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TOPSTORIES

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    HOUSTON—Tropical storm Harvey sent devastating floods pouring into the fourth-largest city in the U.S. on Sunday as rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.

    The incessant rain covered much of Houston in turbid, grey-green water and turned streets into rivers navigable only by boat. In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighbourhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.

    Volunteers joined emergency teams to pull people from their homes or from the water, which was high enough in places to gush into second floors. The flooding was so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas. They urged people to get on top of their houses to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.

    Judging from federal disaster declarations, the storm has so far affected about a quarter of the Texas population, or 6.8 million people in 18 counties. It was blamed for at least two deaths.

    As the water rose, the National Weather Service issued another ominous forecast: Before the storm that arrived Friday as a Category 4 hurricane is gone, some parts of Houston and its suburbs could get as much as 1.3 metres of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.

    Some areas have already received about half that amount. Since Thursday, South Houston recorded nearly 63 centimetres, and the suburbs of Santa Fe and Dayton got 69 cm.

    “The breadth and intensity of this rainfall is beyond anything experienced before,” the National Weather Service said.

    Average rainfall totals will end up around one metre for Houston, weather service meteorologist Patrick Burke said.

    The federal government is promising a muscular response, with 5,000 federal employees — including members of the coast guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department — on site in Texas and Louisiana to assist state and local officials.

    “We’re setting up and gearing up for the next couple of years,” William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said on CNN’s State of the Union program Sunday. “This disaster’s going to be a landmark event.”

    Rescuers had to give top priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. And rising waters forced the evacuation of several hospitals in the Houston area.

    Tom Bartlett and Steven Craig pulled a rowboat on a rope through chest-deep water for a mile to rescue Bartlett’s mother from her home in west Houston. It took them 45 minutes to reach the house. Inside, the water was halfway up the walls.

    Marie Bartlett, 88, waited in her bedroom upstairs.

    “When I was younger, I used to wish I had a daughter, but I have the best son in the world,” she said. “In my 40 years here, I’ve never seen the water this high.”

    It was not clear how many people were plucked from the floodwaters. Up to 1,200 people had to be rescued in Galveston County alone, said Mark Henry, the county judge, the county’s top administrative post.

    Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center was quickly opened as a shelter. It was used as a shelter for Katrina refugees in 2005.

    Officials in Dallas said they would open the city’s convention centre to about 5,000 people who are fleeing from the hurricane-ravaged southern part of the state. Dallas has three shelters currently open for evacuees, but the convention centre will serve as a “mega shelter.”

    The storm also blew through key areas for the U.S. oil and gas industry and was already causing some disruption of production. Exxon Mobil said on its website Sunday that it was shutting down operations at its huge Baytown refining and petrochemical complex because of flooding, while heavy rain prompted Royal Dutch Shell to close a large refining facility at Deer Park.

    Shell, one of the largest producers in the Gulf of Mexico, said it had closed two offshore production platforms, Perdido and Enchilada Salsa, and evacuated most of the workers.

    Still, the Gulf produces substantial quantities of oil and gas, and analysts say it is likely that the effect on energy prices and supplies will be limited by the substantial stocks of oil available, and products like gasoline that are on hand because of a long period of booming global output.

    In the long term, Texas is likely to face a massive, multibillion-dollar rebuilding effort that may affect a generation — and what is sure to be daunting and sometimes depressing era of government trailers, red tape and fights with bureaucrats and insurance companies.

    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities had received more than 2,000 calls for help, with more coming in. He urged drivers to stay off roads to avoid adding to the number of those stranded.

    “I don’t need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm,” Turner told a news conference. “We have several hundred structural flooding reports. We expect that number to rise pretty dramatically.”

    The deteriorating situation was bound to provoke questions about the conflicting advice given by the governor and Houston leaders before the hurricane. Gov. Greg Abbott urged people to flee from Harvey’s path, but the Houston mayor issued no evacuation orders and told everyone to stay home.

    The governor refused to point fingers on Sunday.

    “Now is not the time to second-guess the decisions that were made,” Abbott, a Republican, said in Austin. “What’s important is that everybody work together to ensure that we are going to, first, save lives and, second, help people across the state rebuild.”

    The mayor, a Democrat, defended his decision, saying there was no way to know which parts of the city were most vulnerable.

    “If you think the situation right now is bad, and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” Turner said, citing the risks of sending the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants onto the highways at the same time.

    Jesse Gonzalez, and his son, also named Jesse, used their boat to rescue people from a southeast Houston neighbourhood. Asked what he had seen, the younger Gonzalez replied: “A lot of people walking and a lot of dogs swimming.”

    “It’s chest- to shoulder-deep out there in certain areas,” he told television station KTRK as the pair grabbed a gasoline can to refill their boat.

    Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in picnic coolers.

    The coast guard deployed five helicopters and asked for additional aircraft from New Orleans.

    The White House announced that President Donald Trump would visit Texas on Tuesday. He met Sunday by teleconference with top administration officials to discuss federal support for response and recovery efforts.

    The rescues unfolded a day after Harvey settled over the Texas coastline. The system weakened Saturday to a tropical storm.

    On Sunday, it was virtually stationary about 40 kilometres northwest of Victoria, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of about 72 km/h), the hurricane centre said.

    Harvey was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.

    Read more:

    FEMA director says Harvey is probably the worst disaster in Texas history

    Photos: Dramatic scenes from Houston as Harvey floodwaters wreak havoc

    With files from the New York Times


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    A Toronto man is facing three charges after allegedly threatening to blow up a train earlier this month.

    Toronto police said they responded to a call for a bomb threat on Aug. 13 at Bloor-Yonge station, where a man allegedly announced to the people on board a southbound train that he had a bomb and would blow up the train.

    The train and station were evacuated. The suspect was believed to have fled the scene along with the crowds leaving the station.

    Subway service was suspended on Line 2 from Broadview to St. George stations and on Line 1 from Union to Eglinton stations.

    Jonathan Fox, 30, was arrested and charged with threatening death and two counts of mischief: interfering with lawful use of property under $5,000, and interfering with lawful operation of property over $5,000.

    He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.

    With files from Star staff.


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    Jadine Baldwin is 17. She’s smart, confident and has big goals for her future.

    But sometimes, she’s treated like she’s five years old.

    “I’ve dealt with stigma my whole life because of my cerebral palsy — I’ve dealt with people doubting my intelligence,” she said.

    Now, the young advocate is taking a stand.

    Baldwin and other youth with disabilities are working with Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital on a five-year campaign to end the stigma around disabilities and make Canada more inclusive.

    The Dear Everybody campaign, which launched Aug. 28, gives young people with disabilities a platform to raise awareness about the stigma and barriers they face everyday, focusing on issues such as employment, bullying, friendship, education and health care.

    People often say Holland Bloorview is a “bubble” of inclusivity, said Julia Hanigsberg, the hospital’s CEO.

    “Of course that makes me very proud of Holland Bloorview. On the other hand, that is a huge indictment of the rest of society because what that really speaks to is how outside of these walls they’re not feeling included,” she said.

