Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

TOPSTORIES

older | 1 | .... | 996 | 997 | (Page 998) | 999 | 1000 | .... | 1035 | newer

    0 0


    MEXICO CITY—The most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in 100 years struck off the nation’s Pacific Coast late Thursday, rattling millions of residents in Mexico City with its violent tremors, killing at least 32 people and levelling some areas in the southern part of the country closest to where the quake occurred.

    About 50 million people across Mexico felt the earthquake, which had a magnitude of 8.2, the government said. In the capital, the force of the temblor sent residents of the megacity fleeing into the streets at midnight, shaken by the alarms blaring over loudspeakers and a full minute of tremors. Windows broke, walls collapsed, and the city seemed to convulse in terrifying waves; the quake even rocked the city’s landmark Angel of Independence monument.

    Oaxaca state Gov. Alejandro Murat told local news media that at least 23 people had died in his coastal state. Civil defence officials said at least seven died in Chiapas and two others in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.

    Hundreds of buildings collapsed or were damaged, power was cut at least briefly to more than 1.8 million people and authorities closed schools Friday in at least 11 states to check them for safety.

    “The house moved like chewing gum and the light and internet went out momentarily,” said Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near the Chiapas state city of San Cristobal de las Casas.

    Still, the resounding feeling in the country was one, at least initially, of relief that the damage was not more widespread, given the nation’s vulnerability to earthquakes and the capital’s extreme density.

    “We are assessing the damage, which will probably take hours, if not days,” said President Enrique Pena Nieto, who addressed the nation just two hours after the quake. “But the population is safe overall. There should not be a major sense of panic.”

    The U.S. Geological Survey recorded at least 20 aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or greater within about five hours after the main shake, and the president warned that a major aftershock as large as magnitude 7.2 could occur.

    The USGS said the quake struck at 11:49 p.m. Thursday and its epicentre was 165 kilometres west of Tapachula in Chiapas. It had a depth of 69.7 kilometres.

    The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said waves of one metre above the tide level were measured off Salina Cruz, Mexico. Smaller tsunami waves were observed on the coast or measured by ocean gauges in several other places. The centre’s forecast said Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala could see waves of a meter or less. No threat was posed to Hawaii and the western and South Pacific.

    Mexican authorities said they were evacuating some residents of coastal Tonala and Puerto Madero because of the warning.

    The quake hit as Mexican emergency agencies were bracing for another crisis on the other side of the country. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Katia was likely to strike the Gulf coast in the state of Veracruz early Saturday as a Category 2 storm that could bring life-threatening floods.

    In neighbouring Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales spoke on national television to call for calm while emergency crews checked for damage.

    “We have reports of some damage and the death of one person, even though we still don’t have details,” Morales said. He said the unconfirmed death occurred in San Marcos state near the border with Mexico.

    The quake occurred in a very seismically active region near the point of collision between three tectonic plates, the Cocos, the Caribbean and the North American.

    Mexico’s National Seismological Service said the area has seen at least six other quakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater since 1900 — though three of those all occurred within a nerve-wracking nine-month span in 1902-1903.

    While Mexico is situated near several boundaries where portions of the earth’s crust collide. The quake Thursday was more powerful than the one that killed nearly 10,000 people in 1985. That quake in 1985 was much closer to the city — so the shaking, coupled with Mexico City being situated on an ancient lake bed, proved much more deadly.

    After the 1985 disaster, construction codes were reviewed and stiffened. Today, Mexico’s construction laws are considered as strict as those in the United States or Japan.

    After the quake hit, people in Mexico City streamed out of their homes in the dark, wearing nightclothes, standing amid the apartment buildings, cafes and bars in upscale neighbourhoods and the dense warrens of the city’s working-class communities. In the Condesa area, neighbours watched in awe as power lines swayed alongside trees and buildings. In several neighbourhoods, the power was out, though it was restored within an hour, at least in the wealthier parts of the capital.

    For a city used to earthquakes, Thursday’s quake left a lasting impression on residents, for both its force and duration.

    “The scariest part of it all is that if you are an adult, and you’ve lived in this city your adult life, you remember 1985 very vividly,” said Alberto Briseño, a 58-year-old bar manager in Condesa. “This felt as strong and as bad, but from what I see, we’ve been spared from major tragedy.”

    “Now we will do what us Mexicans do so well: Take the bitter taste of this night and move on,” he added.

    Thursday’s quake occurred near the Middle America Trench, a zone in the eastern Pacific where one slab of the Earth’s crust, called the Cocos Plate, is sliding under another, the North American, in a process called subduction.

    The movement is very slow — about eight centimetres a year — and over time, stresses build because of friction between the slabs. At some point, the strain becomes so great that the rock breaks and slips along a fault. This releases vast amounts of energy and, if the slip occurs under the ocean, can move a lot of water suddenly, causing a tsunami.

    Subduction zones ring the Pacific Ocean and are found in other regions as well. They are responsible for the world’s largest earthquakes and most devastating tsunamis. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Japan in 2011, which led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and the magnitude 9.1 quake in Indonesia in 2004, which spawned tsunamis that killed a quarter of a million people around the Indian Ocean, are recent examples.

    Those quakes each released about 30 times as much energy as the one in Mexico.

    With files from The Associated Press


    0 0


    One of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s best players is hanging up his skates.

    Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid will not run for re-election in the June 7, 2018 campaign.

    Duguid, 55, has represented Scarborough Centre since 2003 and was a city councillor for nine years before that.

    He has been Wynne’s point man on economic growth, travelling the world to attract investment to Ontario, and served as the “voice of business” at the cabinet table.

    Read more: Heart attack leads to better choices, new priorities for cabinet minister Brad Duguid

    But Duguid — whose announcement comes less than six weeks after former environment and climate change minister Glen Murray retired— insisted he is not leaving because he is worried the Liberals won’t get re-elected.

    “We’ve had the privilege of serving the people of Ontario for 14 years — I am very confident that Kathleen Wynne will offer the best alternative going into the next election,” said the minister, who is expected to remain in cabinet until the election.

    “People will rally around again to choose that best alternative,” he told the Star on Thursday in his Bay Street office decorated with Indigenous art and political and hockey memorabilia.

    While sources say several other senior ministers are pondering not running again next spring, Duguid noted that people have their own individual reasons for moving on.

    “Like a good boxer . . . you have to know when it’s time to go personally,” said the veteran, who also served as minister of labour, Aboriginal affairs, energy and infrastructure, and training, colleges, and universities.

    “I’m not old but I am old enough to know that the runway is shorter than it used to be — that now is the time to go and find another way to contribute,” he said, adding he has not yet determined what he will do after politics.

    Duguid said a mild heart attack in April 2016 was a sobering reminder that he is a “mortal.”

    He has since lost 25 pounds and looks a decade younger than he did thanks to his “whole food plant-based diet” that has him thriving on fruits and vegetables.

    “I feel stronger both mentally and physically than I have in a very long time because of the fact that I have dedicated more time to fitness and nutrition.”


    0 0


    A jockey has died following a collision between two horses at Woodbine Racetrack early Friday morning.

    Darren Fortune, a 43-year-old exercise rider, was injured as a result of a training accident on the main track around 7 a.m.

    He was rushed to Etobicoke General Hospital with no vital signs, paramedics said.

    “We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our community this morning and our hearts and condolences go out to his family and friends,” said Jamie Martin, executive vice-president of racing for Woodbine Entertainment Group.

    A statement from Woodbine noted that they are “offering every possible assistance” and that no horses were injured.

    The Ministry of Labour will be investigating the accident further.

    All scheduled races on Friday at Woodbine have been cancelled.


    0 0


    Premier Kathleen Wynne is cornering the recreational marijuana market by restricting sales to 150 LCBO-run stores.

    The standalone cannabis outlets – physically separate from existing provincial-owned liquor stores – and a government-controlled website will be the only place weed can lawfully be sold after Ottawa legalizes it on July 1.

    In a move that will close scores of illegal weed “dispensaries” that now dot Ontario cities, the LCBO will get its product from the medical marijuana producers licenced by Health Canada.

    Only those 19 and older will be allowed to purchase or possess marijuana and pot consumption will be limited to private homes.

    Smoking weed will continue to be illegal in any public space – including parks, workplaces and motorized vehicles.

    Prices will kept competitive to curb the black market, but the government does expect a boost in tax revenues.

    Finance Minister Charles Sousa, Health Minister Eric Hoskins, and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi unveiled the plan Friday at Queen’s Park after months of work from Ontario’s cannabis secretariat.

    The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which runs the province’s 651 liquor stores – using workers who are members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union – will oversee all retail sales and run the online service.

    But the branding of the government’s new pot chain will not necessarily include the LCBO’s name.

    “When it comes to retail distribution, the LCBO has the expertise, the experience, and the insight to ensure careful control of cannabis, helping us to discourage illicit market activity and see that illegal dispensaries are shut down,” said Sousa.

    Naqvi said the government has “heard people across Ontario are anxious about the federal legalization of cannabis.”

    “The province is moving forward with a safe and sensible approach to legalization that will ensure we can keep our communities and roads safe, promote public health and harm reduction, and protect Ontario's young people,” the attorney general said.

    There will be 80 LCBO weed stores in place across the province by July 1, 2019 and another 70 by 2020.

    Online sales will begin next July after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government legalizes recreational marijuana.

    Premier Kathleen Wynne has long said she wants the LCBO to have a role in the distribution of recreational marijuana.

