Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

TOPSTORIES

older | 1 | .... | 1010 | 1011 | (Page 1012) | 1013 | 1014 | .... | 1060 | newer

    0 0


    Math test scores have not improved — and have decreased slightly in some cases — among elementary school students in Ontario.

    The province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office released results of standardized tests that show for the second straight year only 50 per cent of Grade 6 students met the provincial standard in math. Four years ago students fared better, with 57 per cent of Grade 6 students meeting the standard.

    And among Grade 3 students, 62 per cent met the provincial standard in math, a one-percentage-point decrease since last year.

    Read more: High school students challenged to disconnect from social media

    Demand for youth mental health services is exploding. How universities and business are scrambling to react

    Norah Marsh, the CEO of EQAO, said math scores remain a concern, but digging deeper reveals one area the province would like to focus on.

    “For the students who met the standard in Grade 3, not as many are meeting it in Grade 6,” she said. “Certainly, that’s an area of focus as far as intervention between Grades 3 and 6 so they can achieve better results.”

    Cathy Bruce, the dean of education at Trent University, said, however, that she was cautiously optimistic by the students’ math scores.

    “Now we’re flatlining and that’s a really good thing,” she said. “I wouldn’t have expected to see a big jump all of a sudden — that’s not how it works. Math is a complex area of the curriculum and it’s complex both for teachers teaching it and students learning it.”

    Meanwhile, writing levels among Grade 3 and Grade 6 students declined by one percentage point since last year to 73 per cent and 79 per cent respectively. But over five years the numbers are worse, showing a drop in reading standards by four percentage points in Grade 3 and three percentage points in Grade 6.

    “Math has been a focus provincially, but we can’t lose sight of the writing piece,” Marsh said.

    The EQAO’s report said reading has improved slightly for Grade 3 students, with 74 per cent meeting the provincial standard, and remained steady for Grade 6 students, with 81 per cent meeting the provincial standard.


    0 0


    PRINCE ALBERT, SASK.—A Saskatchewan man who viciously beat a homeless woman before setting her on fire will not be declared a dangerous offender.

    Judge Stanley Loewen ruled Wednesday that Leslie Black will not get the designation which would have kept him in prison indefinitely.

    Loewen recommended Black be sentenced to a lengthy prison term, followed by a long-term supervision order which would mean Black would be monitored for up to 10 years.

    Read more: Saskatchewan man who viciously attacked homeless woman apologizes

    Black pleaded guilty to attempted murder in the sexual assault of Marlene Bird, who was attacked in Prince Albert in 2014. Her injuries were so serious both legs had to be amputated and she lost much of her eyesight.

    Bird told court in handwritten letters she now can’t do anything on her own, including simple things such as picking a blueberry or going to the bathroom.

    She said she has to wear adult diapers, can’t control her bowels and feels disgusted with herself when she can’t make it to the bathroom in time. Bird said she also fears entering the city because of the attack.

    At the hearing, Black said if he could go back to the night he attacked Bird, he would have taken his father’s advice and stayed home.

    In a brief statement, which Black read despite a stutter he has had since witnessing his mother’s murder when he was a child, Black said he understands that Bird and her family have not forgiven him.

    “I apologize for what I did,” he said. “I still can’t forgive myself.”

    Black said he is not a violent person and wants to get the help he needs to succeed in life.

    “I’m usually a happy-go-lucky guy.”

    Black’s defence lawyer argued his client’s actions were brutal, but said that does not mean Black will violently offend again.

    One psychologist testified Black is not necessarily at a high risk to reoffend if he gets intensive, long-term therapy. But another psychiatrist testified that officials can’t presume to understand Black and what he’s capable of given what he did to Bird even though he had no history of violence.


    0 0


    Ontario is offering free smart thermostats and home energy reviews to 100,000 households in a bid to help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

    Environment and Climate Change Minister Chris Ballard unveiled the program Wednesday through the new Green Ontario Fund launched with $377 million in revenues from the province’s cap-and-trade program.

    Read more: The new wave of products laying a foundation for smarter homes

    Smart heating controls save energy

    The free smart thermostats and installation will “help (households) reduce their carbon pollution and save money,” said Ballard.

    That program will cost $40 million.

    Households will be able to better control their heating and air conditioning when not home, said Green Ontario Fund chairman Parminder Sandhu.