    Fifty-three per cent of kids with a disability have only one or no close friends and are two to three times more likely to be bullied, according to statistics provided by Holland Bloorview. As they get older, they continue to face barriers. Just 49 per cent of Canadians who have disabilities between 25 and 64 are employed, compared with 79 per cent of Canadians without disabilities.

    Even when a disability isn’t clearly visible, stigma can lead to frustrating barriers, an issue Maddy Hearne understands all to well.

    Hearne, 17, has had six concussions— the latest was just 18 months ago.

    Alongside dizziness, headaches, nausea, tiredness, confusion and trouble concentrating, Hearne has also had to face down stigma.

    At school, she’d walk around with headphones and sunglasses trying to protect herself from the overstimulation of the hallways, but that often left her socially isolated.

    “I looked different and the kids thought I was crazy and they wouldn’t talk to me just because of how I looked and what accommodations I had,” she said.

    At the same time, she dealt with people who didn’t believe her when she said she needed accommodation for her invisible injury.

    Hearne hopes the Dear Everybody campaign will help increase people’s understanding of disabilities and help normalize accommodation.

    Too often, people assume disabilities are the problem, when the problem is in fact us, Hanigsberg said.

    “We put the stumbling blocks in the path of the person with the disability rather than taking those stumbling blocks away,” she said.

    “What needs to be fixed is the stigma,” Baldwin said.

    “I believe that God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle and I was built to be here and to live in this different and amazing body because now, I can educate people.”

    Dear Everybody will give Baldwin a larger platform for lessons that she’s already been teaching — that a disability is “just a limitation,” and that’s something we all have.

    “We were made to be different. If we were all the same, the world would be boring and we’d never learn anything,” she said.


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    HOUSTON—Officials released more water from Houston-area reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey early Monday in a move aimed at protecting the city’s downtown from devastating floods but that could still endanger thousands of homes, even as the nation’s fourth-largest city anticipated more rain.

    Harvey, which made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has lingered just off the coast dropping heavy rain as a tropical storm, sent devastating floods pouring into Houston on Sunday. The rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.

    Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long said during a news conference Monday that as many as 50 counties in Texas are affected by the flooding and that a tremendous amount of rainfall is in the cards for southwest Louisiana too. The rain and floods have been blamed in at least two deaths.

    Even as the water rose Sunday, the National Weather Service issued an ominous forecast: Before the storm is gone, some parts of Houston and its suburbs could get as much as 1.3 metres of rain. That would be the highest amount ever recorded in Texas.

    On Monday morning, emergency vehicles made up most of the traffic in an otherwise deserted downtown Houston — normally a bustling business area. Many traffic signals did not work and most businesses were closed.

    Residents living near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs — that were created to prevent flooding in downtown Houston — were warned Sunday that a controlled release from both reservoirs would cause additional street flooding that could spill into homes. Rising water levels and continuing rain was putting pressure on the dams that could fail without the release. Harris and Fort Bend county officials advised residents to pack their cars Sunday night and leave in the morning.

    “When the sun comes up, get out,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist for the Harris County Flood Control District. “And you don’t have to go far, you just need to get out of this area.”

    The Red Cross quickly set up Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center and other venues as shelters. The convention centre was also used as a shelter for Katrina refugees in 2005. By Monday morning, it had already reached half its capacity.

    Read more:

    FEMA director says Harvey is probably the worst disaster in Texas history

    Canadian expats in Texas brave remnants of hurricane Harvey

    Photos: Dramatic scenes from Houston as Harvey floodwaters wreak havoc

    Ken Sandy, a shelter manager for the American Red Cross, said more than 2,600 people had taken shelter there. Organizers with the Red Cross estimate the convention centre can accommodate roughly 5,000 people, although Sandy cautioned that the shelter had run out of cots and waiting for more to arrive.

    With the reservoir releases and Harvey still pouring rain on the Houston area, thousands more people are expected to abandon their homes.

    The Army Corps of Engineers started the reservoir releases before 2 a.m. Monday — ahead of schedule — because water levels were increasing at a rate of more than 15 centimetres per hour, Corps spokesman Jay Townsend said.

    Officials in Fort Bend County, Houston’s southwestern suburbs, late Sunday issued mandatory evacuation orders along the Brazos River levee districts as the river neared major flood stages. County Judge Robert Herbert said at a news conference that National Weather Service officials were predicting that the water could rise to 18 metres, 90 centimetres above 2016 records and what Herbert called an “800-year flood level.” Herbert said that amount of water would top the levees and carries a threat of levee failure.

    On Sunday, incessant rain covered much of Houston in turbid, grey-green water and turned streets into rivers navigable only by boat. In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighbourhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.

    Volunteers joined emergency teams in pulling people from their homes or from the water. Authorities urged people to get on top of their houses to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.

    Police Chief Art Acevedo said Monday that drainage remains a concern.

    “I’m not sure where the water is going because it’s just so much that we can’t really absorb more in the ground at this point. ... We have way too much water and not enough places for it to drain,” Acevedo told MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

    FEMA’s Long predicted that the aftermath of the storm would require FEMA’s involvement for years.

    “This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Long said.

    The National Weather Service meanwhile warned that the catastrophic flooding would worsen due to heavy rainfall in the coming days and that it would be slow to recede once Harvey finally moves on. Director Louis Uccellini said during a news conference Monday that up to 51 centimetres of rain could fall in the coming days, on top of the more than 76 centimetres some places have already seen.

    U.S. President Donald Trump issued a federal emergency disaster declaration for Louisiana on Monday, covering Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vermillion parishes. The declaration authorizes FEMA to co-ordinate disaster relief efforts and the federal government to cover 75 per cent of costs of certain emergency protective measures.

    Vice-President Mike Pence told Houston radio station KTRH Monday that the federal government will support all Harvey recovery efforts.

    It was not clear how many people have been plucked from the floodwaters in Texas. Up to 1,200 people had to be rescued in Galveston County alone, said Mark Henry, the county judge. Rescuers were giving priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. And several hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated due to the rising waters.

    Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in picnic coolers.

    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities had received more than 2,000 calls for help and urged drivers to stay off the roads.

    “I don’t need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm,” Turner said.

    The deteriorating situation was bound to provoke questions about the conflicting advice given by the governor and Houston leaders before the hurricane. Gov. Greg Abbott urged people to flee from Harvey’s path, but the Houston mayor issued no evacuation orders and told everyone to stay home.

    The governor refused to point fingers on Sunday.

    “Now is not the time to second-guess the decisions that were made,” Abbott, a Republican, said at a news conference in Austin. “What’s important is that everybody work together to ensure that we are going to, first, save lives and, second, help people across the state rebuild.”

    The mayor, a Democrat, defended his decision, citing the risk of sending the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants onto the highways at the same time.

    “If you think the situation right now is bad, and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” Turner said.

    The Coast Guard deployed five helicopters and asked for additional aircraft from New Orleans.

