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Published: Sat, 10 Dec 2016 03:46:31 EST

Last Build Date: Sat, 10 Dec 2016 03:46:31 EST

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‘First’ Syrian refugee and his Tim’s-fuelled Canadian dream

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 17:34:00 EST

LAVAL, QUE.—It is as much daily affirmation as it is morning ritual: a caffeine-charged reminder of one refugee’s grip on the Canadian dream.Kevork Jamgosian hangs a sharp right and joins the queue at the Tim Hortons drive-thru. The 30-year-old Syrian, in a touching role reversal, has already dropped his parents off at school and bundled and unbundled his 2-year-old daughter for daycare. He’s about to make the 23-kilometre trek to his job as a car jockey at a downtown Montreal dealership.But first, an extra-large triple-triple to kick-start a day that sometimes doesn’t end until his own evening French class is dismissed at 9:30.“If you take Tim’s, you are original Canadian,” Jamgosian says with an infectious laugh that punctuates many of his observations. “We wake up at 7 every day and we don’t stop — the Canadian life. Too busy all the time.“But I like this life. It’s perfect.”It’s been one year since a surprisingly bright-eyed Jamgosian — a surname that appeared as Jamkossian in initial news reports — ended a 15-hour journey from Beirut in front of clattering camera shutters in his new country. With toddler Madlen in his arms, Jamgosian and his wife, Georgina Zires, were the first of the 163 refugees to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after a Canadian military plane touched down at Pearson airport. The Dec. 10 flight was the first in Canada’s plan to resettle thousands of Syrian refugees.Trudeau’s message was simple: “You are home.”Jamgosian calls this his “wow day.” He delights when he and his wife are referred to as the “first refugee family” and he sometimes Googles news footage of his arrival to refresh details blurred by the fatigue of travel and the whirlwind of paperwork necessary before his first plane ride.He recalls the grid of lights below as the plane approached Toronto, shaking the PM’s hand — though the encounter was a surprise, he says he recognized Trudeau immediately — and how welcoming and kind everyone was. And his own feeling of happiness.He has done his best to, indeed, make this home.“I was born in Syria 30 years ago and when I stepped off the plane it felt like I was born again,” he says. “Before I came to Canada, when I sent my papers, I say I want to forget everything in my country and start a new life. Today, I feel the same way. The first four or five years (will be) hard for me, but I’m sure after is a good life for me and for my family.”Jamgosian and Zires, sponsored privately by the Armenian Community Centre of Toronto, arrived with little more than clothing. Most of the refugees that night were, like Jamgosian, Armenian-Syrian. After staying with a cousin in Toronto for three days, they moved to their planned destination of Montreal. Once there, the Fondation d’Alep helped find an apartment in Laval, just north of the city. They moved in Dec. 24. The foundation — a Montreal-based charity that helps newly arriving Syrians — provided beds, so the family didn’t have to spend Christmas sleeping on the floor, and other furniture collected through donations. The charity also brought over food, when the Jamgosians realized most stores were closed for the holidays and an artificial Christmas tree that stands decorated in the corner of their dining room again this year.The couple’s life took another twist a few days earlier when Zires, after blood tests to understand the cause of fatigue, learned she was pregnant.“That was my Christmas gift,” says Jamgosian. “I was very happy.”Jessica was born Aug. 30.She has not been the only addition to the Jamgosian household. Kevork’s parents came over from Syria in February. His sister followed. The seven of them live in a three-bedroom apartment in a low-rise. The rent is $1,000 a month and Jamgosian is the sole breadwinner.Zires, who speaks no[...]


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Russia intervened to help elect Trump, CIA says in secret assessment

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 13:51:11 EST

WASHINGTON—The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favour one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”President Barack Obama’s administration has been debating for months how to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions, with White House officials concerned about escalating tensions with Moscow and being accused of trying to boost Clinton’s campaign.In September, during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to officials present.The Trump transition team dismissed the findings in a short statement issued Friday evening. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again,’ ” the statement read.Trump has consistently dismissed the intelligence community’s findings about Russian hacking.“I don’t believe they interfered” in the election, he told Time magazine this week. The hacking, he said, “could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.For example, intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees. Moscow has in the past used middlemen to participate in sensitive intelligence operations so it has plausible deniability.Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has said in a television interview that the “Russian government is not the source.”The White House and CIA officials declined to comment.On Friday, the White House said President Barack Obama had ordered a “full review” of Russian hacking during the election campaign, as pressure from Congress has grown for greater public understanding of exactly what Moscow did to influence the electoral process.“We may have crossed into a new threshold, and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after[...]