    “When you’re saving energy, you’re saving money,” he added.

    Eligible households can now register at GreenOn.ca for the free thermostats, on a first-come, first-serve basis

    Residents of multi-unit buildings do not qualify for the program, which is open to people in detached and semi-detached homes, townhomes or row homes.

    Residents ‎can save as much as 15 per cent on their energy bills by adjusting the temperature a couple of degrees when no one is home, officials said.


    0 0


    SAINT-EUSTACHE, QUE.—The leader of the Parti Quebecois is doubling down on his comments about the prime minister and would-be refugees despite criticism from his own party.

    Jean-Francois Lisee said Monday the federal government should pay for the costs of taking care of thousands of asylum seekers who have crossed into Quebec from the United States since June.

    Speaking at a caucus retreat today, Lisee defended the remarks by stating he is an authentic person and that people should expect him to say what he thinks.

    Read more: Dedicated immigration team formed amid stream of asylum seekers crossing Quebec border

    Almost 7,000 migrants have walked into Quebec since Canada Day

    Lisee says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited the asylum seekers and used his Twitter account to welcome all the world’s persecuted people to Canada.

    François Gendron, the dean of the PQ caucus, says he doesn’t like Lisee’s choice of words.

    The PQ leader was also criticized by former interim PQ leader Louise Harel, who said on Twitter she was profoundly disappointed by his comments.


    0 0


    Luciano Minuzzi had finished his very precise and very complicated analyses of brain scans from dozens of retired CFL football players and healthy volunteer subjects. Now it was time to look at the results.

    As Minuzzi performed his calculations, he was blind to the subject’s identity — a key part of the scientific process. He didn’t know if he was examining the brain of a retired player or a control subject.

    For each of the subjects, Minuzzi was analyzing the thickness of the brain’s cortex — the thin outer shell of the cerebrum where the bodies of billions and billions of nerve cells reside. It’s also the part of the brain that smacks the inside of the skull during a concussion.

    Read more:What happens in a concussion?

    When the results were unlocked and Minuzzi was able to compare the retired players to the controls, he was stunned.

    Everywhere he looked, it seemed, the cortex of the players, on average, was significantly thinner than it was for the controls — whether it was the top of the brain, the front, the back, the sides and even the inner surfaces down the middle.

    A thinning of the cortex is important because it suggests a substantial loss of nerve cells, supporting cells or both.

    His first reaction?

    “When I saw the images, I thought that must be wrong,” said Minuzzi, a brain imaging expert and a clinical psychiatrist at McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare. “I must have done something wrong.

    “So I did it again.”

    And again. And again. And again.

    Minuzzi went back and re-analyzed each subject four times because he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Each time, his results were confirmed.

    On average, about 65 per cent of the cerebral cortex showed significant thinning in the CFL players. That’s a staggering amount of damage that has accumulated in the players over time.

    By comparison, Minuzzi said when he analyzes patients suffering some types of brain disorders, there might be five per cent of the cortex which shows significant thinning.

    Minuzzi said the cortical thinning experienced by the players are “very, very strong results that we were not expecting.”

    “It’s almost like seeing the brains of much older people,” said Minuzzi. “They are not matching in terms of age.

    “I was shocked,” he added. “There’s something really serious happening.”

    Minuzzi is part of the research team for the Spectator’s CFL concussion project, a unique collaboration between the newspaper and six researchers from McMaster University.

    The project, which took more than two years to complete, involved comprehensive testing of 22 retired CFL players and another 20 healthy men of similar ages with no history of concussions who acted as control subjects.

    Using a variety of sophisticated tests, the goal of the project was to examine the long-term effects of concussions and repeated hits to the head suffered by former football players.

    The dramatic amounts of cortical thinning weren’t the only horrifying results to emerge.

    The retired players also underwent electroencephalogram (EEG) testing to measure the strength of the brain’s electrical activity as they paid attention to different stimuli, again compared to healthy volunteers.

    In some cases, the EEG results from players were no different than the results that would be seen in some types of coma patients.

    The findings are almost hard to believe, said John Connolly, a McMaster professor and the Senator William McMaster Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, who specializes in EEG analysis and concussions.

