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    The Ontario Provincial Police have announced that their Criminal Investigation Branch will be investigating the death of Toronto teenager Jeremiah Perry in Algonquin Park last month.

    The 15-year-old boy, along with 14 of his fellow students, did not pass a required swimming test, but was still allowed to go on a school canoe trip to the provincial park. Perry went under the water during the trip on July 4 and his body was located the next day. His brother, Marion, was on the same trip.

    Perry was a student at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate, and the Toronto District School Board said on August 16 that it would be reviewing the rules for outdoor excursions in response to the tragedy.

    The OPP investigation is being conducted under Det. Insp. Peter Donnelly, but no other information about the investigation has been released.


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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.


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    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 cut

    Whether it’s a nick or full circumcision, female genital mutilation is about control: Paradkar

    Most 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, including Christians, Ethiopian Jews and certain traditional African religions.

    In Ontario, some women have asked their doctors to reverse the most severe type of FGM. Provincial records show that in the past seven years, Ontario has performed 308 “repairs of infibulations,” a surgery that creates a vaginal opening where it has been sewn mostly shut. There are currently no known procedures in Canada that replace tissue.

    Canada has recently given $350,000 to a small Quebec organization to fight FGM in at-risk communities, but critics say little has been done to understand the problem’s scope and that Canada is lagging far behind other developed countries in prevention. Experts say there is a lack of support services available for women living with the physical and psychological effects of FGM, regardless of when and where it happened to them.

    An email exchange between federal Foreign Affairs officials in Canada and India discussing the report said it will be “helpful” as the government is “in the midst of examining how Canada can engage on this file internationally. One government lawyer, the emails state, is “looking at the domestic implications of this practice.”

    Considered progressive in some areas, Dawoodi Bohras have a “high level of education and wealth,” according to the federal emails, and the community has “political and cultural influence that exceeds its size.” The emails — correspondence between government officials over the past two years — were released to the Star through an access to information request. They reference cases the government is aware of in which Canadian girls have undergone or are alleged to have undergone cutting abroad, in addition to the report about the Dawoodi Bohras.

    The emails say officials learned from the report how over the past two decades there has been a regression of gender equality in the Dawoodi Bohra community worldwide and there is “significant hidden violence against women.” There are roughly 20,000 to 40,000 Dawoodi Bohras in Canada, according to the federal emails.

    Titled “Understanding Female Genital Cutting in the Dawoodi Bohra Community,” the Sahiyo study surveyed 385 Dawoodi Bohra women across the globe, including women in Canada, the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom, in an attempt to shed light where “little or no data” exists. It aims to inform policy makers and health professionals in order to “end the practice,” the study said, that has left most of its participants with emotional scars — anger, haunting memories and frustration in their sexual lives.

    “I feel robbed and cheated of my sexuality,” one respondent told the study’s researchers.

    Shaheeda Tavawalla-Kirtane, Sahiyo’s Canadian co-founder, who works in India to raise awareness about FGM, said she has been tweeting to Canadian ministers because Canada should be aware this “crime” is happening on its soil. The Sahiyo study suggests creating a hotline for at-risk girls and education about FGM for front-line workers, such as teachers.

    Some of the study’s participants reported that, typically at the age of 7, they were told they were having the procedure to remove a “worm” and that khatna was part of the religion.

    The religious justification for this practice may come from passages in the Da’aim al-Islam, a sacred Islamic text that informs the tenets and traditions of the Dawoodi Bohras. According to The Pillars of Islam, a respected translation of the text, cutting will lead to “greater purity.”

    Though most study participants said they do not want the practice to continue, breaking the cycle is a challenge because women are afraid of the backlash they’ll face if they don’t keep up with the social norm, Tavawalla-Kirtane said.

    Worldwide, there are an estimated 1.5 to two million Dawoodi Bohras, living mainly on the west coast of Gujarat and Maharashtra states in India, and in Pakistan.

    The sect’s India-based spiritual leader, referred to as the Sayedna, enjoys centralized power and access to the properties and assets of his communities around the world, the federal emails state.

    As Dawoodi Bohras settled in the GTA, the Sayedna in the early 1990s notably tried — but failed — to incorporate himself in Canada as a “corporation sole,” a company of one person. The designation may have given the Sayedna decision-making power over the resources, land and money, of the Dawoodi Bohra communities in Canada.

    A local member of the Bohra community, writing to a Canadian senator about the issue at the time, said the Canadian Dawoodi Bohras had questionable practices, including “actively enforcing” female genital cutting. The writer alleged that “a lady with medical background or qualifications visits Ontario regularly to conduct these procedures on little girls of the community.”

    In April 2016, a sermon leaked to the media shows the current Sayedna talking about khatna and, according to the federal documents, reportedly saying: “The act has to happen. If it is a man (male circumcision), then it is right, it can be openly done, but if it is a woman then it must be done discreetly, but then the act has to be done.”

    Two months later, as described in the federal emails, the Sayedna released a further statement saying that “male and female circumcision … are religious rites that have been practiced by Dawoodi Bohras throughout history” and religious texts, “written over a thousand years ago, specify the requirements for both males and females as acts of religious purity.” But he noted that Bohras must abide “by the laws of the countries in which they reside.”

    Faizan Ali, a member of the Mississauga congregation who said he is overseeing the construction of the community’s new 50,000-square-foot mosque, said local Dawoodi Bohras don’t practise FGM in Canada because it is against the law.

    As far as he knows, khatna is not practised in the GTA, he said, but “if someone is going at their own discretion, obviously we cannot control it.”

    Ali said he does not agree with pushing the practice on a child. But if an adult woman who is 18 or older consents, he said, it is “fine.”

    Unlike in other cultures that celebrate FGM, throwing parties and lavishing money and gifts onto young girls as part of the procedure, the Dawoodi Bohra practice has traditionally been done clandestinely, said Dilshad Tavawalla, a lawyer and anti-FGM activist in Toronto whose daughter is the Sahiyo co-founder.

    Tavawalla, who underwent the procedure in Mumbai when she was 7, calls it “a women’s secret” even though today it is being “medicalized” and sometimes done overseas by health professionals in clinics and hospitals.

    Women who openly oppose the practice are perceived as attacking the community and culture, Tavawalla said, and could face consequences such as being socially ostracized. Friends and family members cut ties — a fate that feels catastrophic in this small, loyal and closely knit religious sect, sources have told the Star.

    The three Dawoodi Bohra women who spoke to the Star underwent FGM overseas before coming to Canada.

    They were all about 7 years old when their mothers took them to a “cutter,” an older woman operating in a non-medical environment, such as a kitchen. The women were told to remove their underwear before the cutter swiped a razor at their clitorises.

    Two of the women the Star spoke with said they tried to run when they realized what was happening but they were held down, their legs forcefully spread by female elders.

    Luby Fidaali was 7 years old when her mother kept her home from school one morning and took her to someone she believed was a healer — an elderly woman who said prayers over her sore tummy from time to time when she was not feeling well.

    But when she got to the cutter’s house, Fidaali was told to sit on a small kitchen stool like those traditionally used to knead chapatis, she said, and was instructed to pull her legs apart.

    She glanced at the fire burning in a charcoal stove in the corner and didn’t see the cutter take out a razor blade. “Even when I think about it, it hurts,” she said recently, telling the story for only the second time in her life. She was instructed to sit near the stove and “take in the heat to help the healing.”

    Fidaali’s mother told her never to speak about her experience to anyone, including her father and siblings. She doesn’t begrudge her mother, she said, because she was simply “following societal norms in order to stay in the community.”

    Fidaali’s family was excommunicated several years later for challenging the Sayedna’s orders, and since, she said, she feels emboldened to speak out against an “oppressive clergy.”

    “The clergy is very powerful and can intimidate their followers into all kinds of acts for fear of social boycott,” she said.

    Clarification — August 21, 2017: The headline on this article has been changed from a previous version that described the Dawoodi Bohras as a sect of Ismaili Muslims. While the Bohras were part of the Ismailis, they split many centuries ago, according to Syed Soharwardy, founder and chairman of The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada. “Now they are separate and don’t consider each other as part of them,” he said.


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    Sign of the times:

    Journalists get a heads up that the premier will address her MPPs at a normally closed caucus meeting the next day. Immediately, reflexively, every editor in town assumes it’s a resignation story, sending reporters into a feeding frenzy.

    Proof, as ever, that people don’t pay attention to Queen’s Park.

    Despite endless speculation from the opposition Progressive Conservatives that Kathleen Wynne would soon quit as premier — forced out by dismal ratings — it turns out that rumours of her death spiral are political spin. She is rising from the political dead at the very time that Ontario’s Tories are losing altitude.

    Any death watch has a magical effect on the media, who love a moribund politician when they see one. A phalanx of cameras tracked Wynne on her supposed death march from the premier’s office to the government caucus room (112 steps according to my fitness tracker, though I counted it out for good measure) where Liberal loyalists awaited word on their collective future.

    Now, with a provincial election campaign less than nine months away, time for an update: Wynne isn’t abandoning ship because, suddenly, it’s not necessarily sinking.

    As photographers rushed into position to record her exit strategy, she offered a recovery strategy. Instead of a departure speech, a pep talk.

