attended the June meeting before interviewing Trump Jr.

    “We want to do this in a thorough way that gets the most information possible,” Warner said.

    Manafort met privately with staff on that committee in July. Kushner has met with that staff, as well as members of the House Intelligence Committee.

    That House committee has tried to talk to Trump Jr., but Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said negotiations are underway and a date hasn’t been set.

    Read more:

    Donald Trump made 28 false claims in his most dishonest rally as president

    Trump is ‘not my bride, and I’m not his groom,’ Putin says at Chinese conference

    Workers clear out of Russian consulate in San Francisco after U.S. orders it to be shut down

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    This three-letter word so rattled the world’s largest cosmetic company it dropped a new face of one of its campaigns, someone it had just touted as its first transgender model.

    Munroe Bergdorf had written a post on Facebook after the white supremacist riots at Charlottesville, Va. “Honestly I don’t have the energy to talk about the racial violence of white people anymore. Yes ALL white people,” she wrote.

    Bergdorf had clearly missed the memo: in exchange for the opportunity to be with L’Oréal, her role as a Black, transgender person was to be grateful and subservient.

    Instead, as a person who very likely had to fight for acceptance all her life, she spoke up. She was fired.

    “L’Oréal champions diversity,” the company said in a statement on Twitter. “Comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with our values and so we have decided to end our partnership with her.”

    Where are those self-righteous freedom of speech defenders now? The ones who think protests against bigoted speeches at universities trample that freedom? The ones who defended the ex-Google engineer’s freedom to blame gender discrimination in tech firms on biological unsuitability.

    Instead, Bergdorf says, she received hate mail, rape threats, death threats, directives to commit suicide coming at her at the rate of one every five seconds.

    Bergdorf’s original Facebook post, since taken down, was received as straight talk by many people who’ve long borne the burden of racism.

    If you have the privilege of going through life without having to think about racism (and I include some people of colour in this category of white privilege), there was a lot to unpack in her post.

    The following paragraph, for instance, could launch an understanding of the history of colonialism and slavery that set off intergenerational cycles of benefits for white people, but intergenerational cycles of poverty for Indigenous and Black people.

    “Because most of y’all don’t even realize or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of color. Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From microaggressions to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this sh*t.

    What white people heard: You are racist.

    This next bit could be a teachable moment on racial socialization, an opportunity to bring the concept out of academia into the regular world.

    “Come see me when you realize that racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege. Once white people begin to admit that their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth . . . then we can talk.”

    What white people heard: You are racist.

    This part calls out white privilege, specifically to those perpetually surprised by racist actions of their fellow white people:

    “Until then, stay acting shocked about how the world continues to stay f*cked at the hands of your ancestors and your heads that remain buried in the sand with hands over your ears.”

    What white people heard: You are racist.

    Yes, she speaks with passion. Yes, she is angry. Yes, she is fed up. And the hysteria that followed her words exposed widespread racial illiteracy, just proving her point.

    Angry white people zeroed in on the words “Yes ALL white people.” That word “all” made them apoplectic, even though Bergdorf’s post clearly referenced structural racism.

    For so long, “not all white people” has been the go-to reaction of those who benefit from society’s racist structures but want to absolve themselves of the responsibility to be anti-racist.

    It’s like nobody is a bad driver. Only other people are.

    “Sit still and smile in a beauty campaign ‘championing diversity,’ but don’t actually speak about the fact that lack of diversity is due to racism. Or speak about the origins of racism. It’ll cost you your job,” said Bergdorf in a statement.

    Of course all white individuals are not racist, just as all men are not sexist, all straight people are not homophobic or transphobic etc.

    Yet, we equate Black people with thuggery, without having to say “Not all Black people,” and we can walk away from the deadly consequences of that deeply ingrained stereotype.

    We can associate Indigenous people with addictions without having to say “Not all Indigenous people,” and be complicit in the chronic underfunding of schools, of health care, of child welfare.

    Yet, for someone like Bergdorf, not only must she go through the pain of rejection, discrimination and racist abuse all her life, but if she happens to express her frustrations, she must do so dispassionately, in a way white people find acceptable.

    It’s no wonder that Clare Amafo, another Black model on the campaign quit L’Oréal, saying, “If she’s not “worth it” anymore, I guess I’m not either. #IStandWithMunroe”

    L’Oréal, that champion of diversity and tolerance, continues to work with the white Cheryl Cole. Back in 2003, Cole (then with the last name Tweedy) was found guilty of assaulting a Black nightclub toilet attendant, leaving her with a swollen eye in a case the judge called an “unpleasant piece of drunken violence,” that she showed no remorse for.

    Cole was found not guilty of being racially motivated because there wasn’t anyone to corroborate the victim’s statement that Cole called her a “f---ing Black bitch.” A witness said she called her victim an “f---ing bitch.”

    Oh, phew. No need to cancel contracts, then.

    L’Oréal demonstrates that a white lawbreaker is not “at odds with its values,” but a Black transgendered person who speaks out against racism is.

    What are the odds a Black person convicted of assaulting a white person would get a high-profile job? That’s white privilege.

    This disturbing incident shows hurt feelings of white people continue to be valued more than violated bodies of Black people. The chains are still very much in place.

