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    One year after the workplace accident that killed his sister-in-law, what Alusine Jabbi remembers most about the day she died is his confusion.

    Where is Amina?

    Why can’t anyone tell me what happened?

    Why is everyone still working?

    It was Sept. 2, 2016 when Jabbi rushed to Fiera Foods’ factory on Marmora St., near the intersection of Highway 400 and the 401. He had just received a call from a friend who worked at the factory telling him that his brother’s wife, Amina Diaby, had been in a serious accident.

    Jabbi, who has been in Canada five years longer than his brother and is more fluent in English, was listed as his sister-in-law’s emergency contact.

    Just a couple hours earlier he had dropped Diaby off for her afternoon shift at the industrial bakery, which mass-produces bagels, croissants and pastries for major grocery stores and fast-food chains around the world.

    I went undercover in a Toronto factory where a temp agency worker was killed. This is what I found

    A 23-year-old refugee from Guinea, Diaby was hired through a temp agency and had been working at Fiera Foods for just two weeks. It was her first job in Canada. She was hoping to save money for nursing school.

    When Jabbi arrived at the factory, frantic, he says he was met with blank stares from other workers and vague instructions to head to the nearest hospital. He was surprised that the factory was still buzzing with production. Trucks were being loaded as if nothing had happened. It seemed to Jabbi like it was business as usual.

    At the time, this comforted him.

    “I was thinking, ‘You know what, she’s OK because this is Canada,” he said in a recent interview with the Star. “If somebody dies at a job site or something really bad happens, they would stop.”

    Diaby was already dead. She was strangled when her hijab was pulled into a machine as she worked on an assembly line near a conveyor belt.

    Jabbi got the call from the doctor while he was on the way to the hospital. “I almost crashed my car,” he says.

    In response to Diaby’s death, the Ministry of Labour investigated the accident and slapped Fiera Foods with 38 orders for health and safety violations. They included two “stop-work” orders — indicating a hazard so great that production must cease immediately — for a conveyor belt that did not have an emergency stop button and also lacked “adequate guarding” to prevent things from being caught in machinery.

    Fiera Foods complied with the orders. Last month, the Ministry of Labour charged the company and one of its supervisors under the Occupational Health and Safety Act specifically for the lack of guarding and for failing to ensure loose clothing was not worn near a “source of entanglement.”

    The first court appearance is next Thursday.

    If found guilty, an individual can be fined up to $25,000 and face as much as a year in jail; while a corporation can be fined up to $500,000.

    Toronto police are also investigating the year-old incident. To date, no charges have been laid.

    Fiera Foods owners, Boris Serebryany and Alex Garber, refused to be interviewed for this story. The company’s lawyer and human resources manager, David Gelbloom, did respond to some of the Star’s questions in writing.

    “Fiera believes it took adequate measures to protect Ms. Diaby,” he writes. Gelbloom refused to comment further due to the pending trial for the Ministry of Labour charges.

    Jabbi says he doesn’t have the words to express how his sister-in-law’s death has affected his family.

    Outgoing and talkative, Diaby made instant connections with the people she met, he says.

    “If you’re in a room with Amina you’re going to be laughing, whether you like it or not.”

    She arrived in Canada in 2012 after fleeing a forced marriage in Guinea. She met Alusine’s brother, Sanunu Jabbi, himself a refugee from Sierra Leone, through a family connection in Toronto’s West African community. They were married that same year.

    Even before she could speak English, Diaby would somehow strike up animated conversations with storekeepers and strangers on the street, Alusine Jabbi says. “She was always talking.”

    She was beloved by her niece and three nephews, and she enjoyed going out to eat at the Mandarin Chinese food buffet. She earned the nickname “Aunty Amina” for how she mothered everyone. “Amina was something else.”

    Jabbi said he is pleased someone at Fiera will have to account for what happened, even if only to the Ministry of Labour. But he and his brother have been frustrated by the lack of information provided by all authorities involved.

    After initially meeting with ministry officials, the family says they heard nothing for almost a year. Meanwhile, no representative of Fiera Foods has ever contacted them, not even to express condolences, they said.

    “They don’t care,” Jabbi said. “I don’t even think they think we exist.”

    In his letter to the Star, Gelbloom did not address a question asking why the company has not contacted Diaby’s family.

    The Star asked Jabbi what he would say if he had the opportunity to address Serebryany and Garber. “I would just like to ask them if they care about human life,” he said. “Somebody died in your job site, you know?”

    Diaby was not technically a Fiera Foods employee, despite working inside their factory. Like many of the low-wage workers who pinch and form raw pastry dough on Fiera’s assembly lines, Diaby was employed by a temp agency.

    Fiera says it uses temp agency workers to meet fluctuating demands, but critics say, for many companies, it is a simple cost-cutting strategy. Temp workers are often paid less than permanent employees, and also save companies money on workers’ compensation insurance premiums. If a temp is injured on the job, their agency, not the workplace where they were actually hurt, is liable at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

    Across the province, the nature of temp agency work is changing. Once associated with casual office jobs, the majority of temps are now working in other sectors, such as manufacturing, construction, restaurants and driving, according to statistics obtained by the Star.

    The data provided by the WSIB also show that non-clerical temp workers in particular were more than twice as likely to be injured on the job last year than their non-temp counterparts. The disparity in injury rates has been about the same for the last decade. This, research suggests, is partly due to temp workers being insufficiently trained and being assigned more dangerous work.

    As part of a year-long investigation into the rise of temp work, the Star sent a reporter to work undercover at Fiera Foods for one month this summer.

    Our reporter — who, like Diaby, was employed by a temp agency — received about five minutes of safety training and no hands-on instruction before stepping onto the factory floor.

    Sanunu Jabbi, who struggles to speak about his wife without choking up, is adamant that she was not given enough training to safely do her job. He said he asked her after her first day at the factory if there was any safety orientation, as there was on his first day working at a construction site. “She said, ‘No,’” he told the Star.

    In an initial written response to the Star — before Gelbloom took over communication on behalf of the company — Fiera Foods spokeswoman Ziggy Romick said Diaby’s training “included specific instructions about how to work safely around conveyor systems, the requirement to wear a lab coat at all times when working and not to wear loose clothing or jewelry.”

    Romick said Diaby was “instructed to stand on a work platform beside a conveyor to monitor progress of dough moving along the conveyor.”

    She said the conveyor motor and drive shaft were “appropriately guarded” and the accident occurred “when Ms. Diaby left her work platform and moved along the conveyor where it appears she leaned over. She had removed her lab coat without permission, which is against our policy about loose clothing, and was wearing a hijab. Her hijab became entangled in a machine guard on the adjacent conveyor.”

    Romick concluded her email to the Star by calling for “clarity and guidance” from government in the “unchartered waters” of religious accommodation.

    Under Ontario human rights law, companies must accommodate workers’ religious clothing as long as it doesn’t cause “undue hardship.” An increased safety risk would constitute an “undue hardship,” because companies are obligated to protect workers from injury, according to the law. If Fiera Foods believed Diaby’s hijab presented a health and safety risk for the job she was doing, they would be required to assign her a different task; or, if none was available, not hired her in the first place.

    Diaby was hired through OLA Staffing, a temp agency based in Woodbridge. Geetha Thushyanthan, who runs the agency, declined to be interviewed for this story. In a written statement, she said “OLA Staffing takes our commitment to the health and safety of our employees very seriously and we provide our employees with appropriate workplace health and safety training.”

    Thushyanthan refused to answer a follow-up question asking her to elaborate on the training the company provided.

    The WSIB said they are still investigating OLA Staffing’s role in the death.

    Diaby was neither the first death of a temp worker at one of Fiera’s factories, nor was it the first time the company had been found to have insufficient protections for workers.

    Documents obtained by the Star show recurring safety violations at Fiera’s factories going back nearly two decades. Since 1999, the company has been hit with 191 orders for health and safety violations, including multiple “stop-work” orders.

    Fiera was also charged with a number of Occupational Health and Safety Act offences related to a lack of training in October 2015 and June 2016. Those charges have yet to be resolved.

    “We acknowledge Fiera has had Ministry of Labour orders, including stop-work orders,” Gelbloom writes in his letter on behalf of the company. “In each and every situation, Fiera worked to address and resolve each order, and, as you know, there are no outstanding Ministry of Labour orders.”

    Ministry records show inspectors had been at Fiera’s factory for a proactive inspection just two days before Diaby died. A ministry spokeswoman would not answer a question about whether the machine that caused Diaby’s death was part of that inspection.

    Police can lay criminal charges against corporations following workplace injuries or deaths under Bill C-45, which is sometimes called the “Westray Bill” after the 1992 Nova Scotia coal-mining disaster. Prosecutions are rare, but the bill was intended to hold companies criminally liable if they are found to be negligent in protecting workers.

    Toronto Police Det. Tim Thorne declined to discuss the case with the Star citing the fact it remains an open investigation.

    Sanunu Jabbi, who is quiet through most of the family’s interviews with the Star, said he doesn’t think he will ever marry again. “It’s not easy to find a woman like her.”

    His friends have suggested that he sue Fiera and the temp agency. He says he’s not interested, not now anyway. He just wants to move on.

    But the accident that took Diaby’s life has forever altered the arc of his own.

    He says he would like to return to Sierra Leone, but he can’t. He couldn’t afford to repatriate his wife’s body after she died and he won’t leave her behind.

    “I don’t want to stay. But her body is here.”


    Amina Diaby is the third temp agency worker to die at a factory owned by Fiera Foods or one of its affiliated companies since 1999.

    In a written response to questions from the Star, the company said the deaths were “separate but significant tragedies” and that in each instance, it “worked quickly to comply” with ministry orders.

    The first was Ivan Golyashov, who would have turned 35 this summer.

    He was 17 when he started working at Fiera’s Norelco Dr. factory through a temp agency in the summer of 1999. When he resumed his high school classes at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute in Thorncliffe Park, Ivan continued to work at Fiera on weekends.

    On Saturday, Sept. 25, he was assigned to clean a large mixer, a task he had never before performed nor received training for, according to a lawsuit filed by his family.

    When Ivan was finished cleaning the mixer he asked his co-worker, who was also a temp, to open the door and let him out. The co-worker, who was also allegedly untrained, accidentally activated the machine.

    Ivan was crushed to death.

    The lawsuit filed by the teen’s family against Fiera accused the company of being negligent, not only for providing insufficient training, but also in how it failed to ensure machine controls were “locked out” while someone was inside.

    The lawsuit was settled out of court and Fiera did not file a statement of defence. Golyashov’s mother, Marina, declined to comment when contacted by the Star earlier this year.

    The lawsuit also alleged that Fiera did not inform the Golyashovs of their son’s death, and, in fact, initially denied it when they frantically called the factory looking for information. The teen’s father, Alexandr, had learned of his son’s death from a friend who also worked at the factory.

    Fiera pleaded guilty to Ministry of Labour charges and was fined $150,000.

    Police investigated, but laid no criminal charges.

    “I’m satisfied this was just an accident,” Det. Ralph Ashford told the Star at the time. “If anything it was lack of training.”