    Not the end of the road but the beginning of the campaign trail as she tries out the beginnings of a stump speech. Leaving journalists without a news story — nothing to see here.

    But we may all be missing the story.

    Conventional wisdom long ago anointed the little-known Patrick Brown as premier-in-waiting. He came from out of nowhere — years of backbench obscurity in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government — to capture the provincial leadership in 2015.

    Today he remains a political unknown, because voters have no idea what his ideas are. With Brown vacillating on public policy, he is oscillating in public opinion polls.

    It’s not that Wynne is invincible, he’s just invisible.

    Groggily and angrily, voters are awakening and focusing — slowly. By all accounts this will be a change election, but the electorate has already shown a remarkable propensity to change its mind.

    What did Wynne have on her mind as she walked in, wired with a clip-on mic, speaking without notes for a heart-to-heart with a nervous caucus? If it is to be a change election, then the premier will reposition herself as a change agent.

    Changing economic times and financial uncertainty? Change is coming, and the government will grapple with it, she argued:

    A $15 minimum wage. Free pharmacare up to age 25. Free tuition for many college kids. Smoothing out hydro rates. All of which are proving remarkably popular in recent polls.

    Behind the pep talk was policy talk, and a promise to drive yet more change: “We can’t pretend that either we’re there, or when we finish implementing this plan we’ll be there. There is more to do.”

    By contrast, the Tories are just politicians clinging to the past, who “think that if we could just go back, if we could just go back to the way it was...”

    It’s an attempt to get out in front of the change train without being run over by it. And a recognition that her unprecedented unpopularity need not be politically fatal if the campaign can be framed as a contest of policies, not personalities.

    Monthly polling by Campaign Research shows that two thirds of Ontarians believe the government should be changed. Even voters who think the government has done a good job are yearning for a change in power.

    But in politics, as in life, the only certainty is uncertainty. Earlier polling by Campaign Research showed Brown’s Tories with a commanding 50 per cent share of the vote last January, with the Liberals languishing at 28 per cent and the NDP at 15 per cent.

    By May, Wynne’s Liberals had recovered the lead with 37 per cent, as the Tories tumbled to 34 per cent and the NDP recovered to 22. A summer sounding in July found the PCs at 38 per cent and the Liberals at 30, with the NDP parked at 24.

    Given the 3 to 4 per cent margin of error in their polling, that suggests a statistical tie between Liberals and Tories for the moment. All of which tells the tale of why there was no resignation story this month.

    Wynne personal ratings are irredeemable yet irrelevant. It matters little that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath enjoys the highest personal support, given that her party attracts the least votes. As for Brown, he can no longer depend on anonymity for popularity.

    Which is why, when journalists watched Wynne walk into that caucus meeting the other day, they didn’t get a resignation story. Instead of walking away from the next election, the premier isn’t going anywhere just yet.

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


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    Canada’s governor general designate, Julie Payette, has dropped her opposition to a group of major media outlets seeking access to recently sealed divorce records in a Maryland court.

    The media group, including the Toronto Star and CTV, went to court last month in the hope that the divorce records would shed light on Payette’s 2011 arrest on charges of assault against her then husband, Billie Flynn. The charges were withdrawn and those records, including a police report, were destroyed by court order, according to court officials.

    A Maryland judge recently ruled that the divorce records Payette had sealed in July when reporters started asking questions should be public. Payette appealed, pending a mid-November hearing. She takes up her post as governor general in early October.

    Read more:

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    Trust the public with full story on Julie Payette: Editorial

    On Monday afternoon, Payette issued a statement saying that she had decided to drop her appeal, paving the way for the court records to be released in the coming days.

    “Not wishing my family to revisit the difficult moments we have been through, it was my hope that our privacy would be preserved,” Payette wrote. “That is why I initially sought to keep our divorce proceedings under seal.”

    Read the full text of Julie Payette’s statement below

    Payette, in her statement, said it was out of concern for her son’s privacy that she initially wanted the records sealed.

    “In the past I have been blessed with opportunities few dream of,” said Payette, a former astronaut. “But of all the blessings I am grateful for, the most important blessing in my life is my son.”

    From the outset, the media group made it clear it was not interested in matters relating to the couple’s child.

    “The Star is seeking access to the court documents to determine if there is something in them of public interest in regards to Canada’s next governor general,” said Star editor Michael Cooke. “The Star has no interest in publishing private details of a child in this case. That was made very clear by the media’s lawyer in the hearing.”

    Payette said Monday that “for reasons of transparency and to leave no doubt,” she said she has agreed to drop her appeal.

    Other media outlets involved in the challenge include the Globe and Mail, CBC, iPolitics and the National Post.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in early July that Payette, a former Canadian astronaut, would be Canada’s next governor general, starting in October.

    The legal saga that has played out quietly in a Maryland courthouse for the past month began when political website iPolitics uncovered existence of Payette’s expunged assault charge by doing a routine search using an online record check service. Though official documents and transcripts were ordered destroyed by the court at Payette’s request in 2011, an electronic ghost of the charge remained. That sent the Star to Maryland looking for information that would shed light on the matter.

    The St. Mary’s County courthouse in Leonardtown, a small county seat, is an hour’s drive from where Payette and Flynn lived together for several years on the shore of a sprawling river. Chesapeake Bay is nearby. Flynn still lives there occasionally.

    Something happened on Nov. 24, 2011, that brought sheriff’s deputies to the house the couple purchased the previous year.

    Who called police and why has never been made public. Only Payette was charged. The sheriff’s department and state’s attorney say they are not allowed to discuss the case, since a court expunged the records at the request of Payette two weeks later, on Dec. 8, 2011.

    Her lawyer at the time, Dan Slade, told the Star that the charges had “absolutely no merit” but he would not provide details. The state’s attorney who agreed to the expungement order also would not discuss the matter.

    With Payette and Flynn not talking, the media group turned to the Maryland courts to see if divorce files contained any references to the expunged case.

    Payette went to court to have the divorce records sealed on an emergency basis on July 18, the day iPolitics broke the story.

    The media outlets joined together and hired a U.S. lawyer, arguing that given the importance of the role of governor general, the public should have access to records related to her past activities.

    In their challenge, the media group’s lawyer, Seth Berlin of Washington-based firm Levine Sullivan, said that in the United States under the First Amendment, and in Maryland under the Declaration of Rights, the “press and the public have a constitutional right to observe court proceedings and to access judicial records and documents.”

    When Payette filed for the sealing order, she stated in an affidavit that she wanted to protect the couple’s son, and herself. She stated that she has “reason to believe that (the media) may be trying to expose facts of this case to people in Canada in an attempt to publicly ridicule me and I believe these actions will cause irrevocable harm to not only myself but my son.”

    Judge David Densford of the Circuit Court for St. Mary’s County agreed with the media group, ruling that in Maryland court files are “presumed to be open to the public for inspection.” He ordered the files opened, pending appeal, except for specific sections that dealt with the couple’s son.

    A spokesperson for the Governor General’s Office told the Star that Payette was personally paying for the legal challenge.

    Payette’s former husband, Flynn, is a test pilot for Lockheed Martin and the F-35 jet. Previously, as a lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force, he flew 25 combat missions over Kosovo and the former Republic of Yugoslavia. At the time of the 2011 incident, Payette had left the astronaut program and was in Washington at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The couple both travelled extensively. When they purchased the Maryland house in 2010, Flynn was out of town and he gave his power of attorney to Payette to effect the purchase, paying $616,000 (U.S.) for the remote, 4,000-square-foot house and property, records show.

    The Star earlier reported that a couple of months before the 2011 assault charge, Payette struck and killed a pedestrian while returning home from a trip. Police records show that after an extensive investigation, it was determined to be an accident, something the victim’s sister has told the Star she agrees with.

    Flynn and Payette’s marriage broke down over the next year and Flynn filed for separation in 2013. Payette followed up by filing for divorce and the case wound its way through court over the next two years. During this time, the case was public, including all testimony and documents. Ultimately, it was resolved, just before Payette was appointed governor general.

    Full text of Julie Payette’s statement to the media group:

    In the past, I have been blessed with opportunities few dream of. I have had the good fortune to work on exceptional science projects, to fly in international spaceships and to see our magnificent blue planet from orbit.

    But of all the blessings I am grateful for, the most important blessing in my life is my son.

    Given recent media interest regarding my private life, I wish to share the following thoughts.

    While I understand and appreciate the role of media in reporting on past events in the lives of Canadians in the public eye, as a mother, I need to be mindful of the impact on my family.

    Very few families are immune from difficult moments in life – mine included.

    Divorces are about fractured relationships and often, a sad parting of ways. This is particularly difficult when children are involved, thus the importance of protecting the ones we love and care about.

    Like many parents in the same situation, I have worked hard to put these difficult events behind me and move on with the best interest of my son in mind.

    Not wishing my family to revisit the difficult moments we have been through, it was my hope that our privacy would be preserved. That is why I initially sought to keep our divorce proceedings under seal in the US, consistent with the legal principles in the province of Quebec and in Canada that govern matrimonial and family matters.