    Wynne has long touted the fact that the booze monopoly has staff trained to keep underage drinkers from buying alcohol and has a tightly controlled distribution channel.

    The premier was an early opponent of the illegal storefront weed shops – some of which are supplied by or operated by organized crime gangs – that have popped up in cities like Toronto.

    Friday’s announcement should provide police and municipalities with the clarity they have been seeking to close them down.

    Toronto Mayor John Tory said he was hopeful the illegal storefronts would voluntarily cease operating without police intervention.

    “My priority number one has always been safety of neighbourhoods, the safety of children and making sure that people are protected in that regard, and public health,” Tory told reporters at at Hillcrest Community School during an unrelated news conference.

    “I don’t think parents, I don't think people, including myself, who are in favour of legalization expect there's going to be a gigantic number of stores on every street corner selling marijuana. That's not true of alcohol.”

    Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner accused the Liberals of trying to change the channel from the Sudbury byelection bribery trial that began Thursday.

    “This announcement at this time is a cynical ploy by the Liberals to divert attention from their ongoing legal scandals,” said Schreiner.

    The government is also looking at new road safety rules to curb impaired driving.

    Other jurisdictions that have legalized weed have seen a spike in such offences, so the province will try to get in front of that with heftier penalties and new testing machines.

    Currently, the only legally available marijuana is prescribed by a medical doctor and comes from 58 producers who are licensed and inspected by Health Canada.

    It can only be delivered directly to patients’ doors by Canada Post or a courier.

    The existing storefront “dispensaries” have nothing to do with the federal Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations.

    -with files from Jennifer Pagliaro


    0 0


    Mississauga Councillor Nando Iannicca called June 21 “one of the greatest days in the history of Cooksville.”

    Iannicca, who has served the area on city council for 27 years, was elated the day that council moved on his plan for the city to negotiate the purchase of 31 homes over 11 hectares near Cooksville Creek to build a “Central Park” in Mississauga. The resolution passed in camera.

    But the plan came as a shock to the people the plan would most directly impact — the homeowners.

    Michele Alexander, 57, received a letter from the city in June which said the city was interested in buying the home she’s lived in for 18 years. Worried about the possibility of expropriation, she was quick to check the news for more information.

    She didn’t learn the details of Iannicca’s park plan until early July, when it was reported in the media.

    “The first thing that upset all of us is that there was no conversation ahead of time,” Alexander said. “None of us saw this coming.”

    Now Alexander is among a group of homeowners who are determined not to sell to the city. They say they were blind-sided by their own councillor’s “secret” plan. She was among a number of Cooksville Creek homeowners who spoke at a Mississauga council meeting Wednesday, asking for assurance that their homes won’t be expropriated.

    “I would probably be the last person out of there,” Alexander said in an interview with the Star. “I would fight to the very end because it’s just wrong.”

    Iannicca said he’s been transparent about his plan to “kill two birds with one stone” — to provide desperately needed park space to the growing city, and buy homes he said that would be hard to sell given the area’s risk of flooding.

    Council gave the green light for the city to purchase the homes, all of which are in the city’s floodplain, for their market value — no more than $2 million per home. The money to buy the homes will come from a city fund set aside for the purchase of land for parks. The council decision did not give city staff a mandate for expropriation.

    By 2031, 7,000 more people will live in Cooksville and the area will be connected with the future Hurontario Light Rail Transit system. Iannicca said the need for park space will grow along with the neighbourhood’s population.

    The large park would help correct the city’s green space deficit and reduce the risk of floods in the area it would occupy, he said.

    Alexander is doubtful that the money offered by the city will be enough to motivate her or her neighbours to move, especially since many of them have lived there for decades.

    The abundant trees in the neighbourhood make “you feel like you’re going to a cottage when you go here,” Alexander said.

    The community is also tight knit — especially since the flood of 2013, when the neighbours helped each other out.

    “There’s no way I could replace this for that kind of money,” Alexander said.

    Linda Kaszuba-Kostick, a realtor who lives and works in the Cooksville neighbourhood, said that homes near Cooksville Creek form a “high demand pocket;” the neighbourhood has good schools, existing green space and home values have risen in anticipation of the incoming LRT.

    “I don’t think areas suffer from having another park,” she said. “If it’s done beautifully, which I’m sure it will be, it will be a good thing.”

    Kaszuba-Kostick said the values of the properties the city wants to buy are difficult to predict. Some of the homes in the area are on large lots, which could make them worth more than $1 million, but the fact that they are on the floodplain hinders owners from building bigger homes on the lots, which is a trend in the area.

    Iannicca declined to release details about which properties specifically the city wishes to buy, but said that only 12 of them are occupied by the owners.

    Laura Piette, director of Park and Forestry, called the prospect of buying residents’ longtime homes “a delicate matter.” She said the city intends to meet with all homeowners, and proceed to negotiate with willing sellers only.

    But enough homeowners refusing to sell could spell the end of Iannicca’s years-old Central Park dreams.

    “That is my cautionary tale for everyone,” Iannicca said. “If this plan does not find favour we’ll turn our attention elsewhere.”

    There are plenty of other homes located in the floodplain, whose owners may be more willing to sell to the city, in the event that Iannicca’s own constituents resist, he said.

    If that happens, “I think many of them will see this as a tremendous opportunity lost,” he said.

    But Iannica’s not planning on that right now. He said the home purchases will take time — up to three years — and that council will have time later to reevaluate if the Cooksville Creek owners don’t budge.

    Iannicca said that he understands the homeowners’ wish that they were consulted beforehand, but insists that he abstained from reaching out before the plan was approved to protect their privacy.

    “Now, dare I say, none of them have lost a damn thing,” he said. “I had no official story to tell until June of this year.”

    The city is now in the process of meeting with the homeowners.


    0 0


    Metrolinx is proposing changes to its privacy policy after the Star revealed the provincial transit agency had quietly shared Presto fare card users’ travel data with the police.

    Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said that the agency, which operates the Presto system used by the TTC and 10 other transit agencies in Ontario, has always complied with privacy legislation.

    But she acknowledged that there could be ways to improve its protocol around giving the data of its passengers to law enforcement.

    “We know that privacy and the protection of personal information are highly important to our customers and we share that concern,” said Aikins.

    “We felt it was important to conduct a thorough review and consultation to balance the need to protect the privacy of our customers and our efforts as a good community partner.”

    The proposed changes, which Metrolinx intends to post online next week for public consultation, reflect largely recommendations made by experts who warned that the existing policy could lead to violations of transit users’ privacy.

    According to Aikins, the proposals include: changing the written information provided to Presto users to explicitly state under what circumstances Metrolinx will share private information with law enforcement; requiring police officers to get their supervisors to sign off on requests for cardholders’ information; notifying cardholders when police have asked for their information, and tracking and publishing annual statistics about how many requests the agency received and how it responded.

    Aikins said Metrolinx came up with the proposed reforms after a review that included examining the privacy policies of other transit agencies, telecommunications companies and financial institutions.

    Former three-term Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian said that the proposed reforms are “an improvement, but they don’t go far enough.”

    She said her main concern was that the reforms stop short of requiring police to provide a warrant to obtain Presto users’ information.

    While exceptions should be made in emergencies, such as missing persons cases, in all other instances “you need judicial oversight,” said Cavoukian, who is now the distinguished expert-in-residence at Ryerson University’s Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence.

    “You shouldn’t be giving customers’ personal information . . . to law enforcement unless there is a legitimate case. And if there is a legitimate case, you go to a judge and you get a warrant.”

    The agency couldn’t immediately provide updated statistics about how many requests for Presto users’ information it has received from law enforcement.

    However, the Star reported in June that, since the start of the year, the agency had received 26 requests for Presto usage data, which show where and when a passenger taps their fare card as part of a transit trip. The agency has said that it doesn’t share any other information that it collects from Presto users, such as email addresses, phone numbers, or financial details.

    The agency granted 12 of the 26 requests. Six of them were related to criminal investigations, and six were missing persons cases.

    In only two cases did police produce a warrant.

    In the 14 instances where requests weren’t granted, Metrolinx either turned down the application or it was withdrawn by police.

    At the time, the agency said that it did not always notify users police had asked for their data.

    The public will now have a chance to provide feedback about the potential reforms. Metrolinx also plans to consult with privacy experts, academics, law enforcement, and representatives from other transit agencies. The agency is expected to report back on potential changes to its privacy protocol at its December board meeting. After receiving input from the board, it will report to the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner.

    Roughly 3 million transit riders in Ontario now use Presto, according to Metrolinx. The TTC intends to complete its move to the fare-card system sometime next year, and phase out older forms of payment such as tickets and tokens.


    0 0


    This story is part of the Star’s trust initiative, where, every week, we take readers behind the scenes of our journalism. This week, we focus on how Freedom-of-Information requests can lead to public interest stories.

    In order to hold governments to account and shine a light on issues of public interest, reporters have for years used provincial and federal access-to-information legislation.

    For a fee of $5, these laws allow citizens to ask governments and various governmental organizations to provide information, such as emails, memos, and studies. The idea is that the public should be able to scrutinize the actions of government to ensure our democracy is functioning properly.

    In practice, the laws are not without problems and observers and users of the legislation have long complained that it is an expensive system fraught with delays and bureaucracy. However, when it does work, journalists, acting for the public, can uncover valuable insights on how governments operate.

