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TORONTO STAR



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Published: Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:58:12 EDT

Last Build Date: Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:58:12 EDT

Copyright: Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2013 , http://www.thestar.com/terms
 



Torontonians gather to watch solar eclipse

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 13:54:00 EDT

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At the Canadian National Exhibition, a crowd of hundreds waited in line for eclipse glasses as the moon began to creep ahead of the sun.

Red t-shirt-clad University of Toronto students stood in waiting, explaining the mechanics of the eclipse to viewers. Matt Russo, a theoretical astrophysicist at the university, pointed to the white space in their projectional telescope where the eclipse and sunspots, or dark patches, could be viewed in real-time. But other, simpler methods were being used across the lawn.

Parents reminded their kids to shield their eyes with glasses as the excited call started to ring out around 1:15 p.m.

“It’s starting!” Like a bite out of an apple, viewers could see a small black semicircle beginning to cut into the still-bright sun.

Audrey Diamantakos and Travis Vrbos, a pair of students on the lawn, showed up around 11 a.m. to beat the lines and get their hands on viewing glasses. Dimantakos called the day a “once in a lifetime chance.”

Their sentiment was echoed by viewer Bob Wegner, who was mesmerized by the opportunity. “Carl Sagan once said that 99 per cent of us die without knowing our place in the cosmos,” Wegner said. “Days like this are an opportunity for those seeds to be planted to take an interest in astronomy.”

While photographers snapped away, Christine Chung sat beneath a tree in the grass and sketched the sun and the moon's progression, marking the time with each new drawing. Chung said she just wanted to document the moment.

Thousands took a break from the rides and attractions at the Canadian National Exhibition to check out the solar eclipse.The solar eclipse at its maximum as viewed in Toronto.The University of Toronto offered a free solar eclipse viewing event to CNE goers who gathered near the Better Living Centre.Special glasses are given out to view the eclipse.Crowds gather to watch the solar eclipse at the CNE Monday. In Toronto, the eclipse begins at 1:10 p.m., with its midpoint coming at 2:22 p.m.


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Fugitive suspect in Barcelona van attack shot dead, police confirm

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 06:46:00 EDT

SUBIRATS, SPAIN—The lone fugitive from the Spanish cell that killed 15 people in and near Barcelona was shot to death Monday after he flashed what turned out to be a fake suicide belt at two troopers who confronted him in a vineyard just outside the city he terrorized, authorities said.Police said they had “scientific evidence” that Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, drove the van that barrelled through Barcelona’s crowded Las Ramblas promenade, killing 13 people on Thursday, then hijacked a car and fatally stabbed its driver while making his getaway.Abouyaaqoub’s brother and friends made up the rest of the 12-man extremist cell, along with an imam who police said died in a botched bomb-making operation.After four days on the run, Abouyaaqoub was spotted outside a train station about 52 kilometres west of Barcelona on Monday afternoon. A second witness told police she was certain she had seen the man whose photo has gone around the world as part of an international manhunt.Two officers found him hiding in a nearby vineyard and asked for his identification, according to the head of the Catalan police. He was shot to death when he opened his shirt to reveal what looked to be explosives and cried out “Allah is great” in Arabic, regional police chief Josep Luis Trapero said.A bomb disposal robot was dispatched to examine the downed suspect before police determined the bomb belt was not real, Trapero said. A bag full of knives was found with his body, police said.A police photo of the body seen by The Associated Press showed his bloodied face, bearing several days’ stubble on the chin.With Abouyaaqoub’s death, the group responsible for last week’s fatal van attacks has now been broken, Trapero said.“The arrest of this person was the priority for the police because it closed the detention and dismantling of the group that we had identified,” he said.Read more:Canadian describes Barcelona attack: ‘Every little movement, every little bang was just horrific’Spanish police search home of missing imam in hunt for ringleader of terror attacksSpanish police say brothers were at centre of Barcelona attackFour are under arrest, and eight are dead: five shot by police in the seaside town of Cambrils, where a second van attack left one pedestrian dead early Friday; two others killed on the eve of the Barcelona attack in a botched bomb-making operation; and Abouyaaqoub.Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has claimed responsibility for both the Cambrils and Barcelona attacks.Roser Ventura, whose father owns a vineyard between the towns of Sadurni d’Anoia and Subirats, said she alerted the regional Catalan police when they spotted a car crossing their property at high speed.“The police told us to leave the premises and go home. We heard a helicopter flying around and many police cars coming toward the gas station that is some 600 metres from the property,” Ventura said.The search for Abouyaaqoub ended on the same day that Catalan police confirmed that he was the last remaining cell member thought to still be at large and provided a timeline of his movements.Authorities said earlier Monday they had evidence that pinpointed Abouyaaqoub as the driver of the van that plowed down the Las Ramblas promenade, killing 13 pedestrians and injuring more than 120 others.Trapero said that after abandoning the vehicle, Abouyaaqoub walked through Barcelona for about 90 minutes, through the famed La Boqueria market and nearly to Barcelona University.The Spanish newspaper El Pais published images Monday of what it said was Abouyaaqoub leaving the van attack site on foot. The three images show a slim man wearing sunglasses walking through La Boqueria.In a parking lot often used by university students, he then hijacked a Ford Focus belonging to Pau Perez, stabbing Perez to death and taking the wheel with his final victim’s body in the back seat. Minutes later, Abouyaaqoub plowed through a police ch[...]