    Though a Maryland court was currently considering an appeal to maintain our family’s privacy, for reasons of transparency and to leave no doubt, I have decided to voluntarily drop this appeal and release the divorce files. I trust Canadians and media will distinguish between matters of public interest and private life.

    As I move forward, it is my son I think of first. His relationship with both his parents is paramount and this is what I will continue to safeguard.

    I am deeply honoured to have been given the privilege of serving my country again and I look forward to contributing with all my energy and dedication to the advancement of a knowledge-based society that is open, tolerant, pragmatic and generous.

    Kevin Donovan can be reached at kdonovan@thestar.ca or 416-312-3503.


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    WASHINGTON—Declaring the U.S. will win “in the end,” U.S. President Donald Trump vowed Monday night to keep American troops fighting in Afghanistan despite his earlier inclination to withdraw. But he insisted the U.S. would not offer “a blank check” after 16 years of war, and he pointedly declined to say whether or when more troops might be sent.

    In a prime-time address billed as the unveiling of his new Afghanistan strategy, Trump said the U.S. would shift away from a “time-based” approach, instead linking its assistance to results and to co-operation from the beleaguered Afghan government, Pakistan and others.

    Still, he offered few details about how that approach would differ substantively from what the U.S. has already tried unsuccessfully under the past two presidents.

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

    “We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities,” Trump said. “Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on.”

    Ahead of his speech, U.S. officials said they expected the president to go along with a Pentagon recommendation to send nearly 4,000 new troops, boosting the total of 8,400 in Afghanistan now. At its peak, the U.S. had roughly 100,000 there, under the Obama administration in 2010-2011.

    Trump said his “original instinct was to pull out,” alluding to his long-expressed view before becoming president that Afghanistan was an unsolvable quagmire requiring a fast U.S. withdrawal. Since taking office, Trump said, he’d determined that approach could create a vacuum that terrorists including Al Qaeda and Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL, could “instantly fill.”

    Trump said the American people are “weary of war without victory.”

    “I share the America people’s frustration,” Trump said at the Army’s Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the White House. Still, he insisted that “in the end, we will win.”

    Trump’s speech concluded a months-long internal debate within his administration over whether to pull back from the Afghanistan conflict, as he and a few advisers were inclined to do, or to embroil the U.S. further in a war that has eluded American solutions for the past 16 years. Several times, officials predicted he was nearing a decision to adopt his commanders’ recommendations, only to see the final judgment delayed.

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    The Pentagon has argued the U.S. must stay engaged to ensure terrorists can’t again use the territory to threaten America. Afghan military commanders have agreed, making clear they want and expect continued U.S. military help. But elected officials in the U.S. have been mixed, with many advocating against sending more troops.

    As a candidate, Trump criticized the war and said the U.S. should quickly pull out, but he also campaigned on a vow to start winning wars. Exiting now, with the Taliban resurgent, would be impossible to sell as victory.

    “I think there’s a relative certainty that the Afghan government would eventually fall,” said Mark Jacobson, an Army veteran and NATO’s former deputy representative in Kabul.

    And while Trump has pledged to put “America First,” keeping U.S. interests above any others, his national security advisers have warned that the Afghan forces are still far too weak to succeed without help. That is especially important as the Taliban advance and a squeezed Islamic State group looks for new havens beyond Syria and Iraq. Even now, Afghan’s government controls just half the country.

    As officers advocated for the troop increase, the Pentagon did not claim it would end the conflict. But military officials maintained it could help stabilize the Afghan government and break a stalemate with the Taliban.

    The setting for Monday night’s speech, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, sits alongside Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for many Americans who have died in the war.


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    Monday’s solar eclipse was tough to capture with a smartphone camera, so Christine Chung sat patiently beneath a tree and sketched the fleeting moment by hand.

    On soft yellowish paper, Chung carefully drew images of the sun and moon’s progression, with time stamps for each stage. Along with other viewers gathered at Exhibition Place, she waited for the three-quarter coverage that would appear only briefly.

    Her sketchbook documented a celestial show that NASA labelled the first of its kind — crossing the continent from coast to coast — since 1918. In Toronto, the viewing party at the Ex drew thousands of wonderstruck visitors.

    From a spot in the grass, Bob Wegner recalled he’d once heard Carl Sagan say that most humans died without knowing their place in the cosmos.

    “Days like this are an opportunity for those seeds to be planted to take an interest in astronomy,” Wegner said.

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    And interest was clearly budding. Kids scampered across the grass, pulling the hands of their parents to get a better vantage point. Pint-sized amateur scientists explained the mechanics of their tinfoil-and-cardboard pinhole projectors to anyone who’d listen.

    They gawked, wide-eyed, at the much larger telescopes operated by scientists from the University of Toronto, who organized the free viewing event for CNE goers near the Better Living Centre.

    Matt Russo, a theoretical astrophysicist who’s worked on translating the structure of planetary systems into music, was no less excited about the cosmic anomaly.

    “We’ve got this incredible projection telescope that lets us look at the sun in real time,” he explained, pointing to the white space near the bottom where shadows and light painted an image of the sky.

    The event wasn’t just an eclipse, he added. Viewers could also look out for a dazzling array of sunspots in Monday’s skies.

    For those without a projection telescope, methods of viewing the event ranged from simple — paper-rimmed glasses, which CNE-goers lined up for — to experimental. Wielding a kitchen colander and a sifter, retired Grade 2 teacher Anna Werbowy of Mississauga demonstrated how to cast tiny shadows onto a surface below.

    “I was watching the live broadcast about the eclipse and there was a young scientist interviewed,” she said.

    The scientist suggested using the kitchen apparatus, but Werbowy wasn’t entirely sure how to do it. As she walked through the CNE, she stopped a group of young scientists and asked them if it would really work.

    “And they said, ‘Sure, that would work!’” she said, laughing.

    Together, they figured out how to use the equipment to cast shadows of “little moons, instead of a hole” onto the ground.

    While viewers worked together to figure out the best ways to capture the eclipse, they also shared questions about the cosmos with friends and strangers.

    “It’s just one of those things, we know so little about it,” Megan Anderson said, discussing the universe as a whole. “It’s still so fascinating.”

    In a world where science can explain so much, she was mesmerized by how little of space has been explored.

    As the excited calls rang out across the lawn just after 1 p.m. — “It’s starting!” — parents reminded their kids to shield their eyes with glasses. Viewers could see a small black semicircle, like a bite out of an apple, beginning to cut into the still-bright sun.

    At the peak of the eclipse, the sky dimmed slightly over the CNE. The maximum coverage in Toronto was 76 per cent, but the remaining light still illuminated the lawn. By 3:49 p.m, it was over.

    To those who gathered outside the centre, the big moment was worth waiting for.

    Audrey Diamantakos and Travis Vrbos, who arrived at 11 a.m. to beat the lines and snag two pairs of glasses, called it a “once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

    For those who missed it, the next total eclipse will be visible in parts of central Canada, the Maritimes and Newfoundland on April 8, 2024.


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    Joss Whedon, the writer and producer who brought us the 90’s television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer is under fire for allegedly failing to uphold the feminism in his personal life that is a staple in his work. Whedon isn’t purported to have sexually harassed or assaulted anyone, nor is he being accused of underpaying female stars — claims that, if true, would understandably disqualify him as a feminist (however, some fans are convinced he had an actress written off the 2000s show Angel when she became pregnant).

    No. Strangely enough, the writer’s outspoken support of gender equality and his commitment to writing strong female leads is being called into question because he may be a serial adulterer. According to Whedon’s ex-wife and longtime collaborator, Kai Cole, writing in a now viral blog post published on the entertainment site the Wrap this weekend, Cole’s 16-year marriage to Whedon was rife with cheating. Cole claims that unbeknownst to her, Whedon slept with friends, co-workers, fans and actresses while the couple was married. And now she wants the world to know.

    In Cole’s own words: “I want the people who worship him to know he is human, and the organizations giving him awards for his feminist work, to think twice in the future about honouring a man who does not practice what he preaches … When he walked out of our marriage, and was trying to make ‘things seem less bewildering’ to help me understand how he could have lied to me for so long, he said, ‘In many ways I was the HEIGHT of normal, in this culture. We’re taught to be providers and companions and at the same time, to conquer and acquire — specifically sexually — and I was pulling off both!’ ”

    Since Cole’s post went viral, a major Joss Whedon fan site has announced it will stop publishing content and numerous feminist writers and activists have denounced Whedon online as a hypocrite and pretender; a typical “nice guy abuser.” As one Twitter user put it, Whedon’s alleged poor treatment of his ex-wife is “proof that ‘male feminists’ are just tools looking to use the nice guy card to abuse women.”

    I don’t really want to go to bat for a guy who may have cheated on his wife more times than the Hellmouth opened up in Sunnydale (Buffy reference), but I think the backlash here is more than a little overblown. Don’t get me wrong: the nice guy abuser is not a thing of legend. He’s real. Jian Ghomeshi is the textbook example of this. But Joss Whedon as adulterer doesn’t fit the bill.

    That Whedon may have attempted to pin the blame for his infidelity not on his own personal failings as a human being but rather on “this culture” is proof he’s a master bull-----er and a lousy husband. But I don’t think it’s proof that his feminism is BS, nor that he is a hypocrite for supporting women’s causes and publicly denouncing sexism. Unless of course, we’ve officially entered territory where fidelity is a prerequisite to being a feminist — in which case a lot of feminists, men and women both, are screwed.