    That’s white privilege too.

    Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar

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    We all like to complain about helicopter parents, who hover around their children and don’t allow them to develop the independence and skills to navigate the world. Now we have to worry about the helicopter government hovering around parents, forcing them to hover over their children.

    That’s what we’re looking at in the case of Vancouver father Adrian Crook, who has been advised by the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development that he can no longer allow his four eldest children — aged 7 to 11 — to ride the bus to school unsupervised. In fact, he writes on his blog 5kids1condo, after investigating the supposed endangerment posed to his children while riding transit, they told him that no child under 10 can be unsupervised in any situation — walking to school, or to the store, or staying at home. And his oldest child won’t be considered an adequate supervisor until he is at least 12.

    Read more:A dad in B.C. let his kids ride the bus alone — and it sparked a national debate about parenting

    It wasn’t the case that Crook’s kids were found to be in any actual danger — as he details on his blog, the bus stop where they boarded was in front of his house, the one they got off at was in front of the school. He spent months making the trip with them, and then more months making the trip with them partway, so they knew the route well. They were armed with GPS-enabled cellphones. They had befriended bus drivers. And as Crook details, buses are by far the safest form of travel (bus trips resulting in orders of magnitude fewer injuries than cycling, walking, or driving in a car or motorcycle).

    It’s just that the ministry would insist they could not be unsupervised, ever.

    Not even in the playground in the courtyard of the condominium building where they live. When someone reported they were alone, the authorities say they had to stick their threatening nose into it.

    “Everyone has a duty to report a situation in which a child may be at risk. In assessing the nature of that risk, social workers exercise their professional judgment within the parameters established by ministry policy and the Child, Family and Community Service Act,” a ministry spokesperson told my colleague Wanyee Li at Metro in Vancouver.

    Crook is Crowdfunding a legal challenge of the ruling, but plans to obey it and helicopter over his children in the meantime. What choice does he have? These people could impose the harshest punishment you could impose on a parent. They could take away his kids.

    “Being a divorced, single dad who has his kids 50 per cent of the time, I have little recourse to challenge the ministry’s decision,” Crook writes on his blog. “Disobeying it even in the slightest (i.e. allowing a trip to the corner store by my 9.75 year old), could result in the ministry stripping me of equal custody of my children, a remarkably draconian outcome I would never risk.”

    As someone who walked alone to school — supervising younger relatives on the trip, in fact — to school beginning at age 6, this strikes me as bizarrely invasive. I began riding public transit to my hockey games alone before age 8. Around the same time, my 10-year-old cousin and I began taking the TTC downtown to the movies at the Eaton Centre or Imperial Six at Yonge and Dundas or the Uptown or University theatres at Yonge and Bloor.

    Looking back, the sense of freedom and independence, the maturity we felt and developed, plotting routes and navigating transfers and conducting our own ticket purchase transactions — ordering and paying for snacks, and so on — seems to me to be an essential part of growing through childhood.

    I know, I know, you can already sing the next lines. Gee our old LaSalle ran great, thoooooooooose werrrrrrre the daaaaaaays. I hear you saying, “It used to be common to have kids running around unsupervised, Grandpa, but it is not common anymore. Times have changed.”

    Friend, I know it. I have three children — among them an 11-year-old and a 7-year-old, so I know well the age levels Crook is dealing with — and they are not setting off about the city like adventurers. I walk them to the school bus stop in the morning. My wife and I get a babysitter when we go out. In their interactions with the world, I imagine they can hear ever-present whooping of the helicopter blades of our parenting.

    We do this in part because of our own estimation of our children’s individual maturity and behaviour. We do it in part because of our estimation of the risk of traffic death at the very busy intersections near our home.

    And we do it in part because, like most parents, we have fears that are sometimes rational and sometimes less so, about the dangers the world holds. We know that their odds of being kidnapped by a stranger are something like one in 14 million, as developmental psychologist Dr. Mariana Brussoni told CTV in reference to Crook’s case. We know the odds of them being injured in a car accident are far higher than of being hurt playing in the park when we aren’t watching them. But we’re human, with human fears.

    But more than that, I think we also closely supervise our children at almost all times because that is what is expected of us as parents today — we fear the judgment and scorn of those around us. And I especially fear the power of the state child protection agencies if some random busybody were to call them and tell them our kids went to the park at the end of the block by themselves. The stranger danger I fear most is not kidnappers, it’s holier-than-thou whistleblowers who might call authorities to complain about my parenting.

    In that last respect, Crook’s case seems to show the fear is justified. And it’s outrageous. How to parent your children — when to give them responsibility and freedom and how much — is a personal and difficult decisions. It’s one that, in the absence of actual neglect or endangerment, should be left to parents, not dictated under threat by authorities.

    As I said, my own children are not loose on the TTC making their way to school or anywhere else. But I very often think we are letting them down with that approach.

    A whole Free Range Kids movement has sprung up in about the past decade, citing experts on how children learn about themselves and the world when they have to get around and figure things out and solve problems on their own. How they overcome anxiety and fear and develop self-confidence by learning independence. How they learn to socialize and communicate and compromise by interacting with other children when adults are not around.