    The White House said Trump would visit Texas on Tuesday, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump. The president met Sunday by teleconference with top administration officials to discuss federal support for response and recovery efforts.

    The rescues unfolded a day after Harvey settled over the Texas coastline. The system weakened Saturday to a tropical storm. By early Monday, Harvey had shifted a little closer to the coast, hovering about 30 kilometres east of Victoria, with sustained winds of about 65 kph. The National Hurricane Center said it continued to edge in a southeasterly direction at 4.8 kph.

    Harvey was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.


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    The provincial transportation ministry pressured Metrolinx leadership to approve a new $100-million GO Transit station in the minister’s riding, according to documents obtained by the Star.

    The ministry, led by Liberal MPP Steven Del Duca, also intervened to secure support for a new station that is part of Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” plan and that would cost the public $23 million to build.

    As the Star has previously reported, analysis commissioned by Metrolinx, an arm’s length agency of the provincial government, determined that both stations would have a negative effect on the rail network and recommended they not be built.

    However, documents obtained through a freedom of information request reveal the behind-the-scenes story of how Metrolinx ignored this analysis and approved the two contentious stations after Del Duca’s ministry interceded.

    The documents, which include more than 1,000 pages of emails sent by Metrolinx and ministry officials as well as draft agency reports, show that on the advice of agency staff, the Metrolinx board approved, at a closed-door meeting in June 2016, a list of new stops that did not include Kirby or Lawrence East.

    A day later, Metrolinx officials were shocked to receive copies of draft press releases from the ministry indicating that the following week Del Duca would announce that stations the board hadn’t approved were going ahead.

    In the ensuing days, following conversations between Metrolinx executives and ministry officials, agency staff revised a board report to support Kirby and Lawrence East.The board then reconvened in public and voted to build the two stops.

    The Star emailed a list of questions to Del Duca’s office, which included questions about whether he overstepped his authority to ensure Metrolinx approved the stations.

    Del Duca did not directly respond to the questions, but in an emailed statement said the approval of all the new GO stations was based on “initial business case analysis, extensive consultation with municipal and regional representatives, community engagement, and collaboration between the ministry of transportation and Metrolinx.”

    He said he believed the population density around Kirby justified a station but that all the new stations require further analysis before they are built.

    In an emailed statement, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said station selection “is a collaborative process that requires many inputs, including from public servants and elected officials, which must be blended together in final judgments.”

    She said agency officials changed their recommendations before the final vote after receiving new information that showed the two stops were justified.

    Kirby, which is on the Barrie line in Del Duca’s riding of Vaughan, as well as the Lawrence East stop on the Stouffville line in Scarborough, were two of dozens of sites Metrolinx spent a year-and-a-half analyzing for potential inclusion in GO Transit’s $13.5-billion regional express rail (RER) expansion program.

    Analysis commissioned by Metrolinx recommended that neither Kirby nor Lawrence East be considered for at least 10 years in part because they would lead to decreased ridership on the GO network.

    That’s because adding stops to the rail lines increases travel times for other riders on the network, discouraging some from taking transit. The initial business cases conducted for Kirby and Lawrence East determined that while the stops met some strategic planning objectives, neither would attract enough new riders to offset the passengers lost to the longer travel times.

    Draft board reports from early June 2016 show that Kirby and Lawrence East were not on Metrolinx’s shortlist of 10 stations proposed for approval.

    On June 9, 2016, three weeks before the board was scheduled to vote on the stations, Metrolinx briefed Del Duca about the stations.

    In an email later that day to Metrolinx board chair Rob Prichard, then-president and CEO of Metrolinx Bruce McCuaig reported that the meeting with the minister was “so-so.”

    “My interpretation is that he is disappointed” that Kirby wasn’t on the list, McCuaig wrote.

    The emails show McCuaig asked Metrolinx staff for an “alternative analysis” of the stops. He told Prichard he was “trying to see if there is a credible way to improve the business case” for stations in Vaughan.

    Even in the “alternative” analysis, however, Kirby still performed badly and McCuaig wrote that staff would recommend it be left off the list.

    McCuaig resigned from Metrolinx in April to take an advisory role at the federal government’s Canada Infrastructure Bank. He declined to answer questions for this story. Prichard also declined to answer questions. The Metrolinx spokesperson replied on his behalf.

    The emails obtained by the Star detail how, on June 15, 2016, Metrolinx board members, who are appointed on the recommendation of the minister, convened a special closed-door meeting to discuss the new stops.

    A public vote was scheduled for June 28, but in an email to the board Prichard explained that the earlier meeting was necessary because Tory and Del Duca wanted to announce SmartTrack stations the following week.

    “We did not want the minister doing so without the input of the board in advance,” he wrote. The board would “revisit the same issues” at the public session, Prichard explained, but he stressed that “the real substantive meeting is this one” on June 15.

    Metrolinx has never previously acknowledged the meeting took place. But the documents indicate the board voted to support the staff-recommended list of 10 stations, which did not include Kirby or Lawrence East.

    But the day after the meeting, Metrolinx received draft copies of press releases that the ministry planned to use to unveil the new stations. Agency officials were taken aback to see that they indicated the minister would announce Kirby, Lawrence East, and two other stations the board hadn’t approved.

    “Are you hearing anything like this?” Metrolinx chief planning officer Leslie Woo wrote to McCuaig after learning of the ministry’s plan.

    “Nope,” he shot back.

    McCuaig wrote to a policy adviser at the ministry to ask why unapproved stops were in the announcements. “Has a decision been made that I’m not aware of?” he asked.

    On the afternoon of June 17, McCuaig wrote to Prichard to say he had spoken to the adviser again. “M apparently wants us to include Lawrence…Kirby” and two other stations, McCuaig wrote.

    McCuaig would not confirm to the Star that “M” referred to Minister Del Duca, or the ministry.

    Prichard replied that Lawrence East “will probably be ok” — city of Toronto staff had performed their own analysis that showed the station performed better — but, he asserted “deferral is right for Kirby.”

    Prichard wrote that he told the ministry adviser that “we would need a call with the minister if they can’t accept the deferral.”

    Whether that call took place is not clear.

    However, two days later, on June 19, McCuaig emailed agency officials with a “proposed revision” to the report that would go to the board at the public meeting on June 28. Kirby and Lawrence East were now recommended for approval.

    In a series of news conferences the week of June 20, 2016, Del Duca announced that the Ontario government intended to build 12 new GO stations, including Lawrence East and Kirby.

    The following week, the board met in public and approved all 12 stops.

    Metrolinx didn’t release the business case analyses for any of the potential new GO stations until last March, almost nine months after the board vote. The conclusion of the public version of the Kirby analysis was altered from earlier drafts to remove references to its “poor results.”

    The agency never publicly released a separate report drafted before the board vote that explicitly recommended against proceeding with Kirby and Lawrence East. The Star obtained a copy in June.

    In an email, Aikins, the Metrolinx spokesperson, said the Metrolinx board is permitted by legislation to meet behind closed doors to discuss certain issues.