    What’s shocking about this incident is not so much that a wronged spouse is dissing an unfaithful one in the press, but that so many otherwise serious feminists are taking Cole’s bait and piling on Whedon as though his alleged screwing around is tantamount to abuse. With the massive amount of energy some have expended denouncing Whedon as a misogynist online, you’d think the guy was Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women. But Whedon is a writer for heaven sakes. What did anyone honestly expect? A healthy, well-adjusted person? It’s ludicrous to demand that artists and writers occupy the same moral high ground as religious leaders and politicians. But it’s also ludicrous to treat adultery, even when committed by a powerful man, as a sin up there with abuse or harassment. To do so not only robs the women with whom Whedon allegedly slept — even the young impressionable actresses — agency to make their own choices. It implies that in order to be a feminist, you must never hurt the feelings of the woman you are married to. Because that’s what adultery amounts to: hurt feelings and, potentially, broken families. These are bad things, but the source of them is not always bad people. It is possible to strive for a better world even though your relationship with your spouse is a mess.

    No wonder so many people — across the gender spectrum — are reluctant to take up the feminist label. Moral purity is a tall order.

    Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.


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    The Glen Abbey golf course in Oakville is now on the path to becoming a heritage site.

    Oakville’s town council voted unanimously Monday night to issue a notice of intention to designate the course, designed by legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, as a heritage site.

    Last week, the town’s heritage committee voted unanimously to recommend designating the entire 229-acre (93-hectare) property under the Ontario Heritage Act.

    “If Glen Abbey isn’t heritage, what is?” asked Mayor Rob Burton, echoing the words of a delegate who supported the designation at the meeting.

    Of the 21 scheduled delegates who addressed the council on Monday, all but one offered anecdotes that expressed the importance of Glen Abbey to them and their support of the decision to designate the course.

    The sole dissenting voice came from Mark Flowers, a lawyer for ClubLink Corp., Glen Abbey’s owner.

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    Flowers said that a report by the town’s heritage committee was “overreaching” in what it considered heritage attributes, and called the move to designate Glen Abbey a “rushed process.”

    Flowers said supporting the designation was an “attempt by the town to frustrate ClubLink’s development proposal” — a statement that was booed by the audience that filled the town hall.

    A heritage designation could make it difficult to undertake major developments on the property.

    In 2015, ClubLink Corp. proposed a plan to build 3,222 residential units and 122,000 square feet of commercial space on the site, leaving 124 acres for public green space.

    Flowers also expressed concern that the designation would affect the club’s ability to host future Canadian Opens, of which it has held 29. It is slated to host next year’s tournament.

    Burton asked delegates to focus on the heritage designation and not the ClubLink proposal, but the company faced criticism throughout the meeting.

    “It’s the citizens of this town who want ClubLink to do the right thing,” a delegate named Janet said, to loud applause.

    The club owners can appeal council’s decision through the Conservation Review Board.

    Glen Abbey is one of Canada’s most famous golf courses, and the site of Tiger Woods’ dramatic 18th-hole shot from a bunker to win the Canadian Open in 2000.


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    Cheryl Hookimaw didn’t want to file a complaint. But after experiencing what she alleges was harassment and abusive behaviour from a veteran Ontario Provincial Police sergeant working in her isolated James Bay community, she decided she’d had enough.

    In 2014, Hookimaw turned to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), Ontario’s police watchdog, filing a formal complaint against an officer she knew she’d still see all over Moosonee, her largely Cree community policed by the OPP.

    “I thought it was the right thing to do,” Hookimaw told the Star in an email. “I thought my family would be protected.”

    The resulting investigation by the OPP’s professional standards bureau alleges Sgt. Randy Cota engaged in “numerous inappropriate behaviours” involving Hookimaw and her husband, each of which constituted misconduct, according to the police investigative report into Hookimaw’s complaint.

    That included allegations the officer threatened Hookimaw, made disparaging comments about her “of a sexual nature,” obtained her personal information in a police database, and was “less than forthright” with investigators probing the complaint, among other allegations contained in Cota’s notice of hearing, a police document outlining his alleged misconduct.

    In January 2015, Cota was charged with one count of corrupt practice under Ontario’s Police Services Act, a charge laid when an officer is accused of improperly using his character or influence as a police officer for private advantage. The allegations have not been tested at a tribunal.

    Indeed, three years after filing the complaint, Cota’s misconduct hearing has been repeatedly delayed with little explanation, according to Hookimaw and her lawyer, Cara Valiquette.

    Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne, a spokesperson for the OPP, confirmed to the Star that Cota’s next hearing date is in November. Asked why the hearing has been delayed, Dionne said Cota has been on an approved paid absence and the hearing cannot proceed as a result.

    “The hearing will take place if Sgt. Cota returns from his approved absence. If not, it may be deferred to a later date,” she said in an email.

    Dionne could not say why Cota is on approved absence.

    Meanwhile Hookimaw and her husband Xavier Hookimaw see Cota “all the time” in the community and claim his behaviour has continued while the misconduct case moves at a sluggish pace.

    Alleging ongoing harassment, intimidation and abusive conduct, late last year the Hookimaws filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against the OPP and Cota. Among the lawsuit’s claims is that Cota had been driving slowly past their residence and workplace and staring at them and that, in late 2015, a close friend of Cota’s went to the Hookimaws’ home and asked them to drop the OIPRD complaint.

    Valiquette says her clients feel their formal complaint has “only caused more damages in terms of increased stress and pain.”

    Both Cota and the Crown — which is responsible for the conduct of OPP officers, and is being sued by the Hookimaws alongside Cota — have filed separate statements of defence denying the allegations.

    In emails to the Star, Norman Groot, Cota’s lawyer, said his client has both a “substantive and procedural defence,” including that too much time has passed since some of the alleged conduct for it to be heard in court.

    “I understand that the officer is a native Canadian himself, has served the OPP and the citizens of Ontario well for many years, has worked in undercover capacity for a while, which also caused stress to his personal life,” Groot said in an email, adding he did not know why the disciplinary process has “not progressed quicker than it has.”

    Cota’s detailed statement of defence, filed in court in July, specifically denied inflicting emotional suffering, misconduct and harassment, including the allegations he’d been driving slowly past the Hookimaw’s residence and staring.

    “In fact, there were incidents in which Mr. Hookimaw behaved in a threatening and harassing way towards Cota,” it reads.

    The legal battle comes months after Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch highlighted the problems with the public complaint process specific to Indigenous communities in his review of police oversight in the province.

    In a chapter dedicated to Indigenous communities and police oversight, Tulloch summarized his findings from public consultations, saying many Indigenous people “felt targeted by law enforcement and subjected to negative stereotypes.”

    Few Indigenous peoples knew they could file a complaint with the OIPRD, Tulloch said — and those who did told him they feared retribution if they took that step.

    “This concern was particularly acute for First Nations communities served by the OPP,” Tulloch wrote. “Members of these communities told me that if they raised their concerns about the OPP, then their communities may suffer.”

    Rosemary Parker, spokesperson for the OIPRD, said in an email that in the Hookimaw case, the complaint process was expedient, the investigation completed by the OPP’s professional standards bureau “well within the target of 120 days,” despite legislation allowing for six months.

    Parker noted that the OIPRD is not responsible for disciplinary hearings. Under Ontario’s Police Act, hearings are the purview of the police chief or the OPP commissioner.

    Parker added the OIPRD recognizes that complainants may fear retribution from police for making a complaint and that special provisions under the watchdog’s legislation make it punishable, by fine or jail time, to harass, coerce or intimidate someone in connection to a complaint.

    According to Cheryl Hookimaw’s lawsuit, the dispute stems from Cota’s failed attempts to initiate a romantic relationship after they first met at a children’s Halloween party in 2012, while Cheryl was an employee of Child and Family Services. After their meeting, Cota began contacting her by phone and email, telling her he had found her information by searching her name in his police system, according to her statement of claim.

    Cota’s notice of hearing alleges the officer conducted a query “unrelated” to his duties on November 1, 2012. Cota’s response to the lawsuit, however, claims he did not do the search to obtain personal information but to make inquiries into a complaint she’d made about a previous interaction with another OPP officer.

    The Hookimaws’ lawsuit alleges that after their meeting, Cota spent the next year trying to have a relationship and gave Cheryl Hookimaw numerous gifts, including $2,000 cash. In 2014, when she began dating Xavier, Cota — who was then on an extended absence from the OPP — told her he disapproved and would “go after” Xavier when he was back on duty, according to the Hookimaws’ claim.

    Tensions peaked in July, 2014 when Cota became involved in an assault investigation stemming from a party attended by Cheryl and Xavier Hookimaw. According to the Hookimaws’ lawsuit, neither Cheryl nor Xavier were involved in the assault, but the incident set off a series of alarming actions by Cota, including “intimidating and threatening witnesses” in an attempt to pressure them into incriminating Xavier Hookimaw in the assault.

