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Published: Wed, 18 Jan 2017 23:31:05 EST

Last Build Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2017 23:31:05 EST

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Pride board has yet to meet about member vote to support Black Lives Matter demands

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 16:05:00 EST

Most of Pride's membership has agreed to endorse demands made by Black Lives Matter Toronto when they stopped the 2016 Pride parade, but no one is sure what this means for the future of police participation — including the police.The demands included removing police floats and booths from all marches, parades and community spaces.The vote was held during Pride’s annual general meeting Tuesday night.Newly-elected Pride board member Akio Maroon said Wednesday night that although the board hasn’t even had a chance to meet and discuss the next steps, Maroon personally intends to honour the membership’s wishes moving forward.“(In my opinion) the board takes its direction from the membership, and the membership has been very clear on where and what they want the board to do … a complete follow-through on Black Lives Matter’s demands,” Maroon said.“…The logistics of how that is done, that’s going to be something for us to work out, the fine print. However, there’s 110 per cent possibility of us following through on what our members want.”Other members of the board were not available for comment on this story.In addition, Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash said police have yet to speak to Pride Toronto about the meeting and how, if at all, the endorsement will affect police presence at future events.“It’s extremely confusing,” said Pugash. “We’re not commenting until we have some idea, some definitive idea from the organizers, as to what happened (at the meeting).”Black Lives Matter brought the 2016 parade to a standstill for more than half an hour in July, refusing to move until Pride officials agreed to a list of nine demands, which also included committing space, funding and support for the group Black Queer Youth; “self-determination” for all community spaces; adequate funding for community stages; doubling funding for Blockorama, a showcase for black performers as well as ASL interpretation and headliner funding; reinstating community stages and spaces like the South Asian stage; prioritizing black trans women, black queer people and indigenous people when hiring Pride staff; hiring more black deaf and hearing ASL interpreters; and hosting a public town hall to update the community on the demands.Pride’s then-executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed the list, but told the Star the next day he had no intention of honouring the demands before consulting the community.Pride held two public town halls in August and also issued an apology in September on how it handled the protest, leaving eight demands unresolved.Mayor John Tory said he is hopeful that the issue surrounding police participation in the pride parade can be resolved.“The Toronto police have had a presence in the Pride parade for more than a decade and continue to make meaningful efforts to build bridges with the LGBTQ2S community. Also, we rely on our police service to keep Pride safe every year and obviously they must continue to do so,” he said in a statement Wednesday.Following the vote Tuesday night, departing Pride co-chair Aaron GlynWilliams told the Star that the previous board supported the demands and will “remain committed to progressing on all those issues,” but that the presence of law enforcement remains a hot issue.“What we’re really getting down to . . . is about the police and the role of the police at the festival,” GlynWilliams said. “This isn’t a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no;’ this is about implementation and operations, and that will fall to the new staff and new board that’s going to be elected tonight to figure out, not the what, but the how.”Banning police from Pride was not on the table under the previous board, he emphasized.“We are very committed to law enforcement and to pushing with law enforcement to consider their role and the way that they’re [...]


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Obama, optimistic and ominous, sends pointed message to Trump at final press conference

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 14:50:00 EST

WASHINGTON—Seven hours after his successor ranted again about the “totally biased” media and its “FAKE NEWS,” President Barack Obama walked into a White House press conference one last time, and even his polite “good afternoon, everybody” seemed like a kind of rebuke.Standing in the briefing room Donald Trump is musing about shutting down, Obama began the final solo appearance of his presidency with pleasantries for a group at which Trump has raged. And then, as if addressing some other country, the president delivered a pointed tribute to the value of a free press.“I have enjoyed working with all of you. That does not, of course, mean that I have enjoyed every story that you have filed, but that’s the point of this relationship. You’re not supposed to be sycophants, you’re supposed to be skeptics. You’re supposed to ask me tough questions,” Obama said.Democracy “doesn’t work,” he continued, “if we don’t have a well-informed citizenry, and you are the conduit through which they receive the information about what’s taking place in the halls of power. So America needs you and our democracy needs you.”George W. Bush held a farewell press conference in 2009. It was largely dedicated to a defence of his legacy. Though he touted the social progress of the last eight years, Obama appeared less interested in boasting about his time in office than in sending up another warning flare about what might come next.Obama was intermittently deferential to Trump, saying the new president has the right to undertake major policy changes. But his opening monologue on press freedom — the kind of sermon presidents usually reserve for foreign strongmen — served as an unmistakable message to a president-elect who has attempted to discredit outlets that have criticized him or even questioned him. Meaningful, too, was his selection of interlocutors. A week after Trump refused to accept a question from a reporter from CNN, a network he claimed was publishing lies, Obama called on a reporter from right-wing Fox News. As if to emphasize the importance of minority groups who feel threatened by Trump, Obama then called on representatives from outlets serving the black, gay, Arab and Hispanic communities.And Obama, using cautious language, expressed concern about Trump’s decision-making style, which Trump calls instinctive and critics call erratic. “If you’re going to make big shifts in policy, just make sure you’ve thought it through,” he said in response to a question about Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “And understand that there are going to be consequences and actions typically create reactions. And so you want to be intentional about it.”Obama defended the most controversial act of his waning days: a commutation of the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army private who gave secret information to WikiLeaks. Manning’s 35-year sentence was “disproportionate” to other leakers’, Obama said, and she has already served a “tough” sentence after seven years behind bars.Obama, who was holding his 165th news conference, has long been castigated for his own record on press freedom. His administration has prosecuted whistleblowers, subpoenaed reporters’ phone records and operated in deep secrecy after he promised historic transparency. But Trump has treated the press with an open contempt more typical of authoritarian regimes than America’s elected officials. Obama, who plans to live in a mansion in Washington until his younger daughter Sasha finishes high school in 2019, has not said precisely how he will spend his post-presidency. On Wednesday, he said he would not weigh in on “normal” policy debates during the Trump era — “I want to be quiet a little bit and not hear myself talk so darn much,” he said [...]