    She said that, at the closed-door meeting, “the board received management's preliminary advice including advice that there might be updated information following further stakeholder consultations.” During the public meeting management provided its final advice, she stated.

    “All of this was done in accord with the board’s governance procedures and the Metrolinx Act.”

    According to Aikins, the agency’s leadership recommended Lawrence East be approved after Toronto city officials made the case that “it was an important part of the city’s overall transit network plans.”

    She said Metrolinx leaders recommended Kirby after “municipal officials, community stakeholders and Minister Del Duca collectively made the case” that the area around the stop would exhibit higher population growth than the numbers contemplated in the Metrolinx business case.

    Aikins said it was a precondition for proceeding with both stops that the respective municipalities enact policies to encourage greater density around the station sites. She said all the proposed new stations will undergo further analysis before they are built to ensure they’re warranted.

    In June, Prichard told reporters that to his knowledge Metrolinx had never analyzed the higher growth figures for Kirby.

    The Star asked Del Duca’s office if he could provide any Metrolinx or ministry analysis to support the position that Kirby would benefit the transit network. He did not.

    Tory’s office said, “City staff have recommended Lawrence East as a stop for SmartTrack and as an important part of the Scarborough transit network plan.”


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    Ontario Provincial Police say they have made the largest drug seizure in the force’s history as part of an international investigation into a cocaine smuggling ring.

    OPP say three Toronto-area men were responsible for allegedly importing more than 1,000 kilograms of pure cocaine into Canada from Argentina.

    They say the investigation — dubbed “Project Hope” — was conducted with the Canada Border Services Agency and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, among other organizations.

    Police allege the cocaine was transported in shipping containers to Montreal, and then sent to Ontario.

    They say they worked with border guards and found various caches of cocaine at a CBSA warehouse, in the Port of Montreal and in Stoney Creek, Ont., near Hamilton.

    Three men face drug importation and drug trafficking charges.


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    OTTAWA —The federal government is promising to create 10,000 paid student work placements in key industries over the next four years through a new $73-million program set to be unveiled Monday in Toronto.

    The funding was originally announced in the 2016 budget, but details of how the government plans to create these connections between students and employers haven’t been released until now, just in time for the 2017-18 school year.

    Read more:High school students ‘learn and earn’ through hospital summer jobs

    Patty Hajdu, minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, told the Star the goal is to provide incentives to companies to hire students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries, as well as the business sector.

    “There does tend to be a bit of a lag between students graduating and getting a position in their field,” Hajdu said.

    “This allows us to try to address that and to close that gap.”

    Starting this school year, the program will provide wage subsidies to participating companies to host active students who need to finish work placements to complete their post-secondary programs. According to Hajdu’s office, the government will pay 50 per cent of the student’s wages — up to $5,000 — and 70 per cent of the wages, totalling up to $7,000, for first-year students and “underrepresented groups” such as women in male-dominated programs, Indigenous students and people with disabilities.

    Hajdu said the placements are meant to be flexible and could include anything from three-month contracts to part-time work a couple days per week.

    “It’s designed in that way so that a variety of different programs and courses of study can take advantage of this,” she said.

    The government has inked deals with five industry groups that include companies willing to take on students through work placements, in fields including information and communication technology, aerospace and aviation, the environment, and biotechnology and business.

    Hajdu said work continues to link more sectors to the program, and the department is pushing for one with financial services.

    “This is really around incenting employers to take on students and then having that fringe benefit of them saying, ‘I’ve invested some time in this person, this could be a real asset to me to hire this person,’ ” she said.

    “We think it’s a really effective way of playing matchmaker, if you will.”


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    NEW YORK—A half-gallon of milk was 50 cents cheaper at a Whole Foods in New York. Ground beef was down by $2 a pound. And an organic avocado cost a buck less.

    Amazon kicked off its first day as the owner of Whole Foods by slashing prices, adding its logo on signs and setting up a stand of “farm fresh” Amazon Echo voice-assistant devices by store entrances. It’s just the first taste of the moves the e-commerce giant will make at the organic grocer after it completed the $13.7-billion deal on Monday.

    More changes are coming: The company aims to make Amazon Prime the rewards program at Whole Foods and some Whole Foods products will show up on Amazon’s site. The deal could also spur big changes in how people shop for groceries overall.

    Read more:

    With Whole Foods deal, Amazon creeps further into every aspect of consumer life

    Canadian grocery stocks see sharp drop in wake of Amazon deal to buy Whole Foods

    Here’s what you need to know:

    What will change for shoppers

    Amazon already lowered prices at Whole Foods Monday on a range of items, including rotisserie chicken, organic eggs and baby kale.

    Whole Foods had been just starting to test a loyalty program. But soon, shoppers at all stores will be able to tap Amazon’s $99-a-year Prime program to get discounts at stores. And they will eventually be able to buy some Whole Foods products from Amazon.com. Lockers will be added in some locations so Amazon shoppers can pick up e-commerce orders or return items they don’t want.

    Amazon said those changes were just the beginning, but didn’t give details on what more is coming. Those who watch the industry expect Amazon to push further into grocery deliveries, among other things. Whole Foods stores can serve as new distribution points for the AmazonFresh delivery service, allowing Amazon to expand where it offers home deliveries. That could include an expansion of ready-to-cook meal packages it’s been testing in selected markets, including Seattle.

    What Amazon wants from Whole Foods

    The deal gives Amazon more than 465 physical stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Before the acquisition, Amazon had a small brick-and-mortar presence with less than a dozen bookstores, a prototype convenience store in Seattle and pickup locations in some cities near college campuses. The tie-up may also give the Seattle-based company valuable data on how people shop in stores, where the vast majority of retail sales still take place. Amazon is an expert in using data on past purchases and browsing to offer suggestions that might make people buy more, and could start applying that in stores as well as online.

    Whole Foods, meanwhile, gets to exhale. Before the deal, the chain was under intense pressure from shareholders to improve its financial results and figure out how to stop customers from going to lower-priced supermarkets to buy natural foods. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who will stay in that role, said Amazon’s history of innovation could transform Whole Foods from “the class dunce” to “valedictorian.”

    What it means for the competition

    Shares of supermarkets took a hit when the deal was announced in June, and again when Amazon said last week that it planned to cut prices at Whole Foods. Rivals are scrambling to keep up: Kroger is testing online grocery delivery in several cities. And Walmart, the nation’s largest grocer, is expanding its online grocery ordering and store-curb pickup to more stores. Last week, Walmart said it is joining forces with Google to let customers order goods with their voice on Google-run smartphones and other devices.

    How the deal went through

    Despite Amazon’s dominance online, Walmart remains the leading retailer overall, with more than three times Amazon’s retail revenue. A union that represents food-industry workers had asked the Federal Trade Commission to examine the deal carefully, saying it could hurt competition, but the U.S. regulator didn’t see it that way. The FTC said last week that it conducted an investigation to see if the acquisition lessened competition and “decided not to pursue” the matter. Typically, deals that bring two direct competitors together raise flags with regulators, but Amazon — despite its online dominance — doesn’t currently have a big groceries business.