    There’s a reason, I think, why many of our most beloved coming-of-age novels and movies involve pre-teen children facing down danger, mostly without the help of grown-ups. From Stand By Me and E.T. to Charlie Brown and Jacob Two-Two, from Peter Pan and Stranger Things to Harry Potter and Lyra Belacqua. You find yourself — and really become the hero of your own story — when you don’t have your parents or teachers around to butt in on your behalf.

    In the real world, of course, we don’t want this process to centre on facing down pirates and evil wizards. But taking the bus, wouldn’t that be a good start?

    Yes. Yes it would.

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    The province will compel school boards to collect race-based data on everything from hiring staff to student suspensions, and Education Minister Mitzie Hunter is also looking at ending the streaming of Grade 9 students into applied and academic courses as part of her three-year equity plan.

    Hunter told the Star in an interview that Grade 9 in particular — where students are streamed into the more theoretical academic, or the more hands-on applied courses — is a concern and needs a new approach.

    “We talk about streaming as a really key aspect of our equity action plan, taking a fresh look at Grade 9,” she said. “We know that Grade 9 is a critical year in terms of transition for students. We want to see Grade 9 as a year where students can explore their pathways, and get excited about their pathways. We do not want it to be a year where students become demotivated and disengaged in school.”

    While having applied and academic courses began as a way to help students with different learning styles, Hunter said the applied courses “have seen a disproportionate number of students … from racialized backgrounds, special education needs, and … low-income students … the status quo is unacceptable.”

    The equity plan will see school boards look at demographic data for suspensions, expulsions and address issues, ensure teaching materials reflect diversity, and also tie “accountability for equity to the performance appraisals of principals, vice-principals and directors, to ensure that the diversity of teachers, staff and school system leaders reflects the diversity of students,” the ministry said.

    “Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan is a powerful blueprint that will strengthen our publicly funded education system by ensuring that all of Ontario’s students will have every opportunity to thrive and fulfill their potential, regardless of their personal circumstances,” Hunter said.

    Patrick Case — the human rights expert and lawyer called in earlier this year to examine troubles at the York Region District School Board— will oversee the changes as Hunter’s assistant deputy minister and head of the province’s education equity secretariat.

    “I believe that the time is right and based on conversations I have had with community organizations, I can sense an excitement and a renewed vigour about tackling some persistently difficult issues in our publicly funded education system, together,” said Case in a written statement.

    Hunter’s equity plan comes after a number of issues in Ontario school boards, from data in Toronto showing a disproportionate number of students suspended and expelled or put in special education are black.

    In the York board, parents raised concerns that the board was ignoring incidents of racism in schools, as well as the case of a principal who posted Islamophobic material on her public Facebook page.

    The board also came under fire for how it handled a trustee who uttered a racial slur when referring to a black parent, in public after a meeting. Nancy Elgie has since resigned.

    A startling 2015 report by advocacy group People for Education found that teens who have taken even a few applied courses and those who take Grade 9 applied math almost never go on to university.

    An in-depth study of 39 teens released Thursday by Social Planning Toronto also showed families were unclear about how enrolling in applied courses in Grade 9 could affect their child’s chance of success at school.

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    John Tory’s deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong is being criticized for what’s being called a sexist comment concerning outgoing chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat.

    As quoted in the Sun last week, Minnan-Wong — who has publicly feuded with Keesmaat before — said he wants the next chief planner to “stick to the knitting” when it comes to the top role at city hall.

    Keesmaat called Minnan-Wong out on the statement in an interview on CBC’s Metro Morning on Thursday.

    “I’m not going to mince words. He might as well have told me to go back to the kitchen. And just so you know, I've never been there. I’m not a very good cook,” she said. “I think it’s a deeply offensive comment.”

    Minnan-Wong issued an apology hours later after being contacted by a Star reporter.

    “I explicitly stated that I was not commenting on the current and retiring chief planner,” Minnan-Wong said in an email about the Sun column. “However, I unreservedly apologize to Ms. Keesmat or anyone who may have taken offence to comments I made that were taken out of context.”

    He went on to say the next chief planner “needs to focus in on planning and improving the management of a large planning department.”

    On Twitter, several councillors resurfaced the Sun article Thursday morning to denounce Minnan-Wong’s comments.

    “Chief Planner @jen_keesmaat has done great things to make TO more walkable, livable, vibrant!” wrote Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon. “No need 4 sexist comments @DenzilMW #Knitting.”

    “How can Mayor @JohnTory continue to support deputy mayor?” asked Councillor Mike Layton. “Mayor must not stand for these sexist comments from HIS hand picked team.”

    Tory was asked last week whether he agreed with Minnan-Wong’s statement.

    He said “knitting” has a “very broad definition” and went on to equate “knitting” — as the essential elements of the chief planner's job — to city building. He then praised examples of Keesmaat’s work in that respect.

    “If that’s knitting, which I believe it is, then I guess Ms. Keesmaat’s successor will have lots of knitting to do,” said Tory.

    The Star asked the mayor to respond again following Keesmaat’s comments Thursday.