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City staff recommend looking into privatizing garbage collection in Scarborough

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 19:43:57 EST

The public works committee has voted to spend up to $500,000 to ask the private sector how much it would charge to pick up garbage in Scarborough, a decision critics say disregards the facts.Council will have final say on the staff-recommended process at the end of the month.“Residents of Toronto want to know . . . that whatever we’re doing we’re trying to find ways to save money, and that includes finding our most cost-efficient ways to pick up garbage,” said committee chair Jaye Robinson.“This is not about ideology; it’s about value for money.”But critics appearing before the committee Wednesday said the process is all about ideology, and union-busting, and that Mayor John Tory and his council allies are pushing ahead with blinders on that prevent them seeing the truth.Tory was elected in 2014 after promising to outsource garbage collection east of Yonge Street.A 2015 staff report concluded no savings could be achieved by contracting out and a blended system is best. Staff reversed course with a new report, citing more up-to-date information.Councillor Paula Fletcher said a city staff report “clearly shows” that in 2014, it was cheaper for city workers to pick up garbage in Scarborough, than in Etobicoke, where trash was handled by the private sector.The cost per home was $142.86 in Etobicoke, compared to $126.89 in Scarborough.“I’m not sure why we’re engaged in this exercise when we have currently really successful, stable situation, with 50 per cent of our waste contracted out and 50 per cent public.“If it’s not broken don’t fix it.”While the 2015 figures remain private, a source familiar with the numbers says the circumstances have not changed.Councillor Jim Karygiannis, who represents Scarborough-Agincourt, asked: “Why are we even thinking of going down the route to privatization” and throwing CUPE Local 416 workers under the bus?There’s disagreement on how many jobs could be lost.Solid waste general manager Jim McKay acknowledged that on the basis of the cost per household, waste collection in Scarborough is cheaper than it is in Etobicoke.“I don’t necessarily dispute the claim, but I would not necessarily agree that that is a direct reflection of the type of services being provided,” he told the committee.Robinson said later while garbage collection is cheaper in Scarborough, the contracts the city signs with private operators are based on tonnage, not the cost per stop.Asked about those numbers, Robinson said staff told her they aren’t available, which prompted Karygiannis, standing nearby, to guffaw.On Wednesday, former Ontario premier Bob Rae was among the deputants appealing to the committee to reject the privatization path.“The experience, globally, with privatization is that there are substantial risks involved to taxpayers if there is no public sector competition to keep everybody honest,” said Rae, who teaches public policy at the University of Toronto.He questioned the fairness of asking CUPE Local 416 to bid on the contract after it made substantial concessions in the four-year contract it negotiated last year.“Now what’s being proposed is, ‘Well let’s open up the contract and let’s have you bid against yourselves and see how that turns out.’ What’s the morality of that?” Rae asked the committee.Councillor Gord Perks clarified that CUPE is not being asked to bid, but to consult with staff who will do the bidding.Emily Alfred, waste campaigner with the Toronto Environmental Alliance, warned contracting out could put in jeopardy the city’s leadership role in waste diversion.“What I’d like to highlight is the very real and sad fact that diversion rates are very different between the districts,” Alfred said.Based on three years of data, waste diversion west of Yonge St., which[...]