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

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 11:47:56 EST

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Toronto Police Service conducted a search of the site on Friday where the body of a slain doctor was found last week.

The body of Elana Fric-Shamji, a 40-year-old mother of three, was found last week near the underpass of a bridge beside the West Humber River in Vaughan. Her husband, Mohammed Shamji, 40, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

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Husband of Toronto doctor appears in court charged with her murder

“A marine unit attended [the search] under the direction of Det.-Sgt. Steve Ryan of the homicide unit,” said TPS spokesperson Constable Allyson Douglas-Cook. The area searched was around the West Humber River in Vaughan.

Police are looking for a cell phone, a purse and any other evidence, she said. It’s a follow-up investigation, she added.

Earlier today, Fric-Shamji’s family thanked the public for expressions of support and donations in her memory.

“We deeply appreciate the support that Elana’s children and we as a family have received — it has been a kindness for which we are very thankful,” said a statement released Friday by the Ontario Medical Association on behalf of the family.

“We would also like to express thanks to the many friends, neighbours and colleagues who have shared their memories of Elana as a wonderful person, mother, and physician. We miss her greatly and these memories mean a great deal to all of us today and every day.”

The family statement, which referred to Fric-Shamji as “Dr. Elana Fric,” also expressed “their deepest gratitude for the outpouring of support and prayers at this difficult time.”

It said they “continue to ask for privacy as we work through this difficult time and thank you for your continued respect of this request.”

The statement thanked police at 32 Division, Fric-Shamji’s colleagues at the Scarborough and Rouge Hospital, and the Children’s Aid Society. It said the OMA and her colleagues had arranged emergency financial assistance and established trusts for the couple’s three young children.

It also expressed thanks to those who donated to two charities in her memory: the Shelter Movers of Toronto, a charity that provides free moving services to those fleeing abusive households; and the Canadian Centre for Immigrant and Refugee Health Care, which provides free health clinics and urgent dental care for the working poor and uninsured.

More than $125,000 was raised by over 1,000 donors through You Caring, a fundraising campaign to support Fric-Shamji's three children by 6 p.m. Friday. The goal is $150,000.

Shamji was remanded in custody until his next court appearance, which is scheduled for Dec. 20.

Loreta Ieriti throws a rose into the river to pay respect to Elana Fric-Shamji. Police were searching for Elana Fric-Shamji's car keys, purse and cell phone in the area of Howland Mill Road and Nashville Road, west of Highway 27, in Vaughan, Ont.The remains of Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji, 40, were found in Kleinburg last week. Toronto police have charged her husband, 40-year-old Mohammed Shamji, with first-degree murder.


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Threats of violence and rape follow Trump’s Twitter attacks on a private citizen