    “In the coma patient, you can understand it — the person has had a catastrophic brain injury of some description,” said Connolly, a member of the project’s research team.

    “But these men we tested are living their lives, they probably drove themselves here, some of them are running businesses.

    “I’m not suggesting they’re in a coma, quite the contrary,” he added. “They came in, we chatted to all of them.

    “Are there ways they’re getting around this? I think there must be.

    “There must be some way they’re compensating for what amounts to a really disastrous attentional problem.”

    The disturbing differences found between the players and controls throughout the various forms of testing suggest strong evidence of a link between football, repeated hits to the head and long-term effects on the brain.

    The findings raise very serious concerns about the future health prospects of former football players.

    “It seems that their brains are already very fragile,” said Minuzzi.

    “The saddest part of this is that if the cortical thinning has been caused by neuronal loss, once those cells are dead, they are dead,” he added.

    “It’s not something where we can do physiotherapy and recover, like a muscle can be increased with exercise.”

    Michael Noseworthy, an MRI imaging expert and part of the research team, said he too was shocked by the results.

    “These players are unquestionably abnormal compared to the normal population of the same age,” said Noseworthy, director of McMaster’s School of Biomedical Engineering and director of Imaging Physics and Engineering at St. Joseph’s Healthcare.

    “I feel really bad for these players,” he said. “And the current players, too.”

    Noseworthy was asked if there’s any chance the players’ results aren’t connected to football.

    “No, this is football,” he said. “That’s the common denominator.”

    The findings from this project are believed to be the first ever to report such a wide array of brain imaging and EEG results from living former professional football players.

    “I’ve never seen a study that’s done what you’ve done,” said Robyn Wishart, a Vancouver-based lawyer who specializes in the litigation of brain trauma cases involving athletes. “It’s mind-blowing what your images show.”

    Wishart has launched two separate lawsuits against the CFL on behalf of more than 200 former players who allege the league’s negligence caused them to suffer brain injuries.

    The project’s findings raise grave questions about the safety of a dangerous sport that is popular precisely because of its violent nature.

    “The players are getting stronger and faster and that’s just adding to this issue,” said Bob Macoritti, a study participant who played six seasons, mostly with Saskatchewan, in the mid to late 1970s.

    “You can’t get stronger, faster and heavier and not have more damaging collisions.”

    The research results, Wishart said, will help parents better understand the risks of the sport for their children.

    “I think the parents have a right to know what a long career in the sport of football could mean to the long-term health of their child,” she said.

    When the NFL agreed last year to a $1-billion settlement of lawsuits related to brain trauma, the league acknowledged as many as 6,000 former players may develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

    Research into concussions and their connection to sports is now an area of growing interest across North America.

    A long-term study of concussions and CFL players has been underway for more than two years at Toronto’s Krembil Neuroscience Centre, which is affiliated with Toronto Western Hospital and the University of Toronto.

    In addition to brain imaging research of living retired players, the Toronto project is also analyzing the brains of deceased players that have been donated for the study of CTE.

    By virtually every measurement examined in the Spectator project, the retired players’ results were worse than those of the healthy control subjects.

    In many cases, the results were shockingly worse.

    Here’s what we found:

    MRI

    Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a method of using very strong magnetic fields to generate highly-detailed images of organs and tissues. It’s particularly well-suited to looking at the brain.

    MRI can show in real time which areas of the brain are activated — and how much activation is taking place in those areas — during the resting state or when tasks are being performed during the scans.

    One main use of MRI scans is to look at so-called “white matter tracts” in the brain.

    These are the various bundles of nerve fibres — much like electrical cables — that join different areas of the brain and distribute the signals between nerve cells.

    Some of these tracts join the two halves of the cerebrum through a broad C-shaped band in the centre called the corpus callosum, and some of the tracts join together different areas within each half of the cerebrum.

    Damage to these bundles could interfere with brain function or processing speed.

    Four different types of analyses were applied to the MRI data and each analysis looks at different measures of the structural integrity of the nerve fibres that connect various areas of the brain.

    The MRI analyses showed significant differences between the retired players on average and the controls in a number of white matter tracts across the cerebrum.

    The testing showed 95 per cent of the players had decreased activity in a part of the prefrontal cortex believed to be associated with decision-making, when compared to an average level of activity in the control subjects.