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Downtown Toronto home appreciates 62% in two years

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 17:26:12 EST

In a sign that Toronto’s real estate market is off to a hot start this year, a home on Palmerston Ave. north of Bloor St. near Bathurst St., has sold for 62 per cent more than the sellers paid two years ago.The three-bedroom semi went for $1.375 million on Tuesday. In December 2014, it sold for a mere $851,750 — $523,250 less.The home had been “beautifully renovated” before his clients bought it, said listing agent Bruce Cram Re/MAX Hallmark Realty.It is in move-in condition with a trifecta of appealing features: three bathrooms, a garage and a basement apartment.Homes on Palmerston, in the Seaton Village neighourhood, have been selling in a similar price range but the profit realized in such a short period is exceptional.Cram said the sale exceeded his expectations. The absence of competition was likely a contributor to the buyers’ offering nearly $400,000 more than the $999,000 list price.“This week, if you wanted to buy a move-in condition home, you had to buy this one,” he said.There is also a disconnect, said Cram, between sellers and buyers. Consumers want to take advantage of low interest rates and strike before any new mortgage rules and restrictions can be introduced.“Sellers seem to think you need to wait until the spring to sell. But buyers are ready. Buyers aren’t waiting for the spring. Buyers are waiting for the right opportunity,” he said.Sales that appear exceptional are seldom one-offs, said Gurinder Sandhu, managing partner, Re/MAX Hallmark Realty.“Prime neighbourhoods are getting prime prices,” he said.Another home on the same Seaton Village street close to the subway, U of T and the shops along Bloor St., listed for $999,000 in November, and sold for $1.355 million a few days later. “Toronto has really become the darling of global real estate,” said Sandhu.“There’s political certainty, there’s economic certainty and, when you look at all the uncertainty around the world, all of a sudden Toronto becomes that much more in demand,” he said.Foreign investment is a factor in the demand for Toronto property but it probably accounts for less than 10 per cent of sales, said Sandhu.“The numbers are still in the mid single-digits from what we can tell. The foreign demand we have is more from immigration, people that are choosing to raise their families in Toronto,” he said.Also fuelling prices are buyers using the equity in their existing homes to move up in the market, with millenials tapping into the equity of their parents, he said. People see prices going up and they feel a need to get into the market instead of being priced out, he said.But at least one Toronto realtor is more hesitant.John Pasalis of Realosophy looked at the Palmerston listing. He said it was smaller and less spacious than a nearby home that sold last summer in the same price range.“If this is getting $1.4 million what does that mean for anyone who wants to buy in this neighbourhood,” he said. Nobody should want to see real estate prices appreciate 20 or 30 per cent in a year.“When you see appreciations of 30 per cent a year it generally doesn’t end well. That’s a concerning thing,” said Pasalis.Vancouver prices were going up 20 per cent a year for a long time and only slowed when the government put a tax on non-resident buyers last summer.“My instinct is that Toronto’s going to keep going like this until there’s some outside policy decision,” he said.A similar foreign-buyers tax in the Toronto region would be an easier policy for the government to sell consumers than an across-the-board requirement that all mortgage holders qualify under the Bank of Canada five-year fixed interest rate of 4.64 per cent.The government implemented that requirement for all insured fixed and variable mortgages in October. [...]A[...]


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Parents plan to sue province over lack of a French-language high school

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:17:22 EST

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A brewing legal battle could see parents pitted against the province over the lack of a French-language high school in their neighbourhood.

French-speaking families from Toronto’s east end have formed a coalition to speak out about what they say is their right to be educated in either official language.

After years of community organizing and petition-signing, the group has retained a lawyer and say they’re prepared to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Our kids, after Grade 6, have nowhere to go,” said Lianne Doucet, whose three daughters studied at George-Etienne-Cartier in The Beaches until Grade 6.

The problem came when they graduated to secondary school.

Doucet’s eldest daughter, Geneviève, found a spot at Collège Français near Carlton and Jarvis, which is about an hour away by bus. But the school then had no room for new students, so middle sister, Isabelle, switched to the English system.

The youngest, Marie-Eve, now goes to Saint-Frère-André in Roncesvalles, which requires a two-hour bus ride each way.

“The other option was Monseigneur-de-Charbonnel in Newtonbrook. That’s like going to school in Northern Ontario,” Doucet said.

Families in the area started lobbying for a French-language secondary school back in 2007, but say the Ministry of Education hasn’t responded to repeated requests for a meeting.

Lawyer Nicolas Rouleau, whom the group recruited for the case, set a precedent in 2015 when the Supreme Court of Canada determined the British Columbia government had violated students’ rights to “equitable education.”