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 13:52:44 EST

WASHINGTON — About a year ago, 18-year-old college student Lauren Batchelder stood up at a political forum in New Hampshire and told Donald Trump that she didn’t think he was “a friend to women.”The next morning, Trump fired back on Twitter — calling Batchelder an “arrogant young woman” and accusing her of being a “plant” from a rival campaign. Her phone began ringing with callers leaving threatening messages that were often sexual in nature. Her Facebook and email inboxes filled with similar messages. As her addresses circulated on social media and her photo flashed on the news, she fled home to hide. “I didn’t really know what anyone was going to do,” said Batchelder, now 19, who has never discussed her experience with a reporter until now. “He was only going to tweet about it and that was it, but I didn’t really know what his supporters were going to do, and that to me was the scariest part.”This is what happens when Trump targets a private citizen who publicly challenges him.When Trump tweeted about Batchelder in October 2015, he had fewer than five million followers; he now has more than 17 million and has bragged that having a Twitter account is “like owning the New York Times without the losses.” Twitter has become Trump’s cyber-magic wand, allowing him to quickly act on a fleeting idea, a fit of anger or something he sees on television. Now that he is the president-elect, the power of Trump’s tweets has only increased.With one tweet, Trump can change headlines on cable news, move financial markets or cause world leaders to worry. With one tweet last week, Trump inflamed a conflict with China. With another tweet on Tuesday, Trump caused Boeing stock to plummet. With a third on Wednesday night, Trump prompted a series of threatening calls to the home of a union leader who had called him a liar.Although Trump said months ago that he was likely to give up Twitter if elected, he has shown little sign of doing so. He will soon inherit the @POTUS account, which has 12.5 million followers.“I think I am very restrained, and I talk about important things,” Trump said during an interview with the Today show this week. “Frankly, it’s a modern-day form of communication ... I get it out much faster than a press release. I get it out much more honestly than dealing with ... dishonest reporters. So many reporters are dishonest.”For Batchelder, who studies history and gender studies at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, the abuse continues more than a year later. Five days before the election, she received a Facebook message that read: “Wishing I could f---ing punch you in the face. id then proceed to stomp your head on the curb and urinate in your bloodied mouth and i know where you live, so watch your f---ing back punk.”During her first semester at Saint Anselm in fall 2015, Batchelder decided to volunteer for former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s campaign, even though her views were much more liberal than his. To her, it was just an enjoyable opportunity to learn more about the Republican Party. She listed the volunteer position on her online resumé but later realized that she truly is a Democrat.On Oct. 12, 2015, Batchelder attended a bipartisan forum in Manchester and said to Trump: “So, maybe I’m wrong, maybe you can prove me wrong, but I don’t think you’re a friend to women.”Trump defended himself, saying he gave women positions of power at his construction sites, has influential women in his life and will fund women’s health initiatives.“I love women, I respect women, I cherish women,” Trump said at one point.Batchelder asked for the microphone again.“I want to get paid the same as a man, and I think you understand that, so if you become president, will [...]


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TTC, Metrolinx confronting taboo of talking about suicide

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 19:07:48 EST

It is a tragedy often cloaked with euphemisms.“Personal injury at track level.”“Trespasser incident.”But, breaking from tradition, two spokespeople from the TTC and Metrolinx have been using straightforward language about suicide and suicide attempts on their train tracks in hopes of fostering understanding and pushing conversations around suicide prevention forward.Brad Ross, the TTC’s executive director of communications, has taken an approach that some Twitter users have described as “brutally honest.”When questioned by frustrated passengers on Twitter about a 90-minute subway service suspension on Line 2, Ross responded, “somebody has taken their life. We’re doing all we can under the circumstances.”Over the summer, he offered another to-the-point answer when asked about who the people “injured at track level” are.“They’re people who are distressed and choose to tragically end their lives,” Ross tweeted.An average of 23 suicide-related incidents have occurred each year on the subway system between 1998 and 2014.“When people question me … about what is happening and why there is yet another delay, for example, it’s important, I think, that I, as a face, as an individual who works for the TTC, to put some empathy and some compassion around what exactly is happening,” Ross said in an interview.While the TTC will continue to use “injury at track level” in announcements or when sending out alerts from “faceless” accounts, Ross said he tries to convey compassion about suicide and suicide attempts when using his personal Twitter.The approach isn’t about “deflecting” blame from the TTC, he added, nor was there a corporate order or conversation about what language to use.“It’s about ensuring that people understand that there are many times when there is a delay that is caused by the TTC, absolutely, and there are times when it’s not,” Ross said.“And it’s those times that there’s a suicide … It’s not an incident. It’s not a statistic. It is somebody’s son or daughter, or mother or father, or brother or sister, or friend or lover or spouse who has tragically chosen to end their life and I think that perspective is important for all of us to understand.”Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said she began advocating for using more transparent language when she started at the agency four and a half years ago. For about two years now, GO Transit alerts about certain delays note when there’s been a “fatality.”Metrolinx uses “fatality,” Aikins explained, because unlike the TTC, most deaths do not occur at stations where witnesses can confirm what happened but in “open-rail areas” after dark where circumstances aren’t always immediately clear.“It’s a push that we have from an organization point of view to be more open to talking about suicide, to reach out to people, to acknowledge these are real people that have now chosen to end their lives, and that they have people in their lives that are going to be devastated,” Aikins said.Metrolinx also partners with ConnexOntario to offer phone-counselling and awareness programs.Aikins also often talks about suicide prevention and mental health on her Twitter account, something she said is important to her.“I’ve had people in my life as well that have been impacted, whether through suicide or having committed suicide,” she said. “I think we all have, if we look around, and it’s important when I have to talk about a fatality, it’s important for my own mental health to talk about it as well, out loud, to feel like I’m doing something, however little that is.”Ross and Ai[...]


