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    A group of Toronto public officials petitioned the provincial government on Thursday to file an injunction to block the “disturbing anti-abortion images” that are increasingly appearing on posters and flyers in the city.

    The letter is addressed to attorney general Yasir Naqvi, and backed by Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns, Toronto District School Board trustee Jennifer Story, and city councillors Paula Fletcher and Mary Fragedakis.

    In it, the quartet joined city councillor Sarah Doucette in criticizing the use of “horrifying images by an anti-abortion group, the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform.”

    “I think it’s important because of the impact it’s having on my community. People are horrified, they’re traumatized, they’re worried about their children,” Tabuns said in an interview.

    “We’re in a society where free speech is guaranteed and I’m very glad of that but putting out images that are so horrendous is not something that is responsible.”

    CCBR spokesperson Devorah Gilman says the group has distributed hundreds of thousands of flyers to mailboxes in order to “answer questions and provide information.” The group also has members carry graphic billboards at busy intersections.

    “We do this where there’s going to be foot traffic, where there are teenagers, adults, where we can be having conversations with those who might be considering abortion or know someone who might be considering abortion and we show the pictures,” Gilman said.

    But Tabuns says enough’s enough.

    “I think the attorney general has the power, the authority, and I think the responsibility, to protect the community from these really grisly, graphic images of chopped up fetuses,” he said. “People are just outraged that these images could be used in this way in what they perceive as an assault on them.”

    The office of the attorney general did not immediately return a request for comment.

    The attorney general can seek an injunction against “public nuisances” when they become so widespread that “it would not be reasonable to expect one person to take proceedings on his own responsibility to put a stop to it, but that it should be taken on the responsibility of the community at large,” according to Lori Sterling and Heather Mackay in the Queen’s Law Journal.

    “Although we object to the message and the misleading information on the flyers we understand that freedom of speech is protected and we don’t ask for prohibition of the message,” Tabuns wrote, adding that many in his community have complained that children or pregnant women find the images in their mailboxes.

    “Our concern is to protect children and adults who would be traumatized by distribution or display of these images.”

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    Metrolinx’s next president and CEO is the former managing director of a Scottish rail firm who resigned amid controversy earlier this year.

    The provincial transit agency announced Phil Verster’s appointment at a scheduled news conference at its offices in Union Station on Thursday afternoon, shortly after the Star revealed that he’d been given the post.

    Introducing Verster to the media, Metrolinx board chair Rob Prichard said that the 54-year-old South Africa native has the experience and skills necessary to take the helm of the agency as it undergoes a major shift from merely planning transit to consolidating itself as a major builder and operator of rail lines.

    “There are few people in the transit and rail industry with the know-how, experience, and skills to drive transformation and maintain service at the same time. Phil Verster is one of them,” Prichard said.

    “He has done exactly what Metrolinx needs to do now.”

    Verster’s appointment is for a three-year, renewable term, which starts October 1. He will make an annual salary of $479,000.

    He takes charge of Metrolinx as the agency is in the midst of a massive, $13.5-billion project to expand and electrify GO Transit, and quadruple the number of trips on the regional rail service to 6,000 a week by 2025.

    The agency is also in charge of building new light rail lines in Toronto, Hamilton, and Mississauga.

    “This is an exciting time to think about how we continue to change our organization,” said Verster, who is an engineer by training.

    He said he considered the CEO job a “fantastic opportunity” to “help with something that is going to transform the transit works in our area for years to come.”

    Media reports from Britain and Ireland, where Verster has spent more than a decade in leadership roles at various rail agencies, describe him as a respected figure in the industry.

    In 2015, he became managing director of ScotRail Alliance, the operator of Scotland’s passenger rail service. While there he oversaw a $3-billion electrification of the agency’s network.

    In January, however, he resigned after just 18 months on the job. The BBC reported that he had been “facing intense pressure” for the agency’s “failure to meet punctuality and reliability targets.”

    Two months before his resignation, Network Rail, which oversees rail operation in Britain, hired an outside agency to probe allegations that he had improperly accepted gifts and hospitality from contractors.

    On Thursday, Verster told reporters that the third party audit “found absolutely no evidence” to support the allegations, which were made by an anonymous whistleblower.

    He acknowledged that ScotRail’s reliability had fallen below target, but said that he put a recovery plan in place that fixed the problem.

    As head of Metrolinx, Verster will be taking charge of a less busy agency. ScotRail’s annual ridership is about 93.2 million, while GO Transit, Metrolinx’s main passenger service, carries 69.5 million a year.

    He replaces Bruce McCuaig, who stepped down in April after nearly seven years at Metrolinx. McCuaig was a veteran bureaucrat who before becoming Merolinx CEO served three years as deputy transportation minister in Dalton McGuinty’s government.

    Opposition MPs said Thursday they were encouraged that Metrolinx had selected a new leader who has experience running a rail agency and isn’t connected to Ontario’s governing party.

    “I’m hopeful that this new CEO focuses on his mandate to deliver Metrolinx’s core objectives, and not (Premier) Kathleen Wynne’s political agenda,” said Michael Harris, transportation critic for the Ontario PC Party.

    Harris declined to criticize Verster for past controversies at ScotRail, saying only that he hoped Verster had “learned from” the experience.

    After resigning the Scottish agency, Verster spent several months overseeing the East West Rail project, a new line that will link Oxford and Cambridge.

    Prior to his time at ScotRail, he served as the managing director of Network Rail’s London North East service for three-and-a-half years. Before that he was deputy CEO of Irish Rail.

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    Canadian lawyers acting for the widow of an American special forces soldier have filed an application in Alberta — essentially duplicating one filed earlier in Ontario — seeking enforcement of a massive U.S. damages award against former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr.

    The claim calls on the Court of Queen’s Bench to recognize the judgment from Utah, and to issue a “corresponding” judgment in the amount of $173.88 million — the Canadian value of the $132.1-million American award made in June 2015.

    “Given that Canada has substantially similar legislation in relation to civil actions for victims of terrorism, it is entirely consistent with the fundamental public policy of Canada to enforce the U.S. judgment,” the notice states. “There are no defences to enforcement and recognition that operate in favour of the defendant in this case.”

    Read more: Omar Khadr fact check paints a clearer picture of the case and the incident underlying it

    Opposition to Omar Khadr’s settlement is puzzling and cynical: Paradkar

    Ottawa’s apology to Omar Khadr sparks political fight over handling of ‘complex saga’

    According to the notice, bringing the Alberta action in parallel with the Ontario case is proper “given the territorial limitations of the respective judgment-enforcement regimes.”

    Calgary-based lawyer Dan Gilborn refused to discuss the proceedings on Thursday, saying his office was not authorized to comment.

    While the Alberta action was filed in early July amid word that the federal government was paying Khadr $10.5 million to settle a civil lawsuit, the lawyers acting for the Americans said they were having trouble serving notice on him.

    “We have thus far been unable to locate Mr. Khadr for personal service, although we are aware that he has been residing in Edmonton, Alta., for much of the past two years,” Gilborn wrote Aug. 14 in a letter to Khadr’s lawyers, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

    One of Khadr’s Edmonton-based lawyers, Nate Whitling, said on Thursday that it would be a waste of time and money to try two identical actions at once.

    “It’s two duplicative actions and there’s no point in proceeding with both of them,” Whitling said from Edmonton.

    He also said the Alberta action had been filed too late.

    Both actions — the Ontario one was filed June 8 — are on behalf of relatives of U.S. special forces Sgt. Chris Speer, who was killed in Afghanistan in July 2002.

    Speer had been part of a massive American assault on an insurgent compound, where Khadr, then 15 years old, was captured badly wounded. Retired U.S. sergeant Layne Morris, who was blinded in one eye during the same operation, is a co-applicant.

    The applications — like the uncontested civil suit in Utah — lean heavily on Khadr’s guilty plea before a widely discredited military commission in Guantanamo Bay in 2010 to having thrown the grenades that killed Speer and blinded Morris. Khadr later said his confession to five purported war crimes was his only way out of the infamous prison and to return to Canada.

    Khadr, 30, who recently got married, has been on bail in Edmonton for the past two years pending his appeal in the U.S. of his commission convictions.

    The Americans failed last month to get an injunction freezing Khadr’s assets — including the $10.5-million sources said the federal government paid him — pending outcome of the Ontario enforcement action.

    However, in previous Ontario filings, Whitling argued against enforcement of the Utah judgment given its reliance on the military commission. Canadian courts are statute barred from enforcing foreign judgments that offend Canada’s public policy, he noted, and the Supreme Court has found the Guantanamo system contrary to Canadians’ concept of justice.

    “Officials at the highest levels of the Canadian government have already stated . . . that (Khadr’s) detention and prosecution in GTMO offended our most basic values and principles,” Whitling said in court filings.