The court ruled that Rose-des-Vents, a French-language high school in West Vancouver, was not equal to other area English-language schools.

“We’re not asking for the moon,” said Doucet, noting many English-language high schools in the area are “sitting half empty,” so it should be easy to find space to accommodate them.

“We have enough French-speaking kids. Just give us a school that will offer equivalent education in their language.”

Lianne Doucet, left, and her daughters Marie-Eve, Isabelle and Geneviève.


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TTC ridership flatlines, officials warn agency may not meet 2017 goal

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 18:36:41 EST

The TTC fell short of its ridership target last year, and transit officials are already warning that the agency could struggle to meet its goal in 2017. At a meeting of the transit agency’s board on Wednesday, TTC CEO Andy Byford confirmed that the organization carried 538 million passengers in 2016, 15 million fewer than it had budgeted for. Byford blamed the disappointing numbers on economic factors, and said transit agencies across the continent are grappling with anemic ridership growth. “Largely the main factor is the economy. There’s a very close correlation between the economy and ridership on transit systems,” he said. The slumping ridership cost the TTC $46 million in anticipated revenue. The effects of that shortfall have already been factored into the 2017 budget.The TTC has known for months that it would miss its ridership target. The worrying trend was apparent early last year, and a report the agency published in March blamed the problem on lower-than-expected full-time job growth, slumping Metropass sales, and sluggish uptake of new TTC service.Although the 538 million passengers the TTC carried in 2016 was below the budget target, TTC officials consider it a slight improvement over the previous year. That’s because while about 538 million people rode the transit system in 2015 as well, that included about three to four million free rides given to ticket holders at the Pan Am Games. Discounting those free trips, ridership increased about 0.7 per cent last year compared to 2015. By comparison, ridership grew by more than 13 per cent between 2009 and 2014. Jessica Bell, executive director of the TTC riders advocacy group, agreed that some factors affecting ridership, including economic ones, are outside the agency’s control. But she said the 10-cent fare hike that came into effect on Jan. 1 — the sixth increase in as many years — as well as chronic overcrowding on surface routes, and recent cuts to rush hour bus service are driving potential customers away. “I think there’s considerable latent demand in this city. When you are on King St. and you’re waiting for the King streetcar, just about every time you’ll see someone give up and take a taxi instead,” she said, referencing the TTC’s busiest streetcar route. She argued that riders would flock to the TTC if fares were lower and service improved.Councillor and TTC board chair Josh Colle dismissed that criticism, arguing that the agency is improving service by purchasing new buses and streetcars, and upgrading its stations. “I think it’s become a sport in this city, and I recognize and accept that, to blame the TTC,” he said. “I would think, if anything, the TTC is doing its part.” The TTC is projecting it will carry 545 million riders in 2017. That figure was based in part on the assumption that there would be at least 540 million rides last year and that ridership would grow by 1 per cent. Because last year’s ridership came in lower, however, the number of trips will have to grow by a little more than 1 per cent. Chief financial and administrative officer Vince Rodo told the board it will be “a little tougher now” for the agency to achieve its 2017 target. [...]The TTC carried 538 million passengers in 2016, virtually the same number as the year before.


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Hundreds line up for Shake Shack pop-up

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 17:18:00 EST

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Hundreds of Torontonians braved the cold and stood in line for hours Wednesday, for a simple burger and fries.

The popular American burger chain, Shake Shack, hit the streets of Toronto but only as a one day pop-up. This was the first time the chain has travelled north of the border.

The store, which was open from 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. still had a line-up spanning almost an entire block at 4 p.m.

Nerissa Camacho, 34, who had been waiting for two hours and 20 minutes, said she planned ahead and worked overtime the previous day so she could leave work early today to get in line.

She came for the classics, a ShakeBurger and crinkle cut fries, which the pop-up at Momofuku Daisho was serving.

“It’s delicious. The soft bun melts in your mouth and the burger is great,” she said. “The fries and the cheese sauce are so good.”

She added: “I’ve had it in NYC and Vegas. To have it pop-up is amazing. If they could make it permanent, that would be great.”

Kim Sanchez, 18, has also had Shake Shack before, and visits the chain whenever she travels to New York with her family.

“All my friends are messaging me like, ‘Is it worth it?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah.’“ Sanchez said.

The wait was improved when Shake Shack employees gave those waiting free sunglasses and menus to plan what they would order, according to Abby Lendvai, 19. However, she was disappointed to discover that shakes were not on the menu.

After being in line for two hours, Lendvai said they were “definitely ready to be done but the end is near.”