    The area showing the most consistent differences across all measures was the corpus callosum, the large band that connects the left and right halves of the brain.

    The differences seen in the retired players suggest two separate issues at work.

    The first is that the nerve fibres in these bundles are showing signs of injury, degeneration, or the loss of the insulation around the fibres that help transmit the electrical signal smoothly.

    The second is that large swaths of the corpus callosum showed signs of premature aging in the retired players compared to the control group.

    Previous studies have shown the corpus callosum to be a common point of trauma in repetitive brain injuries. Because this large band connects the two halves of the brain, it can be damaged as the force of a blow is transferred back and forth through it, like a shock wave.

    What’s most disturbing about the results is that the differences seen in the retired players’ brains were more consistent with the results that would be seen in someone who had just recently suffered a concussion.

    Yet in the case of the retired players, it had been years — perhaps decades — since they’d last suffered a concussion or repeated blows to the head.

    “For these players, with who knows how many concussive hits or sub-concussive hits, it’s pretty striking and clear that the damage has never been repaired,” said Noseworthy.

    The MRI scans also showed significant areas of premature aging in several of the white matter tracts that join areas within one hemisphere or the other.

    The results also suggest that it’s not necessarily the violent but less frequent concussive types of hits that cause the most damage.

    Offensive and defensive linemen, who endure frequent but less violent blows to the head, showed greater damage to the white matter tracts of the brain than players such as receivers and defensive backs, who suffer higher energy hits but fewer of them.

    The results also showed that there was a significant and accelerated decline in the integrity of the white matter tracts as the age of the retired players increased.

    CORTICAL THICKNESS

    MRI scans can provide details about the brain’s anatomy. This is useful for measuring the thickness of the cerebral cortex, the outer folded shell of so-called “grey matter” that covers the two halves of the cerebrum.

    The cortex is made up of the bodies of billions of nerve cells, called neurons, which are responsible for organizing many of the higher-level functions of the human brain, such as memory, attention, emotion and problem solving.

    Using some high-powered math, the thickness of the cortex can be calculated across the brain. A thinning of the cortex suggests either a loss of the neurons themselves, a loss of connections between the neurons, a loss of blood vessels that supply the nerve cells, or a combination of all three.

    Cortical thickness is a very important measure because once nerve cells are lost, they can’t be regenerated.

    These were the most shocking of all our findings.

    On average, the players had “significant” thinning in 65 per cent of their cerebral cortex area, compared to people in the control group.

    Minuzzi, the psychiatrist and brain imaging expert, said he expected to see small spots of cortical thinning, perhaps localized to the areas where concussions occurred.

    Instead, “they show global reduction,” Minuzzi said. “The whole brain has been affected.”

    Some of the players are in their 40s, Minuzzi said, but “they have the brain of an 80-year-old, maybe 90-year-old.”

    The images from the players and the thinning of the cortex, he added, were “compatible to someone very old or someone with a neurodegenerative disorder.

    “Something really wrong is happening here,” he said.

    “It’s impossible to fake this. This is an objective measure of the thickness of your brain.”

    Altogether, the results showed, on average, that about 20 per cent of the mass of the cerebral cortex has been lost in the retired CFL players compared to the controls, which is a stunning amount of damage.

    As Minuzzi studied the brain scans of the players, one image popped into his head — “the gladiators of the past,” he said.

    “People were cheering for someone to die,” he said. “I was wondering if that’s what’s happening now when we turn the TV on.

    “Are we seeing people who are being exposed to something that is quite negative that will change their lives forever?”

    EEG

    An EEG is a measurement of the electrical activity taking place across the brain.

    While MRI imaging and cortical thickness analysis reflect the structure of the brain, EEG measurements help provide answers to the question of what functional consequences arise from these structural changes.

    A series of 64 electrodes scattered across the outside of the skull pick up changes in electrical activity caused when nerve cells fire. The more cells that fire, the stronger the electrical signal.

    In addition, an EEG is very good at picking up the timing of nerve cell activity in response to stimuli.

    Our EEG experiment was designed to measure two different states — how does the brain respond when a subject is consciously paying attention to stimuli, and how does the brain respond when a subject is not paying attention to the same stimuli?

    In the first case, the subjects were told to pay attention to the sound of tones being played through earphones.