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Women in small Muslim sect say they have had FGM in Canada

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 06:00:00 EDT

Women from a small Muslim sect called the Dawoodi Bohras have reported that female genital mutilation has been performed on them in Canada, a study given to the federal government reveals.The first research of its kind to probe the practice within this tightly knit South Asian community, the study found that 80 per cent of Bohra women surveyed have undergone FGM and two of the study’s 18 Canadian participants said it happened within Canada’s borders.In Canada, FGM was added to the Criminal Code under aggravated assault in 1997. The study does not provide additional information on the two cases it uncovered.Read more:Canadian girls are being taken abroad to undergo female genital mutilation, documents reveal‘I just remember screaming’: Toronto FGM survivor recalls the day she was cutWhether it’s a nick or full circumcision, female genital mutilation is about control: ParadkarMost commonly associated with communities in sub-Saharan Africa, FGM is also practised among members of this Muslim sect who trace their roots to Yemen in the 11th century and who migrated to Gujarat, India, in the 1500s.Authored by Sahiyo, an organization of anti-FGM activists and members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, the study was completed in February. Preliminary results went to officials from Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department in June 2016. The federal government says it is looking into the issue.The researcher’s findings show that more than 80 per cent of the 385 Dawoodi Bohra women surveyed — including all 18 Canadian participants — want the practice to end and would not do it to their daughters.Female genital mutilation, also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, is a procedure that intentionally alters or causes injury to external female organs. It can be inflicted on girls as young as 1 and varies in severity from partial removal of the clitoris to excising the clitoris and labia and stitching up the walls of the vulva to leave only a tiny opening.Khatna is the South Asian term for genital cutting and, according to the study, the sect’s practice of removing a woman’s clitoris is done for reasons including “religious purposes,” to curb sexual arousal, for cleanliness and to maintain customs and traditions.The Dawoodi Bohras have recently made FGM-related headlines. A Detroit emergency room doctor charged in April with alleged performing of FGM on 100 young girls is a Dawoodi Bohra. The doctor, Jumana Nagarwala, is in jail awaiting trial. In 2016, a Dawoodi Bohra priest in Sydney, Australia, was convicted for his role in performing FGM.“The findings (of the study) demonstrate that FGC (female genital cutting) is deeply rooted in the community’s culture,” the authors write. Sahiyo means “friends” in Gujarati.“Understanding the complex social norms and cultural values systems that shape the meaning and significance of the practice within this community is critical work of anti-FGC advocates.”For this story, the Star also spoke with three local Dawoodi Bohra women who described what it’s like to undergo khatna in their native countries of India and Kenya at the hands of “practitioners,” not doctors, in non-medical environments such as kitchens, with unsterile razors. A continuing Star investigation has revealed that Canadian girls have been taken overseas to have the procedure and that thousands more could be at risk of being sent abroad to be subjected to FGM.Practitioners who perform FGM are “almost certainly entering Canada” to engage in the practice, says an internal report from Canada Border Services Agency, as reported by Global News in July.FGM is a cultural practice dating back hundreds of years, and organizations including the United Nations say that although it is often perceived as being connected to some Islamic groups, it also occurs in other religious communities,[...]