“We thought we might as well come, though we thought it would be an hour,” Lendvai said. “But after waiting two, we thought we might as well do it.”

Joshua Humphrey, 19, who stood next to Lendvai in line, said “I’ve never actually had Shake Shack before but I think it’ll be worth the wait hopefully.”

Humphrey isn’t alone in his blind faith. Tim Davidson, 31, and Kelsey Davidson, 30, who were a few feet back in line, had never had the burgers either.

“It’s my day off and I heard it was good. My dad told me about it and he says it’s good. I don’t know if he knows I’ve waited this long but he’s a pretty diehard fan so I think he’d approve,” Tim said after two hours in line.

Kelsey said they had “to go to this one,” as they missed Shake Shack’s biggest rival, In-N-Out, when it had a pop-up store in Toronto two years ago. It was greeted with similar crowds.

But with a limited supply of food and a first come, first served policy in place, some Shake Shack hopefuls faced disappointment.

Customers lined up for Shake Shack pop-up at the Shangri-La hotel on Wednesday.


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Canadians need to do a better job of calling out racist language and actions: panel

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 17:19:00 EST

In order to stand up to Donald Trump and a rising tide of white supremacy, we need to look at problems in our country first, a panel discussion heard Wednesday night.“Physician, heal thyself,” Karen Mock said during the discussion, hosted by the Mosaic Institute.The election and inauguration on Friday of Trump as the U.S. president has, in the eyes of many critics, helped to usher in an era where racist speech and hatred are becoming tolerated again.But Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said similar issues were raised in Canada’s 2015 federal election.“Whether it was the idea of people in face veils taking citizenship oaths … or the so-called barbaric cultural snitch line, we’ve seen it here in Canada as well,” Gardee said.In Toronto, Rob Ford “was Trump before Trump. ‘Drain the swamp’ and ‘stop the gravy train’ are eerily similar,” Gardee said.Gardee spoke as part of a four-part panel that also included activist and Star columnist Desmond Cole, Mosaic executive director Bernie Farber and Mock, who is chair of JSpaceCanada. The event was moderated by Warren Kinsella, author of the widely acclaimed Web of Hate: Inside Canada’s Far Right Network.Cole said Canadians need to do a better job of calling out racist language and actions in politics on this side of the border.“I think Kellie Leitch promotes white supremacy because she says the government is supreme over the wishes of its indigenous people. But how is Trudeau going to criticize that when he puts a pipeline over the same indigenous lands” against their wishes? Cole asked.Speaking to the Star before the event, Farber said Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief White House strategist, the former executive director of the far-right website Breitbart News is worrying.“When you appoint a fellow like Stephen Bannon, who is an avowed white nationalist … as your chief adviser, this is unprecedented in world history,” Farber said.On this side of the border, there’s been a rise in hate-based attacks as well, Farber said.This month, anti-Semitic death threats were painted on a large rock on a Winnipeg woman’s doorstep. In December, a swastika was scrawled across the front of a Sikh temple in Calgary and in recent months a Toronto teen has been praising Hitler on the Internet, earning a following in the tens of thousands.Wednesday night’s conversation ranged from whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should publicly condemn Trump’s more offensive rhetoric to ways to find hope in the face of so much public anger and frustration.Mock said rather than stoop to Trump’s level, Trudeau should seek to take the higher road.“The way to counter Trump is by continuing to be a feminist, by continuing to see the world through an anti-oppressive lens,” she said.Cole said one thing Canadians can do “that we don’t often talk about is to build up levels of support amongst each other … in order to sustain ourselves for the fight.”“I just started seeing a therapist, everybody, and that’s because I need to take care of myself in this fight, too.” Author Warren Kinsella holds photos of swastikas scratched on the front doors of an Ottawa synagogue during a panel discussion on racims and hate in a new Trump era. [...]


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Toronto police officer who lost gun now faces drunk driving charge