    At the Star, Freedom-of-Information requests have led to stories about carding by Toronto police, how mayoral staff reacted to former mayor Rob Ford’sinfamous crack-smoking scandal, and federal government preparations for the ongoing NAFTA talks, to name just a few.

    Recently, documents obtained by the Star’s transportation reporter Ben Spurr through a Freedom-of-Information request revealed how Ontario’s transportation ministry pressured Metrolinx to approve a new $100-million GO Transit station in Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca’s Vaughan riding. The documents also showed the ministry pressed for another station that would be part of Toronto Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” plan with a price tag of $23 million.

    The records Spurr uncovered consisted of more than 1,000 pages, including reports, briefing notes and emails between Metrolinx officials and transportation ministry staff that exposed how Metrolinx approved the stations — Kirby in Vaughan and Lawrence East in Toronto — even though an analysis determined they would decrease ridership on the GO system if built.

    How did Spurr get the story? His curiosity was piqued in June 2016 when the Metrolinx board approved 12 new GO Transit stations but didn’t release detailed feasibility reports right away. It wasn’t until almost nine months later that the reports were made public. In the interim, Spurr had heard grumblings that research didn’t support the construction of Kirby station.

    So Spurr filed a Freedom-of-Information request to Metrolinx in March 2017 asking for emails to and from then-CEO Bruce McCuaig that pertained to Kirby station, as well as any briefing notes prepared for senior staff about the station.

    Metrolinx asked for $714 to provide the records, which was later reduced to $625. The Star ended up paying half of that, the agency waived the rest. Spurr received the documents in late August. While heavily redacted, the records also contained correspondence about the proposed Lawrence East station raising more questions for Spurr.

    The records were eye-opening.

    “Senior Metrolinx officials candidly discussed through emails what they described as the minister’s disappointment that stations they thought he wanted weren’t headed for approval. They also discussed performing an ‘alternative analysis’ that could see the two stations approved,” Spurr said. “I found this concerningbecause Metrolinx is supposed to be an arms-length agency.”

    Spurr was also surprised to read emails showing that Metrolinx was blindsided when the transportation ministry sent draft press releases indicating the minister would announce new GO stations the Metrolinx board had already voted not to approve, namely Kirby and Lawrence East.

    Despite what the documents revealed, the story didn’t go to print right away. In order to be fair to all the subjects of the story, Spurr alerted Del Duca’s office, Metrolinx and Mayor John Tory’s office and sent each a list of questions. “None of them answered my individual questions. They instead sent statements that addressed some points I had raised, but not all,” Spurr said.

    Spurr quoted in his story an emailed statement from Del Duca’s office that said the station approvals were based on “initial business case analysis, extensive consultation with municipal and regional representatives, community engagement, and collaboration between the ministry of transportation and Metrolinx.”

    Julie Carl, the Star’s senior editor of national and urban affairs and social justice, says sometimes, as in this case, requests reveal unexpected details that add new dimensions to stories.

    “Ben’s story is a great example of this. His FOI request revealed the shocked reactions of Metrolinx officials when they found out the minister intended to announce the two new stations the agency’s board hadn’t approved,” said Carl.

    At other times, the results of Freedom-of-Information requests provide only part of a story, meaning reporters have to rely on other sources to get a fuller picture.

    “We may receive just part of the puzzle so we have to figure out the missing pieces,” she said, adding that doing due diligence before publishing cuts down on the odds the Star will get it wrong and ensures subjects of the story are given a fair amount of time to respond.

    “We think this is so important — we phone, email, knock on their doors and leave letters explaining what we are doing and provide questions we would like them to answer,” Carl said.

    “We give them every opportunity to have their say.”


    0 0


    With Harvey’s floodwaters rapidly flowing into the Houston hotel where she worked, Jill Renick reportedly made a frantic cellphone call to a fellow employee: “I’m in an elevator. The water is rushing in. Please help me!”

    Those words were among the few clues Renick’s family and friends had to go on for a week and a half, when repeated searches of the Omni Houston Hotel failed to turn up any sign of her and desperate calls to shelters and hospitals were similarly fruitless.

    Worst fears were confirmed with the discovery of a body in the ceiling of the hotel basement near elevators Thursday, and police say they believe it to be that of the 48-year-old Renick.

    Read more:

    Hurricane Harvey cleanup anything but tidy

    After Harvey, mould ‘monster’ invades Texas homes

    ‘This is the face of Houston’: Flood cleanup marked by friendliness, lack of crime

    “We are heartbroken. To know Jill is to have loved her,” her sister, Pam Eslinger, said in a statement issued on behalf of the family. “She could light up a room just by walking in and adored life.”

    Renick’s disappearance had been among the most baffling mysteries in the wake of Harvey, which has killed at least 74 people after hitting the Texas coast Aug. 25 and dropping more than 129 centimetres of rain. At least 22 people in Houston remain missing.

    Renick, who was director of spa services at the four-star hotel, was last heard from Aug. 27, police said, when she made the call to a co-worker saying she was stuck in a service elevator that was rapidly filling with water. Eslinger, who has said she spoke with employees, detailed the call to Dallas television station KTVT.

    Renick had stayed the night with her dog in a fourth-floor room at the hotel but left to help guests evacuate as water poured into the lobby and basement. After her cellphone call, there was no sign of Renick. Her dog was found in the hotel room and her car in the parking lot.

    Attempts by the police dive team and the Houston Fire Department to locate Renick were unsuccessful because of the severe flooding. A hotel employee finally spotted the body early Thursday.

    “She was loved by so many people,” said the family statement, “and we will feel the impact of her absence in our hearts forever.”


    0 0


    Canada is edging closer to the July 2018 target date for the legalization of marijuana in a haze of political smoke.

    With every new development, the gap between the political narrative attending the initiative and its actual implementation is harder to bridge.

    Take the federal government’s talking points. They have greatly evolved since Justin Trudeau was campaigning on university campuses in the last election campaign. Logic has not always benefited from that evolution.

    To hear the prime minister these days, the point of the policy is to make it harder for minors to buy marijuana. Clearly, Canada is making its peace with marijuana the better to fight it.

    According to Trudeau, that will be achieved by imposing stiffer penalties on those who sell weed illegally and/or drive under the influence. There is a commitment to government-funded public education campaigns to drive home the health risks associated with marijuana.

    Fair enough, but those are all measures a health-conscious federal government could have undertaken without jumping through the hoops of legalizing the substance.

    The oft-missing link in the Liberal talking points is how Trudeau’s stated goal ties in with the legal sale of marijuana.

    Proponents of the plan talk of the need to replace a thriving underground market with a regulated one. The calculation, or at least the hope, is that legal competition will accomplish what judicial repression has so far failed to achieve. But to do that one must be willing to use means on par with policy ambitions.

    In the federal/provincial division of labour, setting the legal marijuana business on a competitive footing is left to the discretion of individual provinces. It is a politically uncomfortable task for which none is particularly enthusiastic.

    Cue the government of Ontario.

    On Friday it became the first to come up with a template to sell marijuana.

    As Canada’s largest province, Ontario stands to set the tone for much of the rest of the country. Many of its sister provinces are still seeking advice from experts and/or sounding out constituents.

    Quebec, for instance, has yet to decide something as basic as whether to apply the legal age to buy alcohol to marijuana. Ontario is set to use age 19 for both categories.

    But the Ontario blueprint falls well short of the purported goal of driving out of business those who sell weed illegally.

    If anything over the next few years, it stands to fatten the golden goose that is the marijuana black market rather than kill it.

    The plan is to establish a government monopoly on the selling of marijuana. The LCBO would run the operation in stores distinct from its liquor outlets. Ontario would open 80 pot shops by July 1, 2019 and another 70 over the following year.

    It would take a lot more than 150 outlets and quite a bit longer than two years to flood the market with legal marijuana in a province the size of Ontario.

    For the sake of comparison, Colorado, with a population of less than six million people, initially opened 136 venues for the purpose of legally selling marijuana.

    Ontario, with more than double that population and a larger territory, is planning to offer little more than the same number. It is as if a cheese artisan set out to drive Kraft out of business by setting up a stall at the St. Lawrence market in Toronto.

    At the same time Ontario would clamp down on illegal storefront dispensaries.

    Under the guise of creating a state-run monopoly, the province is running the risk of creating more demand for the services of the very people it purports to drive out of business.

    I have never tried marijuana. Not even in high school when everyone else seemed to be partaking in the weed experience. But that was not for lack of availability.

    I cannot think of a time at any point in my adult life when I could not have easily procured a joint. That is particularly true of the period over which I was raising teenagers.

    Unless they have been living on another planet, the provincial and federal politicians who are debating the upcoming legalization of marijuana must be familiar with the omnipresence and the reach of the underground market. And they must know that half-hearted measures tend to yield costly failures.


    0 0


    Doug Ford, ex-city councillor and brother of the late Rob Ford, has confirmed he wants a mayoral rematch with John Tory next year.

    “Robbie, this one is going to be for you,” Ford told a huge crowd at the annual “Ford Fest” party in their mother’s sprawling Etobicoke backyard.

    “I will be running for mayor of Toronto,” he said to deafening cheers from “Ford Nation” fans.

    Tory “is all talk and no action and broken promises,” said Ford, 52, after speeches by councillors nephew Michael Ford, Vince Crisanti and Giorgio Mammoliti, and Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton.