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Secret Service faces funding crunch due to Trump’s frequent travel, large family

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 13:26:39 EDT

WASHINGTON—The Secret Service can no longer pay hundreds of agents it needs to carry out an expanded protective mission — in large part due to the sheer size of President Trump’s family and efforts necessary to secure their multiple residences up and down the East Coast.Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles, in an interview with USA TODAY, said more than 1,000 agents have already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year.The agency has faced a crushing workload since the height of the contentious election season, and it has not relented in the first seven months of the administration. Agents must protect Trump — who has travelled almost every weekend to his properties in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia — and his adult children whose business trips and vacations have taken them across the country and overseas.Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump“The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law,” Alles said. “I can’t change that. I have no flexibility.”Alles said the service is grappling with an unprecedented number of White House protectees. Under Trump, 42 people have protection, a number that includes 18 members of his family. That’s up from 31 during the Obama administration.Overwork and constant travel have also been driving a recent exodus from the Secret Service ranks, yet without congressional intervention to provide additional funding, Alles will not even be able to pay agents for the work they have already done.The compensation crunch is so serious that the director has begun discussions with key lawmakers to raise the combined salary and overtime cap for agents, from $160,000 per year to $187,000 for at least the duration of Trump’s first term.But even if such a proposal was approved, about 130 veteran agents would not be fully compensated for hundreds of hours already amassed, according to the agency.“I don’t see this changing in the near term,” Alles said.Read more: Eric Trump’s trip to Uruguay cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $100K in hotel billsU.S. Coast Guard faces growing costs of protecting Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort during his visitsMelania and Barron Trump officially move into the White HouseBoth Republican and Democratic lawmakers expressed deep concern for the continuing stress on the agency, first thrust into turmoil five years ago with disclosures about sexual misconduct by agents in Colombia and subsequent White House security breaches.A special investigative panel formed after a particularly egregious 2014 White House breach also found that that agents and uniform officers worked “an unsustainable number of hours,” which also contributed to troubling attrition rates.While about 800 agents and uniformed officers were hired during the past year as part of an ongoing recruiting blitz to bolster the ranks, attrition limited the agency’s net staffing gain to 300, according to agency records. And last year, Congress had to approve a one-time fix to ensure that 1,400 agents would be compensated for thousands of hours of overtime earned above compensation limits. Last year’s compensation shortfall was first disclosed by USA TODAY.“It is clear that the Secret Service’s demands will continue to be higher than ever throughout the Trump administration,” said Jennifer Werner, a spokesperson for Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings.Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee who was the first lawmaker to sound the alarm after last year’s disclosure that hundreds of agents had maxed out on pay, recently spoke with Alles and pledged support for a more permanent fix, Werner said.“We cannot expect the Secret Service to be able to recruit and keep the best of the best if they are[...]


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Police identify man found dead on downtown Toronto street

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:21:38 EDT

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Toronto police have identified the man found dead near College and Bathurst streets.

Khadr Mohamed, 22, of Toronto, died from a gunshot wound to the torso. His body was found near a commercial building around 8 a.m. on Sunday at Lippincott St. near College and Bathurst streets.

Det. Shawn Mahoney told reporters at the scene that people in the neighbourhood found the body on their way to work.