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Victim of police shooting sues Peel chief and others for $21 million

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 17:03:34 EST

Peel police Chief Jennifer Evans visited a woman in hospital in the middle of the night and promised her a future in policing after she had been shot by one of Evans’ officers, according to untested allegations in a $21-million lawsuit. Suzan Zreik, 23, is suing Evans, the police services board and a number of officers. Zreik was struck by a stray bullet while in her kitchen the night of March 20, 2015, after officers began shooting at her neighbour Marc Ekamba-Boekwa outside in a Mississauga subdivision. He died of his injuries. Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, cleared the officers of any criminal wrongdoing. Zreik alleges that Evans visited her in hospital hours after she had been shot, assuring the Humber College police foundations student that she would “do whatever she could” to help with her career goals. The chief allegedly gave Zreik her business card with her personal telephone number handwritten on it. “Evans knew at the material time the plaintiff was suffering from a gunshot wound inflicted by an officer under her command, and that any dealings with her should only be conducted by investigators of the Special Investigations Unit,” says Zreik’s statement of claim, filed in Superior Court in Brampton on Friday. None of the allegations has been proven in court and no statements of defence have yet been filed. Peel police and the police services board declined to comment, as the matter is now before the court. Evans did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The lawsuit also alleges that an officer was posted outside Zreik’s hospital room and that her family was not allowed to see her. After being discharged from hospital, the lawsuit alleges, she was forced to make a statement to Peel officers at a police station in her hospital gown, though she had been led to believe that she was going to be speaking with the SIU, the province’s arms-length agency which investigates police encounters that result in death, serious injury or alleged sexual assault. “The plaintiff asserts and the fact is that she was at the station for over two hours and that the questions asked of her in the interrogation room were geared toward exculpating the police,” the lawsuit alleges. “The plaintiff asserts that the nature of the questions left her with the impression that the police wished her to clear them of any wrongdoing and was trying to take advantage of her and have her agree to things on video while she was in a highly vulnerable state.” The defendants, including Evans, “knowingly and deliberately misled the SIU into believing the injuries suffered by Zreik were minor in nature so as to keep the SIU from speaking with her,” the statement of claims alleges. When the SIU first began investigating the shooting, it initially said it was not looking at what happened to Zreik, but later said that was a mistake and that they had indeed been probing her injury as well as Ekamba-Boekwa’s death. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who also sits on the police services board, told the Star that the allegations, if true, are “extremely troubling.” “This matter is before the courts, so there is little more I can say. However, I will note that Chief Evans has over 30 years of experience in policing and is highly respected amongst her peers. It is important that she and those in question have the same opportunity to tell their version of events and that due process is followed.”The lawsuit also names as defendants three police officers — Branden Dary, Adam Paiement and Jennifer Whyte — who according to the lawsuit were on scene the night of March 20 and shot at Ekamba-Boekwa, 22, who was reportedly advancing on police with a kitchen knife. Police fired 19 bullets in quick succession on Queen Frederica D[...]


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Allegations of lewd texts to assistant put Jeremy Diamond in the rough