    In an emailed statement, Tory said: “The comment was inappropriate. I've communicated that to the deputy mayor and I understand he will be issuing an apology.”

    In 2012, Minnan-Wong said the medical officer of health Dr. David McKeown should also “stick to his knitting,” as quoted in the Globe & Mail.

    In 2006, Peter MacKay, then deputy leader of the Conservative party, told Nova Scotia MP Alexa McDonough to “stick to her knitting,” CBC reported. After she accused him of making a “sexist slur,” MacKay apologized.

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    HOUSTON—Roiling waters in the streets have given way to steaming piles of garbage on the curbs.

    Hurricane Harvey’s record-setting rains created heaps of ruined possessions that now line entire neighbourhoods, nearly up to the rooftops of the homes that were swamped. All that sodden drywall, flooring, furniture, clothing and toys adds up to an estimated 6.1 million cubic metres in Houston alone, enough to fill the Houston Texans’ stadium two times over.

    Texas and city officials have pledged to make a priority of the monumental task of cleaning it up, though they stopped short of giving specific timelines, mindful that such cleanups have dragged on longer than anticipated after other major storms.

    “We want to get it removed as quickly as possible,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters Thursday.

    Read more:

    After Harvey, mould ‘monster’ invades Texas homes

    More than 500,000 ordered to evacuate as Hurricane Irma bears down on South Florida

    Hurricane Harvey shows that if disaster strikes, we’ll be stuck: Hume

    For now, the piles big and small have become evidence, of sorts, of the losses from more than 200,000 damaged homes up and down the Texas coast.

    Not only are the heaps eyesores, but they are starting to give off a musty funk. And the longer they sit, officials warn, they could become havens for mould, not to mention snakes, rats, skunks and other critters. The junk could also turn into projectiles if, heaven forbid, another hurricane strikes.

    “I just can’t stand it anymore,” said Peggy Lanigan, who took a break from clearing out her Houston home that flooded for the first time in 22 years.

    The city is pushing to complete a “first pass” of debris removal within 30 days, said Derek Mebane, deputy assistant director of Houston’s solid waste department. He said collecting subsequent piles could take months and warned that if Hurricane Irma causes extensive damage in Florida, the cleanup in Houston could be slowed if resources are diverted. While local crews do the pickups, FEMA covers 90 per cent of the costs.

    As it stands now, clearing even just one Houston street can take days. Some piles are so massive that a single stack of debris from one home can fill an entire truck.

    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner this week pleaded for help, asking for anyone with heavy equipment suitable for debris removal to reach out.

    The trash will go into the city’s existing landfills. San Antonio trucks have been sent in as part of an agreement between the two cities to help each other in disasters, the mayor said.

    Soon after the storm hit, state officials suspended some environmental rules on waste removal that they said could impede the pace of disaster recovery, which raised concerns among environmentalists.

    Trash looters are another concern. Some homeowners spray-painted messages on mattresses to leave them alone because the debris is needed for insurance claims. Others posted signs saying they were just drying out items they intended to save.

    Mike Martinez said a king-sized mattress that had been floating in his bedroom days earlier was taken from his yard along with a La-Z-Boy sectional couch. The $5,000 (U.S.) sofa still looked brand new after the flood but was like a sponge if you sat on it. He couldn’t understand why anyone would take it because it’s contaminated with floodwater and probably mould.

    “It was like a parade of people going by looking at the devastation,” Martinez said. “Then there was a parade of people picking up the garbage.”

    Overturned sofas, listing mattresses and toppled chairs dominate the rubble while smaller, more intimate items hide in the cracks.

    The piles also created a sort of archeological record of the households from which they came. There’s a mouldering red cooler, a beat-up blue kiddie pool, a pornography stash spilling onto the street. Brand-new golf balls, a full jar of mangoes and a twisted artificial Christmas tree. A book titled The Inheritance of Loss seemed particularly poignant.

    Sherri Blatt’s main concern is that it could be a long wait before the mess is carted away. “This is too long,” she said. “Once all the stuff is gone, I’ll feel safe.”

    Almost on cue, a garbage truck rumbled around the corner. But it wasn’t there for flood debris — only for the trash that hadn’t been picked up in a week and was adding its own odour to the mix.

    Correction — Sept. 8, 2017: This article was edited from a previous version that incorrectly stated the volume of Houston's post-Harvey garbage.

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    The Lower Don Trail, a Pan Am Games legacy project, was originally supposed to open in Summer 2016.

    It didn’t.

    Then it was supposed to open in Spring 2017, then July, then mid-August, but the $3.6-million, 4.7-kilometre trail remains under construction.

    But there is light at the end of the tunnel for pedestrians, cyclists and ravine-lovers: The trail will officially reopen — over a year late — on Sept. 23.

    “The delays were outside the city’s control, and we hope that once the trail is reopened, users will see the value in the improvements,” wrote Parks spokesperson Matthew Cutler in an email.

    Read more:

    Construction and confusion on the Pan Am Path

    Don Valley trail closures will continue till July

    According to Cutler, the delays to the “complicated” project included 15 separate permits needed from Metrolinx, the relocation of a large fibre-optic cable and the discovery of an unexpected culvert foundation. The mayor’s office pointed out that summer flooding further complicated construction in the narrow floodplain.