    Most of the time, the tone was exactly the same and it was repeated over and over — beep, beep, beep, beep. The brain’s electrical response to the regular tone dulls quickly as it becomes habituated to it.

    But every so often, the tone would differ — perhaps it was longer, or louder, or a different pitch.

    When the abnormal tone is played, the electrical activity spikes in response to this new stimulus.

    It’s well established from research that the electrical spike occurs around 300 milliseconds after the stimulus and this is called the “P300 wave.”

    Recordings from the electrodes allowed us to measure the size of the wave — which corresponds to the amount of electrical activity — and whether or not there was a delay in the response between the players and the controls.

    In the second part of the experiment, the subjects watched a nature movie while the same beep-beep-beep tones were being played through their earphones. Again, the tone would differ every so often, as it did in the first part.

    The subjects were told to disregard the background sounds of the tones and simply watch the movie.

    But even though the subjects aren’t consciously paying attention to the tones, the brain is still monitoring the sounds.

    And the same process is at play — the response to the normal tones becomes habituated and there’s a spike in electrical activity when the tone changes.

    In this case, the phenomenon is known as the Mismatch Negativity effect, or MMN, and the spike occurs about 150 to 250 milliseconds after the abnormal stimulus.

    Our experiment measured the conscious (P300) and unconscious (MMN) responses to the abnormal tones for the retired players and controls.

    When consciously listening to the tones, the P300 responses of the players on average were only half as strong as the control group responses, regardless of whether the tone changed in pitch, length or loudness.

    These results were highly statistically significant.

    Since an EEG measures the strength of electrical activity, the results suggest there was considerably less firing of nerve cells, on average in the players’ brains compared to the controls.

    “You can have various theories as to what’s going on, but it means that they cannot pay sustained attention,” said Connolly.

    For some of the retired players, there were no signs of P300 electrical activity shown, regardless of how the tone changed — a result that would be consistent with some types of coma patients.

    “To show a P300 is not something only shown by geniuses or only people in peak physical condition,” Connolly said. “Everybody shows this thing.

    “But some of these fellows do not show P300s and that to me is simply stunning.

    “It might be that someone has a reduced one or a delayed one but to not see it at all, I’d never seen that before, literally,” Connolly added. “And I’ve been doing this for 30-plus years.”

    The players, on average, also exhibited a delay in response when the abnormal tones were louder or longer.

    A delay in response suggests that it might be taking longer for the signal to be processed in the brain.

    When subconsciously listening to the tones, the players’ MMN responses were significantly reduced compared to the control group, particularly when the abnormal tones were longer or of a different pitch.

    These responses come from areas in the brain that include the auditory (hearing) cortex and areas that control our ability to pay attention and focus.

    Both the P300 and MMN responses are linked to different types of memory formation.

    One possible explanation for the reduced strength of the electrical activity in the players is that the overall number of nerve cells in their brains has been reduced because of the cortical thinning that’s taken place.

    HEALTH AND DEPRESSION

    All of the retired players and control subjects were asked to fill out a self-reported health survey, a concussion symptom survey, as well as the Beck Depression Inventory, a standardized test that can show if a subject exhibits signs of depression and if so, how severe it might be.

    The health and symptom surveys asked subjects to rate themselves on more than a dozen measures, including general health, pain, emotional well-being, memory difficulties, sleep difficulties and irritability.

    The players’ average score on the Beck Depression Inventory was nearly four times higher than the average for the control subjects.

    Seven out of 22 players showed some signs of depression.

    Not one of the 20 controls showed signs of depression.

    When it came to the symptom scoring for measures such as irritability, difficulty in remembering and emotional sensitivity, the results were even worse.

    The players’ total concussion symptom scores were five times higher than the control subjects.

    For every one of the six categories, the players scored worse than the controls.

    What’s most disturbing is that for many of the retired players, it had been years — if not decades — since they last suffered a concussion. In fact, a few of the players reported they had never been officially diagnosed with a concussion during their playing careers.

    Yet on average, the players consistently reported the types of symptoms expected to be found in people who were recovering from a recent concussion.

    The results were particularly dramatic when it came to self-reported problems with memory. The average symptom score was 10 times higher for the players than it was for the controls.

    Sixteen of 22 players reported some level of difficulties with memory. Only two of 20 controls reported similar issues.