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 20:28:00 EST

A female assistant to Jeremy Diamond complained to police that the personal injury lawyer would not assign her potential clients to vet unless she wore provocative clothing, sent naked photos or had “sexual activity” with him, according to a Toronto police case synopsis provided to a Crown attorney in 2011.“She only gets paid if Mr. Diamond gives her a client,” detectives wrote in the case synopsis.Police, initially acting on a complaint by Diamond, had charged the female assistant with extortion. She had threatened to expose the activities of the very public face of the Diamond & Diamond law firm.After further investigation into the case, the detectives changed their minds. They asked a senior Crown attorney to withdraw the charge against the assistant, concluding instead that there was “sufficient evidence to charge (Diamond) with extortion.”When the matter came to court, Crown attorney Michael Callaghan withdrew the charge against the assistant, saying Diamond’s conduct made him conclude it was not in the public interest to pursue the case against the assistant.“There may be a reasonable prospect of conviction (of the assistant), but given the conduct of the complainant (Diamond) in the matter, I have real concerns that it was not in the public’s interest to proceed, and as such that’s why I’m withdrawing this charge today,” Callaghan told a justice of the peace hearing the case in August 2011.Diamond was not charged with extortion.Asked about the allegations against Diamond in the police synopsis, Diamond’s lawyer, Julian Porter, told the Star his client “denies them with a passion.” Porter said they are from a “disgruntled former contractor” and he is appalled the paper would publish what he termed “anonymized allegations of serious criminal conduct” that did not result in charges or prosecution against his client.“The unfairness of this is monstrous,” Porter wrote in a letter to the Star.A recent Toronto Star investigation revealed that Diamond, who has been described as an “award-winning personal injury lawyer,” has never tried a case himself. The Star found his firm, Diamond & Diamond, has for many years been attracting thousands of would-be clients through a U.S.-style advertising campaign and then referring cases to other lawyers in return for sometimes hefty referral fees.Porter told the Star that Diamond & Diamond has hired lawyers to handle cases in-house and currently has “thousands” of clients on retainer. Porter said the firm does refer out “some individuals,” but would not say how many.Prior to 2013, Diamond & Diamond was mainly a referral firm. During this time period, when prospective clients called, assistants were assigned to meet with them and assess the complexity of the case before it was referred out to a lawyer at another firm.One assistant who did this work was the woman who would become caught up in the extortion case. According to the police synopsis, she had worked for Diamond and the law firm for two years.In May 2011, the woman wrote to Diamond complaining of harassing behaviour and demanding $60,000, or she would contact the Law Society of Upper Canada, Diamond’s wife and the Toronto Sun newspaper.“I’ve had enough of everything you have done to me in the last 2 years … sexual harassment (many different examples) and not giving me respect as an employee,” the assistant wrote in her letter to Diamond.“I have told you several times that you are inappropriate and that I demand respect. You have severe issues and these are the consequences.”The woman said she could ruin Diamond’s reputation with “one phone call,” telling people he cheats on[...]


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Parents near Esplanade surprised by new drop-in centre

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 20:31:01 EST

Toronto parents are questioning what they see as a complete lack of public consultation leading up to the city’s decision to open an overnight drop-in at a community centre adjacent to a downtown public school.Parents at Market Lane Junior and Senior Public School, on the Esplanade, said Friday that they only learned within the previous 24 hours of the city’s plan to open up two rooms at the back of the St. Lawrence Community Centre. The community centre is connected by several sets of doors to a large communal courtyard and is used by students at the busy school. The drop-in — largely just mats on the floor — is strictly for overnight use, and is scheduled to open on Dec. 15 and remain so until Feb. 28. “This is happening in five days’ time and we are learning about this today,” said Amanda Campbell, a parent council member who has two children 7 and under at the school. “I wish there had been some preliminary conversation before this had happened.” Campbell said what is upsetting people in the tight-knit and diverse neighbourhood is not the prospect of housing people in need, but the lack of information. “My immediate concern is A, for my children, and B, for my community,” she said. In a city facing what has widely been described as a housing crisis, emergency drop-ins are seen as necessary to keep people safe and off the streets, particularly during what is expected to be a harsh winter. Patricia Anderson, with the city’s shelter, support and housing administration division, said in an email that city staff had consulted with the local councillor (Pam McConnell), representatives from the public school and the centre daycare, and “will meet next week with parents to listen to their concerns and share information on how the City and the program operator will be addressing these.” Staff worked to “ensure the overnight drop-in program would have as little impact as possible on other users of this community space,” she said. City staffers have been invited to a scheduled parents’ council meeting on Tuesday night.Parent council co-chair Suad Ahmed, who has a child in Grade 8, said their community recognizes the need for spaces to temporarily house vulnerable people, but added that the reality is their school is not 100 per cent secure and locals need more assurances from the city on how the program will be run.“The kids come first,” said Ahmed. “We don’t have a problem with helping people,” she said, but parents need to know more. The community centre houses a daycare and offers a range of youth programs inside the bright and airy space, which includes a large swimming pool. Once open, the drop-in program will be run by Margaret’s Housing and Community Support Services. Similar programs across the city serve a range of people in need, including men, women, transgender people, youth and seniors, as explained on a one page paper sheet given to parents on Friday. The facility will catch the overflow from two 24/7 local drop-ins. People will be let in at 9 p.m., given snacks and a place to get warm and sleep and expected to leave by 9 a.m. The two rooms are about 25 by 40 feet, and 15 by 20 feet and people who don’t wish to sleep on mats are invited to read, play games or pass the time in quiet conversation.McConnell (Toronto Centre-Rosedale) was unavailable for comment, because she was participating in a community event in Regent Park, but a staff member in her office said they “recognize there is some further communication and outreach work that needs to happen with parents and that is happening next week.”The reality, the staffer said, is council has directed city staff to ensure that existing city facilities are not over capacity thi[...]