    On a city blog devoted to updates on the project, commenters expressed their lack of confidence.

    “This is unconscionable to delay us for another season,” wrote Steve Allen in March, when the timeline was pushed back to summer. “I bet that it won’t even be completed by July,” he correctly predicted.

    A person named Christopher wrote, “Really it’s a shame this has taken so long and that a full closure was needed for so very long,” adding that he was disappointed to lose two summers to the delays.

    Mayor John Tory has made tackling construction delays a priority for his administration, and on some road projects has supported spending additional funds to speed up the timeline.

    But mayoral spokesperson Don Peat wrote in an email that elements of this project were outside of city control and that the mayor is “confident” staff learned lessons from the project that they’ll apply in the future.

    “Mayor Tory is committed to getting Toronto moving and has worked tirelessly to make sure city projects get done as quickly as possible where possible,” wrote Peat.

    Cutler says that despite the headaches, the renovated Lower Don Parklands brings with it a number of features. There’s a new rail underpass, the new Pottery Road pedestrian and cycling bridge, the paved Bayview multi-use trail, new art installations and improved way-finding.

    The improvements fit in with the city’s plans to invest in Toronto’s ravines. Cutler says that city staff’s Ravine Strategy will be presented to council’s executive committee on Sept. 26.

    Rudy Limeback, 67, is excited for the Lower Don Trail. The semi-retired Leaside resident uses the trail once a week and likes that the project will make the ravine accessible to more people.

    “I don’t really mind how long it’s taken,” he said. “Things like the Lower Don Trail are exactly what I want my taxes going to.”

    0 0

    Does a kid in Ontario really have to be 16 years old before he or she can be left unsupervised?

    Well, first of all, by that age, we’re talking about young men and women, not really “kids” anymore, unless they’re hockey players or gunslingers in need of a nickname.

    They’ve left what we usually think of as childhood behind and are emerging from adolescence into adulthood.

    I mean, I know times change, but Alexander the Great had founded a colony by that age, Mozart was having his symphonies and operas performed by that age, Malala Yousafzai was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by that age.

    Are we to believe it would have been illegal for them to board a Toronto bus without their parents?

    It seemed so this week, when it was widely reported, by the Toronto Sun, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Press, and Global, among others, that the legislated age at which a child can be left unattended in this province is 16.

    This was all in reporting on the case of a Vancouver man who had been told his children, aged seven to 11, were too young to be allowed to take public transit to school on their own together. BC child protection authorities told him no child could be unattended anywhere— they could not be on their own on the bus, at the park, at home, walking to the store — until they reached age 10. And that no one under 12 could act as a supervisor of children under 10.

    “He said the ministry said its decision was based on a British Columbia court ruling that found an eight-year-old could not be left at home alone. It also said that, in other provinces, the legal age to be unsupervised is much higher, including 16 in Ontario . . . . ,” said the CP report that ran on the Star’s website.

    You’ve got to imagine this news would come as a shock to Toronto’s many thousands of grade nine and 10 students who take the TTC to school every day, that legally their parents are supposed to be there holding their hands. Or the many 15-year-old neighbourhood babysitters, who it seemed still required babysitting themselves.

    It can’t be true, can it?

    No. It isn’t true that young men and women under 16 need to be under direct parental or adult supervision at all times.

    Of course not.

    There is a section of the Child and Family Services Act that says parents are responsible to make “provision for his or her supervision or care that is reasonable under the circumstances” until their child is 16.

    But that doesn’t mean that kid can’t walk to the store alone.

    “This shouldn’t be read as no child under 16 can be left unattended. It is about the parent or caregiver being responsible for that child,” Sean McGrady, a spokesperson for Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, writes in an email.

    It’s about being responsible for the care of the young person, not dictating the form that care must take.

    And certainly not mandating direct supervision at all times.

    Not coincidentally, 16 is the age in Ontario when a person is free to choose to leave home and live on their own if they want to, and the age at which they no longer require a legal guardian. It’s the age of emancipation from parental control and responsibility, not the age of no longer needing a nanny.

    So what is the age of being allowed to ride the bus alone?

    McGrady wouldn’t comment directly.

    “What might be considered reasonable supervision and care obviously varies depending on both the circumstances and the child. Different children have different capacities and needs,” he says.

    For a child of a certain maturity, care and supervision might mean ensuring they have proper access to transit fare, and responsible adults they can call should they need help, and are aware of the route. For others, the level of care might be different.

    “There is no law in Ontario that dictates a specific age at which a child can be left unsupervised. The law is purposefully vague when it comes to choosing a specific age, because there are many variables to take into consideration,” says a brochure from the Toronto Children’s Aid society McGrady forwarded for further reading. “One eleven-year old may feel comfortable being left alone, and know what to do in case of an emergency, while another eleven-year-old may feel nervous and unsure of himself.”

    But many local societies do share guidelines.

    “Children under the age of 10 years should not be left alone. Children under the age of 12 years should not be left alone to care for other children,” says a page on the Simcoe Muskoka family Connexions website, seemingly in general agreement with the B.C. authorities who started the whole debate.