    The Golyashovs’ lawsuit also alleged that Temp Industrial, the temp agency that employed Ivan, tried to render itself “judgment proof” in the wake of his death by dissolving and “fraudulently” moving its assets to a different temp agency, Temporary Labour.

    Speaking to a Star reporter the day after her son’s death, Marina Golyashov blamed herself.

    “It’s my fault,” she said. “I let him work. Children shouldn’t work.”

    The second death occurred nearly six years ago at Marmora Freezing Corp., one of Fiera’s affiliated partners, which operates a facility connected to Fiera’s main factory on Marmora St.

    Aydin Kazimov, a 69-year-old security guard, died after he was hit by a car and then run over by a truck in the factory’s parking lot shortly after midnight, on Dec. 14, 2011. First, he was struck by a worker driving his car home after a 10-hour shift at the factory. An accident reconstruction expert later testified that Kazimov was injured, but likely still alive at this point. The driver, Marlon Layugan, initially fled the scene, but returned less than a minute later. In those intervening seconds Kazimov’s unconscious body was driven over by a reversing tractor trailer and subsequently dragged for several minutes.

    Layugan was convicted of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death and failing to stop. He was sentenced to six months in jail.

    In an agreed statement of facts read aloud at his sentencing, Justice Julie Thorburn said: “Although employees had requested reflective gear from their employer, Fiera Food Company (sic) did not equip their security guards with reflective gear until after this incident.”

    A Ministry of Labour investigation, obtained by the Star through a freedom of information request, found there was inadequate lighting, warning signs, and protective barriers to keep Kazimov safe.

    Regarding the temp agency that employed Kazimov, VIV Vision Security, the investigation said the company had been incorporated since 2007 without ever registering with the Ministry of Labour, and that it provided services exclusively to Fiera Foods.

    Of Fiera Foods, the investigation said the ministry had previously responded to “many critical injuries and many other injuries” at its factories between 1996 and 2011, and had already issued the company with around 90 health and safety orders, including 14 stop-work orders.

    Marmora Freezing Corp. pleaded guilty to charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and was fined $150,000.

    “With regard to the three separate tragedies that occurred at or near our facilities, we remain saddened,” Fiera’s lawyer and human resources manager, David Gelbloom, wrote in a letter to the Star in response to a number of questions. “Despite these tragedies, we believe that the health and safety of our workforce is our highest concern and we continue to strive for improvements.”

    — Brendan Kennedy and Sara Mojtehedzadeh

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    Self-deception has repeatedly served as a bedrock of cruelty.

    It has transformed greed into gallant heroism, where invasion of lands is adventure, displacement of natives is about saving the savages, and theft and self-enrichment is ingenuity.

    It has rationalized subjugation as the “natural order” of things. Women — at home; gays — in the closet; natives — in reserves; and Blacks — in farms or in ghettos.

    And when there emerges an equal and opposite reaction — resistance that challenges that deception — it is met with denial (Brutal — us? No, we saved you!) and dismissal (You’re not qualified to speak on this) and demand (Can’t we just leave the past behind and get along?).

    In this, I include groups around the world that have utilized cruelty to enforce domination.

    Read more:

    L’Oréal’s firing of Munroe Bergdorf boiled down to one word: ParadkarEND

    Canadian history lessons need a back-to-school reboot: Paradkar

    What white supremacy looks like minus the Charlottesville paraphernalia: Paradkar

    Settler deception in Canada, however, is unique in the euphemism it employs.

    A new, painstakingly researched book debunks the myth of Canadian white benevolence and draws a straight line between past state-sanctioned injustices and current tensions.

    In Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present, Black feminist, activist-writer Robyn Maynard analyzes the work of dozens of scholars to pierce through centuries of deception and offer us a bold, unblinking — and frankly, shocking — rebuttal to the widespread sentiment that “we’re not as bad as the U.S.”

    The book weaves in Indigenous experiences and addresses how racial violence specifically impacted Black women. It is written for academics and lay people alike.

    “One of the things that prompted me to write it is that working in Black communities, growing up Black in Canada, there was so much history of anti-Black racism that even I was not aware of for much of my life,” Maynard told me.

    “People would experience anti-Black racism, but it was so negated by non-Black people around them. Their experience was seen as exaggerated or treated with disbelief. A lot of that disbelief stems from the broader disbelief that anti-Black racism has been in place for 400 years.”

    Just as “climatic unsuitability” was long used to disguise the racist motivations behind demographic selections, Maynard writes, so was a desire to avoid the “Negro problem” that existed in the United States.

    Irony alert! Canadians believed the best way to keep racism out of the country was to keep Black people out altogether.

    “It was in the interest of coloured people themselves not to encourage their settlement in this country,” Maynard cites William D. Scott, a superintendent of immigration from 1903 to 1924. In private correspondence, though, he doesn’t hold back. “Africans, no matter where they come from, are not among the races sought.”

    This, although slavery was practised in Canada for more than 200 years.

    This, although 4,000 enslaved Indigenous and Black people helped build infrastructure and wealth for white settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries.

    While the absence of plantations meant there were fewer enslaved Black people, leaving them acutely isolated, white settler society here was not benign. It brutalized them physically and psychologically. Black women would be beaten, sexually abused, used for “breeding” and have their children torn from them.

    “The inferiority ascribed to Blackness in this era would affect the treatment of Black persons living in Canada for centuries to come,” Maynard writes.

    Maynard also exposes the hollowness of the claim that Canada was a sanctuary for runaway slaves from the U.S. and for “Black Loyalists.” Few freed Black people to whom the British promised land and equality if they fought on the British side of the 1775-1783 conflict received that promised land. Those who did were given land that was known to be infertile. Instead, Black people were forced to become cheap labour for white farmers and domestic help in white homes.

    On the other hand, in the early 20th century whites from Europe were promised and given 160 acres of free farmland.

    White landowners refused to lease or sell land to those with African features well into the 20th century. “In 1959, over 60 per cent of landlords surveyed (in Toronto) said they would not be comfortable renting to Blacks,” Maynard writes.

    This is the face of structurally enforced impoverishment.

    It continues with segregation of schools, the last of which closed in Canada in 1983. Segregated Black schools were underfunded and even abandoned by governments. Many children studied in dilapidated unheated buildings, Maynard says, taught by poorly trained teachers.

    This is the face of structurally built inequality.

    Perhaps knowing this will give pause to those among us who say things like, “These people are poor because they’re lazy.”

    Since 1444, the year that Maynard says marked the beginning of the global devaluation of Black bodies, when European raiders captured and chained Africans into ships, “rebellion was so ‘incessant’ that they were chained right hand to right leg, left hand to left leg.” This also marked the beginning of the institutionalized belief that Black movement needed to be surveilled and contained.

    In the 1920s in Canada, Black presence in public spaces continued to be restricted, in some places with “sundown laws,” or curfews imposed on Black people to be indoors by a certain time in the evening.

    “The fact is this is ongoing,” Maynard told me. “Look at how we devalue Black people’s lives.”

    The 2016 case of a six-year-old Black Grade 1 student, in a Mississauga school, written about in the Star and detailed in the book, marks the continuing containment of Black bodies.

    The child was handcuffed by attaching her hands and feet together at the wrists and ankles for apparently acting in a violent manner.

    Peel police deemed this containment necessary in the interest of safety of the 48-pound, unarmed child who was considered that dangerous even in the presence of school officials and two policemen.

    This, too, is the face of state-sanctioned racial violence.

    Maynard’s investment of emotional labour situates her book in continuing Black resistance to this violence.

    Supremacist values were foundational for the creation of white wealth.

    This does not mean all whites are supremacist. Nor does it mean all whites are wealthy.

    But perhaps it will help clarify what people mean when they say racial violence benefits all white people.

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

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    After 30 years on the loftiest uplands of Canadian intellectual life, Stephen Toope still has the capacity — as all great teachers and most happy human beings do — for awe and wonder.

    And in his case, there’s a lot to be awed about.

    On Oct. 2, the legal scholar from the Munk School of Global Affairs at U of T will be installed as vice-chancellor at Cambridge University. He will be the 346th person to hold the post since the school’s founding more than 800 years ago, and the first non-Briton.

    “As a West Island boy from Montreal, I feel extraordinarily privileged,” Toope, 59, said in an interview as he prepared for the move from Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood to one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions.

    He said that, while he packed, he pictured Isaac Newton at Cambridge (where he had a famously inspirational encounter with a falling apple in the 17th century and discovered gravity). He has imagined the roster of geniuses to pass through before and since. And he has had to remind himself, from time to time, that “it’s not utterly crazy that I’m going there.”

    While the Cambridge chancellor is a ceremonial post, the vice-chancellor is the main administrative and academic officer of the university and de facto head, nominated by the University Council and approved by the school’s Regent House to a non-renewable seven-year term.

    Before choosing him, Cambridge conducted an international search led by Ian White, master of Jesus College, who said Toope “has impeccable academic credentials, a longstanding involvement with higher education, strong leadership experience and an excellent research background.”

    Toope, who earned his doctorate at Cambridge in 1987, said he wasn’t even aware a search was on for a new vice-chancellor at his alma mater when he received a call from headhunters.

    “It was really quite . . . stunning,” he said, pausing, uncharacteristically, to search for a word.

    “I was surprised and honoured even to be considered.”

    Even so, the timing wasn’t ideal.

    He was only two years into an appointment as director of the Munk School, after eight years running the University of British Columbia, where he landed after serving as dean of law at McGill.

    Toope had planned on spending the “next five, 10 years, whatever” at Munk, he said, especially after his wife and three children — now in their 20s and pursuing their own studies — had already suffered uprooting for the sake of his career.

    “But,” he said, smiling. “It’s very hard to say no to a place like Cambridge.”

    When Stephen Toope was named president of UBC in 2006, Justice Rosalie Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada called him “brilliant, humane, considerate and fearless.”

    UBC, she said, “should be electrified.”

    Electrifying is not a notion that usually leaps to mind when discussing scholars. And it would be easy to suspect Abella of some hyperbole. Except that similar admiration of Toope’s talents and virtues seem to come from just about anyone who’s crossed his path.

    “He sparkles,” Paul Davidson, a friend of more than 25 years and president of Universities Canada, told the Star.

    “He’s gritty and grounded. He’s authentic and genuine. He is very much a 21st-century academic leader,” Davidson said. “He’s as comfortable with refugees as he is with royalty.”

    Toope earned an undergraduate degree in literature and history from Harvard, degrees from McGill in common and civil law while editing the McGill Law Journal, and a PhD from Cambridge.

    After articling with then chief justice Brian Dickson at the Supreme Court of Canada, he taught law at McGill, before becoming the faculty’s youngest ever dean at age 34.

    As a scholar, Toope has specialized in human rights, international dispute resolution, international environmental law and the use of force. He has published articles and books on change in international law and the origins of international obligation.

    He was research director of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1991, has been president of the Canadian Council on International Law, served as an observer in the first free elections in South Africa in 1994, and was founding president of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, a non-partisan scholarship institute focusing on the former prime minister’s interests of social justice and Indigenous issues.