    The Hookimaw lawsuit also alleges Cota came to their residence and, “shouting and swearing,” demanded Cheryl Hookimaw give back the gifts he’d provided to her or he would remove Xavier Hookimaw from their house. He also demanded to know details of an “alleged sexual interaction” she had with a witness at the house party, according to the lawsuit.

    The OPP’s notice of hearing alleges a series of misconduct in connection to the fallout from the assault, including: failing to declare a conflict of interest when working on the investigation; “unnecessarily” taking over the investigation from a colleague; misleading a senior officer about the nature of the investigation; threatening to charge a witness if he did not provide information that Xavier Hookimaw had committed a criminal offence; and making inaccurate and/or misleading notes about an interaction with Xavier Hookimaw.

    In his statement of defence, Cota denies the Hookimaw’s allegations of misconduct in connection to the assault investigation. Specifically, he denies conducting the investigation “in an attempt to target Mr. Hookimaw as a suspect, or that he used the threat of charging Mr. Hookimaw in an attempt to extort property from Mrs. Hookimaw.”

    The statement of defence also says Cota and Cheryl Hookimaw had developed a friendship, which included frequent emails from Cheryl to his work address, and that the gifts she alleges he gave her were in fact loans. That included the $2,000, which he says was to help her pay for a lawyer in “a legal matter before the Courts,” according to his statement of defence.

    The officer also denies the allegations of ongoing harassment since he has been charged with misconduct. Instead, he alleges he was over at a friend’s house when Xavier Hookimaw “aggressively” drove his truck toward him, skidded to a stop, then yelled obscenities at him, and demanding that Cota “stop looking” at him all over town.

    Cota’s statement of defence also alleges a second incident of harassment by Xavier Hookimaw, saying that while he was standing on the street corner in conversation with another man, Xavier Hookimaw drove up to him and began yelling insults.

    “Mr. Hookimaw demanded that Cota ‘leave them alone,’ and that he ‘stop looking’ at them,” reads the statement of defence.

    Tulloch’s wide ranging report on police oversight makes 129 recommendations, some of which are geared toward improving police oversight in Indigenous communities. Among them are recommendations that Ontario’s police oversight bodies develop and deliver, in partnership with Indigenous communities, mandatory Indigenous cultural competency training for staff.

    Following the release of Tulloch’s report, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi committed to working with police oversight bodies to “increase cultural competency through staff training and targeted recruitment, including Indigenous cultural competence.”

    In a news conference at Queen’s Park last week, Caitlyn Kasper, lawyer with Aboriginal Legal Services, urged the Ontario government and its police watchdogs to form “meaningful and equitable partnerships with Indigenous people, communities and organizations.

    “Then the development of social and cultural competency training can occur,” she said.

    Tulloch’s report also states that for the police complaint system to be effective and accountable, the process complaints must be “resolved in a transparent, timely, and fair manner.”

    Had the complaint process in this case been expedient and transparent, the Hookimaws may not have sued, said Valiquette, their lawyer. Instead, the system “failed the clients and the tax paying public.”

    Wendy Gillis can be reached at wgillis@thestar.ca


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    The TTC agreed to let Bombardier ship unfinished streetcars to Toronto and complete them on the transit agency’s property in order to successfully meet 2016 delivery targets, the Star has learned.

    The Quebec-based rail manufacturer has famously struggled to fill the $1-billion, 204-vehicle order for the TTC’s new streetcar fleet. Under the schedule, the company was to have delivered more than 100 cars by end of last year, but as of this week the TTC has just 41in service.

    There was a welcome spot of positive news just before last Christmas however when, with 10 days to spare, Bombardier announced that it had made good on a revised target it had set earlier that year: delivering the 30th streetcar by the end of 2016.

    “Bombardier meets its 2016 delivery commitment to the TTC,” the company trumpeted in a Dec. 21 press release, which was accompanied by a photo of smiling Bombardier workers holding a “Just arrived!” sign in front of the vehicle at the TTC’s Hillcrest Complex on Bathurst St.

    There was a catch, however — the streetcar wasn’t fully finished. In fact, all four of the cars that Bombardier delivered last December were not complete when they arrived on TTC property.

    Minutes of meetings between the TTC and Bombardier that the Star obtained through an access to information request reveal that in order to meet the 2016 target, the TTC agreed to deviate from the detailed vehicle acceptance process spelled out in the streetcar contract.

    In subsequent interviews, the TTC confirmed that the company shipped four mostly finished cars to Toronto, and then Bombardier workers completed them at the TTC’s Leslie Barns streetcar maintenance and storage facility.

    The gambit paid off — Bombardier finished all four cars in Toronto and they went into service before the New Year as planned.

    But the deviation from the normal process reveals the extent to which Bombardier had to improvise to meet the year-end target, and the concessions the TTC agreed to in order to make it happen.

    Both Bombardier and the TTC maintain the strategy was necessary in order to get the new streetcars delivered as soon as possible, and that the outcome benefitted the city’s transit users.

    Bombardier spokesperson Marc-André Lefebvre called it a “positive story.”

    “This is work that we are very proud of … The 2016 deliveries are a great example of the positive outcome of the turnaround plan we introduced last year, which has effectively made it that Bombardier has met every single quarterly delivery commitment in the past 12 months,” he said.

    TTC CEO Andy Byford said that he was willing to be “flexible” with the delivery process as long as it didn’t mean compromising on safety or vehicle quality. He said the TTC’s only motivation was getting the streetcars quickly, not helping Bombardier protect its reputation.

    “I’m not out to do Bombardier favours. But I am out to get the best possible outcome for my customer,” Byford said.

    “This isn’t being nice to Bombardier, it’s doing the right thing by the people that ride our service.”

    Lefebvre said that Bombardier came up with the plan near the end of 2016 after it identified “potential bottlenecks in rail shipments availability” that could have delayed delivery of the cars, which are shipped to Toronto from Bombardier’s plant in Thunder Bay by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

    He described the work that was completed in Toronto as “very minor esthetic items” like interior panels that required adjustments and paint touch-ups. The TTC said that outstanding work included “final assembly of panelling and interior components.”

    TTC spokesperson Stuart Green told the Star that if the transit agency hadn’t agreed to deviate from the normal process, “it is most likely that Bombardier would not have been able to deliver these four cars by year end.”

    Lefebvre declined to speculate on whether the company would have met the 2016 target if the TTC hadn’t agreed to modify the acceptance plan.

    The streetcar contract, which the TTC and Bombardier signed in 2009, spells out in detail the process by which each $5-million vehicle is supposed to change hands.

    Following Bombardier’s “completion of the manufacture and assembly” of each car, the vehicle is to undergo pre-delivery tests and an “in-plant inspection.”

    If it passes, the TTC’s engineer issues a preliminary acceptance certificate (PAC) “verifying the date on which the (streetcar) has been so completed … and is ready for delivery” to Hillcrest.

    Upon delivery, the car undergoes additional trials, including a 600-km “burn-in” test run. Only after those tests are complete does the TTC engineer issue a final acceptance certificate (FAC) that means the transit agency has taken ownership of the vehicle.

    Under the modified delivery process, the TTC agreed that the four cars would be shipped to Toronto without the agency first verifying they were complete, and would undergo both the PAC and FAC processes here.

    The TTC spokesperson said that the four cars were subjected to the “same rigorous final approval testing” as all other vehicles, and that there was no cost to the transit agency.

    The documents the Star obtained are minutes of meetings that TTC and Bombardier hold each month about the streetcar order. The minutes from the end of 2016 indicate that TTC officials were not fully convinced the plan would work.

    At a November meeting, a TTC official told Bombardier that the transit agency couldn’t guarantee the acceptance process could be carried out in Toronto in time because with just six weeks before the year’s end, the company had yet to provide a detailed delivery schedule. The TTC needed one to ensure it had enough operators, inspectors, and maintenance workers on hand to conduct testing once the cars arrived.

    “There will be a big effort for everyone to co-ordinate this during the holidays,” read the minutes, which were written by the TTC.

    At the same meeting the TTC warned that if it looked like Bombardier would miss the year-end target, the transit agency would pull out of the modified approval process.

    “TTC will stop the PAC process in Toronto if schedule slips (sic) and the 16 cars delivery becomes at risk,” read the minutes.

    The meeting minutes also indicate that in late 2016 and early 2017, more than two years after the first new streetcar was delivered, the TTC was still expressing serious concerns about problems with Bombardier’s manufacturing process, including failing control switches, collapsed rubber on the bellows that connect streetcar segments, cracked bonnets, leaking windows, incorrect parts being installed, and deficient welding jobs.

    Lefebvre said Monday the company has made “significant progress” on welding problems, which have plagued the order since the beginning. He said any other production issues “should be resolved in the very near future.”

    Under the latest revised schedule, the company is supposed to deliver a cumulative total of 70 cars by the end of the year. In July the company admitted that the schedule was at risk.

    Lefebvre said that doesn’t mean Bombardier will miss the 2017 target and stated that the company is “deploying extraordinary resources ... to meet our deadlines.”

    “Our overall focus firmly remains to deliver the entire fleet of 204 streetcars by the original contract deadline of 2019.”


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    The Prime Rib’s website boasts that it is one of the top five romantic restaurants in America. But a couple who recently dined at the restaurant’s Washington location disagrees: After the man and his partner asked to split an ice cream sundae, they say their server told them two men eating out of the same bowl “doesn’t go with the ambience of the restaurant.”