    The Ministry of Children and Youth Services sent along a statement offering further clarification of the law, agreeing with what McGrady told me. “Parents and caregivers are often in the best place to make a decision about the safety and wellbeing of their child. Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act sets out the grounds for when a child is in need of protection. It does not specify an age at which a child can be left alone, recognizing that age alone is not a sufficient safeguard when considering the supervision of children,” the statement says.

    “The CFSA sets out to protect young people from any type of abuse or neglect. To this end, under the CFSA, ‎all parents and caregivers must make reasonable plans, which will vary, according to a child’s age, maturity and circumstances, for the supervision of kids under 16 in their care.”

    So, if there’s a 15-year-old out there who was suddenly concerned about the date to the movies she had Friday night, she can rest easy; there’s no law saying her folks have to come along as chaperones.

    Whether that’s reassuring for her parents or not is, I guess, up to them.

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    Toronto police have charged an 18-year-old Toronto man with second-degree murder after a man who was stabbed last weekend died in hospital.

    Police were called the area of Danforth Rd. and Eglinton Ave. E. just after 2 a.m. Sunday, where they found a man in his 30s with life-threatening injuries.

    Paramedics said the victim was found outside of RJ’s Grill, and had been stabbed more than once.

    On Friday, police said Cuhapiryan Mahendrarajah, 33, died from his injuries in hospital on Wednesday.

    Prosper Jean Laurent, 18, was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree murder.

    Laurent was scheduled to appear in court Thursday.

    Mahendrarajah’s death is listed as Toronto’s 37th homicide of 2017.

    0 0

    Strong ties to west-end Toronto and love for his family spurred a well-known Canadian businessman to give one of the largest donations St. Joseph’s Health Centre has ever received.

    Peter Gilgan, founder and CEO of Mattamy Homes, a residential homebuilding company, provided the community hospital with $10 million.

    “This is because of you,” said Gilgan at a conference at St. Joseph’s, referring to his 95-year-old mother, who was in attendance. “The circle of life continues,” he added.

    His donation will be added to the Promise Campaign, a health-care initiative established to expedite the delivery and quality of services.

    The campaign has a target of $70 million — it sits at about $60 million after Gilgan’s donation, said its co-chair.

    Gilgan has connections to the west-end: he and his six siblings were born at St. Joseph’s and grew up in Parkdale. He is a heavyweight philanthropist, having contributed funds to multiple health facilities in the city over the years — in 2014, for example, he gave $30 million to St. Michael’s Hospital to go toward a new facility for the critically ill. In 2011, Gilgan donated $15 million toward Ryerson University’s athletic centre in the former Maple Leaf Gardens.

    “It’s transformative for us,” said Maria Dyck, president and CEO of the St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation. “We serve about a half a million people here in Toronto’s west end.”

    These funds are earmarked for reconfiguring outdated buildings and advancing facilities, said Dyck — the emergency department, for instance. Part of the hospital will be renamed the Gilgan Family wing.

    “We have one of the busiest emergency departments in the city,” she said. “We have over 100,000 people visit every year.”

    And the department is operating beyond capacity — it can accommodate about 65,000 people per year, said Dyck. The last time it underwent an update was over 10 years ago.

    “The place really feels it. We still aren’t configured as well as we’d like to be to meet the volume, so this gift will help with that, along with outpatient care. We’ve been waiting for a long time for this.”

    Mayor John Tory lauded the hospital and Gilgan’s gift.

    “St. Joe’s always has been one of those great places that’s never lost its way as a community hospital,” he said. “There are few, if any, who have the depth and scale of commitment to philanthropy and community building than has been shown by everything that Peter Gilgan and his family have done,” he said.

    CIBC CEO and president Victor Dodig, who co-chairs the Promise Campaign with Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, called the hospital the “quiet, unsung hero of health care.”

    Gilgan has the potential to lead by example, he added.

    “People get encouraged to give as well because they see the social return that comes from investing in the community, the benefit, and Peter Gilgan’s a leading light, in that regard.”



    Generous givers

    Other notable donations to Toronto and GTA hospitals:

    $130 million: Rogers family to the Hospital for Sick Children, University Health Network and the University of Toronto, 2014

    $50 million: Myron and Berna Garron to Toronto East General Hospital (main campus now renamed Michael Garron Hospital), 2015

    $50 million: Slaight Family Foundation to the University Health Network, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, St. Michael’s Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Mount Sinai Hospital, 2013

    $50 million: Joseph and Wolf Lebovic to Mount Sinai Hospital, 2006

    $40 million: Peter Gilgan to the Hospital for Sick Children, 2014

    $37.5 million: Linda Campbell, Gaye Farncombe and Susan Grange to Princess Margaret Hospital, 2008

    $37 million: Peter Munk to Toronto General Hospital, 2006

    $35 million: Larry and Judy Tanenbaum to Mount Sinai Hospital, 2013

    $30 million: Peter Gilgan to St Michael’s Hospital, 2014

    $30 million: Myron and Berna Garron to the Hospital for Sick Children, 2010

    $30 million: Arthur and Sonia Labatt to the Hospital for Sick Children, 2007

    $25 million: Li Ka-shing to St Michael’s Hospital, 2011

    $25 million: Larry Tanenbaum to Mount Sinai Hospital, 2006

    $25 million: Li Ka-shing (Canada) Foundation to St. Michael’s Hospital, 2005

    $25 million: Audrey Campbell and daughters (Thomson family) to Institute for Breast Cancer Research at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital, 2004