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    Canada’s political summer is ending as it began — with talk of multimillion-dollar payouts to highly controversial characters.

    Mike Duffy is not Omar Khadr, but the senator and former journalist also wants to be compensated for how he was treated by his own government and let down by the Canadian legal system.

    He’s suing the Senate and RCMP for $7.8 million in lost income and damages and, like Khadr, is making a case — quite possibly a convincing one — that his basic rights as a citizen were trampled by base, crass politics.

    Get ready, then, for another polarizing, national argument over the price of politicizing the country’s justice system. Such debates have been the bookends for the summer of 2017, and probably should leave us with lingering questions about where political interference has played havoc with law and order. This isn’t happening in some other country — it happened in Canada.

    Read more:

    Mike Duffy suing the Senate and RCMP, seeking over $7.8 million in damages

    Ethics watchdog says Harper aide Nigel Wright breached guidelines in Duffy affair

    The Senate owes Duffy money. It should pay up: Tim Harper

    At the beginning of July, Canadians were locked in fierce debate over whether Khadr, the former child soldier and prisoner at Guantanamo, was owed a $10-million settlement for successive, Liberal and Conservative governments’ failure to protect his legal rights.

    As August winds down, the public can now argue over whether Duffy is owed compensation for his descent into political infamy, which started in 2013 and carried on right to his total exoneration in April 2016.

    In both cases, the men have powerful court rulings on their side, which may not quiet the critics, but definitely tilt the balance in their favour.

    Duffy, according to Justice Charles Vaillancourt’s ruling 18 months ago, was the victim of a “mind-boggling and shocking” abuse in the democratic system. The abuse started at the top, specifically Stephen Harper’s PMO, which appears to have turned Duffy into political roadkill — with the help of a spineless RCMP and Senate — to quell a fuss over expenses in the red chamber. The whole sorry tale is recapped in the 50-page statement of claim filed with Ontario Superior Court on Thursday, with colourful descriptions of political treachery: “forced scenario” and “mistake-repay strategy,” for instance.

    The Prime Minister’s Office, under new management since late 2015, is not being sued by Duffy, but the Senate and the RCMP are. The lawsuit, and Duffy’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, mince no words in alleging that the national police force went after a Canadian citizen to suit a political agenda. That’s not a trifling accusation; we tend to assume that this is the kind of thing that happens in political thrillers or banana republics.

    But Greenspon was pretty clear at his press conference on Thursday. “When the RCMP are perceived to have been taking their marching orders from the Prime Minister’s Office and/or the Senate, that’s a very dangerous road for the RCMP to be going down.”

    Duffy, the journalist, was not known for his discretion. But in his more recent role as disgraced-then-vindicated senator, he has been extremely and uncharacteristically quiet since his trial ended in 2016. No whispered asides to his old journalist friends; no big leaks of his plans for revenge.

    The longer he remained silent, in fact, the more that people suspected that something was up; that the “ol’ Duff,” as he liked to call himself, was amassing a case against those who had wronged him.

    “It also took me a long time to draft up a 50-page statement of claim. My goodness, it’s one of the longer ones I’ve ever done, I’ve got to say,” Greenspon told reporters.

    Apart from everything else, that statement is also the first real, personal glimpse we’ve had into how Duffy has been doing since his legal troubles began.

    His former lawyer, Donald Bayne, had said he feared for his client’s life throughout the legal ordeal. The statement lays out the medical details: a second round of open-heart surgery (which the statement describes as “extensive and significant”); depression; severe anxiety; insomnia; and a worsening of his diabetes, specifically, a loss of vision.

    As Duffy’s new lawyer put it at the press conference on Thursday, his client “near died” from the stress. Being an enemy of the state is a dangerous condition.

    There is one big difference between Duffy and Khadr: Duffy’s troubles began when he got too friendly with the government; Khadr when he got involved with an enemy abroad. But both found out what happens when a citizen becomes politically inconvenient to the PMO.

    It’s said that the real test of commitment to basic rights is whether we can defend them for people we don’t like. In the case of Khadr and Duffy, the top politicians in Canada failed the test, but that doesn’t mean citizens have to do the same.

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    As activists and members of the public crammed into the Toronto police auditorium and into an overflow room, the Toronto police board met Thursday amidst raucous chants and calls for board members to resign — including over the divisive question of police officer presence in some city high schools.

    Toronto police’s three dozen School Resource Officers (SROs) are poised to return to class alongside students in the coming weeks, something vocal members of the public gallery denounced as the civilian board opted to keep cops in schools during a proposed yearlong review.

    Police Chief Mark Saunders presented a plan to the board to have Ryerson University perform an $80,000 review of the nearly decade-old program, following recent heated controversy over the presence of armed, uniform officers in schools.

    Despite a board motion in June to conduct a review by year’s end, Saunders’ proposed Ryerson review would not be completed for another academic school year.

    Critics of the program, which was instituted after the 2007 school shooting death of Jordan Manners, say the presence of police in schools has a significant detrimental effect on students and must be halted immediately.

    Opponents say racialized youth in particular feel harassed and surveilled, that the involvement of police creates a “school to prison pipeline,” and that undocumented students are threatened by officers inquiring about their citizenship status, in contravention of both Toronto school boards’ “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.

    Proponents, meanwhile, say the officers make a positive impact coaching basketball, co-ordinating extracurricular events, and preventing incidents between students.

    Gita Madan, with the group Education Not Incarceration, criticized the police participation in a process intended to be arms-length. She noted Chief Mark Saunders, board chair Andy Pringle and another board member will form a steering committee to oversee the review.

    “To be clear, this is not an independent review, as you state. This is police investigating police. And everyone in this room knows what happens when you have police evaluating police,” Madan said in a deputation to the board.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Saunders said the goal of the SRO program is relationship-building, not enforcement — “my men and women don’t go in there lurking the hallways, looking to apprehend people,” he said.

    The chief said he would “refocus” with his officers before they go back into the schools next month — “all eyes are on them” — and stress that they should not be conducting immigration status checks, though he denied that has been happening outside of a criminal investigation.

    Asked about the increasingly adversarial nature of the board meetings — recent months have seen frequent disruptions and shouting matches between the public and board members — Saunders said: “You know, just because you scream loud doesn’t mean you’re accurate.”

    Mayor John Tory, too, commented on recent divisiveness.

    “It is certainly an awkward position and one I find very puzzling when people will come to a meeting and absolutely no point of view, no perspective other than their own is acceptable to them. And they question the legitimacy of reviewing something — you should ‘just abolish it.’”

    In the wake of raucous meetings, armed Toronto police officers have been stationed inside the police auditorium and outside its doors. As of last month, members of the public have also had to pass through security to enter police headquarters at 40 College St., undergoing a bag search and metal detector.

    “What you are seeing in this room today,” activist and freelance journalist Desmond Cole said in a deputation to the board, “is the militarization of a public space so that you and I will not come here and talk about police in our schools.”

    Some members of the public attending Thursday’s meeting held up signs saying “We’re here for Dafonte,” in reference to the severe beating of Black teen Dafonte Miller.

    Miller, 19, suffered severe facial injuries after he was allegedly beaten by off-duty Toronto police officer Michael Theriault and his brother, Christian, during the December 2016 incident. The brothers are now charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and public mischief.

    The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which probes deaths and serious injuries involving police, was not notified until months later — and then only by Miller’s lawyer — prompting accusations of a deliberate coverup by police to protect the Theriault brothers, whose father is a long-time Toronto police officer.

    Saunders has denied allegations of a coverup.

    Madan, one of the speakers against the SRO program, said what happened to Miller is “directly related to why we refuse the presence of police officers in our schools.”

    “It is this context in which the SRO program exists. It does not exist in a bubble separate from what’s going on in the street.”

    Wendy Gillis can be reached at

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    OTTAWA—Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, was an architect of Indigenous genocide whose name has no place on public schools in Ontario, according to an attention-grabbing motion passed last week by the province’s elementary teachers union.

    It’s a strong accusation at a time of heated debate over the memorializing of controversial figures in the United States and Canada — that a man whose statue stands outside Parliament and the Ontario legislature, whose name is on major roads and the airport of the country’s capital, and whose face is on the $10 bill, is unworthy of being associated with children’s schools.

    The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario issued the call at its annual meeting on Aug. 14, after a motion written by teachers from Peel Region and Grand Erie was passed.

    It asks school districts across the province to drop Macdonald’s name from schools and buildings “to recognize his central role as an architect of genocide against Indigenous peoples, the impact that this has had on the relationship between Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students, parents, educators, and the ways in which his namesake buildings can contribute to an unsafe space to learn and to work.”

    Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, told the Star that he “totally” supports the call. He said he’s encouraged to see a group of teachers pushing for more awareness of Canada’s mistreatment of Indigenous peoples.