Police are appealing to witnesses who heard gunshots around that time or anyone with information to contact them at 416-808-7400 or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477.

Khadr Mohamed, 22, of Toronto, was found dead near College and Bathurst streets on Sunday.Khadr Mohamed, 22, of Toronto, was found dead near College and Bathurst streets on Sunday.


Media Files:
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Federal government wants more information on impact of proposed nuclear-waste bunker near Indigenous community

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:42:16 EDT

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Further information on how a proposed nuclear-waste bunker near Lake Huron might affect area First Nations peoples is needed before the government decides whether to approve the project, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Monday.

In a letter to Ontario Power Generation, McKenna said the updated information will be taken into account as she mulls the fate of the much-delayed megaproject.

“I request that Ontario Power Generation update its cumulative-effects analysis of the potential cumulative effects of the project on physical and cultural heritage,” McKenna said in her letter.

“The update must include a clear description of the potential cumulative effects of the project on Saugeen Ojibway Nation’s cultural heritage, including a description of the potential effects of the project on the nation’s spiritual and cultural connection to the land.”

A month ago, the Saugeen Ojibway Nation wrote McKenna to say the project should not proceed without its support. It called for government assurance that the nation’s views would be taken into consideration before making any approval decision.

“Members of the SON communities are becoming better acquainted with nuclear-waste issues in order to be able to make a well-informed decision on whether they can support the DGR Project,” said the letter signed by Greg Nadjiwon, chief of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, and Chief Lester Anoquot of Saugeen First Nation.

“Our view is that the outcome of this community process and, ultimately, the decision of the communities will be necessary information for you to have prior to your decision respecting the environmental assessment.”

In calling on OPG to update its impact analysis, McKenna applauded the utility’s previous commitment that it would not proceed with the contentious multibillion-dollar deep geologic repository without support from the area’s Indigenous people.

She called the promise an example of “how reconciliation practices can be implemented on the ground” and urged OPG to continue working collaboratively with the First Nations community.

In June, federal environmental authorities said OPG had provided further information on alternative sites for burying tonnes of radioactive waste, and they would begin drafting a report to McKenna, who has final say over the repository and what conditions might be attached to any approval. It was not immediately clear how her latest request for information would affect the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s plans to complete the draft this summer.

“The government of Canada believes Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision making in matters that affect their rights, and that Indigenous governments, laws and jurisdictions must be respected,” McKenna said in her letter to OPG.

“I will make a decision based on science and traditional knowledge ... including the views of Indigenous Peoples, the public and other stakeholders.”

OPG, which insists the proposal is safe and the best long-term storage option, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

“The government of Canada believes Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision making in matters that affect their rights, and that Indigenous governments, laws and jurisdictions must be respected,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, shown in this June 16 file photo, said in her letter to OPG.


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Toronto police unveil new cruiser design

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 12:56:00 EDT

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After criticism over plans to switch the force’s frontline fleet from white to dark grey, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders unveiled a new prototype Monday that retains the grey base but adds white doors.

The new design was done after the service conducted a survey that presented members of the public and police employees with a narrow choice of base colours: white, silver, dark blue and black.

The results were tabulated and Ryerson University’s RTA School of Media created the design, Saunders said, after driving the latest version up to the back of police headquarters on Grenville Street.

The vehicles were designed with visibility and professionalism in mind, Saunders told reporters.

Last November, following a backlash, city council passed a motion asking the Toronto Police Services Board to retain the current colour scheme of its patrol cars “pending further view.” The motion said “stealth grey” was too militaristic and sent the wrong message to the public.

Safety experts were also critical of grey for not being “on the visibility pyramid of paint colour.”

Saunders halted the design after police board members asked him to “clarify” the reasons for the change, since they were not consulted. The board, which includes Mayor John Tory, also asked that community consultations be undertaken and requested that if a new design was warranted, it “reflect diversity, inclusiveness and mutual respect.”