    $20 million: CI Financial to Orthopaedic & Arthritic Institute at Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre, 2005

    $15 million: Muzzo and de Gasperis families to the Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital, 2017

    $5 million: Eugene Melnyk, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, 2005

    Sources: Star files

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    CAIBARIEN, CUBA—Cuba evacuated tourists from beachside resorts and Floridians emptied stores of plywood and bottled water after Hurricane Irma left at least 16 people dead and thousands homeless on a devastated string of Caribbean islands and spun toward Florida for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.

    The hurricane rolled past the Dominican Republic and Haiti and battered the Turks and Caicos Islands early Friday with waves as high as 6 metres. Communications went down as the storm slammed into the islands, and the extent of the devastation was unclear.

    Irma also spun along the northern coast of Cuba, where thousands of tourists were evacuated from low-lying keys off the coast dotted with all-inclusive resorts. All residents of the area were under mandatory evacuation orders from the Cuban government, which was moving tens of thousands of people from vulnerable coastline.

    Warships and planes were dispatched with food, water and troops after Irma smashed homes, schools and roads, laying waste to some of the world’s most beautiful and exclusive tourist destinations. On the island of St. Thomas, power lines and towers were toppled, leaves were stripped off plants and trees, a water and sewage treatment plant was heavily damaged and the harbour was in ruins, along with hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses.

    Thousands of tourists were trapped on St. Martin, St. Barts, and the Virgin Islands in the path of Category 3 Hurricane Jose, which threatened to roll in from the Atlantic and strike as early as Saturday.

    Irma weakened from a Category 5 storm to Category 4 on Friday morning with maximum sustained winds near 240 km/h, but it remained a powerful hurricane. Florida braced for the onslaught, with forecasters warning that Irma could slam headlong into the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people, punish the entire length of the state’s Atlantic Coast and move into Georgia and South Carolina.

    Read more:

    Hurricane Irma brings death, ‘wide-scale’ destruction to the Caribbean

    Quebec man on Saint-Martin calls Irma the most terrifying experience of his life

    Canadian couple stranded on Caribbean island pleads for help, evacuation

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged people in coastal and low-lying areas to heed evacuation orders as Irma closed in.

    “It is wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast. Regardless of which coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate,” Scott said.

    People rushed to board up their homes, take their boats out of the water and gas up their cars. With gasoline running out and tensions rising, the Florida Highway Patrol escorted tanker trucks sent to replenish gas stations. Some 850,000 people were ordered to leave their homes, clogging interstates as far north as Atlanta.

    Scott said people fleeing could use the shoulder lane on highways, but he hasn’t reversed the southbound lanes. Several small communities around Lake Okeechobee in the south-central part of Florida were added to the evacuation list because the lake may overflow, the governor said.

    “You don’t have to go a long way. You can go to a shelter in your county,” Scott said. “This storm is powerful and deadly. We are running out of time.”

    Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, said Irma could easily prove to be the costliest storm in U.S. history.

    The first islands hit by the storm were scenes of terrible destruction.

    The storm had claimed at least 16 lives, including nine on the French Caribbean islands of St.-Martin and St. Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and three on the British island of Anguilla, Barbuda and the Dutch side of St. Martin.

    Officials on St. Thomas said they expected to find more bodies on the island where authorities described the damage as catastrophic and said crews were struggling to reopen roads and restore power.

    The hospital on St. Thomas was destroyed and dozens of patients were being evacuated to St. Croix and Puerto Rico by the U.S. Coast Guard. Local officials said a U.S. navy hospital ship was arriving as early as Friday to care for unknown numbers of injured and two Air Force C-130s transport planes were bringing in food and water.

    Gov. Kenneth Mapp imposed a 6 p.m. curfew. The primary focus for now is “making sure people have meals, water and shelter,” Mapp said. “An event of this magnitude is very chilling.”

    On St. Martin, an island split between the Dutch Sint Maarten and French St.-Martin, homes were splintered and road signs scattered by the fierce winds. The cafes and clothing shops of the picturesque French seaside village of Marigot were submerged in brown floodwaters and people surveyed the wreckage from whatever shelter they could find. The toll could rise because rescue teams had yet to get a complete look at the damage.

    Annick Girardin, minister for France’s overseas territories, said Friday that there had been “scenes of pillaging” of televisions as well as food and water on St. Martin. She said police were working to restore order and ensure urgent care for victims.

    The U.S. Consulate General in Curaçao said it believes about 6,000 Americans were stranded on St. Martin. The consulate was collecting the names and locations of the stranded and said it was working with the U.S. and other governments to try to figure out how to get the Americans off the island either by air or boat.

    Irma also slammed the French island of St. Barts, tearing off roofs and knocking out electricity in the high-end tourist destination.

    Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the storm “caused wide-scale destruction of infrastructure, houses and businesses.”