    From 2002 to 2007, he served on the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. As a result of that experience, he was asked to serve as an independent fact-finder for the federal O’Connor Inquiry into the torture in Syria of Canadian Maher Arar.

    As such, Toope said he has experienced “life much closer to the ground than might be assumed,” with first-hand experience of injustice, cruelty, pain. In his investigations into the tortured and disappeared, “I’ve worked with people in rural parts of Africa, rural parts of Latin America, rural parts of Asia, Southeast Asia in particular, and had to deal with people who were really suffering.”

    In addition, the Cambridge recruiters likely noticed traits that suggest a large heart and sense of humour as well as a big brain, what the Brits call an all-rounder.

    Toope’s a good sport. At UBC, he once took up a student leader’s dare to join him as part of a fundraising effort in a duet of the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) in front of a packed theatre.

    The episode revealed a becoming lack of pretention, along with his background as a boy soprano in church choirs and a fondness for the arts — shared by his wife, Paula Rosen, a singer-songwriter and speech pathologist who is able, Toope admits, to bring him back to terra firma should he get too serious or over-impressed by his own resumé.

    “These days, when there’s so much emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, it’s nice to see somebody bring their whole selves to their academic work,” his friend Davidson said.

    And for Stephen Toope, that “whole self” also includes a deeply traumatic experience.

    In 1995, three youths — aged 13, 14 and 15, later said to be high on drugs — broke into a house in suburban Montreal, thinking it was empty and intending on an easy score.

    Inside, retired Anglican Church minister Frank Toope, 75, and his wife Jocelyn, 70, were asleep in bed.

    When the Toopes awoke to the noise of the intruders, they were bludgeoned to death.

    The youths reportedly bragged the next day at school of their deeds. After their arrest and subsequent trial, the three were sentenced under the Young Offenders Act to a combined total of less than 15 years.

    Toope was 37 and law dean at McGill when his adoptive parents were murdered. Twelve years later, he was invited to speak at graduation ceremonies in Montreal’s Dawson College — where, at the start of that academic year, a gunman had gone on a rampage, killing 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa and injuring 20 others.

    It was thought Toope might have something helpful to say to the students. He did.

    “I had been raised in a loving family,” he told them. “I had been blessed with incredible educational opportunities. I had a great job as dean of law at McGill University, a wonderful wife, a lovely little daughter and a son who had just arrived.”

    But on that day in 1995, three “teenage boys, who had no real motive, who had killed for fun,” tore his world apart.

    There’s no single way to react to such things, he said. “I can only tell you how I reacted.

    “I said no. No, you pathetic boys are not going to destroy the memory of my parents, who lived rich and gentle lives. No, you are not going to define my existence or that of my family. No, you will not turn me into a fearful person. No, you will not teach me to hate.”

    And they didn’t.

    As he looked back on that speech during an interview with the Star, Toope uses a word he often does. He considered it a “privilege” to speak to those students.

    “It was a difficult moment,” he said. “But I have actually been through something that may be of relevance to these kids, who had to experience something that no students should ever have to experience.”

    As Paul Davidson sees it, the United Kingdom, possibly the world, is having something of a “Canada moment.”

    When Toope arrives in the U.K., he will find Canadians as governor of the Bank of England, chief executive of the Royal Mail, and the U.K.’s Information Commissioner.

    And Toope’s appointment is another “example of the pretty darn impressive talent” this country has to share, Davidson said.

    Not, of course, that there isn’t heavy lifting ahead.

    Last year, for the first time, Cambridge did not place in the top three in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which started in 2004. In the 2016-17 list out this week, it placed fourth.

    “It means Cambridge has to look at itself and see whether it’s doing as good a job as it can,” he has said.

    Not least of Toope’s challenges will be the ramifications for the university sector — at an institution that draws significant research revenue from the European Union — of Brexit.

    There have been concerns about a Brexit brain drain as European academics leave British universities and fears over impacts on funding, enrolment, exchange programs, teaching quality and research collaboration. It’s been estimated that European students accounted for more than 5 per cent of British university enrolment, contributing ₤3.7 billion to the U.K. economy and providing more than 30,000 jobs.

    “I think they were very open to someone from outside the United Kingdom, partly because of the Brexit phenomenon, and their wanting to continue to send messages of openness,” Toope has said.

    It also can’t have hurt his chances that his fundraising credentials are almost as impressive as his academic achievement and that at UBC he led a $1.5-billion campaign that surpassed its goal and oversaw a host of campus infrastructure improvements. Or that a major accomplishment at Munk was to head a planning exercise to develop a modern strategic plan for the school.

    Toope succeeds Prof. Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, a Welsh immunologist who was paid a salary of ₤335,000 (about $530,000 Canadian) along with a basket of other perks, including residence at the vice-chancellor’s lodge, valued at £4.5 million. According to Ontario’s Sunshine List, Toope earned $310,954.44 at the Munk School last year.

    Toope considers this a new “anxious age,” a time of particular risk and uncertainty across the world and for Canada in particular as American diminishment globally demands a reordering of relations.

    “We won’t actually see America being great again in the way that some proponents of that phrase have indicated.”

    And, to some extent, a reimagining of universities at a time when all “content” institutions face threat and upheaval.

    The good news is that there’s been no hint of animosity awaiting him in Cambridge because of his untraditional origins.

    “I thought there would be a moment when one or another person would say, ‘Well, why should we really be looking at you? Aren’t you some trumped-up little colonial?”

    But there hasn’t. Even so, Canada’s latest gift to the mother country intends to tread carefully.

    “I’m not going to run in and tell them they’ve been doing everything wrong for the last 800 years.

    “I’d be a fool to do that.”

    And that’s one thing he’s not called.

    0 0

    Melvin Mingo loves it when he sits around an RV park and fellow retirees get to talking about what they used to do for a living.

    “I am a retired bank robber,” Mingo, 67, says to a round of chuckles.

    Pressed a little further, he might add, “I’m a retired unsuccessful entrepreneur.”

    The affable man loves to joke but he’s telling the truth.

    Mingo was the mastermind of what is considered the largest holdup in Canadian history — a $68.5-million bond and securities heist at the Merrill Lynch Canada Inc. headquarters in downtown Montreal in 1984.

    His eyes light up when asked about the caper that landed him almost a decade in some of Canada’s toughest prisons.

    “It was such a beautiful score,” he says. “That was like everyone’s big dream. The big last one.”

    Some $5.75 million of that loot has never been recovered. Mingo has a stock answer when asked where it went.

    “That’s a story for another time,” Mingo told the Star, with a smile, during a stopover last month with his wife Susie at the Glen Rouge Campground in Scarborough.

    He is happy to talk about how, with the advent of online money transfers, his record will likely never be broken.

    He definitely didn’t spend it on his RV, which is circa 1986.

    And RV culture is a far cry from Mingo’s bank robbery days. Growing up in Montreal among criminals, drugs and schemes, he says it was the heist he always dreamed of.

    “If you hang around with thieves, what will you be? An artist? A plumber? A pizza delivery guy?”

    Mingo’s friends included members of Montreal’s Irish mob, called the West End Gang. In the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, they were a force to be reckoned with in the world of truck hijackings, extortion and armed robbery. They later moved into drug trafficking, which, Mingo says, ruined everything.

    Mingo’s circle included the late Theodore (Bootsie) Orben, who worked with mobster Frank Cotroni to try to tunnel into the City and District Savings Bank in Montreal in 1967.

    Asked how they got caught, Orben told Mingo: “(I) told one person too many.”

    There was also the late John (Jackie) McLaughlin, a debt collector and scary figure even by West End Gang standards.

    “He would kill you and not think twice,” Mingo says of McLaughlin, who was killed alongside his pit bull in 1984.

    Another hit man Mingo became friendly with was Dickie Lavoie, who could do 1,000 pushups at a time. He died of natural causes in the 1980s.

    “I used to like him but he was a hit man,” Mingo says. “There is not too many people I don’t like.”

    But when it came time for his ultimate caper, he kept it secret from these nefarious associates.

    The idea for the Merrill Lynch heist came to Mingo when he was sitting in a bar that the West End Gang frequented on Crescent Street in downtown Montreal in the fall of 1984. A man who worked in the corporation’s office was trying to impress a woman from their group by telling her how much money he handled.

    Mingo’s ears perked up when he heard that millions of dollars in securities were taken by couriers up and down the elevators of the office tower on Dorchester Blvd. W. from a main floor bank.

    He didn’t tell anyone, but spent the next month scoping out the site near the Queen Elizabeth Hotel Across from Place Ville Marie.

    He did his spying from a bus stop, where there were plenty of passersby, and sometimes dressed as a courier.

    Other times, he carried a brief case and looked like an office worker on his way to work.

    He’d spend about half an hour at the bus stop each morning.

    “I’m a good blender inner. People do not pay attention.”

    He noticed that there were eight elevators in the office tower, but only one went all the way down to the basement.

    He also noted that Merrill Lynch couriers didn’t carry guns as they rode up and down the elevator.

    He cultivated a contact inside Merrill Lynch as he hatched his plan.

    “I had somebody inside,” Mingo says. “They used to trade every day. I watched for about four weeks.”

    He was particularly interested in the varied habits of the couriers who worked in the building.

    “There were two that I found particularly lazy.”

    Those two couriers always took the same elevator to the bank as it meant less walking. That was the elevator where the heist would have to take place.

    As Mingo hatched his plan, he strove to keep things as simple as possible so that fewer things could go wrong. While he likes the Oceans Eleven movies, he says their plots are far too convoluted for the real world.

    “To me, it would never happen. It’s too complicated. Too many things can go wrong. It’s nice to watch but you’ve always got to have a little reality.”

    Mingo also studied a guard who sat outside the bank near the elevator.

    “He got distracted — a woman with cleavage. I knew what we had to do with him.

    Finally, on Dec. 21, 1984, Mingo and his crew were ready to roll.

    Mingo parked his station wagon nearby on University Street. His accomplices arrived separately. One of them was a woman with pronounced cleavage, whose only job was to distract the guard outside the bank.

    Mingo was dressed as a courier and pushed a dolly as he entered the building.

    As usual, he blended in. His silver semi-automatic pistol was tucked out of sight.

    His contact at Merrill Lynch had agreed to page him as soon as the crew of targeted couriers left the office for the bank.

    The plan was to ride the elevator with them, taking the securities and locking them in a basement washroom for maintenance workers.

    It should have been quick and simple but something went wrong.

    Mingo’s contact buzzed him.

    “We all made a move.”

    A husky member of his crew rode the elevator with him.

    Soon their prey would be getting on, too — they hoped.

    Mingo rode the elevator all the way up to the 24th floor and all the way back down.

    The couriers should have been on board but they weren’t.

    “I was sweating. I couldn’t figure what was holding these guys up.”

    Mingo had no idea that Brinks couriers had priority over all others and a Brinks team had jumped the line, making the Merrill Lynch couriers wait.

    Finally, about 10 minutes behind schedule, the door opened and the Merrill Lynch couriers finally appeared.

    “Come on in,” Mingo told them. “We’ve got plenty of room.”