    In all eight of the general health categories, the players’ results on average were worse than those of the controls. The players were significantly worse in the pain and social functioning categories.

    IMPACT TESTING

    ImPACT, which stands for “Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing,” is a computer-based series of modules that measure motor processing speed, reaction time, visual memory, impulse control, and verbal memory.

    This was the one aspect of our testing where the results were somewhat inconclusive.

    The players performed worse than the controls in four of the six categories, but the differences were not statistically significant.

    The players performed better than the controls in the visual memory and motor processing speed categories, which might be a residual effect of excelling in a sport that requires quick decision-making and the ability to remember visual patterns on the field.

    Retired players who took part in the project have reacted with a mix of shock and unease at the disturbing results.

    Most, however, also acknowledged they weren’t surprised.

    “It’s a big eye opener,” said longtime Ticat receiver Mike Morreale, now 46 and the youngest of the 22 players tested.

    “What upsets me is that, generally speaking, my peers are suffering like that and it makes me feel very uneasy inside,” Morreale said.

    Former Argo Dan Ferrone, who played 12 seasons as an offensive lineman, said the results are “conclusive proof that football does have an impact on your brain matter.”

    “I think a lot of guys probably know they have damage,” added Ferrone, now 59. “They’re just not aware of how bad that damage is.”

    In addition to his 12 years playing professional football, he also played another nine years of high school and university football.

    “That’s a lot of abuse,” he said.

    Ferrone said he was diagnosed with one or two concussions during his career, but now suspects in hindsight he may have suffered as many as 10 concussions.

    That’s not unusual, given the findings of a joint Harvard-Boston University study published in 2015.

    In a survey of 730 U.S. collegiate football players over one season, the study showed that for every one diagnosed concussion, there were 26 potential concussions that went unreported or undiagnosed.

    “These results are clearly an indication of the trauma that can happen from this game, no question about that,” said Don Bowman, a defensive back who played for Winnipeg and Hamilton in the mid to late 1970s.

    “Where we go with this, I don’t know.

    “There are guys making an awful lot of money playing this sport and perhaps that’s worth it,” Bowman added. “It wasn’t so much that way back when we were playing.”

    Bob MacDonald, an offensive lineman with Calgary and Hamilton in the early 1990s, admits he now wonders, “What have I done?”

    “My job was to smash guys as hard as I can,” said MacDonald, now a teacher at Saltfleet Secondary School. “So I never really gave it that much thought for a long time.

    “When I was growing up, I never thought about impact and inertia and the brain flipping and flopping,” he said. “You just think ‘I’m wearing equipment, I’m safe.’”

    sbuist@thespec.com

    905-526-3226


    0 0


    DALLAS—Authorities found a shivering 3-year-old clinging to the body of her drowned mother in a rain-swollen canal in Southeast Texas after the woman tried to carry her child to safety from Harvey’s floods.

    Beaumont police on Wednesday identified the mother as 41-year-old Colette Sulcer and said her daughter was being treated for hypothermia but doing well.

    Capt. Brad Penisson of the fire-rescue department in Beaumont said the woman’s vehicle got stuck Tuesday afternoon in the flooded parking lot of an office park just off Interstate 10. Squalls from Harvey were pounding Beaumont with up to 5 centimetres of rain an hour at the time with 60 kph gusts, according to the National Weather Service.

    Penisson said a witness saw the woman take her daughter and try to walk to safety when the swift current of a flooded drainage canal next to the parking lot swept them both away.

    Read more: On Houston roads turned rivers, volunteer rescuers improvise to save the trapped and desperate

    Floodwaters drop across much of Houston as death toll hits 20

    The child was holding onto the floating woman when a police and fire-rescue team in a boat caught up to them a half-mile downstream, he said. Rescuers pulled them into the boat just before they would have gone under a railroad trestle where the water was so high that the boat could not have followed. First responders lifted the child from her mother’s body and tried to revive the woman, but she never regained consciousness.

    The child was taken to the Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont, and was expected to be released Wednesday. Officer Carol Riley said the girl was doing “very well” and was chatty.

    “Everybody at the hospital and the officers just fell in love with her,” Riley said.

    At least 20 people have been killed by Harvey since Friday, when it made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane. Harvey has since weakened to a tropical storm.