    In Macdonald’s case, he said this includes the creation of residential schools and other policies of control and assimilation under the Indian Act — including restrictions on movement and voting rights that lasted until the 1950s and 1960s — that he considers “genocide of a people.”

    “This is not about revising the history of Canada, it’s about being honest and telling the truth,” Bellegarde said, adding that he also welcomes discussion on the appropriateness of other tributes to Macdonald.

    “We have a shared history, but we have more importantly a shared future, so let’s build a country on truth and honesty.”

    Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a statement Thursday that even though Macdonald was “far from perfect” and his decision to open residential schools is “one of the most problematic in our history,” she doesn’t think his name should be removed from schools.

    Patrice Dutil, president of the Champlain Society and professor at Ryerson University, said the contention of genocide against Macdonald “makes no historical sense.”

    He acknowledged that the first prime minister wanted to see Indigenous peoples assimilated into the colonial society of Canada, but said that it’s unfair to discredit the man of the 19th century — when such views were pervasive and unchallenged — based on the ethics and social views of the present.

    “You just simply cannot level that kind of accusation against a man of the stature of Sir John A. Macdonald and at the same time ignore his accomplishments,” Dutil said.

    Similar debates have been rattling around the United States with regard to Christopher Columbus and Confederate generals. The issue recently exploded in racist violence in Virginia, where a purported white nationalist was filmed plowing his car into a crowd, leaving one woman dead. The protests occurred over the suggestion that statues glorifying men who fought to preserve the slave trade in the American South — such as Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee —should be taken down.

    In Canada, the discussion has centred on the country’s colonial history. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to longstanding demands from Indigenous groups in June by renaming the Langevin Block, which houses the nerve centre of the federal bureaucracy and the Prime Minister’s Office, and was named for a Macdonald-era cabinet minister widely credited with helping to create the residential school system. The student union at Ryerson University has also called for the school to be renamed because its namesake Egerton Ryerson is said to have influenced the creation of residential schools.

    These schools were part of a system that existed for more than a century, where Indigenous children were taken from their parents and forbidden from speaking their mother languages or practising the religions they grew up with.

    As many as 6,000 children died in the schools, though the true number is not known because the government stopped counting around 1920, according to the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    Protests have also been held in Halifax, where some have called for a statue of the city’s founder, Edward Cornwallis, to be taken down. Cornwallis offered a bounty in 1749 to anyone who killed a Mi’kmaq adult or child, in a bid to push them out of the colony of Nova Scotia.

    Felipe Pareja, a middle school French teacher in Mississauga who co-wrote the ETFO motion on Macdonald, said the call to purge his name is part of a wider conversation on reconciliation between settler and Indigenous peoples in Canada.

    He said Macdonald’s public legacy should include residential schools and the dislocation and mistreatment of First Nations on the Prairies when the railroad was built — a topic outlined in historian James Daschuk’s 2013 book, Clearing the Prairies.

    “This is very much about teaching, and teaching history from all perspectives,” Pareja said.

    Daschuk said blaming Macdonald for genocide depends on how the term is defined, but there is no doubt he was the creator of a system that “put the boot” to Indigenous peoples for decades, especially during his time as both prime minister and Indigenous affairs minister for nine years after the 1878 election.

    During this time, he established residential schools, broke treaties by refusing to supply food to starving First Nations on the Prairies and created a pass system that lasted until the 1950s, in which a status Indian living on reserve could not leave the territory without government permission, Daschuk said.

    “I’ve used the analogy: George Washington was a slave owner, and we can criticize him for that, but George Washington didn’t create slavery,” he said.

    “Macdonald created the system.”


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    OTTAWA—Mike Duffy, the Senate and the RCMP are heading back to court with the senator seeking more than $7.8 million in damages stemming from the high-profile investigation, suspension, and court case about his expenses.

    Duffy filed a claim in Ontario Superior Court on Thursday that alleges his 2013 suspension by the Senate was unconstitutional and a violation of his charter rights and that the federal government is liable for the RCMP’s alleged negligence in its investigation.

    The claim alleges the combined actions almost brought Duffy to the brink of death and inflicted irreparable harm to his reputation, which will forever be linked to the Senate spending scandal and the political coverup that accompanied questions about his spending.

    In a statement, Duffy said he, his family, and other senators who were “unfairly targeted” have suffered stress and serious financial damage and the Senate has shown no interest in correcting what he called its unjustified actions against him.

    “My civil action raises questions which go to the heart of our democracy,” the 71-year-old said in his statement.

    Read more:

    Ethics watchdog says Harper aide Nigel Wright breached guidelines in Duffy affair

    Duffy’s legal ordeal in Senate expenses scandal ends as Crown decides not to appeal

    The Senate owes Duffy money. It should pay up: Tim Harper

    “If this action succeeds in bringing charter protections to all who work on Parliament Hill, this will be my greatest contribution to public life.”

    The Prince Edward Island senator landed in trouble in late 2012 when questions were first raised about housing expenses claimed against a home he had lived in for years before he was appointed to the Senate.

    In October 2013, the Senate suspended him without pay for two years. Duffy’s claim calls the decision “an unprecedented abuse of power” taken in the absence of any criminal charges. Those charges wouldn’t arrive until July 2014, when the RCMP filed 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery against him.

    In April 2016, Ontario Court Justice Charles Vaillancourt dismissed all the charges in a lengthy and dramatic ruling that said Duffy’s claims weren’t illegal,and that Duffy was forced to take a $90,000 payment from Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper’s then chief of staff, to pay off his politically problematic housing expenses, even though Duffy contended he had done nothing wrong.

    References to Wright, Harper and the previous Conservative government pepper Duffy’s 50-page claim, but they are not targets of his lawsuit. Duffy’s lawyer Lawrence Greenspon said it was the decision of the Senate to suspend Duffy that caused the ultimate harm, even if the Prime Minister’s Office influenced the outcome.

    “If the people of Canada want to put some blame for why this is happening, I think they should direct it to the top,” Greenspon said.

    Greenspon said RCMP investigators failed to give Duffy a chance to respond to the allegations he faced and appeared to ignore evidence that would have proved his innocence. The claim also alleges that the force decided to go after Duffy because he was a higher-profile target than Wright and that charging Wright could have weakened the case against Duffy.

    Greenspon said Duffy should have never been charged and that the actions of the RCMP and the Senate “ruined his life.”

    Since then, the Senate has denied Duffy’s requests for help covering legal fees or refunding the approximately $300,000 in salary he lost during his suspension. The Senate also clawed back $16,995 from his salary for seven expense claims Senate officials decided after trial shouldn’t have approved in the first place.

    “We have someone who has been through the public grinder and been through the criminal courts and despite all of that, the Senate still refuses to try in any way to make this man whole,” said Greenspon.

    The Senate and government must now file a statement of defence to respond to Duffy’s claims as part of a legal process that could take from two to five years, depending on whether the case goes to trial or is settled out of court.

    The Senate’s interim law clerk Jacqueline Kuehl said the upper chamber will not be commenting on the case until it is appropriate to do so.

    “As this is a matter before the courts, we will respect the process,” she said.

    The government has yet to respond to a request for comment.

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    PETERBOROUGH, ONT.—The wife of a man in a dramatic video that showed a 74-year-old cyclist being beaten with a club before bystanders intervened to stop the bloody altercation said, “it’s not what it looks like at all.”

    David Fox, 65, is charged with aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. Fox did not appear Thursday when the matter was addressed for the first time in court. He was represented by his lawyer John Whelton.

    The case was put over until Sept. 22.

    A video taken by a bystander on July 18 shows the cyclist on the ground with his attacker on top of him, striking him over and over in the head and torso. It shows the attacker stopping when witnesses approached and intervened.

    The victim was bleeding profusely from his head after he got up.

    When the woman who recorded the video approached the attacker, he said in his defence that “I tried to walk away.”

    The victim’s bike was lying on the street, beside the attacker’s truck.

    Additional witnesses tried to keep the driver in the area until police arrived but he drove off in his truck.

    The victim was treated and released from Peterborough Regional Hospital. Police said the two men did not know each other.

    “I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not what it looks like at all,” said Fox’s wife, Sandra, outside her house, when approached by the Star. “All everybody caught was the last two minutes of it, not how it started or why it started.”

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    Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr returns to court this week to ask that his bail conditions be eased, including allowing him unfettered contact with his controversial older sister, more freedom to move around Canada and unrestricted internet access.

    In support of his request, Khadr notes the conditions originally imposed two years ago were necessary as a graduated integration plan following his 13 years in American and Canadian custody. No issues have arisen since his release and the various restrictions have been revised several times — most recently in May last year, he says.