    Once they were inside and the door was securely closed, Mingo pressed his pistol into the side of one of them and gestured towards his partner, “You’re just going to follow me and that person in front.”

    “He saw the chrome of the gun,” Mingo said.

    They rode all the way back up to the 24th floor, and then began heading down to the basement.

    “I told them, ‘Just keep your eyes down.’ ”

    The elevator seemed to stop 10 times as they headed for the basement. Whenever someone got on, Mingo tensed up.

    “I thought, ‘I hope you get off somewhere because you’ll have a bad weekend if you don’t.’”

    Finally, they reached the basement and the two couriers were left in a darkened maintenance washroom.

    Mingo and his associate tried to give them the impression that one of their crew was watching them, somewhere in the dark.

    Mingo said he didn’t dwell on the feelings of the terrified guards.

    “I’m not going to lie. I didn’t feel bad. I was pretty pumped up myself.”

    Three of his crew left in separate cars, driving slowly. The other left the scene on public transit.

    Fifteen minutes later, someone went into the maintenance washroom and freed the guards.

    The hunt for Mingo was on.

    Twenty-five minutes later, Mingo and his crew met at a pre-arranged spot — his house on Gouin Blvd.

    “It’s just a matter of stashing and counting.”

    They counted $40.4-million in negotiable securities and $28.1-million in non-negotiable items.

    Mingo found it interesting that some of the personal bonds belonged to Olympic speedskating hero Gaétan Boucher.

    Their next move was to do and say nothing.

    They just sat tight for a month, careful not to attract any attention.

    “It was all over the news,” Mingo says. “For a month I was totally quiet.”

    The heist was the talk of the town, especially in Mingo’s circles. “I said, ‘It had to be an out-of-towner.’ ” He felt the lie was necessary. “If I stole it, who’s to say they wouldn’t steal it from me? It’s only common sense.”

    Mingo had already thought out what to do with the bonds.

    “We’re not going to sit with them and never sell them and make wallpaper.”

    The problem was that some of the securities had identification numbers and there was the danger they could be traced or cancelled.

    In addition to the police, private detectives had been dispatched from the Merrill Lynch main office in New York City to locate the loot.

    Mingo’s plan was to sell the securities to an offshore banker, who would pay 10 per cent of their face value.

    That would net Mingo some $1.25 million U.S. for his share of the job.

    Moving the securities would be the banker’s challenge.

    40 days after the robbery he took a trip to Toronto to meet the banker at the Harbour Castle Hilton.

    All of the bonds fit into two suitcases.

    “They were simple cheap suitcases. The contents were nice.”

    The banker seemed impressed when Mingo opened them up but now there was another switch in plans.

    The banker said he needed time get his money together.

    They would have to meet again once he had the cash.

    Mingo still wonders if he should have done something different at this point. Perhaps it would have been best to stash the securities in Toronto.

    Again, he was worried about being robbed himself.

    “It all comes back to paranoia.”

    Twelve days after the Harbour Castle meeting, Mingo sat in a car outside the Dorval train station in suburban Montreal. He was heading back to Toronto to finally close the deal with the banker.

    Another member of his crew was driving to Toronto. Two more were taking a plane.

    If all went according to plan, soon they would all be millionaires.

    He smoked a joint to calm his nerves and noted a bellhop passed in front of the car twice.

    “Get out of the car!,” someone yelled.

    They were ordered to lie on their bellies on the dirty snow and the slush by police tactical officers with machine-guns.

    “Mel, what’s going on?” Bobby asked.

    “I don’t know,” Mingo recalls replying. “Maybe parking tickets.”

    The police looked in the trunk of the car.

    Nothing was there.

    “The biggest thing was they wanted the loot. They wanted the loot big time.”

    Mingo said he feels oddly grateful, even though he got a nine-year-prison term for robbery and forcible confinement instead of the $1.25 million.

    “Could’ve been a big party. Blew it in two years. I say, ‘Thank you.’ ”

    Mingo says he has been out of the crime world for 30 years. He had an epiphany of sorts when he had his parole taken away for trying to bribe a police officer at a speed trap while leaving a party for since-murdered mobster Frank Cotroni Jr.

    Mingo says he gave up drinking, cocaine and crime when he connected with Susie shortly after his final release.

    He credits her with saving his life, as well as enriching it.

    “I made a choice in the ’80s and left all that world behind.”

    Nowadays, his scheming is mostly concerned with how to get to a big tractor pull with Susie.

    “This is such a nice life. No one judges you.”

    0 0

    ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.—Announcing itself with roaring 215 km/h winds, Hurricane Irma plowed into the mostly emptied-out Florida Keys early Sunday for the start of what could be a slow, ruinous march up the state’s west coast toward the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

    “Pray, pray for everybody in Florida,” Gov. Rick Scott said on “Fox News Sunday.”

    With an estimated 127,000 huddling in shelters statewide, the storm lashed the low-lying string of islands with drenching rain and knocked out power to over 1 million customers across Florida.

    About 30,000 people heeded orders to evacuate the Keys as the storm closed in, but an untold number refused to leave, in part because to many storm-hardened residents, staying behind in the face of danger is a point of pride.

    While the projected track showed Irma raking the state’s Gulf Coast, forecasters warned that the entire Florida peninsula — including the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people — was in extreme peril from the monstrous storm, almost 650 kilometres wide.

    Nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to get out of the storm’s path, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.

    The Republican governor said on NBC that he spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump, and “everything I’ve asked out of the federal government, he’s made sure he gave us.”

    Once the storm passes, “we’re going to need a lot of help,” Scott warned. But he also described Florida as “a tough state. We’re going to come through this.”

    Irma made landfall in the U.S. just after 9 a.m. at Cudjoe Key in the lower Keys, forecasters said. By midmorning, it was centred about 20 miles (30 kilometres) northeast of Key West, moving at 8 mph (13 km/h).

    As the hurricane’s eye approached the Keys, 60-year-old Carol Walterson Stroud and her family were huddled in a third-floor apartment at a senior centre in Key West.

    “We are good so far,” she said in a text message just before 5:30 a.m. “It’s blowing hard.”

    Key West Police urged anyone riding out the storm in that city to “resist the urge” to go outside during the eye, the deceptively calm interlude in the middle of a hurricane. “Dangerous winds will follow quickly,” police said in a Facebook post.

    Irma was at one time the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, with a peak wind speed of 185 mph (300 km/h) last week.

    It left more than 20 people dead across the Caribbean, and as it moved north over the Gulf of Mexico’s bathtub-warm water of nearly 90 degrees, regained strength.

    Forecasters said Irma could hit the Tampa-St. Petersburg areas early Monday.

    The Tampa Bay area has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921, when its population was about 10,000, National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. Now around 3 million people live there.

    Some 400 miles north of the Keys, the wind was picking up in St. Petersburg and people began bracing for the storm’s wrath.

    “I’ve been here with other storms, other hurricanes. But this one scares me,” Sally Carlson said she snapped photos of the waves crashing against boats. “Let’s just say a prayer we hope we make it through.”

    John Leuders, another St. Petersburg resident, said he felt confident of his storm preparations: “We tore down part of our fence because we couldn’t get any plywood from Home Depot and Lowe’s, and we boarded up with the fence.”

    The governor activated all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard, and 30,000 guardsmen from elsewhere were on standby.

    In the Orlando area, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World all closed on Saturday. The Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando airports shut down.

    Given its mammoth size and strength and its projected course, Irma could prove one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit Florida and inflict damage on a scale not seen here in 25 years.

    Hurricane Andrew smashed into suburban Miami in 1992 with winds topping 165 mph (265 km/h), damaging or blowing apart over 125,000 homes. The damage in Florida totalled $26 billion (U.S.), and at least 40 people died.

    Read more:

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    Ontario man describes harrowing scenes from hurricane-battered U.S. Virgin Islands

    0 0

    My nanny never dealt me dope.

    That’s why I’m flummoxed by the flurry of protests against Premier Kathleen Wynne, accused of being Ontario’s nanny-in-chief in the matter of marijuana sales.

    Pushing dope isn’t in the job description for normal nannies. And yet our premier is prepared to serve it up.

    Seems nanny is now a dirty word in our ideological wars, hurled at any hint of government regulation or red tape: Seatbelt laws, motorcycle helmets, gun registries, booze controls, drug restrictions — all evidence of the nanny state repressing and dressing us down, conspiring to inhibit our presumed right to imbibe and inhale in a haze.

    Read more:

    Liberals accused of using marijuana plan as smoke screen

    Ottawa signals it won’t step in as provinces devise marijuana regulations

    LCBO to run 150 marijuana stores

    How to fathom the fog that has fallen over opposition politicians, pundits, hipsters, humorists and potheads taking potshots at our putative nanny premier for being so dopey about dope? Let us deconstruct the inanity of the nanny narrative, and get down in the weeds on weed:

    Wynne’s government is apparently under fire for spelling out how one might visit a government marijuana joint for a joint or two starting next summer. For the first time in Canadian history, one will be able to procure competitively-priced cannabis without risk of arrest, rip-offs, contamination, dilution, distortion or extortion.

    Wynne has promised to open 40 new government owned and operated marijuana stores to meet the July 1, 2018 deadline set by Ottawa for national sales, doubling that number by 2019 and reaching 150 outlets within two years. Online sales will also let you get spaced out via cyberspace starting next summer.

    Yet a clamour has erupted on behalf of corner stores and dispensaries getting their fair share. Even the small business lobby over at the CFIB is squawking about our meddling nanny premier.

    Incidentally, this isn’t so much incipient sexism as it is conventional name-calling: The terminology predates her, first sticking to Dalton McGuinty, a.k.a. Premier Dad, for supposedly presiding over a nanny state.

    Full disclosure: I never had a nanny. Nor did I get far with toking or smoking dope (not that I deny inhaling — I just kept exhaling involuntarily in a fit of uncontrolled coughing).

    I’m not much of a beer drinker or boozer either. But that hasn’t disqualified me from pronouncing, as a political columnist, on our bogus Beer Store framework, or the ups and downs of the LCBO.

    Critics who compare the new marijuana framework to the ossified oligopoly of the Beer Store are comparing apples and oranges — akin to conflating hemp and hops. The Beer Store was revealed as a privately-run anachronism, a consortium of big multinational brewers profiting from a government license to print money — unlike the LCBO, a reasonably efficient, publicly owned entity whose revenues accrue to the treasury.

    Another allegation is that the province will gouge dope smokers while greedily cashing in. Yet why wouldn’t the government seek to maximize revenues in the same way that it profits from alcohol and tobacco sales, especially given the obligation for costly new public education campaigns to counter abuse?

    Yes, the future price of marijuana must remain competitive with the underground market. But most Ontarians don’t pine for a dramatic expansion in dope sales, let alone a free-for-all.

    That any government, of any political stripe, would suddenly turn on the tap for tokers is a stretch. Allowing the private sector to muscle in on the marijuana trade would require a far greater regulatory bureaucracy to licence and inspect small outlets.