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Canada has ‘achievable’ strategy to tackle climate change, Trudeau says

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 08:26:48 EST

OTTAWA—Canada has an “ambitious and achievable” strategy to tackle climate change, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says, but it took a late-day concession to win over British Columbia and ended in a public clash with the Saskatchewan premier over whether carbon pricing even works.Trudeau emerged from day-long discussions Friday — joined by premiers, territorial leaders and indigenous leaders —to announce details of a pan-Canadian strategy involving 11 of the 13 provinces and territories to set out how Canada will meet or beat its 2030 target pledged in Paris for curtailing greenhouse gas emissions.Trudeau said the framework will accelerate a reduction in emissions anticipated with the introduction of a national carbon price — a price he vowed to impose on any outlier.“We will be acting in a determined way to fight climate change and to achieve significant progress in the area of environmental protection for our children,” Trudeau said.The prime minister said his hope is that Canada is powered by 90 per cent clean energy by 2030.The strategy sets out specific measures to help the country achieve that target, including improving electrical grids to better share power across jurisdictions, new clean fuel standards, improved transit and expanded infrastructure to support electric cars. Trudeau also committed to separate talks on climate plans led by the Inuit, Métis and First Nations.But despite months of negotiations to lay the groundwork for the pact, it took some last-minute bargaining to get B.C. onboard and assuage concerns that Western Canadians would not be unfairly penalized under the carbon pricing scheme.B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s main concern was that the province already imposes a $30 per tonne carbon tax, and under Trudeau’s plan would be forced by 2022 to increase it to $50 a tonne while other provinces might have lagged far behind.Clark said she changed her mind after Ottawa agreed to an independent assessment in 2020 to measure whether all provinces were being treated fairly. “B.C.’s carbon tax has been at $30 a tonne for most of eight years now. B.C.’s carbon tax will go up when the rest of the country has caught up to us,” she said.Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne insisted there are costs associated with her province’s choice to adopt a system to cap emissions and buy or trade credits for emission cuts. “I just think that it’s a bit of a red herring to just compare the price on carbon emissions. We need to look at all the costs associated, and all of the things that jurisdictions are doing to come up with those equivalencies.”But Trudeau had no luck winning over Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who went into the daylong session vowing that he would not sign on to a national carbon-pricing plan, a position that did not change by day’s end. Wall was unapologetic, saying he opposes any price that will hit his energy-producing province hard at a time when jobs have been slashed in commodity sectors and major international competitors are not hobbling their industries.“Now is not the time, 2018 is not the time for a new tax,” Wall said at the final news conference.Wall clashed testily with Trudeau several times, first when he warned that Canada would not be able to impose carbon pricing in the U.S. in any talks to re-open the North American Free Trade Agreement with an incoming administration under Donald Trump, and Republicans dominating the Senate, House of Representatives and many state governors’ offices.“Let’s not be naive as Canadians,” Wall said. “We need to be competitive with them.”Trudeau interjected: “I think all Canadians know Canadian climate policy will be s[...]


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Toronto Police seize $2.5 million in counterfeit goods as holiday season starts

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 12:09:22 EST

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As the holiday season approaches, Toronto Police are warning the public to be vigilant with their gift-giving after they seized $2.5 million in counterfeit goods.

In the investigation, Project Lucky Chan, the police executed four search warrants around the city.

The first warrant was executed at the main floor of a hotel, which happened to be hosting an international anti-counterfeiting conference, Det. Rob Whalen said in a news conference, Friday morning.

The hotel seizure then led investigators to three stores: Lucky’s Imports and Wholesale on The Queensway; Beach GLO in The Beaches, and Jazz Casuals clothing store in North York, where 16 truckloads of products were located.

“As a result of this seizure, which we believe is around $2.5 million — if the product was real — we’ve got a lot of this property off the street,” he said.

Among the goods seized are make-up products that have caused skin irritations and rashes, combustible electronics, and children’s toys that pose a health risk due to possible toxic chemicals.

Investigators said that, in their own tests, a counterfeit Magic Bullet blender caught fire after being plugged in, and a pair of earphones melted after use.

“Research your product! Try to find it from a legitimate source!” Whalen said.