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    HALIFAX—Two Toronto-area men have been charged in an 18-month, seven-province investigation into a human trafficking ring that allegedly forced “numerous” Nova Scotia women into the sex trade across Canada.

    The arrests of Malachi Almonzo Downey, 31, and Sanderico Rekel Beals, 29, follow earlier charges against Lorenzo Trevor Thomas, and police say all three are associated with a Halifax-area street gang known as North Preston’s Finest.

    “The investigation started as a result of information received that men who were originally from Nova Scotia were in Ontario and were trafficking in women also from Nova Scotia, trafficking and exploiting them across country in the sex trade,” RCMP Supt. Alfredo Bangloy said.

    Read more: RCMP charge two GTA men in human trafficking case in Sault Ste. Marie

    Ontario government proposes new anti-human trafficking legislation

    “We’ve identified a number of victims, and the investigation remains fluid and it’s our hope that additional victims or their families and loved ones will come forward with information.”

    The probe, dubbed Operation Hellbender, saw Nova Scotia Mounties travel “across the country in an effort to locate victims of human trafficking from Nova Scotia.”

    Downey, who lives in Vaughan, Ont., was arrested in Upper Onslow, N.S., on Friday, while Beals, of Scarborough, Ont., was arrested Sunday in Dartmouth.

    They are charged with human trafficking, laundering crime proceeds and receiving material benefits from sexual services and human trafficking.

    Bangloy said the busts are a big deal for the Mounties: “There’s been human trafficking charges in the past here in Nova Scotia but none of those investigations were of the scale that this has been,” he said.

    “The investigation is ongoing and there may be further charges.”

    Thomas, 31, was arrested by police in Niagara Falls, Ont., on March 27. He’s facing 17 charges, including trafficking in persons, assault, advertising sexual services and receiving a material benefit from sexual services.

    RCMP officers worked with their provincial counterparts in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as with Halifax Regional Police.

    RCMP said they have set up a tip line for other victims: 902-449-2425.

    “Our goal is to get victims to safety and link them with resources and support to break the cycle of violence,” Bangloy said.


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    Just call it Sorbonne-tario.

    The provincial government is moving forward on a plan to create Ontario’s first French-language university — likely in downtown Toronto.

    Advanced Education and Skills Development Minister Deb Matthews announced Monday that Queen’s Park will soon introduce legislation for the proposed post-secondary institution.

    “This is a tremendous step forward in the creation of the first standalone French-language university in Ontario,” Matthews said in a statement.

    The minister said it would be “governed by and for francophones (and) ... will provide access to high-quality French-language university education in the Greater Toronto Area and Central and Southwestern Ontario,” she said.

    While it will be some time before Ontario is home to anything that can rival the three Parisian universities that make up the Sorbonne, it’s a significant announcement for the province’s 611,500 francophones.

    “Francophone culture and the French language have always been essential to Ontario’s identity and prosperity,” said Francophone Affairs Minister Marie-France Lalonde.

    “This is strongly reaffirmed today with the government’s intent to provide high-quality postsecondary education to francophone students. The creation of a new French-language university, governed by and for francophones, is a critical milestone for Franco-Ontarians and future generations,” said Lalonde.

    The government is acting upon the recommendation of the French-language University Planning Board, a panel struck last fall to study the issue.

    Last month, the group led by former official languages commissioner Dyane Adam, tabled a 139-page report recommending the new school.

    Adam’s panel said the main campus of the university should “be located in Toronto, specifically, in downtown Toronto.”

    That’s in part because more than 430,000 people in the GTA speak French.

    “The area’s French-speaking population is also characterized by diversity thanks to francophone migration from other provinces and an influx of newcomers to Canada,” the board said.

    “Like Toronto’s population in general, nearly half of the city’s francophones were born outside the country,” it noted.

    “The approximate 80,000 francophone immigrants in Ontario present significant potential for expanding the provincial economy into the broader international Francophonie.”

    As well, Adam’s report said “the Ontario labour market would have no difficulty absorbing the number of graduates that would be produced by a French-language university.”

    Her recommendation was that the new institution work with Collège Boréal, the French-language community college that has small campuses around the province, including inside the Toronto Star Building at One Yonge St., and TVOntario’s French service.

    “So as to create a resolutely francophone, dynamic and immersive milieu for its students, the new university would work collaboratively to create a francophone hub of knowledge and innovation with two main partners: Collège Boréal and Groupe Média TFO,” she wrote.

    “By pooling together their physical and human resources and complementary educational mission, these institutions would open up innovative learning, training and research opportunities in French, and achieve economies of scale.”


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    Drug users and front-line workers in the opioid crisis can expect more provincial help soon, doctors said Monday after an impromptu one-hour meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne.

    While they did not succeed in getting the province to declare an emergency over an increasing number of overdoses, the doctors and harm-reduction workers seeking more funding and supervised injection sites got assurances “significant” assistance will come later this week.

    “The one thing that the premier did make explicit was that any funding announcement would make the funds clearly available faster, and that they would (do this) to where they need to go, quickly,” said Dr. Alexander Caudarella, an addictions specialist in Toronto.

    “That is something we are going to hold her accountable to. We expect that any funding would be either immediately available or available within a matter of days.”

    In June, the province gave local health agencies $15 million to hire staff and hand out naloxone kits, which are used to revive drug users from overdoses until they can get more thorough treatment in hospital.

    The meeting was slated to run 30 minutes, but lasted more than an hour after a small group of health-care professionals came to the front steps of Queen’s Park.

    They unveiled an open letter from 700 front-line workers across the province demanding Wynne use powers under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to take stronger action.

    British Columbia declared a state of emergency over opioids last year.

    More pop-up supervised injection sites, more treatment beds and testing of street drugs before people use them are needed to save lives, along with money to pay nurses and other harm-reduction workers who are now volunteering their time at injection sites, said Dr. Michaela Beder, a psychiatrist who attended the meeting.

    “This is an ongoing discussion and we look forward to actually seeing what will be on the ground,” she told reporters.

    “We’re looking for funding. We’re looking for an improved regulatory environment, where sites can open up exactly where people need them, so overdoses can be prevented.”

    Either alone or combined with other drugs, opioids were responsible for about one-third of accidental deaths in Toronto in 2015, a public health report from the city has found.

    Increasingly, fentanyl has been blamed for overdoses, prompting police to issue safety alerts. A batch of the powerful drug killed four people and caused 20 overdoses during a three-day period in July.

    Wynne’s office issued a statement after the meeting that acknowledged the “devastating impacts” of opioid addiction and overdoses.

    “We agreed that what’s happening in Ontario is a public health crisis,” Wynne said.

    “That’s why I strongly reaffirmed our government’s commitment to combat this crisis with additional resources, and reassured the group that this is a top priority for me. I have committed that our government will work more closely with people living with addictions, their family members, front-line workers and volunteers.”

    “But it is clear that more needs to be done. In the coming days we will be announcing significant additional resources and supports to build on the work we’ve done, and to continue fighting this public health crisis.”