    By retaining sole control, at least initially, the government can slowly roll out its retail channel for tokers to roll their own. It can determine precisely where and when to situate those stores, measuring market demand while testing the tolerance of local neighbourhoods.

    Where privatization requires costly and clunky regulation, publicly owned distribution benefits from stronger responsibility, accountability and transparency, with well-trained, unionized employees. The LCBO also has the advantage of being a trusted supplier, which explains why a Nanos Research poll commissioned by the OPSEU union last year showed it was the preferred choice of Ontarians as a retail outlet.

    To those who dream of dope distribution on demand, be careful what you wish for. You can have too much of a good thing.

    Ontarians tend to moderation in all things, not least marijuana. When the haze settles, critics might discover that people no more pine for a dope dispensary on every doorstep than they welcome a pusher on every corner.

    Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. , Twitter: @reggcohn

    0 0

    WASHINGTON—Veteran Republicans are bailing on Congress in growing numbers, as GOP control of Washington fails to produce the unity or legislative successes party leaders wish for. With U.S. President Donald Trump willing, if not eager, to buck fellow Republicans and even directly attack them, a number of lawmakers no longer wish to be involved.

    The latest was two-term Rep. Dave Trott of Michigan, who said in a statement Monday that he’d decided after careful consideration that the best course for him was to spend more time with his family and return to the private sector.

    In contrast to those diplomatic words was Trott’s most recent tweet, sent in mid-August: “I think America needs more unity and less divisiveness...meaning @realDonaldTrump should focus more on golf & have less press conferences.”

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

    Trott joins a string of moderate Republicans, including Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Dave Reichert of Washington state and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who are not seeking re-election.

    Each of these seats will be heavily contested by Democrats eager to take back control of the House, and rumours abound of other GOP retirements still to come. New Jersey’s Leonard Lance is weighing retirement, while another Michigan Republican, Rep. Fred Upton, is mulling a campaign for U.S. Senate, according to party operatives who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

    Also Monday a senior GOP senator, Bob Corker of Tennessee, issued a statement indicating indecision about his future following a CNN report stating that the influential chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee had not yet decided whether to seek re-election next year.

    “It’s not an automatic for me. It just isn’t,” Corker told reporters, although he added that as chairman he has “a lot of impact without passing legislation. I can influence things. This is more about just what I believe to be the right thing to do.”

    Although Republicans are hopeful Corker ultimately will decide to run — he already has $7.5 million in his campaign account — the senator was in Trump’s Twitter crosshairs in August after criticizing the president’s response to the racially motivated protests in Charlottesville.

    “Tennessee not happy!” the president declared after claiming that Corker was “constantly” asking him whether or not he should run again next year.

    The developments have alarmed GOP operatives concerned that the trickle of retirements could turn into a flood unless congressional Republicans and Trump can come together and produce on their promises, particularly by overhauling the tax code. And, with Trump bypassing Republicans to make deals with Democrats, and encouraging primary challenges against sitting GOP senators, the retirement decisions also reflect concerns among some about whether they will get party support when they need it, especially with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon threatening all-out war on congressional leadership.

    “There are some stability concerns in the party about whose team everyone is on,” said Josh Holmes, a GOP consultant and former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Concerns about whether your party is really with you.”

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    It all illustrates that, far from producing unity within the Republican Party, the Trump era appears to be exacerbating existing GOP divisions while creating new ones. The familiar divide between pragmatic and ideologically driven Republicans has been heightened, while Trump’s deal-making with top Democrats last week is forcing elected Republicans to choose sides between Trump and GOP leaders McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

    “The party never united around Trump as it would another nominee, let alone president, and Trump is not a limited government conservative,” said Alex Conant, a former top aide to Sen. Marco Rubio. “And so he is not a traditional Republican and as a result is going to clash with the traditional Republicans that fill the ranks of Congress.”

    The chaos and uncertainty produced by Trump and his orbit would be more acceptable to congressional Republicans if the party was achieving legislative success. Instead, its long-standing promise to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s health care law collapsed on the Senate floor in July, while other priorities are moving slowly. As a result, a number of Republicans on and off Capitol Hill have come to view tax reform of some kind as a must-pass priority, without which the dam would likely break on retirements and Republicans would be in serious jeopardy of losing control of the House.

    “Republicans need to put points on the board, to deliver and show they are getting something done,” said Tom Reynolds, a former New York congressman who once chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee and is now a lobbyist.

    Yet despite enthusiasm among Republicans, any final tax plan is a long way off, and many analysts are already predicting that Republicans will end up settling for some tax cuts that add to the deficit rather than full-blown reform.

    For their part, Democrats are projecting increased confidence about their prospects in next year’s mid-terms, especially in the House, where they must gain 24 seats to win the majority. Republicans have a 240-194 edge, with one vacancy. Democrats have their highest hopes pinned on the 23 districts where GOP House candidates won last year, as did Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pointed to Trump’s overall approval rating nationally, which has dipped below 40 per cent.

    “There’s probably nothing more dispositive of who wins next year’s elections than where the president stands a year before,” Pelositold reporters Friday. “The year is fraught with meaning because that’s when people decide whether to run or not, and that really is a timetable that’s very important to us, and very positive for us right now.”

    0 0

    More than 210,000 Ontario students are going to college or university tuition-free this school year — roughly one-third of those who study full-time — under a new provincial financial aid program that covers fees for those from lower-income families.

    And applications for OSAP, the provincial aid system, are up 10 per cent over last year — or more than 50,000 students.

    “This is far greater than we expected,” said Deb Matthews, minister of advanced education and skills development, in a telephone interview following a visit to Ottawa’s Algonquin College. “So we are absolutely thrilled to have 50,000 more applicants this year than last year at this time. We are very, very pleased with the increase.”

    While the government does not yet have a firm dollar figure on the final cost, “that is the commitment we made to students — it’s a great problem to have. Our commitment is that every student who is eligible will get the support they need,” she said. “We will figure out a way to make that happen.”

    When it was announced, the government said axing tax credits for tuition and education would save $145 million this year, enough to cover the expected costs for 2017-18.

    The free tuition grants are part of a number of changes to the student assistance program, which makes mature students eligible for the first time, and also requires repayment only after grads are earning $35,000 a year, up from the current $25,000.

    The government is now providing students with aid money up front, before tuition bills arrive, for families earning less than $50,000. Some 70 per cent of those students were expected to receive more in grants than average university tuition rates.

    About half of students from homes earning $83,000 were also to receive more than they’ll pay in tuition.

    The government is also opening OSAP applications for the 2018-19 school year early — in November — to help students to plan ahead for college and university.

    Critics have the said the Liberals aren’t putting any more money into post-secondary, but rather just moving funds around, and note that Ontario has the highest university tuition rates in the country.

    0 0

    Karen and Neno Vukosa left for a holiday to Turks and Caicos on Sept. 2.

    Two days later, they were frantically calling airlines, trying to get out of the island that they then knew was about to be hit by a catastrophic, Category 5 hurricane.

    “We tried and tried and tried to no avail,” Karen said.

    “There was no way to get off that island,” Neno said.

    Now they’re home.

    Two flights from Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, landed Monday evening in Toronto: one Air Canada flight, and one WestJet flight.

    The passengers described harrowing scenes of destruction from Hurricane Irma on that island.

    “I’ve never heard anything like that before,” Karen said of the winds during the peak of the hurricane’s impact on Turks and Caicos Thursday.

    The couple was in a safe room in a resort. They were not injured, but they were frightened.

    “The biggest fear,” Neno said, was not getting out before the oncoming Hurricane Jose struck.

    Read more:

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    Lack of help from Ottawa riles Canadians stuck in Caribbean

    Photos: Hurricane Irma leaves trail of destruction in Caribbean, U.S.

    Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland was at Pearson airport to greet passengers of the Air Canada flight in Terminal 1.

    Freeland said tickets weren’t what got people on that plane. The priority was that they were Canadian or with Canadians.

    It was important to her, she said, to be at the airport to welcome them home.

    She lauded pilot Rex Vijayasingham, who passengers said was instrumental in returning them to Canada.

    The plane was supposed to come back Sunday. Freeland said Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, helped assure her that the plane would come back Monday night, with Canadian passengers.

    That happened, and there were even extra seats on the two flights for 50 Americans to be able to get off the island.

    For those on the flight, getting home to Canada seemed shrouded in uncertainty since last Monday.

    Michael Rhude, another of the passengers, described his frustration with Air Canada, which he said never contacted him while he was out of the country.

    Rhude and the Vukosas received some updates from Global Affairs Canada, but felt more could have been done to help them out of a dire situation.

    “Everyone is coming after the fact,” said Neno, who described Freeland’s trip to the airport as an example.

    He felt that the government should have tried to get all Canadians out Monday and Tuesday, before Irma hit.

    Instead, they described hearing about this “phantom flight” through the grapevine, and were relieved to get on board.

    Now that they’re home, the Vukosa’s concerns are with the local islanders on Turks and Caicos.

    “They have a long road ahead of them,” Karen said. Their homes may have been destroyed but still “they helped us where they could,” she said.

    Freeland said now that the Canadians are on their ways home, it is time to focus on humanitarian efforts for the islands.

    0 0

    Durham police Chief Paul Martin announced Monday a new policy to ensure Ontario’s police watchdog is called in to investigate serious injuries caused by an officer in his region — regardless of whether the cop was from his force or off duty.

    The move comes in the wake of criticism over his force’s handling of what he calls the “disturbing” alleged assault on a Black teen by a Toronto cop in Whitby.

    “There may be criticism about what we are doing. That’s OK,” Martin said in a statement, which he read out at the civilian police board meeting in Whitby.

    “We’re not doing it to be popular. We are doing it because it is the right thing to do for our community.”

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    Calling the status quo “inadequate,” Martin said the new policy dictates that if a cop from another service is involved in an interaction in which a civilian was seriously injured, Durham will call in the watchdog — despite that task technically falling to the officer’s employer.

    “Let me be absolutely clear: From here on in, if a conflict between one of our citizens and a police officer takes place in our community, and the incident meets the criteria for calling in the (SIU), then I will do so,” Martin said. Up to 2,000 officers from other Ontario police services are believed to live in the Durham area.

    Martin said in cases where it’s not clear whether the injuries are severe enough to trigger the SIU’s mandate — the watchdog investigates only those injuries it deems serious — he will err on the side of caution and notify the watchdog regardless.

    Durham’s move comes amid controversy over police handling of the beating of 19-year-old Dafonte Miller, who is alleged to have been beaten by off-duty Toronto police officer Michael Theriault and his brother, Christian Theriault, in December. The teen suffered injuries, including such severe damage to an eye it will have to be surgically removed.

    Both Theriaults are charged with aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in connection to Miller’s injuries. They also both face public mischief charges for allegedly misleading investigators on the day of the incident.

    The criminal charges against the Theriault brothers were laid in July, eight months after the alleged assault. The delay was the result of both Toronto and Durham police failing to notify the SIU of Miller’s injuries.

    The police watchdog was notified of Miller’s injuries in April, only after the SIU was informed by Miller’s lawyer, Julian Falconer.