    0 0


    It was an icy day in March 2015 when two 10-year-olds at a Toronto Catholic school engaged in a pushing prank that went wrong. Their shoves sent a classmate toppling to the ground, causing him to break his arm.

    Two years later, the two children have been named by the school board’s insurer in a lawsuit arising from the incident, raising alarm about legal liability of students involved in schoolyard skirmishes.

    In the wake of the case, trustee Mike Del Grande wants the Toronto Catholic District School Board to advise parents of the risks of lawsuits and to make sure they have liability coverage as part of their property insurance.

    “This is the litigious atmosphere we’re in now and this is a warning that you should check your insurance policies,” he told the Star.

    “This stuff can go on and it’s under the radar and nobody knows about it until they’re in it.”

    Standard policies for homeowners, condo dwellers and tenants typically include liability coverage for policyholders and their children.

    It’s a sobering example of what can happen, even between children who are classmates and attend each other’s birthday parties, said Del Grande, who learned about the situation from the parents of the two children named in the lawsuit.

    “It’s ludicrous to put parents in that type of position. It’s unfair, it’s unconscionable,” he said.

    Parents of both children, a boy and a girl who were in Grade 5 at the time and are starting Grade 8 next week, confirmed details in conversations with the Star on condition that neither they, their children or the school were named.

    One of the children was interviewed by his family’s insurance adjustor this summer after notice that the school board’s insurer had filed a cross-claim for damages against both kids. He was asked to recall events from more than two years earlier.

    The other mother said her family does not have liability coverage.

    Experts in insurance law say although the action may seem shocking to many, naming minors in lawsuits is not uncommon and is usually aimed at triggering a parent’s insurance policy to cover costs of a settlement.

    The statement of claim in this case alleges that on that March day in 2015, the two kids had been going around the schoolyard pushing other children. When they approached the boy, he told them he didn’t want to be pushed, but they did it anyway. The fall broke his upper arm.

    In an interview, the mother of one of the kids described it as “a game” among students in which one person crouches behind the victim, and another one pushes them, sending them falling backward. Both parents said their children had not intended to cause harm. When it became apparent the boy was hurt, the boy involved in the pushing helped take him to the school office, his mother said.

    They found out the next day the boy’s arm was broken.

    The parents were contacted by police after the incident was reported, but no charges were laid, said one of the mothers. The injured child left the school before the end of the year, she added.

    Two months after the incident, she said her family received a series of lawyer’s letters indicating her son would be held responsible, and suggesting they advise their insurer.

    The injured boy suffered “great pain” as a result of the broken arm, while his mother was forced to take time off work and pay for child care and medical expenses as a result of the injury, lawyer Jane Lo of Toronto firm Klaiman Edmonds wrote in one letter on behalf of her client.

    “I have instructions to resolve this dispute in the amount of $5,000 in exchange for not naming (the boy) in the action,” Lo wrote in another letter, dated June 1, 2015. “My client will be willing to provide a release for that purpose.”

    The family did not respond to that proposal or follow-up letters, including one in July that warned if they failed to do so “we may commence a lawsuit without notice to you.”

    When they heard nothing further, they figured the matter had “blown over,” said his mother.

    Asked about the letters on Tuesday, Lo told the Star her client “felt that there was liability on the part of the children and we wanted to see if there could be a quick resolution. Unfortunately they didn’t accept the offer and we had to continue on with the action.”

    She declined to comment further.

    The families of the two pupils said they were not informed when, eight months after the incident, in November 2015, the injured child and his mother filed legal action against the school, its principal and the Catholic board, seeking a total of $600,000 in general and special damages, plus costs.

    They said they didn’t find out there was a lawsuit until March 2017, after receiving notice that the injured boy and his mother were adding the names of the other two pupils, now 12 and 13, to the lawsuit.

    However, last week, they were informed of another change — that their names were being removed from the plaintiffs’ legal action.

    “The school board hasn’t communicated anything to us,” said one mother. “We’ve never been contacted, we’ve been left on our own to deal with it.”

    The families feel “we’ve been thrown under the bus,” she said.

    In June, the Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange, which provides coverage for schools and is acting for the Catholic board, filed a cross-claim against the two children, arguing the school, principal and board should not be held responsible and the children should be accountable for all damages because they broke the rules.