Hock Chan, 46, of Mississauga has been arrested and charged with one count of possessing property obtained by crime, possessing property obtained by crime with the purpose of trafficking, fraud over $5,000 and passing of wares.

In addition, two illegal immigrants who were assisting in the sale of these products were arrested and detained by Canadian Border Services, investigators said.

Toronto Police seized $2.5 million in counterfeit goods in the Project Lucky Chan investigation.


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Criminal-record database spotty and out of date, lawyers lament

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 20:26:01 EST

Lawyers say they regularly receive incomplete or inaccurate criminal records from the national police database which can lead to wrongful arrests, unfair sentences or critical information missing at bail hearings. The consequences of this were most recently seen when a man convicted of sexual assault fled to Pakistan in November before he could be sentenced. Moazzam Tariq was allowed to remain out on $10,000 bail after his conviction, because the Toronto police and Crown didn’t know he’d fled the country before while on bail after being criminally charged in Peel Region in 2010. Tariq, now 29, came back to Canada in 2011 and was arrested at the airport. He eventually pleaded guilty to dangerous driving in 2012. However, that conviction and his withdrawn charges — including for a failure to appear for his court date — were not recorded in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database, a Toronto court heard Thursday. It’s unclear whether Peel Regional Police failed to submit the information to the RCMP, which is in charge of the database, whether it was part of the backlog of convictions the RCMP has yet to enter into the database, or whether it fell through the cracks.The RCMP was not able to respond to questions by deadline on Friday and questions to the Minister of Public Safety were referred to the RCMP.Peel Regional Police did not respond to questions.The backlog of criminal records still to be entered into the CPIC database — estimated at several hundred thousand in March 2015, according to the CBC — has been criticized for years.In 2012, an outraged judge in Kitchener slammed the RCMP after it was discovered 12 convictions between 2008 and 2012 were not part of the offender’s criminal record on CPIC.“If the RCMP wanted to undermine the administration of justice . . . it would be hard to find a better way,” Justice Elliott Allen said, according to the Waterloo Region Record. While the RCMP is working on modernizing the system, CPIC records continue to fail to show an up-to-date and accurate criminal history across jurisdictions, lawyers say. “It can be an absolute nightmare. It can result in huge consequences to people’s lives,” says Toronto defence lawyer Mary Cremer. “So much can really rely on clerical data.”Cremer says it is routine to expect a CPIC record to be at least six to eight months out of date. She recently had a client who had all his charges stayed, but who called in a panic a few days later after being pulled over by the police.According to the CPIC database, he was still on bail facing serious charges. Often CPIC is not updated to include bail variations, leading police to believe an accused person is violating their bail conditions, she says. Cremer adds that jobs are increasingly requiring applicants to undergo background checks and an incomplete or inaccurate criminal record can have devastating consequences. The Star has previously reported on the impact of withdrawn charges or non-criminal, mental-health-related encounters with police being routinely disclosed in background checks by employers or volunteer groups.The Toronto police stopped disclosing mental heath-related interactions in background checks last year. Michael Spratt, a defence lawyer based in Ottawa, says he has seen CPIC reports with information that is incorrect — such as a minor theft conviction listed as the more serious offence of robbery.It’s an error that some people might not catch, but could result in an unfair sentence, he says. “We don’t even know how many errors there are,” he says. “The problem is so bad we are unable to identify the scope of the problem.”This should [...]


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New transportation boss says car is no longer king