    Ford accused Tory of letting city spending “skyrocket” and vowed as mayor he would give Toronto the lowest taxes in North America and end the “war on the car.”

    Tory said Friday he welcomes a rematch and holding up his record to Ford’s in the scandal-filled 2010-2014 council term in which Doug was Ward 2 councillor and Rob was mayor.

    “The council was dysfunctional. The relationship with the other levels of government (was) in tatters. The reputation of the city was being challenged every day in media around the world.

    “I think people will have to think long and hard about whether they want to go back to the old way and to the chaos that we saw just three short years ago.”

    The actual campaign for the Oct. 22, 2018 election does not start until May 1, so Ford is a sort of shadow candidate until then. He can talk about his intention to run but cannot fundraise, buy ads, post election signs or otherwise spend money on his mayoral quest.

    Ford had been toying with running for Patrick Brown’s Progressive Conservatives in the June 7, 2018 provincial election.

    Sources have told the Star that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals were keen to have Ford as an opponent they could accuse of wanting to bring the right-wing politics of U.S. President Donald Trump to Ontario, and that some PCs were keen for him to choose a rematch with Tory instead. Ford denied those allegations.

    Others have said the co-owner of Deco Labels & Tags was dissuaded from running provincially when PC officials told him that, if elected and elevated to cabinet, by law he would have to put his shares in the family company in a blind trust.

    Ford was elected as city councillor, serving as his brother’s sidekick and top adviser, promising to find billions of dollars in waste at city hall. At one point he wanted city staff to put a connecting door between the mayor’s office and his adjoining council office.

    When the Star in March 2013 revealed then-mayor Rob Ford had attended a naval gala incoherent, and had a substance abuse problem that worried those around him, Doug Ford branded the assertions lies meant to keep the “gravy train” running at city hall.

    Ford likewise dismissed as nonsense later allegations that his brother was caught on videotape smoking crack cocaine with gang members who sold drugs and guns. Doug Ford has said he became aware of his brother’s addictions only after Rob Ford confessed them in November 2013.

    As councillor Doug Ford could claim success in helping convince city council to pass austerity budgets, contract out garbage collection between the Humber River and Yonge St. and extract deep concessions from city workers in new contracts.

    However, his behind-the-scenes push for a remake of Toronto’s east waterfront with a ferris wheel and boat-in hotel dealt his brother his first major policy loss. Doug Ford’s “cut the waist” challenge, in which he and his brother publicly competed to lose weight, embarrassed the mayor who failed to shed pounds and was peppered with reporters’ questions about his scandals.

    Rob Ford successfully went to rehab but had to abandon his 2014 mayoral re-election campaign after being diagnosed with a rare aggressive cancer. Doug Ford took his brother’s place late in the campaign and received 330,610 votes to 394,775 votes for Tory. Rob Ford, who was re-elected to the council seat he had held for a decade, died in March 2016.

    With files from Jennifer Pagliaro and Betsy Powell


    0 0


    JUCHITAN, MEXICO—One of the most powerful earthquakes ever to hit Mexico was followed by a Gulf coast hurricane, dealing a one-two punch to the country that killed at least 63 people as workers scrambled Saturday to respond to the twin national emergencies.

    The 8.1 quake off the southern Pacific coast just before midnight Thursday toppled hundreds of buildings in several states. Hardest-hit was Juchitan, Oaxaca, where 36 people died and a third of the city’s homes collapsed or were uninhabitable, President Enrique Pena Nieto said late Friday in an interview with the Televisa news network.

    In downtown Juchitan, the remains of brick walls and clay tile roofs cluttered streets as families dragged mattresses onto sidewalks to spend a second anxious night sleeping outdoors. Some were newly homeless, while others feared further aftershocks could topple their cracked adobe dwellings.

    Read more: Hurricane Katia makes landfall in Mexico following earthquake that killed at least 61

    “We are all collapsed, our homes and our people,” said Rosa Elba Ortiz Santiago, 43, who sat with her teenage son and more than a dozen neighbours on an assortment of chairs. “We are used to earthquakes, but not of this magnitude.”

    Even as she spoke, across the country, Hurricane Katia was roaring onshore north of Tecolutla in Veracruz state, pelting the region with intense rains and maximum sustained winds of 120 km/h.

    Veracruz Gov. Miguel Angel Yunes said two people died in a mudslide related to the storm, and he said some rivers had risen to near flood stage, but there were no reports of major damage.

    Veracruz and neighbouring Puebla states evacuated more than 4,000 people ahead of the storm’s arrival.

    The Hurricane Center said Katia could still bring 7.5 to 15 centimetres of additional rain 25 to 37 centimetres to a region with a history of deadly mudslides and flooding.

    Pena Nieto announced Friday that the earthquake killed 45 people in Oaxaca state, 12 in Chiapas and 4 in Tabasco, and he declared three days of national mourning. The toll included 36 dead in Juchitan, located on the narrow waist of Oaxaca known as the Isthmus, where a hospital and about half the city hall also collapsed into rubble.

    Next to Ortiz, 47-year-old Jose Alberto Martinez said he and family members have long been accustomed to earthquakes. So when the ground started moving, at first they simply waited a bit for it to stop — until objects began falling and they bolted for the street.

    “We felt like the house was coming down on top of us,” Martinez said, accompanied by his wife, son and mother-in-law.

    Now, he didn’t feel safe going back inside until the home is inspected. Right next door, an older building had crumbled into a pile of rough timbers, brick and stucco, while little remained of a white church on the corner.

    Rescuers searched for survivors Friday with sniffer dogs and used heavy machinery at the main square to pull rubble away from city hall, where a missing police officer was believed to be inside.

    The city’s civil defence co-ordinator, Jose Antonio Marin Lopez, said similar searches had been going on all over the area.

    Teams found bodies in the rubble, but the highlight was pulling four people, including two children, alive from the completely collapsed Hotel Del Rio where one woman died.

    “The priority continues to be the people,” Marin said.

    Pena Nieto said authorities were working to re-establish supplies of water and food and provide medical attention to those who need it. He vowed the government would help rebuild.

    “The power of this earthquake was devastating, but we are certain that the power of unity, the power of solidarity and the power of shared responsibility will be greater,” Pena Nieto said.

    Power was cut at least briefly to more than 1.8 million people, and authorities closed schools in at least 11 states to check them for safety.

    The Interior Department reported that 428 homes were destroyed and 1,700 were damaged just in Chiapas, the state closest to the epicentre.

    “Homes made of clay tiles and wood collapsed,” said Nataniel Hernandez, a human rights worker living in Tonala, Chiapas, who worried that inclement weather threatened to bring more structures down.

    “Right now it is raining very hard in Tonala, and with the rains it gets much more complicated because the homes were left very weak, with cracks,” Hernandez said by phone.

    The earthquake also jolted the Mexican capital, more than 1,000 kilometres away, which largely lies atop a former lake bed whose soil amplifies seismic waves. Memories are still fresh for many of a catastrophic quake that killed thousands and devastated large parts of the city in 1985.

    Mexico City escaped major damage, though part of a bridge on a highway being built to a new international airport collapsed due to the earthquake, local media reported.

    The quake’s power was equal to Mexico’s strongest in the past century, and it was slightly stronger than the 1985 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said. However its impact was blunted somewhat by the fact that it struck some 100 miles offshore.

    The epicentre was in a seismic hot spot in the Pacific where one tectonic plate dives under another. Such subduction zones are responsible for some of the biggest quakes in history, including the 2011 Fukushima disaster and the 2004 Sumatra quake that spawned a deadly tsunami.

    In the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, tourists abandoned coastal hotels as winds and rains picked up ahead of Hurricane Katia’s landfall and workers set up emergency shelters.

    “The arrival of Katia may be particularly dangerous for slopes affected by the earthquake. Avoid these areas,” Pena Nieto tweeted.


    0 0


    COX’S BAZAR, BANGLADESH—With Rohingya refugees still flooding across the border from Burma, those packed into camps and makeshift settlements in Bangladesh were becoming desperate Saturday for scant basic resources as hunger and illness soared.

    Fights were erupting over food and water. Women and children were tapping on car windows or tugging at the clothes of passing reporters while rubbing their bellies and begging for food. Health experts warned of the potential for outbreaks of disease.

    The UN said Saturday that an estimated 290,000 Rohingya Muslims have arrived in the border district of Cox’s Bazar in just the last two weeks, joining at least 100,000 who were already there after fleeing earlier riots or persecution in Buddhist-majority Burma. The number was expected to swell further, with thousands crossing the border each day.

    “More and more people are coming,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan. With camps already “more than full,” the new arrivals were setting up spontaneous settlements along roadsides or on any available patches of land.

    Read more:‘Alarming number’ of 270,000 Rohingya have fled Burma violence, UN says

    Fires in empty Rohingya village intensifies doubts about Burmese government claims

    Fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners tried to convince Burma’s Suu Kyi to defend Rohingya

    Within the camps “we are trying our best, but it is very difficult because every day we are seeing new arrivals” with nowhere to go.

    The exodus began Aug. 25 after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts in Burma’s northern Rakhine state. The military responded with what it called “clearance operations” to root out any fighters it said might be hiding in villages. The Burmese government says nearly 400 people have been killed in fighting it blames on insurgents, though Rohingya say Burmese troops and Buddhist mobs attacked them and destroyed their villages.

    Many of the newly arrived were initially stunned and traumatized after fleeing the violence. They are now growing desperate in searching for food distribution points that appeared only in recent days, passing out packets of biscuits and 25-kilogram bags of rice.