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    Toronto Maple Leafs scout Lindsay Hofford is facing five charges after allegedly becoming intoxicated, stealing a golf cart and hitting another vehicle in a New York state amusement park over the weekend.

    Maple Leafs spokesperson Steve Keogh said the team is aware of the incident but declined to comment further.

    The Genesee County Sheriff’s office said the incident happened at Darien Lake around 11:40 p.m. Saturday, according to The Buffalo News.

    Reached by the Star, the Sheriff’s office wouldn’t comment on what it called “an ongoing investigation.”

    According to the Buffalo News report, Hofford, 53, of Nobleton, Ont., was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, unauthorized use of vehicle without the owner’s consent, leaving the scene of an accident, making an unsafe lane change and refusing to take a breath test.

    Hofford is the director of Eastern area scouting for the Leafs. He previously worked as the director of scouting with the London Knights. Hofford is also the founder of Pro Hockey Development Group.

    Vickie Hofford, the president of the group, refused comment when reached by the Star.

    The Buffalo News said Hofford appeared in court Sunday afternoon. He is scheduled to reappear in court on Sept. 21.


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    OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made significant changes to his government with bigger-than-expected cabinet shuffle and an overhaul of his government’s approach to Indigenous Affairs to eliminate what it called Canada’s longstanding “colonial” approach to aboriginal issues.

    Trudeau split the department that was run by Carolyn Bennett into two, leaving her with responsibility for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs. Cabinet heavyweight Jane Philpott was moved out of health to become Minister of Indigenous Services to focus on the delivery of real services to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

    Bennett, who had shown much empathy, had little success in advancing the progress of the beleaguered Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry. It wasn’t immediately clear if that file would remain with her.

    The new mandate letters published by the government say that both ministers will work to develop an approach and mandate for the inquiry, “including the identification of a lead minister.”

    The departure of Philpott from Health is a risky move, since the government has not yet advanced its project to legalize marijuana beyond the early stages of parliamentary study of two massive bills to achieve that major platform goal.

    But it speaks to the confidence Trudeau has in Philpott and in backbencher Ginette Petitpas Taylor, a parliamentary secretary to finance who got a big promotion to step into Philpott’s role as Health Minister.

    The shuffle was prompted by the resignation of Newfoundland MP Judy Foote, who was the Minister of Public Works.

    Carla Qualtrough was named to take Foote’s place. She had been the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.

    She takes over a department that is wrestling to fix problems with the Phoenix pay system that has left bureaucrats without their salary. Problems with defence procurement are another perennial headache for the department.

    Seamus O’Reagan was named the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence. The post combines both the symbolic — helping to represent the government at public commemorations — and a significant administrative role, overseeing a department that has been criticized for how it dispenses assistance to veterans, notably those who are ill and injured.

    O’Reagan replaces Kent Hehr, who takes over as Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities vacated by Qualtrough.

    Bennett will be supported in her role by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, and her new job description is to figure out how to create two new departments, and to “accelerate self-government and self-determination agreements” based on new policies, laws and operational practices “and to develop a framework to advance a recognition of rights approach that will last well beyond this government.”

    A government source told the Star that “‎we believe we’ve pushed the old colonial structure” of the Indigenous Affairs department “as far as it can go.”

    “The new structure is meant to deliver more. This was recommended by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples about 20 years ago. We thought about doing it during the transition, but decided we needed to push the existing structure to deliver as much as it could.”

    Read more:

    Judy Foote resigns cabinet to help family face cancer

    Justin Trudeau supports MP Seamus O’Regan’s decision to adopt ‘alcohol-free lifestyle’


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    Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat, one of the city’s top bureaucrats, is leaving her post as of Sept. 29.

    A statement from the city Monday afternoon said Keesmaat, who was named chief planner out of the private sector almost five years ago, plans to “pursue other interests.”

    “It’s been an honour to work with Mayor Tory, council, city staff and my remarkable team in the city planning division over the last five years,” Keesmaat is quoted as saying in the city release.

    “I promised myself that after five years in public service I would review my future options. I look forward to new challenges in the important business of city-building now enriched by invaluable lessons, new friends and colleagues acquired while serving the people of our great city, Toronto.”

    As the head of the city’s planning division, Keesmaat has been at the forefront of decisions on the Gardiner Expressway, Scarborough subway, Crosstown LRT, Rail Deck Park and other large and often controversial projects.

    More to come . . . .


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    CHARLOTTETOWN—A key ally of Donald Trump says Canadians should understand the U.S. president believes in free trade, and they shouldn’t read too much into what they hear.

    Maine Governor Paul LePage, in Charlottetown for a meeting of Eastern Canadian premiers and New England governors on Monday, said he’s spoken to Trump on the subject and he is confident any issues with the North American Free Trade Agreement “can be fixed.”

    “Don’t read in too much in what you sometimes hear. He really truly believes in having free trade and good, honest trade between the two countries. He really does believe that.”

    Read more about U.S. President Donald Trump

    Trump again suggested Sunday that NAFTA should be terminated, tweeting that both Canada and Mexico are being “very difficult.” It was the first time that Trump has complained about Canada’s role in the talks, which began earlier this month between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

    Trump repeated his NAFTA criticisms Monday during a news conference with Finland’s president, calling it one of the worst trade deals in history.

    Trump said the U.S. will likely have to begin the termination process before it gets a fair deal.

    “It’s been a one-sided deal — and this includes Canada by the way. Great respect for Canada, great love for Canada, but it’s been a one-sided deal for Canada and for Mexico . . . it’s been unfair for too long,” he said.

    Read more:

    Trump Tower plan in Russia was abandoned for ‘business reasons,’ lawyer says

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

    Trump’s NAFTA bluster all about him, not us: Harper

    LePage, who campaigned several times with Trump, said earlier in the day Canada likely has little to worry about.

    “I don’t really believe he’s concerned as much over Canada as much as maybe Mexico.”

    The Eastern Canadian premiers and New England governors ended their meeting Monday with a resolution to tout the importance of cross-border trade and commerce to their respective economies.

    Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said it’s his hope that any rhetoric coming from Washington won’t affect an opportunity to refresh and modernize NAFTA.

    The best result, he said, would see as little harm done as possible during the negotiations.

    “In 1864, when the Fathers of Confederation came to P.E.I., most of them were not greeted upon their arrival because most of the population was at the circus. Right now the circus is in Washington,” the Democratic governor said in Charlottetown.

    “I’m hopeful that the rhetoric that has been applied most frequently to our southern neighbours, but at times to our northern neighbours is just that, rhetoric, and that this will be looked at as an opportunity to refresh these agreements and to modernize them.”

    Vermont Gov. Philip Scott said the governors realize the importance of the trade relationship with Canada and he believes common sense will result in a mutually beneficial deal.

    Frank McKenna — a former Canadian ambassador to the United States and former premier of New Brunswick — said people should not get caught up in Trump’s tweets.