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 05:00:00 EST

Toronto has a new ruler of the roads. Barbara Gray started her job as Toronto’s new general manager of transportation on Thursday, and is the first woman to ever hold the post. In her new role, Gray will lead a department with a $400-million operating budget and a host of challenging files, including the city’s well-documented congestion problem, an aging expressway in urgent need of repair, and a mounting pedestrian death count that some are calling a public health crisis. It’s a daunting task, but one that Gray predicts will be exciting. “Not straightforward or easy perhaps, but exciting.” A 50-year-old Manhattan native, Gray comes to Toronto by way of Seattle, where she has worked in the public sector for 17 years, for the past two as deputy director ofthe department of transportation. She replaces another American, Steve Buckley, who returned to Philadelphia in July after nearly four years in the Toronto job. A pro-cycling, pedestrian-minded mother of two who holds a graduate degree in urban planning from the University of Washington, Gray seems certain to steer Toronto transportation policy in a direction that rejects the supremacy of the car and gives equal consideration to all road users.“I think you design the streets and the city to support people being able to move,” she said, “whether you want to walk, bike, take transit or drive your car.”She acknowledges that in a city like Toronto that has a dense urban core surrounded by sprawling suburban neighbourhoods, some residents will always have to rely on their cars. “So what I’ve said in Seattle — and I assume a similar approach would apply here — is that the more people we can get walking, biking and taking transit, (the better the chance) that when you have to drive a car to get somewhere it will be a better experience for you.”In her time on the west coast Gray was at the forefront of progressive transportation policies, including authoring one of the first “complete streets” guidelines to be adopted in the U.S. She also drafted master plans to make the city more accommodating for cyclists and pedestrians.On many important transportation matters, her positions appear to overlap with Toronto council’s liberal, urbanist faction. She calls separated bike lanes “a great idea.” Ditto lowering the city’s default speed limits. She’s also a self-declared “streetcar aficionado.”Asked what she thinks the city’s most important transportation challenges are, she cites congestion and pedestrian safety as top priorities.The city is experiencing its worst year for pedestrian fatalities in decades, with more than 40 people killed so far this year. Gray has looked at the road safety plan that was passed by council in July and describes the document as “a good start.”“It seems with safety you always want to do more faster,” Gray said.Gray says it’s difficult to judge what lessons she can bring to Toronto from her time in Seattle, a city a quarter the size of Ontario’s capital. “All solutions are local” is among her favourite phrases.But one difference between the two cities could be how their residents think about paying for transportation. Last year Gray was on the front lines of a successful campaign launched by Seattle’s mayor to raise $930 million for road maintenance, transit projects and other transportation infrastructure through a 10-year property tax levy.“I don’t even know the number of meetings and coffees and happy hours and all sorts of things that we did to work with people and bring them along,” Gr[...]


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MPPs send symbolic message with vote against road tolls

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 08:41:55 EST

Opposition MPPs have sent a symbolic message to Premier Kathleen Wynne: don’t approve Toronto Mayor John Tory’s plan to slap tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway.New Democrats supported a Progressive Conservative motion aimed at getting Wynne to block new tolls on existing lanes of any Ontario highway, including the DVP and Gardiner.About two dozen Liberals were in the legislature but abstained from voting, with Arthur Potts (Beaches-East York) saying “the whole thing is about nothing” because city council hasn’t submitted a request to the province yet.Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown accused Liberal MPPs of being afraid to put their votes on the record because the tolls are controversial.“There’s a reason,” he told the Star. “A lot of the MPPs from Etobicoke, Scarborough, North York, the 905, they weren’t there, because they know their constituents are livid about it.”The vote of 38-0 is not binding on the government but opposition parties hope it fuels the fight against any Toronto highway user fees, which Brown warned could set the stage for more tolls elsewhere around the province.“This is not the Christmas present that commuters in Toronto need,” he said during question period earlier Thursday.Wynne signalled she would approve a toll request from city council as a way to help Toronto raise money for improved transportation infrastructure that will help pave the way for an improved economy. She criticized Brown and the NDP for “short-term thinking.”Debate in the legislature was heated at times, with opposition MPPs saying GTA residents are already struggling with high electricity prices and will be facing higher gasoline and natural gas bills in the New Year as part of the government’s plan to curb carbon emissions in the fight against climate change.“People are struggling to make ends meet,” said New Democrat MPP Jennifer French (Oshawa), noting 30 per cent of Durham residents work in Toronto.Tory’s suggested toll of $2 each way means a motorist heading downtown daily would pay $1,000 a year “for the privilege of getting to work on roads they’ve already paid for,” said Conservative MPP Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga).Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the Conservatives have changed their tune on highway user fees after the government of former premier Mike Harris leased Highway 407 to a private company.“Today, it’s tolled. It was tolled then,” he added, taking a second shot at the Harris government’s decision to halt construction on an Eglinton Ave. subway line two decades ago.“They didn’t just kill it, they killed it and filled it.”The tunnels were filled with sand and cement. The Liberal government has since decided to build the Crosstown light rail line along and under Eglinton that is slated for completion in 2021. Mayor John Tory’s suggested toll of $2 each way means a motorist heading downtown daily would pay $1,000 a year “for the privilege of getting to work on roads they’ve already paid for,” said Conservative MPP Michael Harris.[...]


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