    One aid worker who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media said “stocks are running out” with the refugees’ needs far greater than what they had imagined. “It is impossible to keep up,” she said.

    At one food distribution point, women were volunteering to help keep order by tapping people with bamboo sticks to gently urge them back in line. Weary women carried infants in their arms while clutching other children to their sides, afraid they might be separated in the crowds.

    One 40-year-old man, faint with hunger, collapsed while waiting and could not stand again on his own strength when others tried to help him up. They drizzled water between his lips in an attempt to revive him, to no avail.

    At one camp, a mobile clinic set up for the first time Saturday had already seen 600 patients by the afternoon. Patients, mostly children, were coming in with severe diarrhea, fungal skin infections, ear infections and high fever, said Nasima Yasmin, the director of the clinic run by a well-known Bangladesh health group.

    Yasmin said their work was barely sufficient given the camp’s scale and requirements.

    “We need deep tube wells so that there is clean water and people can clean themselves. Also toilets are needed,” she said, adding that the sheer number of newcomers raised fears of a serious outbreak of disease.

    Refugee camps had already been filled to capacity before the influx. Makeshift settlements were quickly appearing and expanding along roadsides, and the city of Cox’s Bazar — built to accommodate only 500,000 — was bursting at its seams.

    There was an urgent need for more temporary shelters, Tan said. “We are seeing the mushrooming of these very flimsy shelters that will not be able to house people for too long,” she said.

    The UN has asked Bangladesh authorities to make more land available so they can build new relief camps.

    It’s not known how many Rohingya remain in Rakhine state. Previously the population had been thought to be roughly 1 million. Journalists in Rakhine state saw active fires in areas Rohingya had abandoned, adding to doubts over government claims that Rohingya themselves were responsible for setting them.

    Dozens of Rohingya have died in boat capsizings as they fled the violence. Those who trek days through the jungle to cross the land border face other dangers, including landmines.

    Landmines were planted years ago along parts of the border. Bangladeshi officials say Burmese soldiers have planted new explosives since the latest wave of violence began, though the Burmese military denies it.

    “It may not be landmines, but I know there have been isolated cases of Burmese soldiers planting explosives three to four days ago,” Lt. Col. S.M. Ariful Islam, commanding officer of the Bangladesh border guard in Teknaf, said Friday. He added that he was aware of at least three Rohingya injured in explosions.


    0 0


    Asad Aryubwal wanted a safe Afghanistan. When he was a boy in Kabul, his father’s family owned the biggest movie theatre in town, Aryub Cinema, and he remembers the young men and women dating in the open, blue jeans, religious freedom. After the Saur Revolution in 1978, his father was arrested and never seen again. Then the wars came in endless waves, forcing him to flee his home three times.

    By the time CBC journalist Carol Off came to Kabul, he was a married father of five and he was tired of the violence. He wanted the world to know that teaming up with warlords to fight the Taliban was not a good idea.

    Off was a journalist who could take his words to the world — and so in 2002, he helped her access different locations and agreed to an on-camera interview talking about life under Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum. He did it again when Off returned to film an update in 2006. There were consequences both times, but in 2007 he was ultimately told: leave Afghanistan or die.

    Off has always considered herself an old-fashioned journalist: you tell the story, you keep your distance. This is the story she couldn’t walk away from.

    In their Toronto home this summer, the Aryubwal family talk about their eight-year journey to Canada, which Off has written about in her book All We Leave Behind. Robina Aryubwal, the oldest child, now 29, says it was hard for everybody involved, including the journalist.

    “I didn’t suffer,” Off interjects, quietly, sitting on the floor.

    “She suffered more than our family,” Robina says.

    “No. No. There’s no comparing,” Off says in that forceful voice Canadians are used to hearing on the radio. “I was always secure. I was always safe. I was always OK. I lived a normal life.”


    The man who brought Carol Off and the Aryubwal family together is Abdul Rashid Dostum. The warlord turned Afghan vice-president is an ethnic Uzbek who holds great power in the north of Afghanistan and has been accused of human rights abuses. He is known for switching allegiances to survive — “more often than some people change socks,” as Off writes in her book. In the ’90s, when Afghanistan descended into civil war, he was one of the warlords battling for control.

    It was out of that chaos that the Taliban rose to power, and when it did, Dostum teamed up with some of his former enemies to form the Northern Alliance to fight the Taliban.

    The CIA put them on the payroll after 9/11, even though allegations of human rights abuses and violence were known, says Aisha Ahmad, an international security professor at the University of Toronto and author of Jihad & Co.

    It was “counter-insurgency on the cheap,” she explains — and the warlords “were very happy to take the sacks of cash and crates full of guns and then restart their bid for power that they lost during the civil war.”

    At the time, warlords were considered by U.S. officials to be the “expedient way to check the Taliban,” she says, “even though many analysts were screaming about the fact that you are going to set in motion forces that you can’t control.”

    Dostum’s forceswere accused of murdering hundreds or possibly thousands of Taliban prisoners of war in 2001, as reported in investigations by the New York Times and Newsweek, and Physicians for Human Rights, who discovered a mass grave in 2002. (Dostum, through a spokesperson, has said that any deaths in the prison transfer were unintentional, and the numbers were not as high as those in media reports.)

    Allegations like these were why Off came to Afghanistan in 2002 — to find out just who the U.S. had partnered with in fighting the Taliban.

    Asad Aryubwal and his family had lived in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif for a few years in the 1990s. Dostum’s northern stronghold was a relatively safe option during the civil war. Asad ran a wholesale business, but he says he had to join Dostum’s army to keep his family and property safe. He was named a general, but was a “glorified gofer,” as Off notes in her book. He worked in logistics, supervising construction sites and the like, but he told Off he never had a weapon, and “prayed that would never be ordered to do more.”

    His wife, Mobina, was worried it wasn’t safe to talk on camera, but she was proud of her husband. She was a teacher and they both believed in the power of education, equality and that he was doing the right thing.

    Asad travelled to the north with the CBC team, helping them gain access to Dostum’s fortress and people who might be useful to their story. Thanks to Aryubwal, “we had evidence that significant offences against human rights had occurred under General Dostum’s authority,” Off writes.

    When Off and her team (producer Heather Abbott and cameraman Brian Kelly) first met the Aryubwals, the family was living in Kabul, where life had improved since international forces had arrived. Schools reopened and the girls were star students. Women weren’t forced to wear the burka.

    “We had a good feeling,” Robina says. “We really loved these independent, strong women who came all the way from Canada to Afghanistan.”

    Off returned home, and later won a Gemini for In the Company of Warlords. Back in Afghanistan, the Aryubwals made the eight-hour drive for a summer vacation in Mazar-e-Sharif. It was here, she writes, that one of Dostum’s men found Asad, and told him he shouldn’t have spoken to the CBC.

    He didn’t tell Off about this warning. She had done her job, and he was hopeful that Afghanistan would improve. When she returned in 2006 to film an update, he spoke on camera again.

    Dostum’s people found out, and a commander visited the family’s home in Kabul: “Instead of execution, Asad’s punishment would be banishment,” Off writes.

    “I am actually astonished that this gentleman spoke out and got out alive,” says U of T’s Ahmad. “Dostum has publicly boasted about shocking acts of violence he has perpetrated against his opponents.”


    Back in Toronto, Off hadn’t heard from the Aryubwals. She knew Robina had started law school in Kabul and she imagined their lives were busy, as hers was. She had started a new job as co-host of CBC Radio’s As It Happens in the fall of 2007, when the phone call came from a stranger.

    The man was told to find Off when he arrived in Toronto and tell her Asad needed to speak to her.

    Off imagined it was about Robina. She had been in Paris to study for a month and perhaps she wanted to continue her schooling in Canada. Off emailed her, but didn’t hear back.

    In January 2008, Off was travelling to Pakistan to report on the election after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. She had been in touch with the family, and knew they were living in Pakistan, but she didn’t know the details. In an Islamabad hotel room, she learned about the warnings in 2002, and the banishment. She asked Asad why he had spoken to her.

    As he spoke in Pashto, the faces around her crumpled into tears. She waited on Robina’s translation.

    “Because if I had not spoken up, if I had not told you the truth of what was happening, I would never be able to look into the eyes of my children again.”

    So many times in her career, she had thought: “Geez, I wish I could help you but you know I can’t really do anything … but I feel your pain.”

    There was always an invisible line separating her from her sources.

    “Once I had looked over my shoulder and seen what the consequences had been of those interviews,” she says, “I knew I could never walk away from that either as a journalist or a human being.”

    She would help them come to Canada. Asad told her she was the family’s only hope. It was unusual for the self-reliant man to say something so dire to someone he hardly knew.

    Off thought: how hard could it be?


    Problems were quick to appear. Asad’s refugee application was rejected because the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees confused him with another man, Off writes. The application was soon back on track but the process was fraught.

    At the UNHCR office, Asad bristled when his name was called out, or when a security guard loudly asked about his situation in front of others. Strangers sometimes approached with schemes, money in exchange for influence with the application.

    Living in Peshawar, on the Afghan-Pakistani border, the family did not feel safe. Off sent money, and Asad and Mobina used it to send their children to school. If they were five minutes late, their father would call their mobiles. Where are you?

    In 2012, their oldest son, Muhammad, went to the market to buy tomatoes. He was stopped by police and asked for ID. He had forgotten his university card at home, and they took him to jail.