    Currently, Khadr, 30, can only have contact with his sister Zaynab if one of his lawyers or bail supervisor is present. The condition is no longer necessary, he says.

    “I am now an adult and I think independently,” he says in an affidavit. “Even if the members of my family were to wish to influence my religious or other views, they would not be able to control or influence me in any negative manner.”

    Read more:

    Widow of U.S. soldier seeks enforcement of Utah judgment against Omar Khadr in Alberta

    Former PM Paul Martin regrets government’s early handling of Omar Khadr case

    Zaynab Khadr, 37, who recently had a fourth child in Egypt, according to court filings obtained by The Canadian Press, was detained in Turkey a year ago for an expired visa. She and her fourth husband subsequently moved to Malaysia but are now said to be living in Sudan and planning to visit Canada.

    “I would like to be able to spend time with her and the rest of our family when she is here,” Omar Khadr states. “As far as I am aware, Zaynab is not involved in any criminal activities and is frequently in contact with the Canadian embassy in order to ensure that her paperwork is up to date.”

    Zaynab Khadr, who was born in Ottawa, was at one point unable to get a Canadian passport after frequently reporting hers lost. She was also subject to an RCMP investigation in 2005, but faced no charges. Her third husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle, is reportedly still a Taliban hostage along with his American wife and children in Afghanistan. In 2008, she went on a hunger strike on Parliament Hill to draw attention to her brother’s plight as an American captive in Guantanamo Bay.

    Several years ago, she and her mother infuriated many Canadians by expressing pro-al-Qaida views. Omar Khadr told The Canadian Press last month that he saw no point in decrying their views.

    “I’m not excusing what they said. I’m not justifying what they said,” Khadr said. “They were going through a hard time. They said things out of anger or frustration.”

    Khadr, who recently married, says a college in Red Deer, Alta., about a half-hour from where he spent time in maximum security after his return from Guantanamo Bay, has accepted him into its nursing program. He says he plans to leave his Edmonton apartment at the end of September and find new accommodation.

    In another bail-variation request the court in Edmonton will consider on Thursday, Khadr asks for an end to a condition that he provide his supervisor notice about his travel plans within Alberta, and that he obtain permission to travel outside the province. Requiring him to remain in Canada would be sufficient, the documents state. He also wants restrictions on accessing computers or the internet lifted.

    In May 2015, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice June Ross granted Khadr bail pending appeal of his conviction by a widely maligned U.S. military commission for five purported war crimes. The appeal in the States has stalled through circumstances outside his control and nothing has changed since his release, his filing says.

    Khadr found himself at the centre of a fierce political firestorm amid word last month that the Canadian government, which apologized to him for breaching his rights, had paid him $10.5 million in compensation. He says he just wants to get on with his life.

    “I wish to become independent and to put my legal matters behind me,” he says in his affidavit. “I am a law-abiding citizen and I wish to live free of court-imposed conditions.”

    American soldiers captured a badly wounded Khadr, then 15 years old, in July 2002 following a fierce assault on a compound in Afghanistan in which a U.S. special forces soldier was killed. Khadr later said he pleaded guilty before the commission to throwing the deadly grenade as a way out of American detention. He returned to Canada in 2012 to serve out the rest of the eight-year sentence he was given.

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    An elderly woman has died following a collision near Markham Rd. and Steeles Ave. E.

    Toronto police tweeted around 9 p.m. that a pedestrian had been struck. Paramedics said that they transported one person to hospital in cardiac arrest.

    Just over an hour later, police confirmed the victim had died.

    The driver remained on scene, police from Traffic Services confirmed.

    Steeles Ave. E. is closed in both directions from Markham Rd. to Tapscott Rd.

    Police did not have an estimated time when the road would reopen. Traffic Services is on scene investigating.

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    BERKELEY, Calif.—A small group of right-wing demonstrators who gathered in a Berkeley park Sunday to rail against the city’s famed progressive politics was driven out, often violently, by an army of anarchist counterprotesters in black clothing and masks whose tactics overwhelmed a huge contingent of police officers.

    Hundreds of officers tried to maintain calm in and around Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park before the 1 p.m. “No to Marxism in Berkeley” rally, putting up barricades, searching bags, and confiscating sticks, masks, pepper spray and even water bottles. The goal was to head off the type of clashes that sprang from similar rallies in the city earlier this year.

    But once again, counterdemonstrators frustrated police efforts. As the crowd swelled, officers stepped aside and allowed hundreds of people angered by the presence of the right-wing rally to climb over the barriers into the park, said officer Jennifer Coates, a spokesperson for Berkeley police.

    The masked counterprotesters, often referred to as antifa or anti-fascists, significantly outnumbered the people who had come for the rally, many of whom wore red clothing supporting U.S. President Donald Trump. The anarchists chased away the right-wingers, in some cases beating them with fists and sticks. They also attacked reporters who documented their actions.

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    Police arrested 14 people and briefly detained Joey Gibson, the leader of the conservative group Patriot Prayer, who had cancelled a rally Saturday at Crissy Field in San Francisco after city leaders criticized the event plans as inciting white nationalists. Officials said police did not arrest Gibson on Sunday but instead rescued him after he was chased and pepper-sprayed by his opponents.

    Saturday had been a day of mostly peaceful anti-hate demonstrations across San Francisco. Sunday was different in Berkeley, even though thousands of people who came out to speak against the right-wing rally were not part of the anarchist mob.

    “No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA!” crowds chanted early in the day at Civic Center Park, voicing opposition to the policies of Trump, which many people said had buoyed white nationalists across the country.

    Also early in the day, hundreds of mostly local residents converged at Berkeley’s Ohlone Park to oppose hate speech, racism and white supremacy. They carried signs reading “Berkeley stands united against hate,” “Queers against hate” and “End white supremacy.”

    Jeff Conant, 50, of Berkeley, who helped organize the anti-hate rally, said, “It’s important for people to show up and make it unacceptable for right-wing white supremacists to spew hate and incite violence.”

    He praised Saturday’s “tremendous victory in San Francisco” and said Sunday was about “galvanizing a movement to oppose white supremacy and the structures that support it.”

    Berkeley denied a permit to the organizer of the anti-Marxist rally, Amber Cummings, saying her application was late and incomplete. Cummings later asked supporters not to show up because she feared violence.

    The swamping of right-wing political ideas by left-wing demonstrators has become a recurring theme in Berkeley and other California cities. The tension rose Aug. 12 when a Nazi sympathizer allegedly drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Va., that had been protesting a white supremacist rally, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Trump blamed the violence in Charlottesville on “many sides.”

    Left-leaning demonstrators dwarfed a right-wing rally in Boston on Aug. 19.

    In Berkeley on Sunday, some observers derived satisfaction from watching the counterprotesters beat up and chase off a young man who was apparently at the rally in support of Trump.

    “It’s a good time,” said Tom Martell, 70, of Crockett, who was at Civic Center Park with his girlfriend, Lisa Argento, 53.

    “They’ve got to be chased out,” Argento said. “I moved to the Bay Area and pay good money to live here. I don’t want these people here. They need to leave us the f--- alone.”

    Argento said she has mixed feelings about the idea of ignoring members of the political right who rally to drum up support for their views.

    “What are we waiting for?” she asked. “They already hold the White House. They are already dragging people away in the middle of the night.”

    But others thought the actions of the counterprotesters were shameful.

    Linda Fuentes Rosner, 69, a Spanish-language interpreter from Vallejo, stood near the park’s dry fountain glaring at a group that was holding a “Teachers for Thought” banner and chanting anti-Trump slogans.

    “What hypocrites,” Fuentes Rosner said. “They don’t know what they’re talking about. You think it’s OK that a Trump supporter gets beat up? It’s embarrassing. The left has prevented the right from speaking. That’s not American, that despotism.”

    Fuentes Rosner, a Republican, came to Berkeley for a conservative meetup that didn’t happen. Event organizers told her that members of the small group left because they felt intimidated.

    Jay Pino, 23, said he came to Berkeley from New Mexico to protest the right-wing rally, but peacefully.

    “This doesn’t have to be about violence,” he said. “The aggressive people here, I get it. It’s hard to express their anger and it’s also hard to keep it in. I’m here to try to keep the peace. No matter how bad the other side is, we have to pray for them as well.”

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    A year ago, Reena Lal had a typical high school summer job. She made subs for hungry customers who requested “no onions” or complained “you didn’t toast my bread enough!”

    But this July and August, the Bloor Collegiate student had the kind of work most teens hoping for a career in science or health care dream of.

    Instead of taking food orders, Lal learned interactions of a far more sensitive nature — with patients, doctors and researchers at Princess Margaret Hospital where she was part of a team developing a peer support program for men with prostate cancer.