    “He’s a negotiator. It’s in his blood,” McKenna said in Charlottetown. “I think he’s always going to use soaring rhetoric as part of negotiations, but at the end of the day there are a lot of sober-minded people involved at the negotiating table guiding the negotiations and supporting the negotiations.”

    McKenna, now deputy chair of TD Bank Group, was the luncheon speaker at the conference of premiers and governors. He said he remains confident that the Canada-U.S. relationship will be strong during and after negotiations on both NAFTA and softwood lumber.

    “The relationship is massive, it’s integrated, and it is highly supported on both sides of the border. At the end of the day the government of Canada is handling the file beautifully in my view and I think we’re going to come out eventually with a softwood lumber agreement and, as well, a new NAFTA.”

    LePage had proposed that the leaders gathered in Charlottetown join together on softwood lumber. He wants them to write a letter supporting exemptions on duties for softwood lumber from Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

    LePage said the pressure for the duties is coming from the U.S. lumber coalition.

    He said the U.S. industry is being irresponsible and if new, hefty duties remain in place there will be collateral damage to economies on both sides of the border.

    In June, the U.S. Department of Commerce hit Canada with an additional 6.87 per cent in preliminary average anti-dumping tariffs, leaving the industry facing average duties of about 27 per cent.

    The decision exempts the other three Atlantic provinces, but New Brunswick — exempt from such tariffs in the past — is not.

    LePage said the issue needs to be resolved quickly — noting that Texas is going to need a lot of softwood lumber to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

    “When you get eight feet of water in Texas, there’s going to be a lot of lumber needed in the next couple of months to rebuild that state. And it’s going to be coming from Canada and the U.S.”

    Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said many of the states and provinces at the meeting are each others’ largest trading partners and they will continue work to grow ties that run historically deep.


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    OTTAWA—A United Nations panel says the construction of British Columbia’s $8.8-billion Site C dam should be halted until there is a full review of how it would affect Indigenous land.

    The recommendation is contained in a report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which has completed its periodic review of how Canada complies with the world body’s treaty to end racial discrimination.

    The recommendation comes three weeks after British Columbia’s NDP government requested a review of what had been a signature megaproject for former premier Christy Clark.

    The government asked the B.C. Utilities Commission to determine the economic viability of the massive hydroelectric dam on the Peace River and issue a final report by Nov. 1.

    Site C has become controversial after the previous provincial Liberal government’s clean-energy laws allowed some projects to bypass a review by the regulatory agency.

    The UN panel says a full review should be conducted in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples to “identify alternatives to irreversible destruction of Indigenous lands.

    The committee heard testimony from a variety of groups on a wide range of topics related to racism and discrimination, but the recommendations on Indigenous issues are especially timely.

    They come as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a cabinet shuffle aimed at ultimately resetting how his government will handle Indigenous affairs, including the creation of two new ministries.

    The UN body calls on the federal Liberals to “develop a concrete action plan” to implement the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    The committee also says it is “deeply concerned” about the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and focuses on Site C, saying “environmentally destructive decisions for resource development” are taking place.

    It says construction began “despite vigorous opposition of Indigenous Peoples affected by this project, which will result in irreversible damage due to flooding of their lands leading to elimination of plants medicines, wildlife, sacred lands and gravesites.”

    B.C. Energy Minister Michelle Mungall said recently it was wrong for the previous Liberal government to refuse “to allow our independent energy watchdog to examine the project to determine if it was in the public interest.”


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    Peel police have launched a probe into a secretive City of Brampton bonus program that for years allegedly paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to non-union employees without council’s knowledge.

    “I can confirm Peel Regional Police Fraud Bureau is currently investigating the complaint. Because it is an active investigation, I am unable to provide any further details or answer any specific questions as we do not want to jeopardize the investigation,” said Peel police Sgt. Joshua Colley, referring to a secretive bonus program that allegedly paid out $1.25 million to non-union employees going back to 2009.

    Reacting to an internal audit process that uncovered a practice known as Outside Policy Requests (OPR), Brampton councillors voted unanimously in June to ask that police undertake an investigation to uncover everything behind the fund, including who approved it and who received the payments.

    A City of Brampton spokesperson confirmed that “police resources have been assigned to the investigation,” but would not say whether investigators have started questioning city staffers.

    “Since the investigation is within their jurisdiction, it is inappropriate for the city to comment.”

    Leading up to the June vote, councillors argued Peel Regional Police would be under pressure to relinquish control of the investigation because some Brampton councillors pass the local police budget through regional council.

    At the time, some councillors said they wanted either the Ontario Provincial Police or the RCMP to lead the investigation to avoid any potential conflict or the appearance of conflict.

    Regional Councillor Martin Medeiros, who won support on the motion requesting an external police investigation, said he has “full confidence in the local police force.”

    “However, I also understand there may be a perception of conflict of interest due to the fact that councillors have oversight over the police budget,” said Medeiros, who urged councillors to unanimously support the motion in order to move on from the scandals and troubles that have rocked local government in recent years.

    Senior staff devised the OPR program that kept elected officials in the dark for years while they allegedly paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to other non-union employees, and possibly to themselves.

    According to the audit investigation, which focused on the period between January 2009 and May 2014, payments to individual staff ranged from as little as $123 to more than $95,000. A total of $316,000 was paid to just eight employees.

    The report notes that “favouritism” was listed as one of the Top 10 reasons to allow an OPR bonus in documents never shared publicly or with council.

    The city stated that there was no OPR line item in the annual budget. It also noted that council approval for the OPRs was not sought.

    The auditors noted a sudden drop to almost no OPRs after 2014, the year of the last municipal election.

    The audit report noted that some of the city’s most senior bureaucrats knew about the bonus practice all along.

    Brampton’s auditors said that the secret bonuses were not authorized under relevant rules and that over time OPR “requests were approved for reasons beyond its initial intention.”

    They added that with no oversight or formalized processes “the OPR practice became mismanaged.”

    “As councillors we have to have a certain amount of trust in staff. Sometimes, staff don’t follow the rules,” said Regional Councillor John Sprovieri, the first to demand a full police investigation after the fund was revealed.

    The veteran councillor added he wants to see “safeguards put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”


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    WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to pardon Joe Arpaio, calling the former Arizona sheriff a “patriot” who loves his country.

    Asked about his controversial pardon during a joint press conference with the president of Finland on Monday, Trump insisted that “a lot of people” believe he made the right call. He said Arpaio had done a “great job for the people of Arizona” and argued that he’d been treated “unbelievable unfairly” by the Obama administration.

    “He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona. He is very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration. He is loved in Arizona,” Trump said.

    Read more:Trump pardons controversial ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio

    Trump’s decision drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, and renewed allegations that he has little respect for an independent judiciary.

    Arpaio shot to national fame by aggressively targeting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally using tactics that Latino and immigrants’ rights advocates likened to racial profiling. He faced a possible jail sentence on a federal conviction stemming from his refusal to halt certain immigration patrols.

    “Sheriff Joe is a patriot. Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders and Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election, an election that he would have won,” Trump said during the event on Monday. “So I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe and I think the people of Arizona who really know him best would agree with me.”