Saunders said Monday he believes the new design meets those criteria though he continues to disagree with critics who believed the all-grey forerunner was too militarized and not visible enough.

“I was very, very confident that if we used fluorescent white that would not be an issue, but you know, once again we have to listen to the public and sometimes they’ll interpret things differently,” he said.

“I’m equally happy with this vehicle and the way it looks and looking forward to seeing how the public feels about it.”

Saunders said as far as he’s concerned the matter is closed — though he is due to present the new design to the board at its monthly meeting on Thursday.

“I’m going to focus on keeping the community safe, if I invest too much time in figuring out the colour of the police vehicle then I’m doing something wrong.”

Toronto police officers have been patrolling city streets in the white, red and blue design since 2006.

A Toronto Police Service news release said the new design “achieves a balance between visibility, with white doors, reflective letter and emergency lights, and professionalism, with a sleek, simple design that focuses on the word “POLICE.”

The first newly designed cars will be on the road by November, the release said. It will take five years to replace the entire fleet of frontline vehicles.

Toronto Police unveiled a newly designed frontline cruiser Monday which the service says "achieves a balance between visibility, with white doors, reflective lettering and emergency lights, and professionalism."


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North Korean threat puts spotlight back on whether Canada should join missile defence program

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 14:58:09 EDT

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OTTAWA—Questions about Canada’s ability to defend itself from a North Korean attack are expected to be under the microscope this week — including whether Canada should finally embrace continental ballistic missile defence.

Opposition parties have called for an emergency meeting of the House of Commons defence committee on Tuesday so they can be briefed on how Canada is responding to the threat posed by North Korea.

The request comes after North Korea tested a second intercontinental ballistic missile this month, sparking warnings and ultimatums between Pyongyang and U.S. President Donald Trump.

One of the main questions when it comes to North Korea is whether Canada should reverse its decision from 2005 and join the U.S. military’s controversial ballistic missile defence system.

The question is timely as the Trump administration is reviewing ways to strengthen BMD, which could open the door to Canadian participation.

While many military officers and defence analysts support the move, the Trudeau government won’t say whether Canadian officials have talked to their American counterparts about joining BMD.

Read more:

North Korea’s latest missile test puts Toronto, much of U.S. within range, experts say

Rising tensions with North Korea bring back Cold War-era nuclear fears

Kim Jong Un stands down on threat to Guam, state media reports

Opposition parties have called for an emergency meeting of the House of Commons defence committee on Tuesday so they can be briefed on how Canada is responding to the threat posed by North Korea.


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At least six wildfires combine to form largest blaze burning in B.C.

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 14:49:17 EDT

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KAMLOOPS, B.C.—Several large wildfires have combined into what the BC Wildfire Service says is the largest blaze burning in the province.

The wildfire service says at least six fires in an area west of Quesnel in central B.C. have burned together to create a single fire that is about 4,700 square kilometres in size.

Until Sunday, the wildfire service said the largest fire covered 2,270-square kilometres and was burning about 60 kilometres west of Williams Lake.

Fire officials reported 137 blazes across the province on Sunday and the wildfire service website shows seven new fires started in a 24-hour period.

Read more:

Month-long wildfire evacuation order lifted for B.C. community northwest of Kamloops

B.C.’s wildfire season surpasses 1958 record for amount of land burned

B.C. wildfire emergency hangs on ‘natural factors’ one month in with no end in sight

Four are believed to be linked to lightning but the website says three may have been caused by human activity.

Several evacuation orders northwest of Kamloops were downgraded to alerts over the weekend, allowing residents around Loon and Green lakes to return home. Members of the Skeetchestn Indian Band west of Kamloops were also cleared to return as of noon on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Cariboo-Chilcotin School District 27 says some schools will remain closed in September if they are located in areas where evacuation orders or alerts are in effect.

School buses will also not operate in areas that are under evacuation orders or alerts, the district says in a news release.