    “I spent three nights with people who were addicted to drugs and criminals and killers,” he says, now 26, wearing a Blue Jays hat as he sits on a stool in the kitchen.

    You were so young, says Off, who experienced these crises through phone calls and texts.

    The police threatened to deport Muhammad. Asad wondered if it was a plot to get him to follow his son back into the country.

    In 2014, their youngest child Hossna came home from school crying. The Army Public School in Peshawar had been attacked by Taliban gunmen, and her teacher told her: “It’s all because of you.”

    Robina felt that one of the biggest problems with the refugee process was corruption. Things moved so slowly. In Toronto, Off woke early to phone the other side of the world, to push the case along, asking for information from the UNHCR office or the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan. She saw it as part of her job. She knows other journalists might disagree. She might have, years ago.

    “I saw it definitely as something that was my responsibility … to help get them out of the mess that I put them in.”

    Robina had a hard time sleeping, and when Off’s emails came, sometimes in the middle of the night, she’d wake her parents tell them the latest news, occasionally embellishing to see the “glow” in their faces.

    In the kitchen, Mobina nods, tears in her eyes.

    “It was the only happiness for us,” says Hossai, 27.

    There were days when they felt like giving up. “Maybe one of our family members will be kidnapped, the other will get upset, get depression,” Robina says of the future she imagined. “One by one our family would be finished.”

    She says Off would tell them there would be light at the end of the tunnel.

    “We had no jobs, no money, but Carol sent us money to live,” she continues. “We went to school with that.”

    “It’s because of Carol we have our bachelors,” Hossai says.

    “It’s all because of Carol,” Robina says.

    “You were family,” Off says quietly. “You were my family.”

    Off has not heard them talk about her like this, and in some ways, it is painful, how concerned about her they have always been amid their own troubles. Later, on the phone, she explains that she had to push Asad into including the CBC documentary as the reason he had to flee Afghanistan when he was filling out his asylum application.

    “He didn’t want to get me in this trouble or cause me any grief,” she says. “Their feelings of concern for me, all the time … that’s who they are. There is nothing selfish in them.”

    In 2013, UNHCR recommended the Aryubwals as good candidates for settlement in Canada, and many people wanted to help. Two church groups had signed on to sponsor, but each had to change plans as time dragged on with no news. In 2014, the interview at the Canadian High Commission went well. Off sent the family encouraging emails, but privately worried she was giving false hope. Before Christmas, she thought about draining her bank account, sending it to the family, and walking away.

    In Peshawar, Asad also thought about walking away — returning to Afghanistan, to Dostum — telling him he could do whatever he wanted if his family would be safe.

    In 2015, Off brought immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman in to help. He found out the family’s security checks cleared in 2014. He filed an application in federal court to find out why the file was held up. Not long after, the family was approved as government-assisted refugees. Off sent Robina a text to check out a map.

    “We were laughing and crying together,” Hossai says.

    The process took eight painful years, or nine, depending on when you start your count.


    Asad goes to another room and returns with a framed photo of him and his sons at the Santa Claus parade in Hamilton in 2015, a few days after arriving in Canada. The family was sent to Hamilton because they didn’t have relatives in Toronto. They talk about how hard it was in those first months to shake the old feelings of insecurity. Robina remembers going for a walk, and telling her mother to slow down. No one was after them in Steeltown.

    In October 2016, the family moved to Toronto.

    Asad works as a dishwasher at the Carlu. Mobina started a business, making samosas and mantus (dumplings) which the family sells at the Wychwood market on Saturdays.

    Youngest daughter Hossna is in Grade 11. Mujeeb and Hossai work at O&B restaurant in Bayview village. Muhammad has applied to Ryerson for engineering, which he studied in Pakistan. He makes deliveries for a pharmacy, and enjoys driving around the city. Robina studies at U of T’s Mississauga campus. She hopes to one day go to law school.

    Both Muhammad and Mujeeb have their drivers’ licences, and everyone else in the family is in the process. They all look at Robina.

    “In Afghanistan I was wearing the chador,” Robina begins, as the room erupts in laughter. “In Pakistan I was . . .”

    “So why is Hossai doing so well?” Off asks.

    “Oh my God, she just gets frozen when she is turning the wheel,” her younger brother Mujeeb says. “You have to drive with her some time.”

    “No!” Off says. “I’m not going to.”

    Asad closes his eyes in laughter. He has always wanted security for Afghanistan. To find safety in Canada is bittersweet. He wants his children to go to school and change this country for the better.

    “We are Canadians, with no citizenship, but we will get that,” Mujeeb says. “This is our Afghanistan.”

    On a recent Friday, Mobina and her daughters Robina and Hossna were frying beef, cutting vegetables and making dough for their dumplings and samosas, at a commercial kitchen loaned to the family. Asad came in to help before a dishwashing shift downtown.

    “In Afghanistan, businessperson,” he said, smiling as he scraped onion skin. “Here, kitchen worker.”

    Mobina was a teacher in the years when the Taliban weren’t calling the shots. She taught high school literature.

    “Oh I miss,” she said, dreamily, stirring spices into the ground beef in the pan. Then she starts reciting some verses in Dari.

    “Whatever you want to do, it’s your own personal choice,” Robina translates. “But never bother anyone else.”


    The Aryubwal family closely follows the news in Afghanistan, which often involves Dostum.

    In 2013, he made a public apology to all who had suffered in Afghanistan’s wars, paving his way to run for vice-president on the same ticket as President Ashraf Ghani, who had only a few years earlier called his running mate a “known killer.”

    Romain Malejacq, a political scientist at the Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management at Radboud University in the Netherlands, is writing a book about warlords.

    In Afghanistan, he says, many of these people with “a proven ability to organize violence,” are involved in politics, like Dostum.

    “If the state collapses or gets weaker and weaker, you will see that these men, I believe, will assert more autonomy in their previous territories, and might become what I call active warlords again,” he says.

    “Warlords exert power in different ways today but they remain warlords.”

    Dostum’s tenure as vice-president has been volatile. He is currently in Turkey, in what has been described as exile, amid allegations that he was behind the abduction and sexual torture of a political rival, former Jowzjan Province Gov. Ahmad Ishchi, last November. He has denied the charges, allegations that Amnesty International has called “stomach churning.”

    Off tried to interview Dostum when making the documentary, but once the family was in peril, she didn’t try, for fear it would endanger them.

    “I think that exposing him and what he did to the light of day kind of inoculates them to some extent,” Off says.

    When she wanted to write the book, the Aryubwals were on board. They wanted people to know what happened to them, and they wanted to highlight problems in their long journey to Canada in the hopes that life might be easier for refugees who don’t have a “Carol Off.”

    Off felt that as a result of telling the family’s story, people might understand “what others are going through out there.”

    The Aryubwals have mourned the death of Off’s father and celebrated the births of her granddaughters. She has celebrated their birthdays and milestones, and chided Asad for his smoking habit. They are friends.

    Before Off is sent out the door with a bag of leftovers, Robina says even though Off isn’t a blood relation, she is “more than a blood connection.”

    “Wait till I start making demands on you, wait and see,” Off says. “I’m the oldest, OK? So you have to take care of me when I’m an old lady.

    “That would be our pleasure,” Hossai says.

    “I will be a really miserable old lady,” Off says. “You will regret this. You’ll say, how do we get rid of this old lady who is so miserable?”

    “Never,” Hossai says.


    0 0


    I’m not an expert on the origin of phrases or etymology — so rather than write about a particular controversy at Toronto City Hall revolving around the meaning of a seemingly sexist phrase, Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong might tell me I should “stick to my knitting.”

    Or maybe he’d put it differently, after the week he’s had.

    Minnan-Wong was quoted last week saying he hoped that the next chief planner of the city would “stick to the knitting” rather than wading into public debates on social media.

    The phrase typically means something similar to “mind your own business,” “tend your own garden” or “stay in your lane.”

    Some people took exception to his choice of words — in particular, saying that it was a sexist phrase, given that knitting is traditionally considered a feminine activity. Among them was the obvious target of his criticism, outgoing chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat.

    “He might as well have told me to go back to the kitchen,” Keesmaat said on Thursday morning in an interview on CBC radio. “I think it’s a deeply offensive comment.”

    She wasn’t alone in that interpretation, with councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon, Mike Layton and Joe Cressy publicly joining her in hearing it as a variation of “stick to women’s stuff” — perhaps a folksier version of the internet-misogynist favourite “make me a sandwich.”

    After the outcry that bubbled up, Mayor John Tory called the comment inappropriate.

    Minnan-Wong said his words had been taken out of context. “However, I unreservedly apologize to Ms. Keesmaat or anyone else who may have taken offence.”

    But his claim that he didn’t intend it as a gendered comment — he also used the phrase publicly in 2012 in regards to a man, then-chief medical officer of health Dr. David McKeown, for example — has plenty of defenders. The same defence is brought out every year or two when a similar controversy erupts here or elsewhere over the use and interpretation of the phrase, as a quick Google search shows.

    They point out that the phrase is in fairly common use in the business and startup community, most often employed not as an insult to others but as a piece of advice or even a self-applied mantra. Executives and entrepreneurs tend to use the phrase as a warning to themselves not to be distracted or to overly diversify their businesses — in this context saying “we should stick to our knitting” as a synonym for “let’s keep our eyes on the prize.”