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 13:26:46 EST

A Toronto police sergeant who lost his service firearm and was “less than forthcoming” during the investigation into the missing weapon is facing impaired driving charges after being involved in a single vehicle collision while off-duty.Sgt. Kyle Petrie, a Toronto police officer of 17 years, is also charged with discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act stemming from the Nov. 1, 2016 incident on St. Clair Ave. W.Police responded to the collision and Petrie was arrested, according to the notice of hearing filed at the tribunal. After providing breath samples, Petrie was charged with impaired driving and driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit.The allegations haven’t been proven in court.In a criminal court appearance Wednesday, Petrie's defence lawyer Fred Fedorsen, said the matter may be resolved before a trial, and that he will be getting written instructions from Petrie.Fedorsen would not comment further outside the courtroom. Petrie couldn’t be reached for comment.Petrie’s police disciplinary hearing will not proceed until the criminal case is completed. He is currently on administrative duties.It is the second time the senior officer has appeared before the tribunal in as many years.In August 2015, Petrie was convicted of four misconduct charges under Ontario’s Police Services Act in connection to the loss of his Toronto police service weapon — a gun believed to have been stolen from the trunk of his car while he shopped at Home Depot and the LCBO, or while the car was parked on the street outside his home.The gun has never been recovered. Petrie was not criminally charged in the case.In her decision the tribunal hearing officer, Toronto police Supt. Debra Preston, wrote that “the circumstance in which his firearm was lost violates the Criminal Code.”The 2014 incident is well-known within Toronto police ranks but was not previously reported by the media, facts noted by the hearing officer in her decision. “If the public became aware that an issued firearm was not stored properly resulting in its loss within the community, the public would be rightly outraged,” wrote Preston.“There is a potential impact to community safety as the firearm has never been located.”Petrie was sentenced to the loss of 42 paid days, some of which were served concurrently, for: improperly storing his firearm in the trunk of his vehicle, failing to report the loss of the weapon, improperly storing ammunition and his Taser in his locker at work, and being “less than honest,” according to the decision, in interviews about the missing gun.In her ruling, Preston said a demotion in rank for Petrie was something she considered as she was determining the sentence. Petrie, who was working as frontline supervisor at downtown’s 11 division at the time, maintained his rank.“It is difficult for subordinates to follow the direction of a ranking member who does not follow Service procedures. Any further appearances before the Tribunal will impact Sergeant Petrie’s rank based on the seriousness of his transgressions to date,” she wrote.According to a summary of the facts in the police tribunal decision, the incident began on Sept. 23, 2014, when he attended a use of force training session at the Toronto Police College. When Petrie left, he took his gun, magazines, ammunition, conducted energy weapon (CEW) and put them into his trunk.Petrie then left the equipment — “unsafely stored,” contrary to Toronto police procedure — for a significant period of time.“Upon his return to the vehicle, Sergeant Petrie located his gun belt, CEW and ammunition. His firearm and magazines could not be found,” reads the decision.Petrie did not[...]


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Order of Canada medal up for sale for $25,000

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 18:03:00 EST

An Order of Canada medal is currently up for sale, but although its current holders are hoping to profit from the item’s rarity on the market, the legalities of selling it are hazy.The insignia is listed for $25,000 by Yorkville-based collectibles and memorabilia company Muzeum, a store under the umbrella of The Great Canadian Roadshow. “It’s incredibly rare,” said company co-owner Daniel Ilmer. “We’ve never even heard of anybody bringing one in and when we saw it, it was something that was so rare that we knew it was something that needed to be snatched up.”There is no Criminal Code provision that forbids the sale of an insignia of the Order of Canada. But unlike certain honours, such as military decorations or medals which become property of the recipients once awarded, Order of Canada symbols are presented to recipients in trust, according to Rideau Hall spokesperson Marie-Pierre Bélanger. “As a result, neither Order members nor their families may sell, or otherwise dispose of, Orders insignia,” said Bélanger. “Normally, in situations like these, our office would contact the seller to retrieve the insignia.”Bélanger wouldn’t comment on how Rideau Hall would enforce that rule if the seller refuses to take a medal off the market “due to confidentiality reasons.”Christopher McCreery, a historian who’s studied the Order’s history for 20 years, said he’s heard of about 10-15 instances of people selling the insignia. Although most known sales have occurred in Canada, late actor and radio voice Lorne Greene’s medal was sold last year at an auction in Nevada.“In the past when these things have come up they’ve shut down the auctions,” said McCreery, whose book “The Order of Canada; Genesis of an Honours System,” comes out later this year and contains a section about sales of the insignia.The first known public sale happened in 1981 when the companion’s insignia awarded to M.J. Coldwell, co-founder of the CCF party, was put up for auction, according to an excerpt from the book. This prompted a motion in the House of Commons to “deplore the sale of the Order of Canada which . . . should not be used for financial gain.”There have been more than 6,000 recipients since the Order of Canada was created in 1967 and there are three levels to the award.The current insignia up for sale was awarded to an officer of the Order of Canada, the honour’s second highest rank, which “recognizes national service or achievement.”Ilmer said he did not know who the original recipient was.Co-owner Maxim Smirnov said the store’s parent company acquired it about five years ago during an event in northern Alberta from a man looking to sell the medal, which was awarded to his great-grandfather who had since passed away. The family had elected not to keep it as an heirloom since it was impossible to divide amongst them. The company created a silent bidding war on the family’s behalf for the medal and a deal was struck with a collector for $12,000. But Smirnov said the company later decided to buy the medal themselves and keep the item as “a showpiece” instead. “The more research we were doing about this, the more we realized this is a very, very unique piece and the chances of us coming across one of these are slim to none,” said Smirnov. “It just doesn’t come on the market that easily. It’s easier to get an Olympic gold medal that somebody received back in 1976 than it is to get an Order of Canada medal.”When an Order member dies, the insignia should be returned to the Governor General, according to Béla[...]