    Martin explained that Durham did not notify the SIU because it was Toronto’s job to do as Theriault’s employer, a decision he says was in line with established procedures but that failed to “ensure the public trust.”

    In fact, on the night of the incident, Durham investigators charged Miller with assault with a weapon, theft under $5,000 and possession of a small amount of marijuana, charges later withdrawn by the Crown.

    Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders has said that Toronto police did not contact the SIU because they did not believe there were grounds to do so because they understood that Michael Theriault had not identified himself as a police officer. (The SIU typically only investigates off-duty police officers if they invoke their status as officers during an interaction that resulted in serious injury, death, or allegations of sexual assault.)

    Falconer, however, alleges Michael Theriault identified himself as a police officer when he asked what Miller and his friends were doing right before the brothers’ alleged beating of Miller.

    In an interview Monday, Falconer said he was pleased by Martin’s change in policy, calling it an acknowledgement of the “serious disservice and injustice suffered by Dafonte at the hands of Durham police.”

    But he noted it did not explain why, on the night of the incident, Durham officers “blindly accepted” the Theriault brothers’ version of events and charged Miller. That includes what Falconer alleges was Durham police’s failure to interview two witnesses about how Miller came to be injured. “Something was seriously rotten in this case,” Falconer said.

    Martin said he could not comment on the specifics of the incident because of the ongoing court case.

    Durham is believed to be the first police service to formally develop a procedure to notify the SIU about cases involving a police officer from another service, Martin told reporters Monday. The chief said he has informed other police chiefs in the province and acknowledged there “may be criticism.”

    Joe Couto, a spokesperson for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, said Martin briefed its president, Waterloo police chief Bryan Larkin, on the new policy and said it will be discussed at an executive meeting next week.

    Couto noted that new provincial legislation expected this fall — stemming from the review on police oversight by Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch — “will help our services be effective and consistent in dealing with these types of unfortunate incidents.”

    Among Tulloch’s recommendations is that the province clarify the rules around when police services must notify the SIU and officers’ duty to co-operate with the investigation.

    “So the real need here is for the province to clarify so we can better serve,” Couto said.

    Asked if Saunders would consider adopting Durham’s police policy in Toronto, spokesperson Mark Pugash said the chief “will consider anything that enhances transparency and accountability.”

    Toronto police chair Andy Pringle told the Star on Monday that he’d already asked Saunders to adopt a similar procedure, a request made “almost right away” upon learning about the Miller case. Pringle said any time there’s doubt about whether the SIU should be called in, he believes Toronto should “just do it.”

    Pringle said the ball is now in Saunders’s court and “it’s up to him to come back with a policy.”

    “I don’t know when he’s going to come back, maybe at the next board meeting — I haven’t asked him when he’s going to come back on that,” Pringle said Monday.

    Asked about the status of the independent review of Toronto police actions in the case, Pringle told the Star that the Waterloo Regional Police — called in to perform the mandatory internal review conducted after every SIU investigation — has been temporarily stopped.

    Instead, Pringle said the Ministry of the Attorney General recently called Saunders asking him to “put that on hold, because they want to take it over.”

    Pringle said he doesn’t know how this development will affect the time frame on the internal review, the results of which are supposed to be brought to the police board within 30 days of the SIU notifying Toronto of the results of its probe.

    No further information about the ministry investigation was available by deadline Monday night.

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    MONTREAL—Canada’s chess federation has filed a formal complaint over the treatment of a Canadian grandmaster at a signature event just minutes before he was to play one of the biggest matches of his career.

    Anton Kovalyov, 25, said in a Facebook post he pulled out of the World Cup in Republic of Georgia last weekend because an organizer complained to him about his shorts and called him a gypsy.

    The Chess Federation of Canada has protested against Kovalyov’s treatment to FIDE, the World Chess Federation, as well as to the organizers of the $1.6-million event.

    Kovalyov said an organizer berated him about his shorts just minutes before his third-round match.

    The Ukrainian-born Montrealer, currently a university student in Texas, had worn the shorts in previous rounds without incident.

    “The issue were not the shorts, but how I was treated,” he wrote.

    He went on to explain that organizer Zurab Azmaiparashvili was hostile and aggressive and used the “gypsy” slur as an insult. The grandmaster said he was subjected to bullying and racial taunts and decided to leave instead of doing something stupid.

    He forfeited his prize money in the process and, in a later Facebook post, said his family was out $3,000 because of his decision.

    Azmaiparashvili said after the tournament that Kovalyov had been warned earlier in the day about his shorts and given the option to change into long pants. Azmaiparashvili said he only got involved when Kovalyov refused ahead of the tournament’s third round of games.

    “I don’t care how he played previous World Cups,” Azmaiparashvili told, confirming he did threaten to lodge a formal complaint to FIDE about Kovalyov if the player still refused to comply.

    “He don’t like this, and he left, but really I was thinking that he finally understood me and he went to his room to change the pants,” Azmaiparashvili said, adding the two argued about other issues during their altercation as well, including what side of the board Kovalyov was assigned.

    The Chess Federation of Canada representative said it is seeking a diplomatic solution, given the Olympiad, a team chess championship, will be put on next year by the same organizers.

    “Our player has definitely been wronged and our federation is very angry about it,” said Hal Bond, a member of the group’s executive. “I’m hoping that an apology will be forthcoming from the organizers.”

    Kovalyov had a solid shot of making the next round, said the chess federation president, Vlad Drkulec, adding Kovalyov is arguably Canada’s best player right now.

    “He’s probably Canada’s best chance for a super grandmaster,” Drkulec said, noting that Kovalyov knocked off a previous world champion from India in an earlier round.

    Kovalyov didn’t return a message seeking comment, but did address the shorts issue in his post. He said he didn’t bring any pants with him to the tournament because they no longer fit. If told or asked sooner, he would have bought some.

    “But instead I was treated like garbage,” he wrote. “I was too stressed out by the way I was treated and the threats of being punished by FIDE no matter what I do, so I choose to leave before I do anything stupid.”

    While there is a dress code in chess, Bond said those rules aren’t spelled out.

    “They want the players to appear camera-friendly and photogenic and not dress in a manner that brings the game into disrepute, or dress in a manner that does elevate its status to where we’d like it to be seen,” Bond said. “But the code isn’t well written and some of the codes are vague.”

    The outcome is a shame, Drkulec said, because Kovalyov’s run could have been a good-news story for chess, particularly in North America.

    “It’s a very frustrating situation and instead of talking about a Disney-like situation where someone’s beating the top players, we’re talking about shorts,” Drkulec said.

    With files from Washington Post

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    Durham police said they’re treating the discovery of a woman’s torso – found floating near Oshawa Harbour last night – as suspicious.

    Const. George Tudos said the torso was found in Lake Ontario by a fisherman at around 8:30 p.m. Monday evening.

    Police said in a release on Tuesday that officers found “signs of trauma” on the torso at the scene.

    Tudos added that the homicide unit has been called in to investigate.

    The Coroner’s office has been called in.

    According to police, the torso will undergo a post-mortem examination in Toronto on Tuesday.

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    A man who said he was frustrated at frequent movie shootings at a neighbouring house in Riverdale was arrested Monday afternoon after loud music blaring from his radio disrupted the latest production there.

    Two speakers and an amplifier was set up in his backyard where a radio was blasting in the direction of 450 Pape Ave. during the production of the HBO movie Fahrenheit 451, starring Michael B. Jordan and Scarborough-born YouTube star Lilly Singh.

    Nick Shcherban was charged with mischief — interfere with property, public mischief, criminal harassment and causing a disturbance. He will have a bail hearing Tuesday morning.

    Shcherban said in an interview earlier on Monday that 450 Pape is exclusively and constantly used for filming movies, commercials, and having photo shoots, causing disruptions like excessive noise and blocking access to a TTC bus stop.

    Shcherban said he has twice been offered to be put up in a hotel during production as compensation but rejected it both times. He said the offers were short notice, and on one occasion he needed his daughter to stay at home after surgery.

    Originally built by William Harris in the 1880s, the majestic-looking home at 450 Pape Ave. was bought by the Salvation Army in 1930 and used as a home for single mothers for 75 years. In 2010, the building received heritage designation.

    The property is owned by Riverdale Mansion Ltd. and Eracon Holdings (Pape) Ltd. It was purchased by Eracon Holdings (Pape) Ltd. in May 2015 for $2,300,000.

    Alex Marrero, a partner in Eracon Holdings, forwarded to the Star emails showing that Shcherban has asked for thousands of dollars in compensation for filming next door.

    “I feel very bad that this happened to him,” said Marrero, who said his company uses the profits from renting out 450 Pape to film companies to pay taxes on the place which is currently unoccupied.

    “He says we’ve filmed 25 movies (this past year). I wish, the city would never give the permits.”

    In the past year, Marrero said three films and one commercial were shot on the property.

    Shcherban contacted the Star to complain about the latest production after he also protested the filming of It, a horror film based on a Stephen King novel that was on location for 42 days at that house last year.

    Both the Star and Toronto police received complaints during the audible protest from his backyard.

    When Shcherban concluded his interview with the Star, a police officer approached him to discuss a noise complaint against him. Shcherban told the officer that they would need a warrant to do anything about it, and within 30 minutes, three detectives appeared at his door, warrant in hand.

    It took more than 15 minutes for Shcherban to respond to the detectives after receiving multiple warnings that his door would be broken down if necessary.

    He was escorted out of his home and into a police car, as the film crew watched the dramatic scene.

    “Serves him right,” said a film crew member who witnessed the arrest. “We’ve put billions into the Toronto film industry in the last decade.”

    In March, Eracon Holdings’ proposal to convert the heritage building into a 28-unit apartment building was approved.

    “Last year, it was horrendous,” said Vida Jan, a Riverdale resident referring to the filming of It.

    Jan said that large air conditioning units caused significant noise pollution.

    “It’s kind of a blight on the neighbourhood,” Jan said, adding that “squirrels and raccoons use it as a refuge.”

    While Jan supports Shcherban’s cause, she said the Fahrenheit 451 crew has been “extremely quiet” so far.

    “I had to leave today,” Jan said of the audio protest. “I’m looking after my granddaughter, and it wasn’t the film crew that was making the noise. I had to leave, I said ‘I can’t put her down for a nap here.’ ”

    Shcherban said his complaints have been ignored by Mayor John Tory and Ward 30 councillor Paula Fletcher.

    Tory’s office released a statement late Monday night.

    “The mayor has worked hard to make sure the growth of Toronto’s film and television industry happens in a way that is respectful of our neighbourhoods and residents. City staff confirm that in this particular case the film company did engage the local community to get support/approval for the late night filming. Staff inform us that all production activity and parking is confined to private property and all filming was interior filming.”

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    Emergency department wait times hit record levels this summer, according to the umbrella organization representing Ontario hospitals, prompting it to warn that the health-care system is headed for a “crisis” this winter unless the province takes quick action.

    With weeks to go before flu season strikes, conditions strongly point to a capacity crunch this winter without further action, the Ontario Hospital Association said in a statement issued Monday.