    “It’s a really valuable experience,” says Lal, 17, who last week completed an eight-week pilot project called the summer student clinician scientist program.

    The initiative, launched by the University Health Network, which includes Princess Margaret, and the Toronto District School Board, gave nine Toronto teens a chance to assist a research team in a hospital setting while also earning a paycheque.

    “High school is the time you’re deciding what you want to do, and this gives you more insight into different (career) possibilities,” Lal says.

    The program was “everything I expected and more,” adds Lal, who learned how to gently approach overwhelmed patients and offer them a chance to connect with others who have gone through similar experiences by shadowing her supervisor.

    “I wasn’t expecting to be thrown into clinic and to talk to patients. I was expecting to be put on the sidelines and watch. But they really believed in me.”

    Unlike most summer opportunities for teens in high school, the clinician scientist program is a paid job rather than a volunteer position, which is a first for the hospital. Students earn minimum wage, funded through the Princess Margaret Foundation.

    “They’re learning and earning at the same time,” says Leeanne Bouteiller, who runs the UHN-TDSB partnership, which has placed 2,000 students in school-year co-op placements and summer programs over the last 23 years.

    The first year has been such a success, Bouteiller says she has high hopes the program will continue and expand.

    For many Toronto students, working without pay is not an option, says Bouteiller. This gives those who can’t afford to spend the summer volunteering a shot at valuable experiences on-site.

    “We didn’t want the need for employment to be a barrier,” adds radiation oncologist Dr. Meredith Giuliani, director of cancer education who oversees the hospital’s many educational programs.

    Students this summer came from Bloor Collegiate and Newtonbrook Secondary School. School staff approached teens who’d expressed interest in pursuing health care careers and who they thought would flourish in the pilot.

    Under the tutelage of supervisors at Princess Margaret, they participated on research in such diverse subjects as MRI-guided radiotherapy for liver cancer, cervical cancer biology and the role of family physicians in palliative care.

    The goal was to expose them to the many career paths available in hospitals, which have grown to include medical physicists, wellness chefs, librarians, bioethicists and public health experts, says Giuliani.

    The fresh perspective and energy that youth bring is good for the hospital and “an investment in the future of our specialty,” she adds.

    “Fostering the next generation is very rewarding.”

    In addition to working with a research mentor on a supervised project, they attended weekly seminars and mingled with many medical and graduate students at different phases of their career paths.

    They also participated in a summer student research day, presenting a research poster they had created to a panel of judges.

    “The program was amazing because it was tailored for high school students,” says Kelly Jesalva, who embraced the opportunity and was one of the winners in the research poster competition.

    The 17-year-old Newtonbrook student spent her summer in the world of molecular biology assisting researchers exploring the link between nasopharynx cancer and the Epstein Barr Virus. She got to don a lab coat, peer into microscopes and collect data through a complex lab application that amplifies DNA.

    Jesalva had been thinking about becoming a doctor, and a research job wasn’t on her radar. But after two months at Princess Margaret, it is.

    “It requires a lot of perseverance and compassion,” says Jesalva, citing the dedication, long hours and refusal to give up that she observed in staff. “It touches a part in my heart to be part of the research.”

    Newtonbrook classmate Pooja Parkash worked on a project perfectly suited to a generation raised on social media.

    She spent the summer combing through different online platforms to better understand the perspective and needs of patients with brain tumours called meningiomas.

    “Patients go through their own journeys that doctors aren’t necessarily a part of,” says Parkash, who combed through Facebook posts and comments, Twitter feeds and YouTube accounts to gather data about what patients shared and what they believed might help them.

    She learned how to do a literature review and also spent time in the lab, where cancer cells were stored in liquid nitrogen to keep them alive for research.

    “Not a lot of teenagers can say ‘I worked in a lab and studied brain tumours.’ I learned a lot, made connections and got to see first-hand what working in a health care setting is like.”

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    History is littered with lost civilizations: the Khmer empire that created Angkor Wat, the Mayans who left behind a magnificent step pyramid at Chichen Itza, the Nabataeans who carved breathtaking Petra out of solid sandstone, the mysterious inhabitants of Eastern Island whose enormous enigmatic head monuments delight and puzzle.

    To name just a few.

    They abandoned their great cities and disappeared into the dust.

    But they built things.

    The Taliban have built nothing. Their claim to historical notoriety will be the wilful, pious destruction of precious shrines and statuary.

    Their rabidly puritanical culture will collapse because it cannot stand in a world of modernity that has encroached even into the isolated crevices and defiles of Afghanistan. Cellphones and satellite dishes have brought the outside inside. Afghans understand what they do not have and what the Taliban aspire to take away. There is nowhere for forced ignorance to hide anymore.

    This is the real long war the Taliban are destined to lose.

    What they have in their favour, at this moment in time, is that Afghans, however much they may loathe the Taliban — overwhelmingly they do, even in the Pashtun south — they detest their endlessly corrupt and incompetent national government even more, a government that survives only with propping up by the West.

    Oh, they’ve indeed embraced bureaucracy — how Canada’s then-Brig.-Gen. David Fraser, commanding officer, described the nation-building aspect of the mission to me in 2006 — which is why hardly anything ever gets accomplished as ministry orders and security manifests pass through a multitude of hands, each generously greased, billions of dollars disappearing sideways. That too is Afghan culture, thieving, which is viewed as outwitting.

    The vanishing money is a chronic and losing battle fought by donor nations.

    The other long war — 16 years and counting, a “forever war” that the sons and daughters of today’s deployed solders may still be waging a generation from now — can yet go either way. We don’t even have any idea what “winning” would look like, as the mission keeps changing from White House administration to administration.

    President George Bush, contrary to pillars of Republicanism, talked about nation-building after the Taliban had been trounced. That’s what sold Canada’s troop commitment (apart from special forces, in the unfussy business of killing) to the public; we were redeveloping, winning over hearts and minds. Except that’s never a good fit for any military — they’re soldiers, not diplomats and not humanitarian aid providers.

    But the profile played well to Canadians still in thrall to a Pearsonian peacekeeping ideal: useless when there’s no peace for the blue berets to keep. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embodies this anachronism.

    It was Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said of Afghanistan in 2008, “we can’t kill our victory.” However seductive the proposition, that’s never been the goal. Bombing the Taliban to the negotiation table has been the goal. With the insurgents — more hardcore militant than ever, merging with the Pakistan-based Haqqani network (the Taliban No. 2, head of military operations, hails from Haqqani) — making significant territorial gains, there’s scarcely any reason to talk peace and reconciliation.

    The Taliban have scuttled back to reclaim much of the territory vacated during the post 9/11 coalition military campaign. Crucially, however, they haven’t been able to get a toehold in Kabul. Or Herat. Or Mazar-e Sharif.

    In broad strokes, the situation is nevertheless grim. Sangin, the strategic town in Helmand that a hundred British troops died trying to defend during the International Security Assistance Force era, fell to the Taliban in March. Vast swaths of Kandahar province, where 137 Canadian combat deaths were recorded, are now controlled by the insurgents.

    According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, “control or influence” of the central government dropped to 65.6 per cent by May 1 from 70.5 per cent a year before. The Taliban “controls, contests or influences” 171 of 400 Afghan districts, mostly in rural areas and superficial in others. They’ve not been able to take and hold provincial capitals.

    That’s the big picture and the Taliban take immense sustenance from it, as if their ascendancy is written in the stars. Because Afghanistan is where empires go to die. Except the Taliban are no more indomitable than invading empires, though they certainly are accommodating to vilified fanatical revolutionaries from Al Qaeda to, in its death throes, Daesh.

    So this is what the Taliban — via spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid — had to say about President Donald Trump’s oratorical doubling down last week on U.S. recommitment to the wars in Afghanistan:

    “Donald Trump is just wasting American soldiers. We know how to defend our country. It will not change anything. . . . For generations, we have fought this war. We are not scared. We will continue this war until our last breath. If the U.S. does not pull all its troops out of Afghanistan, we will make this country the 21st century graveyard for the American empire.”

    The usual rhetoric, conveniently leaving out the part where the Taliban were routed from Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

    “For now,” Mujahid continued, “I can tell you there was nothing new in his speech. It was very unclear.”

    On that point, at least, we are agreed.

    The finest minds in the Pentagon have not been able to figure out how to take the Taliban off the board for keeps, in what has become America’s longest war, though it would indisputably involve some kind of political reconciliation for the insurgents and right now they’re hardline not-in-the-mood. Yet even a child’s mind could grasp how foolishly — in his palpable reluctance — president Barack Obama waged the war during his two terms in the White House, even with his 2009 troop surge, virtually providing the Taliban with a timeline for troop reduction and eventual withdrawal.