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Premier Kathleen Wynne pledges more relief on hydro bills

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 19:15:49 EST

Ontario residents stressed by hydro bills can expect more relief by spring, Premier Kathleen Wynne said after meeting with a Windsor-area woman whose Facebook rant on electricity prices went viral.“We’re going to come out with what we can do before the budget,” Wynne pledged during an hour-long chat with Libby Keenan of Amherstburg, who is $230 in arrears on her bill and feared her electricity would be cut off.Keenan left the meeting in Wynne’s office pleased after a “very productive conversation,” although no new promises were made.Energy Minister Glen Thibeault said last month that new aid would not be held back until the budget and decreed no one’s electric service would be cancelled during the cold winter months.“This has not taken marching up and down, threatening tear gas or anything else in the streets,” said Keenan, who owns a small horse farm. “This is the most polite revolution I’ve ever seen in my life . . . . It was worth the drive.”Keenan said she made the point that many people can’t afford to retrofit their homes to qualify for rebates on renovations and upgrades that could reduce their electricity bills, and was critical of the $4-million salary paid to new Hydro One chief executive Mayo Schmidt.“I don’t care if you’re the pope, you don’t deserve $4 million a year.”Wynne said she’s taking Keenan’s views “into account” during a small portion of the meeting reporters were allowed to observe.Keenan’s self-styled “rant” on Facebook earlier this month garnered about 22,000 shares, 12,000 comments and an offer of a meeting with Wynne, whose government is feeling the heat over skyrocketing hydro rates in the last few years.“You are ruining this province,” Keenan wrote of the premier.“When you have drained every last one of us of any ability whatsoever to pay ever more fees, taxes, tolls, renewals, insurance where are you going to fill your lust for our hard earned money then!!!!!”Wynne reiterated that it is not acceptable for some Ontarians to be struggling so much with hydro bills, on which all ratepayers are now getting an 8-per-cent break through the waiving of the 8-per-cent provincial portion of the 13-per-cent HST.That kicked in Jan. 1 and Thibeault said utility customers seeing only small rebates of the tax on their hydro bills so far this month should not think they’re being shortchanged.“You’ll see a small portion on the bill if you got it a couple of days ago or last week, let’s say, because that bill was mostly for the month of December,” he told reporters earlier in the day.“We’re telling everyone to wait until the end of this month because the 8 per cent will then apply to the January bill. There’s nothing to panic about.”Several readers have contacted the Star recently with questions about the instant tax rebate, with one calling it a “colossal charade” and another “a joke.”New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns said it’s good that Wynne got a first-hand briefing from an electricity consumer, even though there were no details of any new assistance.“I didn’t hear a lot new . . . . I’m glad Ms. Keenan had her chance to talk with the premier. I’m sure she brought a lot of reality into that office.” [...]Kathleen Wynne has reiterated that it is not acceptable for some Ontarians to be struggling so much with hydro bills and pledges more relief.


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Canada eyeing changes to blood donor rules