    “Many hospitals have operated through the summer under very unusual and worrying surge conditions,” OHA president Anthony Dale said. “The evidence strongly suggests that . . . further investments are urgently needed this fiscal year in order to ensure timely access to services for patients.”

    This past July, 10 per cent of patients waited longer than the provincial average of 30.4 hours to be placed in an inpatient bed from the emergency department, according to the association. This is the longest that patients have ever had to wait in the month of July since the province began measuring these waits nine years ago, the OHA said.

    Hospital activity normally slows down in the summer, but over the last few months, many of the province’s largest hospitals were more than 100 per cent full, the organization said.

    The OHA’s statement called for “rapid and aggressive new investment in hospital services, and services across the (health system), to avoid a possible capacity crisis within Ontario’s health-care system this winter.”

    The organization is hoping that the provincial government will include extra funding for hospitals in the fall economic statement, as it did last year.

    Health Minister Eric Hoskins said that while he is aware there is always more work to be done, health care is a top priority for his government. That’s why the province hiked operating funding for hospitals by 3.1 per cent this year, for an increase of $518 million, he said.

    Hoskins also pointed out that his government is spending more than $20 billion on hospital infrastructure over the next decade.

    The OHA is worried about a repeat of last winter, which saw many hospitals create “unconventional spaces” for patients because they were so full. Hospitals were forced to convert lounges, classrooms, offices and even storage rooms into patient rooms.

    “The root of today’s capacity challenge is that far too many frail elderly patients can’t get access to the care they really need outside of the hospital setting,” Dale said, adding that the province has a good plan to reform the system but needs to pick up the pace.

    Frail seniors often find themselves stuck in hospital beds even though they no longer need acute care. There is not enough space for them in long-term care homes or they are not frail enough to require such care. At the same time, they are too frail to return home, even with home-care supports.

    There is a big push on in Ontario for the creation of affordable, subsidized congregate living arrangements for seniors where they could get regular help from personal support workers and health-care professionals.

    New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath said the mandate of the upcoming public inquiry into the murder of long-term care home residents should be expanded to address such issues.

    The inquiry will look into the circumstances surrounding eight murders to which nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer pleaded guilty in June.

    Horwath called on the government to reverse decade of cuts to the health system.

    “The last Conservative government fired 6,000 nurses, eliminated 7,000 beds and shuttered dozens of hospitals. When the Liberals came to power, instead of reversing those cuts, they froze health care spending, slashed more front-line jobs, and continued to worsen the health-care crisis across the province,” she said.

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    There’s nothing quite like Nicolas Cage operating at full enthusiasm, and when it comes to his pitch-black new horror-satire Mom and Dad— about adults suddenly becoming overwhelmed with murderous rage towards their offspring — he’s beaming with appropriately manic parental pride.

    Breezing into a Toronto cafe this week in a cowboy hat the morning after a triumphant Midnight Madness premiere— during which a vocal crowd of his worshippers whooped every time he popped onscreen — Cage was in an infectiously ebullient mood. Today was going to be a great day, he predicted, “because I get to talk about a movie I actually love.”

    Indeed, 12 hours after his film’s midnight debut, Cage was still moonstruck.

    In fact, the moment he sat down he turned to co-star Selma Blair and began bombarding her with kudos — “I can’t take my eyes off of her. True story. Bacall but beyond. Iconic. I’m scared of her right now. I’m being honest.”

    When writer-director Brian Taylor joins the table, he isn’t spared such praise either. He could only shake his head gratefully as Cage said he deserved a place alongside filmmaking greats Martin Scorsese, the Coen brothers and Francis Ford Coppola.

    “He’s in the hierarchy,” Cage raved. “Can I be so bold? I’m his (Toshiro) Mifune, he’s my (Akira) Kurosawa. I would do anything for that motherf---er. He’s a genius. He knows where to put the camera.”

    Improbably, Cage’s enthusiasm was equalled the night before by a raucous Toronto International Film Festival crowd that couldn’t have been more ideally suited for Taylor’s gleefully unhinged roller-coaster of an ash-black comedy, in which Cage and Blair’s loveless suburban stasis is suddenly interrupted by a worldwide hysteria that inexplicably renders parents singularly obsessed with murdering their children.

    Before long, they’re descending upon their teen daughter and adolescent son (Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur) wielding electric handsaws and meat tenderizers.

    Before the film’s Toronto International Film Festival debut, Cage had only seen a rough cut about a year ago.

    “I liked it, but I thought it needed work. Then I saw it last night and I was like: ‘F--- yeah.’ It was badass. S--- was off the hook,” raved Cage, who first worked with Taylor on what he calls the “misunderstood” Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. “I told (Taylor): You did it. You broke ground. We had Blair Witch, that broke ground, you just broke ground. There’s never been a movie like this.

    “Top three movies I’ve made in the last 10 years,” he continued, unprompted. “1. Mom and Dad. 2. Drive Angry. 3. Joe. OK? He comes first.”

    Taylor introduced the film by telling the crowd that “this movie has mental problems, and if you’re seeing it, then you also have mental problems.” And the director, who presided over the stylish Crank films with longtime partner Mark Neveldine, concedes he couldn’t really trust himself to know where the line should be in a film about adults brutalizing kids.

    “There were some times watching the movie back where we were like: we should’ve killed more kids there,” he said with a laugh.

    “Is it so weird that I don’t think it’s mental?” wondered Blair, who had only the most fleeting concerns about the film. “Not much shocks me. I’m totally past it but you do go: ‘Ooh, I’m a mom in this.’ I’m always thought of as a little odd anyhow, and I try to put on a conservative front in my life because I’m so spooky to people.”

    “You might get a few dirty looks from the other moms at school,” Taylor said.

    “Or looks of acknowledgment,” she replied wryly.

    Cage, of course, had no concerns at all about throwing himself into the gonzo flick with wild-hearted commitment. He recalls Taylor telling him at some point that the film might piss people off. Cage’s response? “It had better.”

    “When I read it — I’ve always been a punk rocker, Vampire’s Kiss, punk rock, I’ve always been a fan of the Sex Pistols,” said Cage, whose left hand was decorated with thick, colourful rings. “I’m always looking to break that envelope, tear the space-time envelope — how can I rock you? How can I shock you? That’s who I am. And I read this script, I said: Brian, we’re making this movie.”

    Where Blair grounds the movie with a nuanced but still demented-when-necessary portrayal, Cage — not renowned for his restraint — lets completely loose in a performance that seems winkingly designed to be the stuff dream memes are made of.

    “To get really geeky, Cage is — you know Cyclops in the X-Men, he’s got that visor he puts on and when he takes it off, he’ll take out 10 buildings? That’s trying to direct Nick,” Taylor said. “You always know that power’s there.”

    Well, it’s not easy to steer a conversation with an energized Cage either, but it’s exhilarating to be along for the ride. He drops juicy nuggets of detail then briskly moves on without further explanation. Asked whether he and Blair had crossed paths over the years, he turns to her in a conciliatory manner.

    “Selma and I . . . what do you want to say?” he asks her as she laughs. “She lived in my house. Is that OK?”

    “Many moons ago, yes,” she agrees, noting that they’d nevertheless gotten to know each other only recently. “We’ll leave it at that.”

    Later, he finishes another rave review of Blair’s performance with a gloriously unexpected non-sequitur.

    “She’s bringing the Golden Age back,” he said. “I’m serious. And I am wearing Charles Bronson’s hat.”


    “Dude. Oh my God.”

    He pops his hat off and offers it across the table, pointing to the inscription: “Inspired by Charles Bronson’s hat in Once Upon a Time in the West, custom-made for Nicolas Cage.”

    “So this is the first time Charlie and I have been together. We should have made a movie together,” he mused. “Anyway, I’m getting a little verklempt. What else can we talk about?”

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    On Sunday night, during the NDP’s eighth and final debate in the campaign to replace Tom Mulcair, leadership hopeful Jagmeet Singh introduced to many Canadians the concept of chardi kala.

    Chardi kala is an important principle in Sikhism, which Singh learned from his mother. “It’s the idea of maintaining optimism in the face of adversity,” he said.

    That certainly came in handy the previous night when a heckler confronted him at a campaign rally accusing him of supporting Sharia law and the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The woman, Jennifer Bush, a supporter of the anti-Islamic group Rise Canada (no surprise), claimed later at an annual Ford fest (no surprise) that – surprise! — she knew Singh was not Muslim but was questioning his policies. She also claimed: “I’m not racist.”

    Excuse me while I barf.

    Now that’s pretty far from chardi kala. Then again, I am not on a stage trying to set an example for my supporters.

    Singh was.

    His “love and courage” reaction has since gone viral. He has been heaped with praise for taking the moral high ground, for inspiring people, and for showing his true mettle.

    Read more:

    Heckler at NDP Jagmeet Singh event demonstrates why minorities are deterred from politics, prof says

    New book on Canadian racism firmly refutes ‘We’re not as bad as the U.S.’ sentiment: Paradkar

    L’Oréal’s firing of Munroe Bergdorf boiled down to one word: Paradkar

    The reality is what choice did Singh have?

    Imagine if he’d asked for her to be taken off stage.

    Imagine if he’d challenged her (surely leading to a shouting match).

    Imagine if he had used humour to defuse the situation.

    Imagine if he did what a Canadian journalist suggested, and said, “I’m not Muslim.”

    He would have been castigated for being high-handed, aggressive, not taking racism seriously or tacitly agreeing that the attack was warranted on Muslims.

    Singh stated he didn’t clarify that he was not Muslim because he rejected the premise of the argument. “I didn’t answer the question because my response to Islamophobia has never been ‘I’m not Muslim.’ It has always been and will be that ‘hate is wrong,’ ” he said in a statement released on social media on Saturday.

    We’ve seen this before.

    Back in 2008, when Barack Obama was a presidential hopeful, the Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell lamented to NBC his party members’ suggestions that Obama was Muslim, as if it was a smear, because of his middle name, Hussein.

    “Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian,” Powell said. “But the really right answer is: ‘What if he is?’ ”

    Turning the other cheek is supposed to be the Christian, or in this case, Sikh, thing to do. Yet, it’s an expectation unfailingly placed on racialized and Indigenous people who face the dual burden of facing the attack and then having their reaction unduly scrutinized with any perceived slight used to indict their communities.

    Were a Justin Trudeau or Stephen Harper in Singh’s place, their reactions, too, would be dissected, but they would not be seen as reflective of all white people.

    The heckling incident was not Singh’s first brush with overt racism.

    “You know, growing up as a brown-skinned, turbanned man, I’ve faced things like this before,” he said. Yet, his reaction has to pass standards set by those who’ve never experienced racism.

    For eight years, Obama balanced a tight rope of not appearing weak but also not showing anger lest he be branded with the ‘angry Black man’ stereotype. Donald Trump, meanwhile, can go off the rails and not worry about representing all white people.

    Anger expressed by white people is passion. The same emotion from a Black man or a turbaned man is a threat.

    The position that calm forgiveness occupies on the moral high ground is indisputable. Some people may find it helps them heal and move forward.