    Ron Gage, 55, and his partner, Henry McKinnon, 58, didn’t see it coming. They were properly attired in blazers, which the restaurant requires, for their 8:30 reservation. They had been joking around with their server Thursday evening, in what Gage said had been a nice evening until dessert.

    “When it came time for dessert, we asked for one sundae with two spoons,” Gage said. Their server “said he would bring it in two separate dishes. He said ‘It wouldn’t look right with two gentlemen eating out of the same sundae. It doesn’t go with the ambience of the restaurant.’”

    The pair didn’t know how to react.

    “We were speechless, we nodded,” Gage said. “We weren’t expecting it.”

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    Stunned, they kept their conversation with the server to a minimum for the rest of the meal, and tipped him 15 per cent — they usually tip 20 — and left the restaurant without addressing it with a manager.

    “I’m kind of embarrassed to say we didn’t say anything,” McKinnon said. “It just took us back to such a shameful place, in a way.”

    But after they had slept on it, they were angry about the encounter and posted about it on Facebook and Yelp.

    When contacted by The Washington Post, the Prime Rib’s general manager, James MacLeod, said he was still trying to piece together the situation and hadn’t had a chance to speak to the server in depth yet.

    “The waiter in question is Bulgarian, and he does speak four different languages,” said MacLeod, noting that English is not the server’s first language. “I am not sure if he got confused as to what he was saying, or how he was saying it.”

    He said he planned to reach out to Gage and McKinnon.

    “I cannot believe that a waiter would have ever said anything like that,” MacLeod said. “There’s no way we would condone anything remotely like this.”

    Other restaurants — even in liberal Washington — have been publicly shamed for slinging homophobic and transphobic remarks, often directed at LGBTQ patrons who show affection in public. In London in 2014, a lesbian couple was asked to stop kissing because they were in a “family restaurant.” When a gay couple gave each other a peck on the lips before entering an Ohio pizzeria, they were accosted by a staff member, who told them, “You better get used to this, this is Trump’s America.” (He was later fired.) A gay couple reported that they were asked to leave a Dublin restaurant for holding hands. Incidents like these make LGBTQ couples believe, as Eleanor Margolis wrote in the New Republic, that they should put the “kibosh on sexuality until after dessert. . . . Same-sex couples are still forced to be careful about where they choose to kiss or even hold hands.”

    Even if the restaurant tries to make amends, Gage and McKinnon don’t think they’ll be back.

    “It was so humiliating,” McKinnon said. “It was unbelievable how it made us feel.”


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    Once again, Barron Trump has become the target of online criticism. And once again, political figures, celebrities and others on social media are standing up for the 11-year-old, imploring the media to keep the youngest Trump out of the negative limelight.

    On Monday night, conservative news outlet the Daily Caller published a story attacking Barron for the T-shirt and shorts he wore while boarding Air Force One on Sunday. The headline read, “It’s High Time Barron Trump Starts Dressing Like He’s In the White House.”

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    In a barrage of angry tweets, many described the story as “mean spirited,” “shameful,” intrusive and irrelevant. The reactions shared a common understanding that the president’s children are supposed to be off-limits.

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    And former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, who has previously come to Barron’s defense, weighed in with a tweet: “It’s high time the media & everyone leave Barron Trump alone & let him have the private childhood he deserves.”

    In Monday’s Daily Caller story, entertainment reporter Ford Springer wrote that “while the president and first lady travelled in their Sunday best, young Barron looked like he was hopping on Air Force One for a trip to the movie theatre.”

    As U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump departed from Morristown, New Jersey, to Washington on Sunday, Barron joined them wearing khaki shorts, loafers and a bright red T-shirt with the words, “On your mark tiger shark.”

    “What am I missing here? Is Barron just better than I ever was at rebelling against my parents?” Springer wrote. “His dad is always looking dapper and his mom has become a worldwide fashion icon since becoming first lady. The youngest Trump doesn’t have any responsibilities as the president’s son, but the least he could do is dress the part when he steps out in public.”

    It wasn’t the first time Chelsea Clinton has come to Barron’s defense in light of insensitive media attention about him. In January, a slew of unflattering jokes circulated on social media about the boy’s appearance at his father’s inauguration ceremony. “Saturday Night Live” writer Katie Rich was suspended indefinitely after a tweet she posted about Barron received angry backlash and calls for her firing.

    In response to the earlier attacks against Barron, Clinton wrote a Facebook post that was praised and shared widely:

    “Barron Trump deserves the chance every child does — to be a kid,” Clinton wrote. “Standing up for every kid also means opposing POTUS policies that hurt kids.”

    On Monday afternoon and evening, Twitter users questioned why the Daily Caller writer, and the public, should care about “what an 11-year-old boy wears,” as journalist Yashar Ali tweeted. “How is it your business?” he added.

    “Poor Barron,” tweeted comedian Chelsea Handler.

    Some complimented the first son’s outfit: “Barron was rockin a good look today,” tweeted Jesse Lee, who served as a special assistant under former president Obama.

    And others tracked down Barron’s shirt, apparently a $24.50 boy’s T-shirt from J. Crew. A similar shirt in lime green on J. Crew’s website included a note: “We’re sorry. This item has been so popular, it has sold out.”


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    It is your job to do things and a columnist’s job to point out that you’re doing them wrong. Here’s my latest Stop Doing That, since you have not stopped doing wrong things since my last menacing column.

    1. Stop saying “nuanced.” Or “problematic.” These are weasel words used by people desperate not to be caught saying something that might not be universally approved. Why? Because they want a peaceful life, that’s why. But humanity isn’t advanced by blowing bubbles, pretty iridescent suds that vanish after a floating moment.

    2. Stop saying Trump has reached a turning point and has become presidential. It’s like calling him problematic. American journalists who should know better said this after Trump read a scripted speech Monday night prolonging the 16-year war in Afghanistan he used to deplore. Such admiration is wish fulfilment. Trump changed his mind after being showed flash cards, of young mini-skirted Afghan women in 1972. His motives are nuanced, I’ll say that for him.

    3. Stop the stealth police cars. My understanding is that a surveillance car should be grey and filled with undercover cops ducking their heads while wearing androgynous daywear. Actual police cars should be bright, white and labelled, so that criminals spot them and run away, while their victims rejoice that help has arrived.

    Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders’ ill-chosen dark grey stealth cars have been rebooted since citizens loudly objected. How will a lost child, a stunned victim, even notice these cars? So Saunders hired, I guess College Pro Painters, and now the doors are white. As Americans would put it, big whoop. I have some Cloud White left over from the porch paint, if that helps.

    4. Still on cars, stop shooting them. It’s an improvement on shooting people, but beyond that, it could not be less productive. Florida has seen a flurry of gun attacks on vehicles, with more repair trucks being shot by angry homeowners who felt disrespected by parking (a big concept in the world of toxic masculinity). The crème de la crème came in 2015 when Toronto Const. Tash Baiat shot a stationary car 23 times. Perhaps it was looking at him funny. It took two years for the police to dock him a week’s pay. Bullets can ricochet, he has been sternly informed by senior officers. I pass on that helpful message.

    5. Stop dressing like neo-Nazis. This is a tough one, and may not apply to Canadians. But we’ll see what vile matter gathers with tiki torches in Quebec as migrants fleeing possible Trump deportations continue to cross into Canada. Best to retire white polo shirts, chinos and New Balance sneakers, the normalizing of the white supremacist and the weaponizing of Normcore.

    As Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan wrote, “White nationalists are moving through communities cloaked in the most mundane, banal kind of fashion. Clothes that make them look like they belong. And the fashion industry has yet to tell them that they do not.”

    Next year, men may have to turn peacock in order not to look like casual neo-Nazis on the prowl. Suits will require ties again, possibly even cravats. Skin care will be huge (think Steve Bannon’s face, which needs rubbing alcohol plus Clindoxyl). Makeup will advance further. Eyeliner is your friend.

    6. Stop riding motorcycles. These hobbyists are called “donors” for a reason. This has been a bad summer — another three died in the Kawarthas on Sunday — but a very good one for people needing livers, corneas, lungs and whatnot. So I’m not going to harangue you on this. You foolish people might save the lives of dying children, a far, far better thing than I will ever do.

    7. Daily Mail Fear Alert: Kinky outdoor sex in dungeons (OK, tents) at the Flamefest sex party in Royal Tunbridge Wells can kill you (and it did, the Mail reports triumphantly), also get locals upset about damage to bucolic area. What about “hikes, badger-watching, pond dipping or birdspotting,” one neighbour suggested.

    More DM Fear: ticks can cause heart attacks. Gum disease can cause dementia.

    The wonderful Dr. Christian Jessen — host of a binge-watchable British show called Embarrassing Bodies, now on Netflix — says STDs can be airborne, i.e., you can get chlamidya in your eyeball if a certain something lands in it. Doctors cauterizing tracheal warts can inhale the smoke that contains the virus. Also, wash your armpits. Did you know they can rot and detach?