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 19:03:33 EST

Canada is looking at changing the way it screens prospective blood donors, so that eligibility for men would no longer depend on whom they choose to sleep with. Advocacy groups have criticized the country’s rules — which list a year of abstinence as donor eligibility criteria for men who have had sex with another man — as stigmatizing and outdated. At a meeting next week in Toronto, local and international researchers will explore new blood screening methods, like behaviour-based screening. The gathering is funded by Health Canada, which gave $3 million to Héma-Quebec and the Canadian Blood Services, in part for research “to ensure non-discriminatory practices.”Canada’s blood donation rules were updated this past summer, shortening the timeline a man was required to wait after having sex with another man to one year from five, providing he meets all other requirements to donate blood. Up until 2013, a man who had sex with another man was banned from donating blood in Canada for life.Canada’s current rules don’t just restrict men who have sex with men from giving blood, but impact their ability to donate organs as well. For now, the wait is five years from the last time a man had sex with a man, with the possibility for a doctor to make an exception with patient consent. Ross FitzGerald, a spokesperson for Canadian Blood Services said in an email that “a focused effort toward evidence-based change is most certainly underway.” The organization’s website says the meeting next week aims to find ways to close “knowledge gaps” that impact the ability for men who have had sex with men to donate blood.“As an openly gay man who is unable to donate blood, I want to know that this is going to go away and never come back,” said Michael Bach, CEO of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, who will attend the meeting.Bach hopes the meeting will lead to research that will allow for a behavior-based eligibility system to be adopted in the country. He doesn’t know how long the process will take, but hopes data can be presented to the federal government by early 2018.“We are not talking about something simple, we are talking about something that has impact on every Canadian and we want to make sure we do it right from the start,” he said.While the issue is not uniquely controversial in Canada, it is especially sensitive here. In the 1980s, thousands of Canadians were exposed to Hepatitis C and HIV through contaminated blood products leading to an expensive class action lawsuit. The Red Cross, who was in control of the country’s blood supply at the time, was then replaced by Héma- Quebec and the Canadian Blood Services.Jody Jillmore, policy director at the Community-Based Research Centre for Gay Men’s Health in Vancouver, said his organization feels the current policy is unacceptable.“. . . It’s a blanket statement that treats all gay and bisexual men the same,” Jillmore said. “And we know that there are many gay men who are not having high risk interactions therefore it simply don’t make sense to screen them out of the blood supply . . . ” Gary Lacasse, executive director of the Canadian AIDS Society thinks the current regulations are discriminatory, but believes that Canadian data is needed to back a change in protocol.Canadian Blood Services’ website said that there is a gap in health data on men who have sex with men that are considered low risk. All blood collected is screened for a range of diseases, including HIV, but the organization notes there is a brief period when HIV can not be detected right after infect[...]


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Former U.S. president George H.W. Bush in intensive care with pneumonia

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 08:50:39 EST

HOUSTON—Former President George H.W. Bush was admitted Wednesday to the intensive care unit of a Houston hospital with pneumonia, and his wife, Barbara, was hospitalized as a precaution after suffering fatigue and coughing, a spokesman said.The 92-year-old former president, who had been hospitalized since Saturday, underwent a procedure “to protect and clear his airway that required sedation,” family spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement.Bush was stable and resting comfortably at Houston Methodist Hospital, where he was to stay for observation, the statement said.The 41st president was placed in the ICU to address “an acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia,” McGrath said. He later told The Associated Press that doctors were happy with how the procedure went. Bush was first admitted to the hospital for shortness of breath.“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of money to be gained betting against George Bush,” McGrath said. “We’re just kind of in a wait-and-see mode.”McGrath said Barbara Bush, who is 91, had not been feeling well for a couple of weeks, “and it finally just got to the point this morning where she said she wanted to take it out of committee and have the experts check it out.” He described the move as precautionary.Physicians initially believed the former president would be released later this week following several days of treatment, but his stay has been extended, McGrath said. There is no timetable for his release.Doctors want to see how the former first lady responds to treatment before allowing her to return home, he said.The Bushes, who were married Jan. 6, 1945, have had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history. At the time of their wedding, he was a young naval aviator. She had been a student at Smith College.After World War II, the pair moved to the Texas oilpatch to seek their fortune and raise a family. It was there that George Bush began his political career, representing Houston for two terms in Congress in the late 1960s and early 1970s.Bush, who served as president from 1989 to 1993, has a form of Parkinson’s disease and uses a motorized scooter or a wheelchair for mobility. He was hospitalized in 2015 in Maine after falling at his summer home and breaking a bone in his neck. He was also hospitalized in Houston the previous December for about a week for shortness of breath. He spent Christmas 2012 in intensive care for a bronchitis-related cough and other issues.Despite his loss of mobility, Bush celebrated his 90th birthday by making a tandem parachute jump in Kennebunkport, Maine. Last summer, Bush led a group of 40 wounded warriors on a fishing trip at the helm of his speedboat, three days after his 92nd birthday celebration.Bush’s office announced earlier this month that the couple would not attend Donald Trump’s inauguration because of the former president’s age and health.“My doctor says if I sit outside in January, it likely will put me six feet under. Same for Barbara. So I guess we’re stuck in Texas,” Bush wrote in a letter to Trump.His son George W. Bush, the 43rd president, still expects to attend the inauguration and does not plan to travel to Houston, spokesman Freddy Ford said.George Herbert Walker Bush, born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, also served as a congressman, CIA director and Ronald Reagan’s vice-president.George W. Bush was elected president in 2000 and served two terms. Another son, Jeb, served as Florida governor and made an unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination in 2016. Only one other U.S. president, John Adams, had a so[...]


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