    In his speech last week, the otherwise incoherent and quite maddened Trump at least got this much right: “I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military operations. We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”

    The thing is, it does not appear that the generals or the president have a clue about their plans either, beyond the 3,900 troops that will be added to the U.S. existing military presence of 8,500 U.S. service members, about half involved in training and mentoring Afghan defence forces and the other gunning for terrorists.

    Trump claimed the American objective in Afghanistan was not nation-building, which comes as jaw-dropping news, given the billions spent on aid to do precisely that.

    I don’t know what “principled realism” means. I don’t know what “our commitment is not unlimited” means. I don’t know what “we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society” means, unless women are to be driven back into their cloistered homes, away from education, and beaten with a stick, as the Taliban did when they ruled Kabul.

    “We are killing terrorists,” Trump said.

    Except kill a Taliban fighter and another will replace him, maybe five more.

    “We want (Afghanistan) to succeed but we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over.”

    Well, not in this America’s image, as she has presented herself over the past eight months or so.

    It is indeed a vague strategy, albeit better left in the hands of the generals than this irrational president.

    There is one solid bottom line: Eventually, even if decades from now, the U.S. will leave Afghanistan, hopefully better than they found it.

    But the Taliban or its descendants and derivatives can wait out even that multi-generational war: They live there.

    It’s Afghans who will ultimately have to conquer Afghans.

    That’s called civil war, which will draw in regional neighbours and non-regional (China, Russia) interests.

    Déjà vu all over again.

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    Mexico “will not negotiate” via social media, the government told U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday, after he accused Mexico and Canada of being “difficult” in negotiations on changing the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    “Mexico will not negotiate NAFTA, nor any other aspect of bilateral relations through social media or news media,” the Mexican Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    A first round of negotiations for a new NAFTA framework ended last week.

    Trump regards NAFTA as having hurt the U.S. economy, referring in particular to the U.S. deficit in its trade relations with Mexico.

    On Sunday, Trump posted on Twitter: “We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada. Both being very difficult, may have to terminate?”

    A statement from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo after last week’s negotiations was quite different in tone from Trump’s remarks.

    The statement said that the volume and breadth of discussions reflected a common desire to produce “an ambitious outcome.”

    The next round of talks will take place in Mexico Sept. 1-5, followed by meetings scheduled this year.

    As of 2015, the NAFTA zone includes almost a third of the world’s gross domestic product.

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    MONTREAL—The four NDP leadership hopefuls trod carefully on Sunday when they were asked to weigh in on Quebec’s ongoing discussion over religion and identity during a French-language debate in Montreal.

    Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, Quebec MP Guy Caron and Ontario MP Charlie Angus and Ontario legislature member Jagmeet Singh were asked about the Quebec government’s proposed legislation that sets guidelines for accommodating religious requests.

    The bill attempts to enshrine into law the policy that all people giving or receiving a service from the state must do so with their face uncovered.

    Caron chose to tackle the issue in his opening statement, saying it was important to fight racism and Islamophobia but also to support Quebec’s right to make its own decisions on the issue.

    “Rejecting secularism because we believe it’s just racism is fundamentally misunderstanding Quebec,” he told a packed room at Montreal’s Club Soda.

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    Singh, who has said he is against the bill, said he doesn’t believe the state should be able to dictate what people wear, but added he believes the province has laws in place to ensure rights are protected.

    In his opening statement, he also appeared to acknowledge critics’ fears that Quebec voters will reject him due to his own visible symbols of faith.

    “I’m not here to convince you to accept my turban, nor my beard,” said Singh, who is Sikh. “What I want to convince you is that I’m someone who shares the same values as you.”

    Ashton and Angus also disagreed with the idea that the state should be able to dictate what a person wears but refrained from criticizing the Quebec government.

    “It’s absolutely essential that we stand up for human rights and the people’s freedom. It’s also important we respect Quebec,” Ashton said.

    Angus expressed a similar sentiment, saying it was important to understand’s Quebec’s fight for the separation of church and state during the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s.

    “I’m confident that the conversation in Quebec will result in a balance between the rights of individuals and the need to maintain the secularism of society,” he told reporters after the debate, while declining to state exactly where the line should be drawn.

    The question of religion and identity was a thorny issue for the NDP in the last federal election, and one that may have contributed to the party’s slide in a province that had previously helped vault it to official Opposition status.

    Thomas Mulcair’s insistence that women should have a right to wear a veil at citizenship ceremonies is believed by some to have cost the party crucial support.

    The NDP holds 16 seats in Quebec, well below the 59 it claimed in its historic breakthrough in the province in 2011 under Jack Layton’s leadership.

    Early questions focused on the wave of asylum seekers crossing from the United States, the government role in supporting the province’s aerospace industry, and Premier Philippe Couillard’s plan to restart cross-country discussions on Quebec’s role in Canada.

    All four candidates criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for rejecting any possibility of reopening the constitution, with Caron and Singh accusing him of “slamming the door” on the province.

    All of the candidates expressed themselves fluently in French, with Singh and Angus occasionally having to search for words.

    Caron is the race’s only francophone and the only candidate from Quebec.

    Members of the NDP will vote for the successor to Mulcair on Sept. 18.

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    WASHINGTON—While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers.

    As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested he could get President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence.

    The developer, Felix Sater, predicted in a November 2015 email that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating—both one of the biggest residential projects in real estate history and Donald Trump’s election as president, according to two of the people with knowledge of the exchange.

    Sater wrote to Trump Organization executive vice-president Michael Cohen, “something to the effect of, ‘Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?’ ” said one person briefed on the email exchange. Sater emigrated to the United States from what was then the Soviet Union when he was 8 and grew up in Brooklyn.

    Trump never went to Moscow as Sater proposed. And although investors and Trump’s company signed a letter of intent, they lacked the land and permits to proceed and the project was abandoned at the end of January 2016, just before the presidential primaries began, several people familiar with the proposal said.

    Nevertheless, the details of the deal, which have not previously been disclosed, provide evidence that Trump’s business was actively pursuing significant commercial interests in Russia at the same time he was campaigning to be president and in a position to determine U.S.-Russia relations. The new details from the emails, which are scheduled to be turned over to congressional investigators soon, also point to the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia-connected individuals and Trump associates during his presidential bid.

    White House officials declined to comment for this report. Cohen, a longtime Trump aide who remains Trump’s personal attorney, and his lawyer have also declined to comment.

    In recent months, contacts between high-ranking and lower-level Trump aides and Russians have emerged. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a U.S. senator and campaign adviser, twice met Sergey Kislyak when he was Russian ambassador.

    Donald Trump Jr. organized a June 2016 meeting with campaign aides Jared Kushner, campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer after the president’s eldest son was promised the lawyer would bring damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help the campaign.

    Internal emails also show campaign adviser George Papadopoulos repeatedly sought to organize meetings with campaign officials, including Trump, and Putin or other Russians. His efforts were rebuffed.

    The negotiations for the Moscow project ended before Trump’s business ties to Russia had become a major issue in the campaign. Trump denied having any business connections to Russia in July 2016, tweeting, “for the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia” and then insisting at a news conference the following day, “I have nothing to do with Russia.”

    Discussions about the Moscow project began in earnest in September 2015, according to people briefed on the deal. An unidentified investor planned to build the project and, under a licensing agreement, put Trump’s name on it. Cohen acted as a lead negotiator for the Trump Organization. It is unclear how involved or aware Trump was of the negotiations.

    As the talks progressed, Trump voiced numerous supportive comments about Putin, setting himself apart from his Republican rivals.

    By the end of 2015, Putin began offering praise in return.

    “He says that he wants to move to another, closer level of relations. Can we really not welcome that? Of course we welcome that,” Putin told reporters during his annual end-of-the year news conference. He called Trump a “colorful and talented” person. Trump said afterward that the compliment was an “honor.”

    Though Putin’s comments came shortly after Sater suggested that the Russian president would speak favorably about Trump, there is no indication that the two are connected.

    There is no public record that Trump has ever spoken about the effort to build a Trump Tower in 2015 and 2016.

    Trump’s interest in building in Moscow, however, are long-standing. He had attempted to build a Trump property for three decades, starting with a failed effort in 1987 to partner with the Soviet government on a hotel project.

    “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” he said in a 2007 court deposition.

    “We will be in Moscow at some point,” he promised in the deposition.

    Sater was involved in at least one of those previous efforts. In 2005, the Trump Organization gave his development company, the Bayrock Group, an exclusive one-year deal to attempt to build a Moscow Trump Tower. Sater located a site for the project—an abandoned pencil factory—and worked closely with Trump on the deal, which did not come to fruition.

    In an unrelated court case in 2008, Sater said in a deposition that he would personally provide Trump “verbal updates” on the deal.

    “When I’d come back, pop my head into Mr. Trump’s office and tell him, you know, ‘Moving forward on the Moscow deal.’ And he would say, ‘All right,’ ” Sater said.