A list of schools and scheduled opening dates will be released by Wednesday and the board says it will be updated as orders and alerts are revised. There are 6,000 students in the school district, which stretches from 100 Mile House to Williams Lake.

Emergency Management BC said Sunday that more than 3,000 people around the province remained displaced by fires and almost 10,000 were on evacuation alert.

A women stops on the side of the highway to watch a forest fire burn near Revelstoke B.C. on Saturday August 19. Fire officials reported 137 blazes across the province on Sunday and the wildfire service website shows seven new fires started in a 24-hour period.


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Family in anguish after third trial ordered in Simeon Peter’s killing

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 06:00:00 EDT

Simeon Peter’s family believes he held on long enough to hear his mother’s voice in the hospital before he succumbed to injuries sustained in an execution-style shooting. “As soon as I entered and I held his hand and I called his name, that’s the time the doctors …,” said his mother, Marcelina Peter, becoming emotional as her voice trailed off. The Peter family has lived through an ordeal that most could not fathom; not just those who have never lost a loved one to a murder, but even those who have. Because unlike most murder cases, which lead to one trial and some form of justice being delivered, the Peters have had to sit in court and watch as the man accused of killing their son and brother stood trial once, then a second time, and now possibly a third time. The Crown has always alleged that Warren Nigel Abbey was a member of the Malvern Crew who mistakenly believed that Peter, 19, was a member of the rival Galloway Boys when he shot him multiple times on a Scarborough street in 2004 as Peter was making his way to a job interview. Abbey was acquitted at his first trial in 2007, but the Crown appealed, leading to a conviction at the second trial in 2011 and a sentence of life in prison. “The cold and callous nature of this killing cannot be overstated,” Superior Court Justice David McCombs said during the sentencing. But then Abbey’s lawyers appealed, and earlier this month, Ontario’s top court ordered a third trial, finding that the key part of the Crown’s evidence, an expert witness who testified on the significance of gang members with teardrop tattoos, contained “inaccuracies” and even “falsehoods.” The Crown had alleged Abbey got a teardrop tattooed under his right eye about four months after Peter’s death. Sociologist Mark Totten testified for the Crown at the second trial that the teardrop could have one of three meanings: the individual had lost a loved one or fellow gang member, had spent time in prison or had killed a rival gang member.“I have concluded that the fresh evidence shows Totten’s opinion evidence on the meaning of a teardrop tattoo to be too unreliable to be heard by a jury. If the trial judge had known about the fresh evidence he would have ruled Totten’s evidence inadmissible,” Court of Appeal Justice John Laskin wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel this month. It’s now up to the Crown to decide if it will pursue a third trial; the Ministry of the Attorney General has not commented publicly on the case because it has until early September to decide if it wants to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. Abbey’s lawyers say they will be applying for his release from prison pending a possible retrial. In an interview with the Star, Peter’s parents and two of his three sisters said the teardrop issue has overshadowed everything else about the case, and lost in the discussion is a devoted son and brother, who went by the nickname Sammy, and who was looking to get a job that day in 2004 so that he could save up and open his own clothing line. “We want more information out there about our brother, who is never spoken about,” said his sister, Rinita. “Nobody actually knows my brother, anything about him. The whole thing is on Abbey.”Worse, the initial reports of Peter’s shooting had relatives, including in Dubai from where the Peter family emigrated, calling to inquire if he had indeed been involved with a gang. Media coverage containing a mug shot of Peter from a run-in with police didn’t help, his family said. “He would say to my relatives, he said once I start working, Momma can stay home,” said Marcelina. “I d[...]