    It was likely most popularized in that way because of the widely read 1982 management book In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr., which has an entire chapter entitled “Stick to the Knitting,” a principle the authors say is one of eight themes common to successful companies.

    But the use of the phrase in this way seems to stretch back almost a century. In an online language and usage forum at the website StackExchange.com, a user named Sven Yargs cited published examples of the phrase and variations of it in books stretching back to the late 1800s.

    For example, in 1898, he finds the book The Pharmaceutical EraThe Pharmaceutical Era, advising advertisers not to put the Spanish-American War into their ads: “As much as we admire the drum major, we should remember that there is the quartermaster somewhere in the rear, who in the din and glory of battle, must remain unrattled and calmly figure out problems of bean rations and army mules. He must attend strictly to business, and the advertiser must do the same. There is a homely old injunction, which originated in our homespun days, which the advertiser might recall. It is this: ‘Stick to your knitting.’ ”

    Similar examples are found around the same time and in the decades that follow. Yargs cites another typical example from 1918’s proceedings of the National Safety Council: “My advice to all men is to stick to your knitting and take care of your committees.”

    Interestingly, Yargs finds that a much earlier, similar phrase, “attend to your knitting,” has an unmistakably gendered meaning — offered as stunningly demeaning advice to wives tempted to offer advice to their husbands in an 1839 issue of Evangelical MagazineEvangelical Magazine: “Your mind is too feeble, your discernment too contracted, your general ignorance vastly too great to become my adviser! — attend to your knitting and sewing, look after the cooking, take care of the children — for these are all the subjects which you have ability to comprehend!”

    This meaning appears to be what Keesmaat and others understood Minnan-Wong to mean when he spoke recently. The other meaning, the one men in business often apply to themselves, is what Minnan-Wong claims to have intended.

    I don’t see a reason to doubt him, necessarily. In my research and conversations about this, the world seems to be divided into people unfamiliar with the phrase who think it is obviously sexist upon hearing it and those who are very familiar with the phrase and are astonished to learn anyone would think it is sexist.

    But that divide points to a good reason Minnan-Wong and others may want to retire it from their rhetorical arsenals — especially if they are using it as an insult.

    An analogy or expression of speech is only useful if it helps you to make your point more clearly and elegantly. If half of your audience takes you to mean something different, and far more offensive, than you intend, then your turn of phrase is hurting rather than helping your cause.

    And if you need to spend hours explaining the meaning and history of a term in your own defence, you have lost any semblance of elegance or clarity, and you have missed the chance to make your point.

    You could say your yarn spins out of control. Or that you lose your needle in a haystack. Or that your stitches get twisted.

    Or you could just stick to your . . . uh, area of expertise.


    0 0


    LUXOR, EGYPT—Egypt on Saturday announced the discovery in the southern city of Luxor of a pharaonic tomb belonging to a royal goldsmith who lived more than 3,500 years ago during the reign of the 18th dynasty.

    The tomb, located on the west bank of the river Nile in a cemetery for noblemen and top officials, is a relatively modest discovery, but one that authorities has announced with a great deal of fanfare in a bid to boost the country’s slowly recovering tourism industry.

    “We want tomorrow’s newspapers to speak about Egypt and make people want to come to Egypt,” Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anani told reporters.

    El-Anani said the tomb was not in good condition, but it contains a statue of the goldsmith and his wife as well as a funerary mask. He said a shaft inside the tomb contained pottery as well as mummies and coffins belonging to ancient Egyptian people who lived during the 21st and 22nd dynasties.

    The minister identified the goldsmith as Amunhat.

    Read more: Egyptian archeologists discover massive statue in Cairo slum

    Egyptian archeologists discover tombs dating back more than 2,000 years

    The tomb was discovered by Egyptian archeologists, something that a senior official at the Antiquities Ministry hailed as evidence of their growing professionalism and expertise.

    “We used to escort foreign archeologists as observers, but that’s now in the past. We are the leaders now,” said Mustafa Waziri, Luxor’s chief archeologist.


    0 0


    MIAMI—With the window closing fast for anyone wanting to escape, Irma hurtled toward Florida with 205 km/h winds Saturday on a shifting course that took it away from Miami and instead threatened the first direct hit on the Tampa area from a major hurricane in nearly a century.

    That represented a significant turn in the forecast, which for days had made it look as if the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people was going to get slammed head-on by the Big One.

    “You don’t want to play with this thing,” Sen. Marco Rubio warned during a visit to the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center. “People will die from this.”

    Forecasters predicted Irma’s centre would blow ashore Sunday in the perilously low-lying Florida Keys, then hit southwestern Florida, move up the state’s Gulf Coast and plow into the Tampa Bay area.

    The storm centre itself is expected to miss Miami, but the metro area will still get pounded with life-threatening hurricane winds, National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.

    Tampa has not been struck by a major hurricane since 1921, when its population was about 10,000, Feltgen said. Now the area has around 3 million people and encompasses two of Florida’s biggest cities: Tampa and St. Petersburg.

    Read more: Irma unleashed ‘sheer terror:’ stranded Canadians

    Hurricane Irma will batter Florida and ‘devastate the United States,’ officials warn

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

    The biggest danger to life and property from Hurricane Irma could come from storm surge that forces seawater inland, which could topple houses, isolate residents who don’t evacuate and make drowning an imminent threat, the National Hurricane Center is warning.

    Storm surge occurs when heavy winds push the ocean onto the land, and it’s a destructive feature of many cyclones and hurricanes, including Hurricane Harvey in Texas last month. Irma’s surge could top 3.6 metres in areas of the Florida coast, and some surge is predicted up and down the state’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

    The most severe storm surge is projected for a more than 322-kilometre stretch of southern Florida coast from Miami to north of Fort Myers, while the Florida Keys also are expected to see significant surge.

    Irma battered Cuba on Saturday with deafening winds and relentless rain, pushing seawater inland that flooded homes and knocked out power across a wide area. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, islands already reeling from Irma prepared for a second pounding — from Hurricane Jose.

    The twin Category 4 storms had desperate residents seeking shelter across the region. In Cuba, high winds from Irma upended trees, toppled utility poles and scattered debris across streets. Roads were blocked, and witnesses said a provincial museum near the eye of the storm was in ruins after being buffeted by brutal squalls.

    On the French overseas islands of St. Martin and St. Barts, Jose was expected to bring torrential rains and dangerous rip currents.

    “The protection and shelter of people already harshly tested by Irma is the priority,” officials said in a statement. More than 1,100 police, military officials and others have been deployed to both islands to provide help. Crews were evacuating the sick and injured to nearby Guadeloupe.

    The last airplane flew in to the battered Grande-Case de Saint Martin airport Friday carrying emergency workers to help with reconstruction as well as specialists who aim to re-establish the island’s cutoff water supply and electricity. Remaining mothers and children were flown out Friday in small 40-person capacity planes.

    Irma claimed at least 20 lives as it levelled islands in the Caribbean and headed toward Florida, where a massive evacuation was in progress. The hurricane centre said the storm slowed down after slamming into Cuba’s northern coast, but that wind speeds would likely regain momentum as it approached the Sunshine State.

    Early Saturday, the hurricane centre said the storm was centred about 145 kilometres east-southeast of Varadero, Cuba, with maximum sustained winds of 205 km/h. Soldiers and government workers earlier had gone through coastal towns enforcing the evacuation, taking people to shelters at government buildings and schools — and even caves.

    Many of Irma’s victims fled their islands on ferries and fishing boats as Jose approached, threatening destruction for anything Irma might have left untouched. Early Saturday, Jose was located about 190 kilometres east of the northern Leeward Islands. The storm was moving to the northwest at 20 km/h, with maximum sustained winds of 230 km/h, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

    Hurricane warnings were in effect for Dutch Sint Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, and tropical storm warnings were in effect for Barbuda and Anguilla, as well as Saba and St. Eustatius.

    Some islands, though, received a last-minute reprieve as a hurricane warning for Barbuda and Anguilla was downgraded to a tropical storm. Both islands were devastated by Irma.

    Many residents and tourists were left reeling after Irma ravaged some of the world’s most exclusive tropical playgrounds, known for their turquoise waters and lush green vegetation. Among them: St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla.

    Irma smashed homes, shops, roads and schools; knocked out power, water and telephone service; trapped thousands of tourists; and stripped trees of their leaves, leaving an eerie, blasted-looking landscape littered with sheet metal and splintered lumber.

    The dead included 11 on St. Martin and St. Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands, four in the British Virgin Islands and one each on Anguilla and Barbuda.

    Also, a 16-year-old junior professional surfer drowned Tuesday in Barbados while surfing large swells generated by an approaching Irma.

    French authorities said Saturday that some 1,105 workers are now deployed St. Martin and St. Barts to help the islands’ recovery. By Saturday, damage estimated to have already reached the $1.44 billion mark — pockmarking the islands that have become famous as lush playgrounds for the rich and famous.

    It’s still not known if U.S. President Donald Trump’s luxury property on St. Martin has been damaged by the storm.


    0 0


    MONTREAL—Simon Berube loves Quebec, its culture, French language and people, but he and his parents decided the best thing he could do for his future was to enrol in one of the province’s English-language junior colleges.

    Berube, 18, is a francophone and as such was not allowed to attend English primary or secondary school because of the province’s Bill 101 language law.

    But he and a growing number of his peers are choosing to attend Quebec’s pre-university English junior colleges, which are not subject to the law.