    But it’s important to acknowledge that it does nothing to end racism; on the contrary, it is the reaction that placates white comfort by leaving undisrupted the self-image of niceness and innocence.

    All that the automatic expectation of forgiveness does is draw a tight boundary around expressions of pain and stifle the voices of those struggling to be heard.

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

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    Calling the rise in temporary work “alarming,” Ontario’s labour minister is promising changes to legislation that will encourage companies “to return to the day when they hired people full time.”

    “We looked at a number of avenues … to change” the reliance on temporary workers, Kevin Flynn said at Queen’s Park on Monday, following revelations in a Star investigation showing how temporary agencies have proliferated across the province, giving workers no job security and little training. Statistics show temp workers are also more likely to be injured in the workplace.

    “People in Ontario expect to have full-time work if they want it … what we are saying is that if you are doing the same job in the province of Ontario, there is no justification for any differential you should be paid by the company.”

    Read more:

    I went undercover in a Toronto factory where a temp worker died. Here's what I found

    One year after this temp agency worker died at Fiera Foods, family is still searching for answers

    Ontario must toughen law to protect temporary workers: Editorial

    The Ontario government’s Bill 148, which has passed first reading and gone out for consultation this summer, addresses some concerns around temporary work, including pay, scheduling and unionization.

    One area left unaddressed by the proposed legislation is the fact that if a temp worker is injured on the job, their agency, not the workplace where they were actually injured, is liable to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. This, critics argue, is one of the biggest incentives for companies to use temporary help agencies in the first place.

    Flynn said his ministry is looking into the issue.

    One option that was considered — but dismissed — was to limit the number of such employees in any one workplace because it “seemed like it would be a bureaucratic nightmare. We figure we’d get right to where the issue is — that we take away the incentive to use temporary help agencies, to stop the flourishing of this business. We believe that is far more effective.”

    If workers hired by a company or brought in temporarily are making the same hourly rate, “there is no incentive … to go through an agency.”

    “Right now, you’ll have somebody that is making $20 an hour standing next to somebody who is making $12 an hour, doing essentially the same work. We just say that’s not on in the province of Ontario, and the way we plan to address that is by the equal pay provisions.”

    Research commissioned by the Ontario government found that temp workers are vulnerable and among the most “precariously employed of all workers.”

    The Star’s Sara Mojtehedzadeh went undercover at Fiera Foods, an industrial bakery in North York that has racked up numerous health and safety infractions and where a worker died last year.

    She and investigative reporter Brendan Kennedy found that temporary agencies have increased by 20 per cent in Ontario in just the past 10 years — with 1,700 now in Greater Toronto. Companies use them to lower costs and reduce their responsibilities for employees. Firms also avoid full liability — and cut their insurance premiums — at the workers’ compensation board for accidents that occur on the job because the responsibility is transferred to the temp agency.

    It is unclear how equal pay provisions would change things at Fiera Foods, where Mojtehedzadeh found almost every worker she met on an assembly line was temporary and had been brought in through an agency.

    Temporary agencies themselves are not the problem, Flynn said, as “they’ve existed for years and some of them do an incredible job and some people make an awful lot of money working for temp agencies. What we are concerned about is the proliferation of temporary help agencies taking the place of what is essentially full-time employment.”

    He said the Star’s investigation “was a clear indication that there’s a problem out there that needs to be solved.”

    “We’ve known that for some time in the Ministry of Labour, these are the problems we go out an investigate on a daily basis, so I think (the stories) injected a bit of reality in the situation in a way we couldn’t do at the Ministry of Labour. Reading it on the front page of a large newspaper I think really did help.”

    The province’s ultimate goal is to “take any financial incentive to use a temporary help agency unless it’s a legitimate need,” he said.

    “We’re going to make it equal for somebody to hire somebody either through an agency or as a full-time employee.”

    NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Liberal government has twice tried to improve the lives of temporary workers over the past 14 years “and they’ve failed miserably. So then we see the horror stories that we’ve heard about, the loss of life … this has been the regime in Ontario for 14 years now. It’s not acceptable and the New Democrats made commitments before the Liberals even brought Bill 148 forward around making sure that every worker in the province is paid the same.

    “So if temp agencies still exist, they’re going to have to exist in a different way than to utilize low wages as a way to incent employers to use their services.”

    Ontario PC finance critic Vic Fedeli said, “Everybody in Ontario wants to know that there are full-time opportunities available and that you can work in a safe environment,” he said. “I think everybody strives towards that.”

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    Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour could cost 50,000 jobs, warns Ontario’s independent fiscal watchdog.

    The Financial Accountability Office on Tuesday released a six-page assessment of the Liberal government’s forthcoming hike to the $11.40-an-hour wage, which will jump to $14 in January and $15 in 2019.

    “On net, the FAO estimates that Ontario’s proposed minimum wage increase will result in a loss of approximately 50,000 jobs (0.7 per cent of total employment), with job losses concentrated among teens and young adults,” the office said.

    “The higher minimum wage will increase payroll costs for Ontario businesses, leading to some job losses for lower income workers,” it continued, echoing the concerns of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.

    “At the same time, higher labour income and household spending will boost economic activity leading to some offsetting job gains.”

    The FAO estimates the number of minimum wage workers will climb from about 520,000 to 1.6 million by 2019.

    “As well, under a $15 minimum wage, adults and those with full-time jobs would represent the majority of minimum wage workers,” it said.

    “By comparison, under the current minimum wage of $11.40 per hour, teens and young adults and those with part-time jobs account for the majority of minimum wage workers.”

    The non-partisan office noted “there is evidence to suggest that the job losses could be larger” than 50,000.

    That’s because “Ontario’s proposed minimum wage increase is both larger and more rapid than past experience, providing businesses with a greater incentive to reduce costs more aggressively.”

    But the FAO cautioned that its analysis “did not consider other potential non-economic benefits of a minimum wage increase, including improving workers’ well-being and health outcomes.”

    In a statement, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn noted Ontario’s economy is growing and can absorb the higher wages.

    “Our economy created more than 30,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate is sitting at 5.7 per cent, the lowest level in more than a decade,” said Flynn.

    “Thanks to our strong economy, we’re now in a position to move forward with positive changes for workers in Ontario. We know the cost of doing nothing is simply too high — too high for workers and too high for our economy,” he said.

    “Many leading economists share this belief. Studies written over the past number of years — including work done by the OECD, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives — lay out the long-term benefits of higher wages for low-income workers, as well as the economic benefits that come with alleviating this problem.”

    Flynn argued that “low wages are bad for the economy.”

    “We don’t believe that anyone in Ontario who works full time should be struggling to pay their rent, put food on their tables or care for their families — especially when the provincial economy is doing so well.”

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    Most people know what a U-turn is when they see one, but if you asked the province of Ontario for a definition of the manoeuvre, it wouldn’t have an answer.

    Brampton resident Michael Robinson realized this in September 2015when he was on his way to pick up his wife from her job at Wal-Mart, driving north on Sunforest Dr. He turned left into a driveway, reversed his car and proceeded south — a standard three-point turn.

    Robinson was pulled over by a Peel Region police officer for disobeying a “No U-turn” sign and given a ticket.

    But is a three-point turn also a U-turn? The police say yes, even though the Ontario Highway Traffic Act does not offer a clear definition of a U-turn or a three-point turn.

    Robinson disagreed so he fought the ticket in court.

    A three-point turn, Robinson argued in court, is a series of manoeuvres, while a U-turn is one continuous motion.

    “It does not take rocket science and a higher education to understand the shape of a U in our alphabet,” Robinson told the Star in an interview. “Unfortunately the vagueness and ambiguity within our laws allows different interpretations . . . The goal is about road safety. I believe that I practised very good road manners and safety.”

    The officer who pulled him over testified that Robinson did a U-turn because his vehicle did not fully leave the roadway during the three-point turn.

    Neither argument was central to the verdict.

    On Aug. 18, Robinson was found guilty of disobeying a sign.

    Section 143 of the Highway Traffic Act refers to a U-turn as a turn “so as to proceed in the opposite direction,” and that was what led to Robinson’s charge.

    Justice of the Peace Richard Quon heard the case and produced a 42-page ruling, which concluded: “A three-point turn as a driving manoeuvre is not defined in the Highway Traffic Act . . . and as such, a three-point turn for the purposes of the Highway Traffic Act is not legally distinct from a U-turn manoeuvre.

    “The defendant’s turns and driving manoeuvre . . . constitute a U-turn manoeuvre within the meaning of the Highway Traffic Act, since their purpose had been to facilitate the motor vehicle turning around to proceed in the opposite direction.”

    Robinson said that he was given two demerit points, but the usual fine of $85 was waived.

    The Ministry of Transportation told the Star “(Robinson) was charged with changing the direction of travel . . . regardless of the matter in which the change was executed. This type of manoeuvre was prohibited at the location.”

    Jordan Donich, a traffic lawyer at Donich Law in Toronto who wasn’t part of the case, told the Star that a driver’s intent to turn around is more important than the manoeuvre itself.

    “How ridiculous would it be if all someone would need to get around an illegal U-turn would be to stop two or three times along the way?” Donich asked. “The U-turn is there not necessarily to prevent a U-turn necessarily, it’s because it’s unsafe to make a 180 and proceed the other way . . . it’s not so much about the manner in how you turn.”

    Donich said that the absence of a definition of a U-turn is intentional.

    “They want to have liberal interpretation of your behaviour. If it’s too clearly defined, people can then create a conduct that may not fit the definition and get off free.”

    Daniel Slovak, a paralegal at Traffic Ticket Knights in Markham, also agreed with the ruling.

    “He was trying complete something illegal by maneuvering in a different way, he should have been in a little bit more creative,” Slovak said. “I would have pulled into the driveway. I would count, one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi.”

    Robinson is still frustrated by the decision.

    “It was based not on constitutional or charter law but a vague common law practice of favouring breach ‘intent of the law,’ ” Robinson said. “Had I the time or funds I would pursue it further.

    “In the end the little guy suffers. Those who are unaware just go on paying fines.”

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    OTTAWA—The U.S. State Department has told Congress that it has no concerns about the potential sale of 18 Super Hornet fighter jets to Canada, with a price tag estimated at $5.23 billion U.S. ($6.4 billion Canadian).

    The figure includes weapons, spare parts, training, software and other costs associated with putting the jets into service, but does not appear to include long-term maintenance and support.

    The State Department says selling the Super Hornets to Canada would contribute to the U.S. government’s foreign policy and national security objectives.

    It also says the sale would improve Canada’s ability to meet current and future threats and that the Canadian military would have no problems absorbing the new aircraft.

    Congress now has a chance to review the potential sale.

    But the Canadian government’s plan to buy the jets has been thrown into limbo because of a bitter trade dispute between Boeing, the U.S. aerospace giant that makes the Super Hornets, and Montreal-based Bombardier.

    Read more:

    Trudeau blasts Boeing over dispute with Bombardier in call with U.S. governor

    Defence officials know the cost of buying Super Hornet jets, but won’t reveal numbers

    Feds set to meet with fighter jet firms as questions swirl over ‘interim’ Super Hornet deal

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