    Mind how you go. I will be back to berate you as soon as it becomes necessary.

    hmallick@thestar.ca


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    OTTAWA—A Liberal MP says it’s time that Canada looked at joining the United States on ballistic missile defence against North Korea’s threat to launch inter-continental weapons.

    MP Mark Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands) said that, with the evolving threat from North Korea, which launched tests of inter-continental missiles with greater range and boasted of new nuclear capabilities, it may be time to break from what has been Liberal, and Canadian government, policy since 2005.

    That’s when then-Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, helming a minority government, bowed to opposition in his own caucus and among Canadians, and decided Canada would not participate in the American missile-shield program.

    It angered the then-U.S. Administration of George W. Bush.

    The Conservatives used it in repeated campaigns as a political wedge to criticize the Liberals.

    But Martin’s Conservative successor Stephen Harper, never reversed the decision.

    “What I can tell you is, personally, I do think we need to start to look at what Canada’s role will be in that,” said Gerretsen.

    Gerretsen said he had no way of knowing how widespread support is within the Liberal caucus for his position, a key factor in whether the government would move in that direction. If support within Liberal ranks has grown, it could make it easier for the government of Justin Trudeau to shift Canada’s position.

    Gerretsen is a member of the Commons defence committee, which decided Tuesday to summon government and defence experts within a month for a deeper hearing on Canada’s operational readiness to deal with the evolving North Korean threat. He stressed he was not speaking on behalf of the government: “I’m here being a member of parliament on this committee.

    Gerretsen says the committee, itself, believes it’s time to, at least, look at these questions.

    But Gerretsen’s view was not shared by another Liberal, MP Stephen Fuhr, who chaired the committee Tuesday.

    Fuhr told Canadian Press that Canada has only limited resources for the military and that North Korea doesn’t pose a threat to this country.

    Trudeau’s Liberal government has nevertheless already signaled it is ready to reopen those discussions after it tabled its defence policy review in June.

    A spokesperson for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, in an emailed reply to the Star, said the Liberal government has not formally changed Canada’s longstanding position on missile defence.

    But it’s clear the matter is on the table.

    “While Canada’s new defence policy ‘Strong, Secure, Engaged’ does not change our position on BMD (ballistic missile defence), it does commit us to continue ongoing collaboration with our U.S. counterparts on ways in which we can evolve our approach to North American defence,” said Sajjan’s press secretary Jordan Owens.

    “The new policy commits the government of Canada to examining, through NORAD modernization, territorial defence against all perils, including threats from cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and other future technologies to provide Canadians with greater security at home.”

    Gerretsen, speaking to reporters after the committee held a rare summer meeting, said, “In 2005, we chose not to be part of it. Given what’s going on in the world now, maybe it’s time to start to have discussions about whether Canada should be part of that. That’s my own personal opinion on it.”

    “Given the threats that are continuing to emerge in the world and the fact that, over the last number of years, Canada has not been a participant when the United States are pretty much running the show with respect to ballistic missile defence, we should be having an ongoing discussion about what our role should be in that. And I think 10-years-plus after the fact is a timely opportunity to have that discussion.”

    Conservative Opposition defence critic James Bezan would not go that far.

    Bezan said, Tuesday, the Conservative caucus is waiting to hear from government experts on the state of Canada’s military readiness before developing its view on how best to deal with any threat from North Korea.

    Bezan said it’s up to the government and Trudeau to suggest the appropriate response before the caucus develops its position.

    “Hopefully, we’ll see a diplomatic solution that will take away any necessity to have this type of war-gaming and planning going on behind the scenes because of the development of ballistic missiles.”

    Bezan suggested that after Canada’s decision in 2005 “things didn’t change until this summer.

    “And, from this point forward I think everyone is looking at how we can best work with the United States, how we can work through NORAD in dealing with this new threat.” He added Canada needs to worry not just about North Korea’s missile capabilities but also about non-conventional weapons and the “proliferation of submarines that have ability to come within Canadian waters.”

    The NDP hopes the Liberals do not embrace missile defence. New Democrat foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière said that missile defence systems give false comfort, because they are subject to failure and cannot keep up with the evolution of weapons technology.

    “That kind of defensive system only leads countries like, not only North Korea, but China and Russia, who may feel concerned to upgrade their systems and it just leads to escalation.”

    Instead, she said the answer is diplomacy, and the pursuit of nuclear-disarmament talks with greater energy, including communicating with “our allies, notably the United States, to try to suggest or force or convince of the need of de-escalation.

    “In the diplomatic tool box, there is a lot of tools, and I want to know what tools this government is using.”


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    A Mississauga woman has launched a campaign to loosen GO Transit’s regulations about canine companions.

    Kimberly Fleming lives less than a 15-minute walk from the Port Credit GO Transit station in her hometown. She said she prefers using public transit, but frequently has to drive into Toronto because she can’t take her dog, a 1-year-old miniature Australian shepherd named Tess, on the train.

    GO Transit policy states that unless they’re service animals, dogs aren’t allowed on the agency’s buses and trains unless they’re in “enclosed, secure carriers that do not inconvenience other customers.”

    Fleming said there’s “no way” she could lug Tess, who weighs about 14 kg, around in a crate. There’s also the question of what she would do with the carrier when she arrived at her destination.

    That’s why she started an online petition last week asking GO Transit to review its pet policy.

    “I would prefer to get out of this traffic and to be able to take a leashed dog in a safe way across the city,” said Fleming in a phone interview from her car, where she was on her way to get Tess treated for a limp by a specialist in Scarborough.

    “This policy, it’s far too restrictive … Car ownership should not be a requirement to have a dog,” she said.

    As of late Tuesday afternoon Fleming’s petition had about 370 signatures.

    In an email, Anne Marie Aikins, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, the provincial agency that operates GO Transit, said the organization had “no immediate plans to change our policy regarding pets.”

    She said the rules are in place to ensure the safety and comfort of GO riders, as well as to protect transit agency property.

    She acknowledged that both pet- and non-pet-owners have “passionate feelings” about the regulations. “Some like the policy and others want it to be more open and we always try to create a balance,” she said.

    Fleming argued that it would be simple for Metrolinx to craft regulations that allowed dog-owners to travel with their pets without inconveniencing other riders who may have allergies or a fear of canines.

    Certain cars on GO trains could be designated dog-free, she suggests, and pets could be restricted to the first level of each double-decker car.

    Compared to GO Transit, the TTC has more lax rules about pets. The agency allows leashed dogs on its vehicles as long as they ride outside of weekday peak service periods, which the TTC defines as 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., and 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Service animals are allowed at all times.

    Fleming asserted that as GO Transit and the TTC move toward greater integration through a standardized fare structure, the agencies also need to harmonize policies about pets and other issues in order to give customers a “seamless” ride.

    But while looser rules work for the TTC, Aikins said they may not suit GO Transit, which is a regional service. That means “trips can be much longer and trains crowded,” she said. “So (the policy) is to protect the animal, our customers, and of course our seats!”

    Cindy Smith, who writes a blog about commuting by GO Transit called This Crazy Train, said that in her experience the rules about dogs isn’t strictly enforced and that passengers do sometimes bring their pets aboard with just a leash.

    She predicted that most GO users wouldn’t object if Metrolinx relaxed the policy.

    “I don’t think you’re going to get everyone to agree on what is best,” she said. “But as a regular GO commuter, as long as I’m a paying customer and I get to sit before your dog does, we’re good!”


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    WASHINGTON—The Trump administration on Tuesday cut nearly $100 million (U.S.) in military and economic aid to Egypt and delayed almost $200 million more in military financing to Egypt, pending human rights improvements and action to ease harsh restrictions on civic and other non-governmental groups.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had decided to withhold $65.7 million in military assistance and $30 million in economic aid to Egypt that has been on hold since fiscal 2014, the officials said. That money will be reprogrammed, meaning it will now be sent to other countries, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress had not been formally notified of the decision.

    At the same time, the officials said Rex Tillerson had signed a waiver saying that $195 million in military assistance to Egypt is in the U.S. national interest but had decided to hold off on spending it. Under federal law, Tillerson had until the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30, to either sign the waiver, certify that Egypt is meeting the human rights conditions or return the money to the Treasury. The waiver gives Egypt additional time to meet the requirements for the $195 million, which Congress appropriated for fiscal year 2016.

    The officials stressed that the U.S. continues to consider Egypt a key strategic partner but that it remains seriously concerned about a lack of progress on the human rights front, including the passage of the new law on non-governmental organizations that has been widely criticized for being excessive and being used to crack down on opposition. The $195 million will be held in reserve until Egypt makes progress in those areas, the officials said.


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    In a display of its tougher stance on misconduct involving patient-doctor relationships, the discipline committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has revoked the licence of a psychiatrist who entered into a romantic relationship with a patient he intends to marry.

    Whereas similar conduct in previous cases was typically met with suspensions, the decision to strip Toronto doctor Nagi Ghabbour’s licence is likely a response to criticism that the committee was being too lenient in the past, critics say.

    Ghabbour is only the second Ontario physician to lose his licence for beginning a relationship with a patient too soon after the end of the doctor-patient relationship.