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Toronto shuts down short-term rentals on Dundas St. over safety fears

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 21:30:00 EDT

Toronto fire officials have taken the rare step of closing a string of Dundas St. W. buildings after the owners repeatedly ignored orders to fix fire and building safety issues.At least 28 rooms inside adjoining two-storey buildings were rented on a variety of travel websites, though apparently not on Airbnb.The “drastic” step is the city’s latest attempt to manage the booming short-term rental market and ensure the safety of guests, Toronto Fire Services Deputy Chief Jim Jessop said.“In our minds, this was a necessary and reasonable step to protect the public,” Jessop said.To get the buildings closed, Toronto Fire Services presented evidence to the province’s Office of the Fire Marshal for permission to change the locks and remove anyone staying inside until the safety problems are fixed.“This is not a common step,” nor easily approved by the province’s fire marshal, Jessop said. Permission was granted Friday afternoon.“This step usually is in response to an owner that repeatedly has a history of non-compliance with blatant disregard of violations of the fire code, where there is no attempt to remedy the situation,” Jessop said. “This is something that we don’t take lightly.”Previous fire code violations for the properties are still before the courts.The fire department requested the closure saying that 779, 783 and 787 Dundas St. W. appear to be of “combustible construction.” The Electrical Safety Authority — a private safety regulator mandated by the province —found “several shock and fire hazards.”The two-storey buildings have approximately 28 individual rooms, the fire department said in documents submitted to the fire marshal. “They are being utilized by the travelling public and the occupant load varies depending on the day,” the documents said.Fire officials and police officers were present when the locks were changed Friday at 779, 783 and 787 Dundas St. W., west of Bathurst St. Notices were posted on the doors indicating the premises must remain closed until inspectors are satisfied the safety violations have been fixed.In addition to having concerns about electrical installations, inspectors identified issues with exit routes and fire safety within stairways, the documents said. As well, there is no supervisory staff trained as required for a hotel, nor is there an approved fire safety plan.The city’s building department, Toronto Building, has also issued an order prohibiting occupancy. Renters have been removed on three different occasions.“The city had commitments from the owner that the property would not be used until all appropriate permits were issued,” said Mario Angelucci, the city’s deputy chief building official. “Despite those commitments the owners again began allowing occupancy for short-term stays.”Angelucci said if there is continued non-compliance, “Toronto Building will undertake further enforcement action in order to safeguard the health and safety of the public and potential occupants.”Ownership of the properties can be traced to a numbered Ontario company that is registered to Yen Ping Leung of Richmond Hill.Her husband, Michael Cheng, and son Kevin Cheng are directors of a company operating two websites offering short-term rentals at the Dundas St. locations.Neither man responded to the Star’s request for comment. Previously Kevin Cheng told the Star they intended to comply with city orders.The city proposes a regulatory framework that would limit short-term rentals to a person’s primary residence. City staff will submit a final set of proposals to council this year.The city wan[...]


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Former Hells Angels’ enforcer survives Sherway Gardens murder bid

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 19:04:03 EDT

Former Hells Angels enforcer Paris Christoforou was one of the targets of a failed murder attempt at Sherway Gardens last week, the Star has learned.Christoforou suffered non-life threatening injuries after a gunman opened fire on him around 7:30 pm Wednesday evening outside a coffee shop at the shopping centre near The West Mall and Evans Ave.His longtime associate Mark Peretz was seriously injured in the shooting.Christoforou and Peretz made the news a dozen years ago when they were both sentenced to nine years in prison for a botched 2004 gangland murder attempt that paralyzed Louise Russo, an innocent bystander and mother-of-three, from the waist down.In the 2004 shooting, court heard they had been attempting to kill Sicilian mobster Michele Modica at a sandwich shop over an unpaid online gambling debt when Russo was shot by mistake.Police are probing whether the Sherway Gardens shootings are connected to another shooting this month when a 35-year-old man was seriously wounded while leaving a breakfast restaurant in Oakville.Police are investigating whether those murder attempts are connected to a dissolving business partnership involving a member of the London, Ont., Hells Angels charter.That relationship crumbled over allegations that the London, Ont. biker skimmed proceeds from an online gambling enterprise and invested the money in Muskoka real estate, without telling his partners.Sources also tell the Star this month’s two failed murder bids are the latest in a string of more than a dozen unsolved violent incidents this year in southern Ontario, centred around a struggle for drug trafficking and online gambling revenues.The online gambling business was once controlled by Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto, who died of natural causes in December 2013.There are now more than a dozen violent unsolved underworld incidents this year from Woodbridge to Hamilton, including killings, explosions and arson.In the Oakville attack on Aug. 4, the 35-year-old man was shot around 9:30 am after he was approached by three men outside the Sunset Grill breakfast restaurant in a shopping plaza at Cornwall and Trafalgar Rds.A man from Montreal was arrested nearby while two other men are still being sought by police after fleeing in a black pickup truck.When Christoforou was sentenced for the Russo shooting, court heard that he had a criminal record that spanned more than a decade and included four previous assault convictions.At the time of the Russo shooting, he was bound by two prohibition orders and was on probation.Court heard that Christoforou was Peretz’s “partner and head of collections” at the time of the 2004 murder attempt. Onetime Hells Angels enforcer Paris Christoforou, left, suffered non-life threatening injuries after a gunman opened fire on Aug. 4, 2017 at Sherway Gardens. His longtime associate Mark Peretz, right, was seriously injured in the shooting.[...]