    The White House’s Friday announcement came as Hurricane Harvey threatened to batter Texas with heavy winds and severe flooding and shortly after the administration outlined long-awaited details of Trump’s plan to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military. But Trump pushed back on the assumption the timing was intended to bury the news, claiming instead that he’d announced the pardon then because he knew people would be watching.

    “In the middle of a hurricane, even though it was Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally,” he said.

    Trump on Monday also continued to insist that Mexico will pay for his long-promised Southern border wall.

    “One way or the other Mexico will pay for the wall,” Trump said, arguing that, while the project may initially be funded by United States taxpayers, “ultimately” Mexico will pay.

    Trump recently threatened to force a federal government shutdown unless Congress provides funding for his wall, but said Monday that he hopes such had drastic measure is “not necessary.”

    Still, he added: “if it’s necessary, we’ll have to see.”


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    Montreal police say they have arrested a man who was sought in connection with alleged drug offences in Ontario and was also on a list of most wanted criminals in the United States.

    They say they apprehended Katay-Khaophone Sychanta, 35, and another man on a cycling path last Wednesday for alleged drug possession.

    Ontario Provincial Police were looking for Sychanta, who was the subject of a Canada-wide arrest warrant.

    Montreal police say he was on the list of the top 10 criminals wanted by the Homeland Security Investigations unit of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

    Sychanta was arraigned in Montreal last Thursday on charges of drug possession, obstructing the work of police officers and using false documents.

    He is expected to be sent to Ontario before possible extradition proceedings.

    The most-wanted list states Sychanta was born in Laos and was first indicted in 2005 in Michigan.

    It says he evaded capture and continued to supervise a drug-smuggling organization based near Windsor, Ont.


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    SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — North Korea fired a ballistic missile from its capital Pyongyang that flew over Japan before plunging into the northern Pacific Ocean, officials said Tuesday, an aggressive test-flight over the territory of a close U.S. ally that sends a clear message of defiance as Washington and Seoul conduct war games nearby.

    Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile travelled around 2,700 kilometres and reached a maximum height of 550 kilometres as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The launch, which appears to be the first to cross over Japan since 2009, will rattle a region worried that each new missile test puts the North a step closer toward its goal of an arsenal of nuclear missiles that can reliably target the United States. It appeared to be the North’s longest-ever missile test, but South Korean officials couldn’t immediately confirm.

    North Korean missile launches have been happening at an unusually fast pace this year, and some analysts believe that the North could have such an arsenal before the end of U.S. President Donald Trump’s first term in early 2021.

    Read more:

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    The South Korean military said it is analyzing the launch with the United States and has strengthened its monitoring and preparation in case of further actions from North Korea. Analysts speculate that the North may have tested a new intermediate range missile that Pyongyang recently threatened to fire toward Guam. This missile landed nowhere near Guam, which is about 2,500 kilometres south of Tokyo, but the length of Tuesday’s launch may have been designed for the North to show it could follow through on its threat. Seoul says the missile was launched from Sunan, which is where Pyongyang’s international airport is, opening the possibility that North Korea launched a road mobile missile from an airport runway.

    The launch was North Korea’s 13th ballistic missile launch this year, said Roh Jae-cheon, spokesman of Seoul’s JCS.

    North Korea will no doubt be watching the world’s reaction to see if it can use Tuesday’s flight over Japan as a precedent for future such launches. Japanese officials said there was no damage to ships or anything else reported. Japan’s NHK TV said the missile separated into three parts. “We will do our utmost to protect people’s lives,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters. “This reckless act of launching a missile that flies over our country is an unprecedented, serious and important threat.”

    Tuesday’s launch comes days after the North fired what was assessed as three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and a month after its second flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say could reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.

    South Korea’s Foreign Ministry warned that the North will face a “strong response” from the U.S.-South Korean alliance if what it called nuclear and missile provocations continue. The ministry also urged Pyongyang to accept talks over its nuclear program and acknowledge that abandoning its nuclear ambitions is the only way to guarantee its security and economic development.

    South Korea also said its air force also conducted a live-fire drill involving four F-15 fighters dropping eight MK-84 bombs that accurately hit targets at a military field near the country’s eastern coast. Park Su-hyun, spokesperson of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said Moon’s national security director Chung Eui-yong called U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster to discuss the launch.

    The launch over Japan isn’t a total surprise. Earlier this month, when threatening to lob four Hwasong-12s, which are new intermediate range missiles, into the waters near Guam, North Korea specifically said they would fly over Japanese territory. North Korea in June also angrily reacted to the launch of a Japanese satellite it said was aimed at spying on the North and said Tokyo was no longer entitled to fault Pyongyang “no matter what it launches or whether that crosses the sky above Japan.”

    North Korea typically reacts with anger to U.S.-South Korean military drills, which are happening now, often staging weapons tests and releasing threats to Seoul and Washington in its state-controlled media. But animosity is higher than usual following threats by Trump to unleash “fire and fury” on the North, and Pyongyang’s stated plan to consider firing some of its missiles toward Guam.

    Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean military official who is now an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said that the early flight data suggests the North Korean missile was likely a Hwasong-12. Other possibilities, he said, include a mid-range Musudan, a missile with a potential 3,500-kilometre range that puts much of the Asia-Pacific region within reach, or a Pukguksong-2, a solid-fuel missile that can be fired faster and more secretly than weapons using liquid fuel.

    South Korea’s military didn’t immediately confirm whether the North Korean missile was fired from Pyongyang’s airport. Moon Seong Mook, a former South Korean military official and current analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, said the airport’s runways could provide the ideal space to launch a road-mobile missile like the Hwasong-12. By launching from its capital, the North might have been trying to demonstrate the ability to launch its missiles from anywhere, Moon said.

    “The launch doubled as a threat to Washington, not only because of the U.S. military bases in Japan, but also that the North showed it has the real capability to fire missiles to waters near Guam if it chose to shoot them in that direction,” Moon said.

    North Korea first fired a rocket over Japanese territory in August of 1998 when a multi-stage rocket that outside experts called “Taepodong-1” flew about 1,500 kilometres before landing in the Pacific Ocean. The North later said it launched a satellite.

    North Korea flew another rocket over Japan again in April 2009 and said that, too, was carrying a satellite. The North claimed success, but the U.S. North American Aerospace Defence Command says no satellite reached orbit. The United Nations has repeatedly condemned North Korean satellite launches as covers meant to test banned long-range missile technology. Some parts of a space launch vehicle reportedly flew over Okinawa last year after separating from the rocket.

    Pyongyang regularly argues that the U.S.-South Korean military exercises are an invasion rehearsal, although analysts say the North’s anger is partly because the impoverished country must react with its own expensive drills and weapons tests. The allies say the war games are defensive and meant to counter North Korean aggression.

    North Korea’s UN ambassador, Ja Song Nam, wrote recently that the exercises are “provocative and aggressive” at a time when the Korean Peninsula is “like a time bomb.”


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