    “The very nature of the relationship, the profound vulnerability of this specific patient and Dr. Ghabbour’s lack of insight into the egregiousness of the misconduct led the committee to decide that revocation is the only suitable penalty to fully protect the public in the circumstances of this case,” a five-member panel of the discipline committee wrote in a decision released Tuesday.

    “Sexual relationships with prior psychotherapeutic patients are likely never advisable, nor likely ever in the best interest of the patient. Public trust and protection must be the guiding principle for the profession to do no harm.”

    Ghabbour, 55, will be eligible to reapply for his licence in one year, but will have to prove that he has learned from his misconduct, the panel said. His lawyer did not return the Star’s request for comment.

    Ghabbour admitted at his discipline hearing in February to professional misconduct in that he began a relationship with Patient A, whose name is covered by a publication ban, about a month after he stopped being her psychiatrist.

    The panel heard in February that the pair are living together — Patient A even attended the discipline hearing — and that they intend to marry.

    The college had argued that Ghabbour’s licence should be revoked, but the doctor’s lawyer pushed for a nine- to 12-month suspension with a condition that Ghabbour receive therapy.

    While admitting during the penalty phase of the hearing that dating a patient so soon after the end of their professional relationship was a serious boundary violation and a “huge lapse in judgment,” Ghabbour also testified: “I love her, I adore her, and I respect her.”

    Ghabbour’s penalty hearing took place while the provincial government was looking to strengthen the law around sexual abuse and physician-patient relationships in the wake of a Star investigation into doctors still at work after being found guilty of sexually abusing their patients.

    The government’s Bill 87 became law in May. It stipulates that a person is still considered a “patient” for one year after they stop seeing the physician. Therefore, any sexual activity within that year would lead to the mandatory revocation of a doctor’s licence. Colleges would also be permitted to extend the period beyond one year.

    The bill was not yet law when Ghabbour’s conduct and hearing took place, but the college’s lawyer drew the panel’s attention to it while arguing for revocation. “It’s an indication of where our society is moving in Ontario with regards to this type of conduct,” Elisabeth Widner told the panel.

    The discipline panel acknowledged a “shift in societal values” in its decision to revoke.

    “The public expects and deserves professionalism and integrity from Ontario doctors and that the college will regulate the profession in the public interest,” the panel wrote. “The committee is very aware of the shift in societal values that is highlighted by the Ontario government’s amendments to the Regulated Health Professions Act (Bill 87).”

    Medical malpractice lawyer Paul Harte, who was not involved with the case, said the panel’s decision sends a message that the type of conduct Ghabbour engaged in will not be tolerated, but that it is a message that should have been transmitted long ago.

    “They seem to be responding both to the concerns expressed in the media and also concerns expressed by the Minister of Health,” he said.

    Patient A had been experiencing stress at work as well as marital difficulties, and was seeing Ghabbour for anxiety and depression, the panel heard in February. Ghabbour provided prescriptions for antidepressants. He also documented suicidal ideation.

    She eventually began displaying romantic feelings for him in sessions, which he testified he resisted. Ghabbour maintained he didn’t want to refer her to someone else because he felt she was lacking support in other areas of her life and he wanted to help her.

    After one session, she hugged him, and at one point he noted in his charts that the patient was “idealizing him and is seeking a real/physical bond with him,” according to an agreed statement of facts filed at the hearing. He said he made attempts to make clear to her that he was her psychiatrist.

    In one of their last sessions, Patient A kissed him on the mouth, Ghabbour testified. Within weeks of Patient A deciding she no longer wanted Ghabbour as her psychiatrist because of her personal feelings toward him, the two began to see each other socially, and the relationship soon became sexual, the panel heard.

    “Dr. Ghabbour testified that he was concerned about abandoning Patient A if he referred her for appropriate therapy once the transference was evident,” the panel wrote, referring to when Ghabbour became aware of Patient A’s feelings for him.

    “It is atrocious that he chose to terminate treatment and made no attempt to transfer her to another psychiatrist, despite his conclusion that she was suffering from serious psychiatric conditions that included suicidal ideation. His misconduct in pursuit of his own needs has led, in the result, to many patients being abandoned.”

    The first doctor to lose their licence for starting a personal relationship too soon after the end of the professional one was Mehdi Horri, whose licence was yanked in March, as a different panel of the discipline committee was still deliberating Ghabbour’s punishment.


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    KAMLOOPS, B.C.—Finance Minister Carole James says the worst wildfire season in British Columbia’s history is expected to put a dent in the provincial budget as firefighters battle the largest blaze on record.

    “We’re tracking $389 million over the February budget estimate right now, and we’re only halfway through the season,” James said Tuesday as she released B.C.’s public accounts.

    She said firefighting costs will be included in next month’s financial update before the province releases its full budget in February.

    Kevin Skrepnek with the BC Wildfire Service said a record-breaking 10,200 square kilometres of forest and grasslands have burned across the province since April and the number is expected to climb with more dry weather ahead.

    “This is the highest area of land burned that we have ever had in the province’s history stretching back to 1912, which is the earliest we have got records on hand,” he said from Williams Lake.

    Read more:

    At least 19 wildfires combine to form largest blaze in B.C.’s history

    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

    Skrepnek said 134 fires were burning in B.C. on Tuesday and that calmer and cooler conditions in recent days have helped firefighting efforts.

    The largest fires, including a historic blaze west of Quesnel that is more than 4,600 square kilometres in size, have not grown since Monday.

    Conditions have also eased around a wildfire sparked nearly two weeks ago in southeastern B.C., prompting the Regional District of Central Kootenay to rescind evacuation orders and alerts.

    Officials said residents would be allowed to return early Tuesday evening to nearly 40 properties that were evacuated on Aug. 12 as an aggressive wildfire flared 20 kilometres southwest of Salmo.

    The fire closed Hwy. 6 leading to the Canada-U.S. border crossing at Nelway, and travellers have been advised to check the DriveBC website for the latest information on when roads will reopen.

    The B.C. Wildfire Service site shows the blaze had scorched about four square kilometres of bush and was 50-per-cent contained.

    Chris Duffy with Emergency Management BC said roughly 2,600 people are still displaced by evacuation orders — down from 3,800 reported Monday. Another 12,400 people remain on evacuation alert, meaning they must be ready to leave if an evacuation order is issued.

    Skrepnek said thunderstorms are expected to bring gusty winds and lightning to the central Interior later this week and could hinder firefighting efforts.


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    Uber put a pair of self-driving cars on Toronto streets Tuesday after winning approval from the province for on-road testing of its autonomous vehicle technology.

    Two autonomous vehicles (AVs) operating in manual mode will be driving around the University of Toronto campus and surrounding areas starting Tuesday and continuing for the rest of the week. “Manual mode” means that although the cars have self-driving capability, they will be operated by human drivers.

    The cars aren’t available for rides: they will be conducting mapping tasks. Uber says it hopes to test the cars in autonomous mode by the end of 2017.

    Read more: Uber opening Toronto research hub for driverless car technology

    Uber self-driving car crash comes amid fierce debate on regulations

    “This data will support our engineering efforts as we prepare for official testing later this year,” says Susie Heath, a spokesperson for Uber Canada.

    Uber announced in May that it would open a research group devoted to driverless car technology in Toronto, creating a third hub and its first outside the U.S. for the company’s AV ambitions.

    Last year, Ontario became the first province in Canada to allow on-road testing of AVs. The Ministry of Transportation’s pilot program permits approved companies and research groups to test their vehicles providing that applicants follow certain criteria, including keeping a human in the driver’s seat to monitor vehicle operations at all times.

    A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation says that seven groups have been approved for on-road testing under the pilot program: Uber, the University of Waterloo, the Erwin Hymer Group, QNX, Continental, X-matik Inc., and Magna. Uber’s two AVs join a fleet of conventional sensor-equipped cars that began collecting mapping data from Toronto’s streets last September.

    Uber’s self-driving car tests elsewhere have been accompanied by regulatory disputes. In California, Uber initially refused to apply for permits for the self-driving cars it was operating in San Francisco, arguing that the vehicles don’t meet the state’s definition of autonomous. The New York Times also reported that Uber’s AVs in San Francisco ran several red lights.

    The state revoked the vehicles’ registrations, and Uber responded by moving its testing to Arizona, where regulations are more permissive. (An Uber AV in Arizona was involved in a crash, but police said the other driver was at fault.) Uber later obtained the California permits and put its self-driving cars back on the streets.

    The cars in San Francisco are also involved in testing and development, not picking up passengers. In Pittsburgh, where Uber’s biggest AV research hub is located, self-driving cars have been picking up passengers — with a safety driver in the front seat — since September 2016.

    The company has had a tumultuous year. A former engineer alleged that she had been sexually harassed at work, prompting an investigation into Uber’s workplace culture. Waymo, Google’s self-driving unit, is suing Uber, claiming that a former engineer stole thousands of files on a critical piece of hardware before founding a company that was acquired by Uber (Uber later fired him). Dogged by controversies and grappling with his mother’s death in a boating accident, CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down in June and has not yet been replaced.

    Ontario has said it wants to position itself at the forefront of the emerging autonomous vehicle market, which some — including Uber — believe will be worth billions of dollars. The province also cites the potential for more environmentally-friendly and safer roads, since automated drivers are not prone to distraction or drinking and driving, like humans are.


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