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City opens ‘supervised environment for people to use their drugs’

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 12:34:54 EDT

Toronto has taken a controversial step to combat overdose deaths, opening its first city-run site for people to use illegal intravenous drugs.“It provides a safe environment for people who are going to use drugs,” Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s chief public health official, told reporters outside the building at Victoria and Dundas Sts. that already houses The Works needle exchange program.“We know both through research and lived experience, it’s highest risk for overdose and deaths when people . . . use alone,” she said. “We provide a safe environment, a supervised environment for people to use their drugs safely, so they minimize harm to themselves.”The temporary safe-injection site, to be replaced by three bigger permanent sites this fall, will operate from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday. In a plain clinical room, up to three people at a time can sit at a long table and inject drugs and put used needles into a yellow plastic disposal tub.Staff expect to keep an eye on up to nine drug users per hour, and hope each will stay at least 15 minutes for rest and observation for any signs of overdose.The permanent site being built across the hall with accommodate up to five people at a time and open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. The others will be at Queen West Central Toronto Community Health Centre on Bathurst St. and South Riverdale Community Health Centre near Carlaw Ave.Health Canada had previously issued the city permission to host the sites. The federal agency inspected and approved the temporary site last week.The city pushed forward with a temporary site after local harm-reduction advocates, anxious over a spike in overdose deaths apparently related to the highly toxic painkiller fentanyl, opened their own safe-injection site in a tent in Moss Park.Nick Boyce, one of the volunteers at that “pop-up” site, welcomed the city clinic, but said there are no plans to close it.People who shoot up in the tent have a range of mental and physical issues and wouldn’t necessarily head northwest to the city site, he said.“We intend to continue supporting those people. We’re starting to build relationships and trust with those people,” said the harm-reduction advocate.“These are people that are injecting drugs in that park already. That’s why we went there. We’re trying to get them away from the playground, away from the swings, away from the baseball diamond, into a tent where they can use safely and we can look after them.”The city site will be staffed by two nurses, two counsellors and a manager. Shaun Hopkins, who manages the needle exchange, said the permanent site will have more staff to accommodate more drug users and a bigger “chill-out” space for them to be observed.“They still might overdose, but we’re here to monitor, and make sure they get the medical attention that they need,” she said. “Obviously, we’re really concerned; a lot of people have died. It’s preventable, so that’s why we wanted to get this up and running as quickly as possible.”Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who represents Ward 7 in the Finch Ave.-Weston Rd. area, arrived at the new site to tell reporters it will encourage drug use and cause problems in the area including Yonge-Dundas Square.De Villa noted safe-injection sites have been running for years in other cities and said research on them “supports the benefit of supervised injection services as a harm-reduction measure, not only for drug users themselves, but also as a method by which to minimize social harms.”Mayor John Tory has expres[...]


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