    “Some people want to travel, experience things in other parts of the world and English is the key,” Berube, who comes from Quebec’s Eastern Townships, said in an interview.

    Read more: StatCan revises census data after error over English speakers in Quebec

    Parti Quebecois leader calls for new Quebec language law in reaction to 2016 census data

    English junior colleges are in such a delicate position that some of them have an unwritten agreement with the Quebec government to avoid advertising their programs in francophone media or directly recruiting in French high schools unless specifically invited to do so.

    During a convention this weekend, Parti Quebecois delegates will debate and possibly vote on a resolution to cut funding to English colleges, known as CEGEPs, because they are attracting too many non-anglophones.

    If the PQ wins the fall 2018 election, further limiting access to English-language education could be part of its agenda.

    “Anglophone (colleges) shouldn’t be an open bar,” PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisee recently told reporters.

    It’s unclear whether Lisee supports the idea himself or brought it up in order to appease a restless base before Saturday’s confidence vote on his leadership.

    Quebec’s English community is used to having its institutions threatened by political parties trying to get votes, said Geoffrey Chambers, vice-president of an anglophone advocacy group.

    “It’s identity politics,” said Chambers, who is with the Quebec Community Groups Network. “I think it’s pandering to a very bad instinct.”

    Berube said he fully supports Quebec’s language laws, but doesn’t think they should extend to the CEGEP system.

    “French is part of Quebec,” said the second-year Dawson College student. “And if the French language is lost then the French culture in North America is basically lost and that’s something people have to understand.

    “But English is important to learn if you want to have a good job.”

    The CEGEP system was created in the late ‘60s and the schools offer two-year pre-university programs.

    In Quebec, high school ends after Grade 11 and students then enrol in a CEGEP. University programs for Quebecers are therefore three years instead of four as in the rest of the country.

    Government statistics reveal the percentage of CEGEP students from the French system enrolling in English colleges has doubled from five per cent in 1993 to 10 per cent in 2015.

    Those working for English CEGEPs know to lay low as not to attract attention.

    Marianopolis College, for instance, a private anglophone CEGEP in Montreal, refuses to say how many francophone students it has enrolled.

    Dawson, a CEGEP of 8,000 students located in downtown Montreal, wouldn’t give its number either.

    Donna Varrica, a spokeswoman for the college, said there is an “informal” agreement dating back 20 years that her institution won’t advertise its programs in francophone media or actively market to French high schools.

    Chambers said he’s not surprised.

    “There are lots of practices that are just conflict avoidance,” he said. “If you get a message from the minister saying this is not what they want you to do — don’t do it. It’s not like Dawson needs more students.”

    In fact, English schools like Dawson aren’t able to recruit as many students as they can because enrolment is capped, unlike in the French system, Chambers said.

    “Our (colleges) are already subject to a strangulation device. Enrolment should respond to the demand, but it doesn’t. Consequently, the acceptance threshold is creeping up.”

    Jana Abdul-Rahim, 17, is a newly accepted student at Dawson.

    Born in Quebec to Lebanese immigrants, she was also barred from attending English high school.

    “The first couple of years in high school I thought I would stick to French college,” she said. “Afterwards I realized I wanted to go to law school.

    “I plan on going into international law and when you’re working with the United Nations and similar organizations, English is more the language to use.”

    Chambers said if the PQ members don’t vote to cut funding to English CEGEPs over the weekend, they will likely keep trying to restrict access to English-language education.

    “They are creative,” he said about the PQ. “I think what you have to be worried about is the fact they want to do such a thing at all.”


    0 0


    An off-duty Peel police officer was one of two people killed early Saturday morning when the car he was driving was involved in a single vehicle crash in Mississauga, police said.

    Peel police confirmed that the officer, who was driving the car, and one passenger, were pronounced dead at the scene just before 3 a.m. at the intersection of Avonhead Rd. and Lakeshore Rd.

    Peel police Const. Rachel Gibbs confirmed one other passenger in the car was taken to hospital in serious condition following the crash.

    “The flags will now fly at half-mast out of respect for our fallen friend,” said Peel Police Chief Jennifer Evans in a statement Saturday.

    The Peel police said Toronto police would take over the investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact investigators with Toronto Police Traffic Services at 416-808-1900.


    0 0


    A worker killed at a construction site Friday is Toronto’s second elevator-related fatality in the last two weeks.

    Sean McCormick, manager of the International Union of Elevator Constructors, Local 50, confirmed by Twitter that Tim DesGrosseilliers died Friday afternoon.

    The deadly incident happened on the construction site for the University of Toronto’s new Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the downtown St. George Campus.

    DesGrosseilliers, 52, was killed after being pinned by a piece of falling equipment while he was working in the elevator shaft, Toronto police said. A second worker was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

    The university’s online news site published a notice saying the general contractor is working with the Ministry of Labour.

    “This is something we never want to see happen on our campuses and our deepest sympathies go out to those affected,” said Scott Mabury, vice-president of operations at the university, according to the website.

    “We are working with the ministry and the general contractor to determine the series of events that led to the accident.”

    On Aug. 25, Grant Davidson, 55, was pronounced dead on scene after an industrial accident involving an elevator.

    Paramedics said Davidson was working on the elevator when a “mishap” occurred near St. Clair Ave. and Oriole Rd. just after 11 a.m. and that the coroner’s office had been notified.

    With files from Moira Welsh


    0 0


    If you stroll downtown along King Street this weekend, you’ll likely find yourself weaving around hordes of fans with cameras and stepstools hoping for an A-plus view of Hollywood A-listers. But getting that glimpse requires patience and stamina.

    Is there a better way for the average fest-goers to find the stars? We were determined to find out.

    “We hold each other’s spots for the washroom, for food,” said Mariah Smith, in town from St. Catharines, along with Helena Mirzoyan. They have made it an annual tradition to wake up at the crack of dawn and make their way into the fenced-off “fan zone” outside theatres before big premieres.

    The two had been waiting in prime red carpet viewing position since 9 a.m. for Friday’s premiere of I, Tonyastarring Margot Robbie, who plays competitive ice skater Tonya Harding — more than 12 hours before showtime.

    MORE:

    How to hide a celebrity at TIFF

    They weren’t lining up for the screening — they have no tickets to TIFF films — but only for the chance to get up close and personal with stars.

    “I’m excited to see Sebastian Stan,” Smith says. “We’re hoping for a photo.”

    Several years ago, Smith and Mirzoyan met and bonded doing what they loved: waiting, and waiting, and finally meeting celebrities. Now they’re friends who meet up annually to participate in stargazing.

    “This is my sixth year,” Smith says. “I like movies, and I like the people in movies.”

    But not everyone has their level of patience. So I set out with one mission: to get close to the boldface without the commitment of waiting endlessly by the red carpet.

    How did that pan out? I wound up in the same room as Idris Elba, Jessica Chastain and Margot Robbie, and even traded backpacks with Ben Schwartz.

    Most nightlife events are private, and even if you happen to catch a celebrity outside their ritzy hotel or at a restaurant in Yorkville, they’re likely being corralled by five security guards into their cars. So how exactly do you find them?

    Thanks to a tip from a coworker, I went to a King West restaurant-turned-photo-studio guarded by security. I threw on my shades, held one phone to my ear, held another in my hand along with a Fiji water, and attempted to stroll past the security guards. The point was to appear busy and uninterested in the scene — and it worked!

    As I made my way to the door, a private car stopped out front as a small crowd of fans swarmed and screamed “Margot Robbie! Margot Robbie!” Some were waving pens and photos hoping she’d stop for an autograph, but when she got out she was hastily escorted into the building.

    Luckily, I had already passed the security point, so as she and her entourage entered the studio I was able to catch a photo of her just five metres from where I was standing.

    Then, in the corner of my eye, I spotted comedian Ben Schwartz (I’m a big Parks and Recreation fan). I noticed he had the same backpack that was given to us at the gifting suites — for a previous story — mine was solid grey, while his was black with polka dots. After convincing him the grey one suited him better, he agreed to trade.

    “This is what this festival is all about!” he said as we awkwardly squatted, tossing the contents of our old bags into our new ones.

    Then, car after car pulled up to the curb. Idris Elba made his way into the studio, followed by his Molly’s Game co-star Jessica Chastain as they waved to the few dedicated fans who caught wind of the secretive event.

    Other passerby who saw the crowd crossed the street and joined into the huddle, curious to see which stars were just steps away. But how did everyone else figure it out?

    “I found out because my cousin works across the street,” 24-year-old Nolan Curry said, pointing up at a midrise commercial building. “I’ve been here almost all day.”

    Curry says that it’s only his second time stargazing at TIFF, but the key is to “be patient and know where to go.”

    “Some stars are heavily guarded by security, they just run and push everyone away,” he continues. “Saw Margot, but I couldn’t have gotten a photo. Everyone was swarming her.”

    Despite missing out on the I, Tonya star, Curry’s day has been productive. His most prized photo from the event? A close-up selfie with Chastain.

    “I really enjoy it, and I’ll probably be looking out for the rest of the festival,” Curry says.

    So how do you find the stars? Be patient, have a game plan, listen for word of mouth (or have family members who work across the swanky venues on King). If you see a crowd — join it. Act like you don’t really want to be there. And, finally, bring a nice backpack for celebrity tradesies.


older | 1 | .... | 996 | 997 | (Page 998) | 999 | 1000 | .... | 1035 | newer