    “There is no power, no gasoline, no running water. Houses are under water, cars are floating through the streets, inhabitants are sitting in the dark in ruined houses and are cut off from the outside world,” he said.

    Farther out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose strengthened into a Category 3 storm with 195 km/h winds.

    Two Dutch navy ships were in St. Martin with vital supplies. And two Dutch military aircraft were being sent the island of Curacao and on to St. Martin to deliver food and water intended to last the population of 40,000 five days. The aircraft were carrying 100 extra troops to deliver aid, repair infrastructure and restore order.

    Britain was sending hundreds of troops and the Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean to Anguilla, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands.

    In Anguilla, officials reported extensive damage to the airport, hospitals, shelters and schools and said 90 per cent of roads were impassable.

    On Barbuda, nearly every building was damaged when the hurricane’s core crossed almost directly over the island early Wednesday. About 60 per cent of its roughly 1,400 residents were left homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.

    He said roads and telecommunications systems were wrecked and recovery will take months, if not years.

    “It is just really a horrendous situation,” Browne said.

    Dominican and Haitian authorities reported flooding and minor damage in Irma’s wake but no immediate deaths or widespread destruction. The neighbouring nations remained vulnerable Friday to the sort of flooding that has killed thousands in previous storms and hurricanes.

    About a million people were without power in Puerto Rico after Irma side-swiped the island overnight, and nearly half the territory’s hospitals were relying on generators. No injuries were reported.

    0 0

    Last September, Hillary Clinton was getting ready for the presidential candidates’ debates — a spectacle that would include Donald Trump creeping up behind her on stage.

    A year and what probably feels like a lifetime later, Clinton is getting ready for another public tour, and a different, old rival is following close behind her — this time, only metaphorically.

    Within 24 hours at the end of September, Toronto audiences will have a chance to hear from Clinton and former U.S. president Barack Obama.

    Clinton is doing a book-launch event in Toronto on the evening of Sept. 28 at the Enercare Centre. The very next day, Obama will be in Toronto as well, speaking at a lunchtime event hosted by the Canada2020 think-tank at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Obama will also be popping in at the Invictus Games, the Star also reported this week.

    The proximity of the two visits (not to mention the hefty ticket prices) could force some people to make a choice — not unlike one that U.S. Democrats had to make back in 2008: Clinton or Obama?

    Ideally, however, one would see both. If you’re a Canadian still a bit surprised that Trump ended up in the White House last year, Clinton and Obama may be able to fill in some pieces of the puzzle. Clinton’s new book, after all, is titled What Happened.

    Judging from the excerpts now emerging, the “what” is actually many things. Vanity Fair columnist Bess Levin summed up the multiple blame targets this week in a piece titled:

    “A brief list of people Clinton blames for her election loss: Part 3.”

    The list includes Bernie Sanders, former FBI director James Comey, the New York Times, sexism, Vladimir Putin and former vice-president Joe Biden. It also includes the two people speaking in Toronto later this month: Obama and Clinton herself.

    About Obama, Clinton muses in her book about whether the president might have been more open with the American people about the Russian election-tampering efforts during the 2016 campaign.

    “I do wonder sometimes about what would have happened if President Obama had made a televised address to the nation in the fall of 2016 warning that our democracy was under attack. Maybe more Americans would have woken up to the threat in time. We’ll never know,” Clinton has written in the book, according to one excerpt.

    Drawing up these Clinton blame lists has become a popular pastime among pundits since her defeat, but it often strikes me as a bit of a cheap shot (not by this particular Vanity Fair columnist, I should say.) All this talk of blame seems to be a bid to cast Clinton as trying to evade responsibility, even as she has repeatedly claimed it.

    “Every day that I was a candidate for president, I knew that millions of people were counting on me and I couldn’t bear the idea of letting them down. But I did. I couldn’t get the job done. And I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life,” she reportedly writes in the book. It’s roughly what she said to Obama, too, on election night, according to other reports, when she called the president and apologized for failing to keep the White House out of Trump’s hands.

    Speaking of Trump, it’s probably safe to bet that most people attending the Toronto events will be wanting to hear some disparaging words about the president. If you’re paying to listen to Obama or Clinton for a couple of hours, you’re probably not a fan of the guy who won the election last November.

    It will be interesting to see which one, Obama or Clinton, will have the more withering criticism. Neither has much to lose from doing so, and Obama has been a bit more outspoken even this week, with Trump’s decision to end a program that protected children of undocumented immigrants from deportation. (In a Facebook post, Obama called the decision “cruel” and “self-defeating.”)

    If the next few weeks are anything like the past year, Trump will have given Clinton and Obama lots more to criticize when they get before their Canadian audiences.

    One boast that Clinton and Obama can make in their back-to-back appearances this month is that they’ve paid more calls on Canada this year than Trump has. Obama did an event in Montreal in June and the Clintons vacationed in Quebec’s Eastern Townships this summer.

    The new U.S. president, on the other hand, has yet to visit Canada and no plans for such a trip seem to be on the immediate horizon. Canadians wanting to hear from residents of the White House will have to content themselves for now with former occupants; two of them in one week this month.

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