    In the same testimony, Sater described traveling with Trump’s children, including joining Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. on a trip to Moscow at the future president’s request.

    “They were on their way by themselves, and he was all concerned,” Sater said. “He asked if I wouldn’t mind joining them and looking after them while they were in Moscow.”

    Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, told the Washington Post last year that Sater happened to be in Moscow at the same time as Trump’s two adult children. “There was no accompanying them to Moscow,” he said.

    Neither Sater or his attorney responded to requests for comment.

    Trump has repeatedly tried to distance himself from Sater, who served time in jail after assaulting a man with the stem of a broken margarita glass during a 1991 bar fight and then pleaded guilty in 1998 to his role in a organized crime-linked stock fraud. Sater’s sentencing was delayed for years while he co-operated with the federal government on a series of criminal and national security-related investigations, federal officials have said.

    During that time, Sater worked as an executive with Bayrock, whose offices were in Trump Tower, and brokered deals to license Trump’s name for developments in multiple U.S. and foreign cities. In 2010, Trump allowed Sater to briefly work out of Trump Organization office space and use a business card that identified him as a “senior adviser to Donald Trump.”

    Still, when asked about Sater in 2013 court deposition, Trump said: “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.” He added that he had spoken with Sater “not many” times.

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    Ryerson University students who moved into their residences Sunday will be the first cohort to experience the school’s new “all gender” student housing option — the first known of its kind in Canada.

    This month, in a move to introduce housing that accommodates all gender identities, Ryerson announced it is no longer requiring students to identify a gender on its residence application.

    Students had the option of choosing “all gender” housing or not. If they chose that option, they could be assigned roommates from a different gender. If students preferred to disclose their gender and be paired with someone from the same gender, they had that choice as well.

    The school also expanded its gender categories on the application.

    Nearly half of the 750 incoming students who moved into their new dorm rooms this weekend chose the all gender option, according to school officials.

    Camryn Harlick, vice-president of equity for the Ryerson Student Union and a third-year trans student who does not identify as male or female, remembers what it felt like to fill out the old housing application, when there was only the option of selecting one of the two genders.

    “I felt like it was an othering process,” Harlick said Sunday afternoon as students hauled suitcases and bedding into their new homes.

    “I felt like my experience at university was going to be that, continued.”

    Last year, Harlick, 19, and other members of Ryerson’s Trans Collective — a group that focuses on support for trans people on campus — spoke to school officials about having more equitable student housing.

    Ian Crookshank, director of housing and residence life at Ryerson, told the Star on Sunday that the school listened to the concerns about the old “mandatory and binary” system. Crookshank said that while conventionally schools have been accommodating individual students who might have different needs around gender, Ryerson decided instead to change the system altogether. This way, Crookshank said, students wouldn’t feel discouraged upon application, like Harlick did.

    “The system works for everyone now, whereas before, it worked for a lot of students, but not for everyone,” Crookshank said.

    “We’ve put that first question of identifying their gender back on the student,” he said. “It’s a choice rather than being told.”

    Students now identify their gender if they have a need they would like to be met, such as having their gender taken into account for room assignments.

    “We don’t need to ask it because it isn’t important to us. But it may be important to you,” Crookshank said of that shift in priorities, adding he had not received any complaints from students or parents about the changes.

    The move to “all gender” residence was a natural next step, said Sophie Lafleur, president of Ryerson’s residence council. Residences had already been mixed with genders and Ryerson moved to all gender washrooms two years ago.

    By not forcing students to identify a gender on the application, they don’t have to “out themselves” if they don’t want to, said Lafleur, 19.

    “(This) can be students first time in the city, their first time moving away from home . . . It’s a way for students to feel more included and have a safe space on campus.”

    Harlick, who uses the pronouns they and them, added that the fact that this new “all gender” option now exists will also help improve campus culture.

    “I think it sets the tone that transphobia won’t be accepted,” they said.

    “You at least know that if you go to somebody, they’re going to kind of know what you’re talking about.”

    0 0

    A competitive drama showcase for high schools across Ontario that has run for 71 years faces an uncertain future after learning that main sponsor Sears Canada is pulling out.

    “Knowing how easily dramatic arts get swept under the rug in secondary schools, I just feel sad for future students,” said Taryn Dougall, a theatre artist based in Toronto who took part in the Sears Ontario Drama Festival as a teen.

    The festival, founded in 1946, helped launch the careers of numerous Canadian actors, including such celebrities as Rachel McAdams and Keanu Reeves.

    Since the loss of support became known, “students have come out of the woodwork” to express their dismay, citing their experiences as a highlight of their childhood, said Wayne Fairhead, the festival’s executive director.

    “Funding sponsorships is, unfortunately, not something that we can consider while operating under (creditor) protection,” Vincent Power of Sears Canada wrote in an email.

    The festival’s organizers were alerted to Sears’ decision at the end of June, Power said. The festival is considered an after-school program and not part of any theatre or drama programs taught in schools.

    “We hope the festival itself can continue at some future time with alternative support,” Power wrote.

    In seven decades, the festival that was originally sponsored by Simpsons department store has grown from three shows to now bringing together 12,000 students annually to perform, compete and take part in workshops. It was the inspiration for sister showcases in B.C. and the Atlantic provinces and offered scholarship money for students aiming to get into performing arts schools.

    Fairhead said the festivals in other provinces have also taken the funding hit.

    The drama festival “has such a track record, being one of the oldest cultural institutions in the country,” Fairhead said. “It’s pretty important for thousands of kids.”

    This isn’t the first charitable program for youth that has suffered since Sears’ financial decline. The company also cut funding for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada after almost 50 years of support.

    For teenagers interested in drama, the Sears festival offered a taste of what it was like to perform in front of big crowds and be professionally judged. It was also an opportunity for students from all economic backgrounds, whether their schools could afford fog machines and elaborate set designs or had only a few chairs and a group of aspiring actors.

    Fairhead described the festival as a “lifeline” for those who grew up in smaller communities where art was not a priority, a sentiment Dougall shared.

    “All of our productions used the same repainted flats and whatever props and costumes we had on hand,” Dougall said. “The only reason we got to put on a single spring show each year was due to the immense dedication of our drama teacher.

    “The opportunities afforded to our drama program were very small.”

    She said her school was able to put on more shows after attending the Sears festival and that participating was “definitely” a huge factor in her decision to pursue a career in drama.

    Current theatre performer and administrator Angela Sun, who was involved as a teenager in one of the first Sears plays chosen to be featured in the SummerWorks Festival, also appreciated the escape.

    “I came from an immigrant family of colour that wasn’t very familiar with or embraced by the Canadian theatre scene at the time, so (the Sears festival) was my only introduction to being a part of a full production,” she said.

    Both women stressed that, above all else, the Sears festival fostered a real sense of community.

    “(It) gave me the opportunity to see art made by other young artists and begin this process of learning and networking, which is very important when you start thinking about having an artistic career,” Sun said.

    “The young people that I met from other schools participating in the festival are now the young adults shaping the Toronto indie theatre scene,” Dougall said. “The people I met from other schools at Sears remain my friends to this day.”

    Sears Canada was given creditor protection on June 22 and is in the process of cutting 2,900 jobs and 59 stores. Since then, it has been criticized for offering bonuses worth millions of dollars to keep key employees while not paying severance to laid-off workers, and experienced plunging share prices and shakeups in executive positions within the company.

    It is still hoping to find a buyer.

    Sears had always been a “very good” supporter of the festival, said Fairhead, who added that he didn’t want to ruin anyone’s summer by revealing the news until now.

    The drama festival is not giving up just yet. Smaller competitions held in each school district are expected to go ahead while the festival scrambles to find a sponsor.

    “We were all pretty devastated about it, but we’re quite optimistic that we will find a new sponsor and that we’ll continue in some format,” Fairhead said. “Because it’s just too important.

    “I’m sure we’re going to find someone, I really am.”

    0 0

    LAS VEGAS—Undefeated superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather and UFC champion Conor McGregor sold roughly $80 million worth of tickets for their boxing match, while a surge of buyers overwhelmed capacity at some U.S. pay-per-view providers. Factor in spectators in sports bars and cinemas, and Saturday’s bout will become the most-watched fight ever.

    Creating demand like that requires selling something besides a fistfight. It means selling characters, and Mayweather and McGregor are the most outlandish in their sports.

    It also means selling seductive ideas, like the enduring and lucrative notion that Mayweather, a brash braggart who spent a summer in jail for domestic assault, had incurred a karmic debt only defeat could repay.

    Or that McGregor’s mixed martial arts acumen would transfer to the ring and befuddle a boxing specialist.

    And the idea that McGregor — the walking, trash-talking embodiment of the Great White Hope cliche — would succeed where a roster of elite, mostly Black and Latino boxers had failed at taming Mayweather’s ego.

    Mainstream sports fans should have figured Mayweather, the master boxer, would teach the newbie McGregor a bruising lesson in the sweet science, but viewership numbers and betting lines suggested they believed something besides skill could propel McGregor to victory.

    The two fighters cultivated record revenue in the space between what the public believed, and what it should have known.

    Mayweather has exploited that formula since 2007, when good guy Pretty Boy Floyd rebranded as a heel nicknamed Money ahead of a win over Oscar De La Hoya. With each outclassed opponent, hope would grow that the next one — Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley or Manny Pacquiao — could humble Mayweather and ruin his perfect record.

    And with each win, the obsession with seeing Mayweather suffer any type of defeat deepened.

    That’s why apocryphal tales of his massive gambling losses gain social media traction after sports upsets, an old photo of him beside a stack of cash repurposed with fake reports that he had bet big on the loser. And it’s why the internet gleefully spread rumours Mayweather couldn’t read after he stammered through a radio promo, even though threatening text messages to his ex-girlfriend prove he is literate.

    Mayweather has, in fact, lost outside the ring.

    For years he accrued domestic violence accusations but dodged serious consequences. But in 2012 he pleaded guilty to beating up ex-girlfriend Josie Harris, and spent two months in county jail.

    Many of the fighter’s supporters stuck with him, while detractors felt he deserved further retribution. If Pacquiao couldn’t deliver it in 2015, maybe McGregor could, especially since he’d face a 40-year-old Mayweather coming off a two-year retirement.

    At 29, with size and reach advantages, the Dublin-born McGregor promised he’d knock Mayweather senseless. After all, he had flattened several mixed martial artists in winning his UFC titles.

    Bettors bought in.

    Odds that opened at 25-to-1 in Mayweather’s favour had shortened to 3½ -to-1 by Saturday, with a reported 90 per cent of wagers at in Vegas backing McGregor.

    The groundswell of McGregor support, along with earnest speculation he could actually win, recalled the optimism surrounding Irish-American heavyweight Gerry Cooney heading into a 1982 title fight against Larry Holmes promoted along nakedly racial lines.

    Holmes, the 8-to-5 favourite, pummelled Cooney in a 13-round TKO win.

    It also echoes the way white Americans rallied behind Jim Jeffries when the former champ unretired in 1910 to challenge Jack Johnson, the first Black fighter to hold the heavyweight title. Johnson’s win over Canada’s Tommy Burns spurred a scramble to find a white contender to dethrone him, and introduced the term “Great White Hope” into the lexicon.

    Johnson toyed with the favoured Jeffries before finally stopping him in the 15th.

    The social media feud leading to Saturday’s bout started in early 2016, when Mayweather said racist double standards led media to praise McGregor’s grandstanding while demanding Black athletes remain humble.

    And race lingered at the periphery of a fight that ended with Mayweather pounding McGregor into a 10th-round TKO.

    The UFC fighter belittled Mayweather with the racially-freighted term “boy,” while Mayweather pledged to win for “all the Blacks” insulted by McGregor’s antics.

    Though Mayweather attracted a multicultural group of supporters to Las Vegas, African-American fans formed the core of his fight week constituency. Most of McGregor’s fans, meanwhile, were white.

    Pre-fight marketing didn’t position the bout as a Johnson-Jeffries type proxy race war, but the power of the Great White Hope archetype helps explain why so many people thought McGregor could prevail in a fight that facts suggested he’s lose badly.

    Add in the long-standing fixation with seeing Mayweather humbled, and organizers hit on a formula for record sales and fighter paydays.

    Promoters expect Saturday’s fight to eclipse the 4.6 million pay-per-view buys Mayweather and Pacquiao attracted in 2015. And the fighters split an unprecedented $130 million purse, with $30 million for McGregor and the rest going to Mayweather. His haul can more than triple thanks to ancillary revenue.

    While a 50-0 record and $350 million payout complete Mayweather’s legacy as boxing’s greatest moneymaker, the desire to see him whipped remains unrequited.

    Saturday night reporters asked Mayweather if he’d consider yet another comeback. He thwarted those queries as forcefully as he did McGregor’s challenge.

    Normally the notion of a 40-year-old fighter retiring with rich and healthy wouldn’t merit questioning, but Mayweather leaving unbeaten galls a sports public heavily invested in seeing him crushed.

    For a decade, fans who don’t normally follow boxing have tuned in, hoping somebody would make him pay for his arrogance, misogyny, and refusal to humble himself.

    Canelo Alvarez couldn’t collect on that debt. Neither could Mosley or Pacquiao. McGregor didn’t come close. Faith in Great White Hopes and karmic avengers might sell fights, but skill and execution win them.

    Since 2015 Mayweather has grossed more than half a billion dollars because he understands both sides of that equation.

    One day sports fans might get it, too.

    0 0

    What do you do if you are the U.S. president and one of your major cities is under water?

    Well, you’d want to start your day promoting a book by a Milwaukee county sheriff who has called Black Lives Matter a hate group, is a known racial profiler and, naturally, is a big Donald Trump supporter. The book foreword was written, of course, by your best bud forever in the media, Sean Hannity.

    Then you would turn your attention to tropical storm Harvey, congratulating yourself on how you saved so many lives — a victory lap even as the water kept rising in Houston and area — but you wouldn’t want to dwell on that, so you would move on to your 2016 electoral success in Missouri, take a shot at the crime rate in Mexico and again vow that it will somehow pay for a border wall, then move on to trade negotiations.

    “We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada. Both being very difficult, may have to terminate?”

    Uh-oh. Trump’s thumbs are now typing “Canada” on Sunday mornings.

    Last week, in an infamous stream-of-consciousness meltdown in Phoenix, he said the same thing, telling supporters he would probably end up “terminating the deal at some point,” because “we have been so badly taken advantage of.”

    One can get permanently lost down a rabbit hole trying to make sense of the various tweets and pronouncements from Trump, but the shout-out to Sheriff David Clarke, Trump’s coming rally in Missouri, his ongoing fantasy about a Mexican-financed wall and his continued threats to tear up NAFTA actually do have a common thread.

    They are all campaign preoccupations from a man who has never stopped campaigning and who never really became president.

    The Trump tweet is the cyber-equivalent of the boss walking past the negotiating room banging on a frying pan with a hammer and squeezing an air horn.

    But it is nothing more than that. This is no Art of the Deal. This is the Rant of the Attention-Seeker.

    It’s not about us. It’s all about him.

    Texans, at least those not scrambling atop their homes to save their lives, may want to be reminded that almost 50 per cent of their exports go to their top two trading partners, Mexico and Canada, and they import about 42 per cent of their goods from their NAFTA partners.

    While you’re trying to stay above rising floodwaters, it’s good to know your president is musing about ripping up a trade deal so vital to your state.

    At least a couple of Canadian politicians couldn’t help themselves Sunday.

    “The only thing that needs to be terminated is your presidency,” Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger wrote. “Save yourself and your country. Resign and you will be popular everywhere.”

    NDP leadership candidate Charlie Angus was somewhat more poetic: “A poor player struts/frets his hour on the stage and then is heard no more. A tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

    He moderated his comments later in the day, pushing the government to keep its eye on the ball.

    That’s what it’s doing.

    Adam Austen, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, is becoming quite practised at tossing out the political equivalent of Xanax.

    “We will work with our partners at all levels in the United States to promote Canada-U.S. trade, which supports millions of jobs across the continent,” he said.

    “As we have said before, trade negotiations often have moments of heated rhetoric. Our priorities remain the same, and we will continue to work hard to modernize NAFTA, supporting millions of middle-class jobs.”

    Even if Trump did, in a fit of pique, seek to terminate NAFTA, it’s not certain he could do it.

    Congress, not Trump, is ultimately responsible for giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to any renegotiated deal. There is also legislation on the books that enshrines NAFTA and there could be enough pro-trade, had-enough-of-Trump Republicans to decide the 24-year-old legislation overrides any presidential attempt to kick the pact into the ditch.

    All three countries have agreed to fast-track talks, but the first negotiating session has just ended and the second, in Mexico, doesn’t begin until Friday.

    They have to ignore the bully in the corridor banging on his campaign-era frying pan.

    If you’re Canadian and Trump thinks we’re being “difficult,” there’s only one sane reaction: Good. And pack a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

    Read more:

    Trump tweets threat to pull out of NAFTA talks, calling Canada “very difficult”

    Mexico to Trump: We don’t ‘negotiate’ on social media

    Mexico a tough-minded amigo in NAFTA talks: Olive

    Tim Harper writes on national affairs. Reach him at or on Twitter: @nutgraf1

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