    The cross-claim argues the students were “negligent” and did not respect the school’s “hands off” policy.

    Their statement of defence argues the alleged injuries and damages outlined in the suit are “exaggerated, remote and not recoverable at law.”

    Boyd Critoph, a lawyer representing the school board insurance exchange, refused to comment.

    “I am advised that our general policy is not to discuss issues relating to any of our ongoing cases with the media,” he said in an email.

    A Catholic board spokesperson, John Yan, said the board “is aware of the situation” but no one can comment on a case that’s before the courts.

    The insurance exchange, a non-profit co-operative, insures most school boards in the province with one notable exception. The Toronto District School Board left the carrier in January, citing cost savings, and now has policies with various carriers through broker Aon Canada.

    Last year the insurance exchange collected details about more than 85,000 incidents involving injuries and in turn potential liability, according to the website. Incident reports are filed when students, volunteers, visitors or other non-employees are injured on school premises or while under school supervision.

    Insurance lawyers say while age 10 is unusually young for such a lawsuit, suing a minor is not unusual and cross-claims are a tactic to spread liability and costs among defendants.

    One case that named a 7-year-old who hit another student in the head in a Toronto schoolyard in 1998 dragged on for 15 years before the injured child was awarded more than $4 million in damages.

    Aviva Canada sees “a handful to two handfuls” of lawsuits involving minors each year, which tend to arise from such situations as a hockey fight or prolonged bullying, says chief claims officer Mark Warnquist.

    Warnquist, who is also a lawyer, stressed he isn’t familiar with the Catholic board case and could not comment on it directly.

    “It’s unfortunate but what happens here is only the lawyers win,” Warnquist said.

    Catholic trustees last week discussed Del Grande’s motion to raise the issue publicly at their September board meeting, said chair Angela Kennedy.

    But the notice of motion was raised in private sessions rather than during the public part of their August meeting and is currently scheduled for their private session next month, she said. That was on the advice of board counsel because legal action is underway, she added.

    But Del Grande wants the issue aired in a public forum because of the implications for schools and families.

    “This whole thing seems to be operating in a climate of fear,” he said. He said despite supervision and the best intentions, kids do reckless things and injuries happen. “Where does it end?”

    Warnquist of Aviva says parents shouldn’t necessarily be alarmed.

    “But they should know that this scenario just highlights the kinds of things that can happen in today’s society and that’s one of the reasons you buy insurance.”

    Ontario school boards sell Student Accident Insurance, but it only covers injuries for the child who’s insured, not if they hurt someone else.

    Standard policies for homeowners and tenants typically include liability coverage of $1 million to $2 million for policyholders, their kids and other household members, he said.

    Coverage includes the cost of hiring a lawyer, which can surpass the cost of a settlement or judgment, and can run into six figures “even if you’re in the right.”


    0 0


    HOUSTON—Harvey’s floodwaters started dropping across much of the Houston area and the sun peeked through thinning clouds Wednesday in the first glimmer of hope in days for the besieged city. But the crisis was far from over, and the storm began to give up some of its dead.

    The number of confirmed deaths rose to 21 after Beaumont police confirmed a second death in that city.

    Authorities also found the submerged van in which six members of a Houston family, including four children, were believed to have died when their vehicle was swept off a bridge. The bodies of two adults were spotted inside in the murky water, authorities said.

    “Unfortunately, it seems that our worst thoughts are being realized,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.

    While conditions in Houston appeared to improve, the disaster took a turn for the worse near the Texas-Louisiana state line.

    The Texas communities of Beaumont and Port Arthur struggled with rising floodwaters and worked to evacuate residents after Harvey rolled ashore early Wednesday for the second time in six days, hitting southwestern Louisiana as a tropical storm with winds of 45 mph and heavy rain.

    For much of the rest of the Houston area, forecasters said the rain is pretty much over and the water is already back within its channels in some places.

    “We have good news,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District. “The water levels are going down. And that’s for the first time in several days.”

    Also, the water in two reservoirs that protect downtown Houston from flooding was likely to crest Wednesday at levels slightly below those that were forecast, officials said.

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

    Tropical storm Harvey makes landfall again, this time in Louisiana

    Harvey causes chaos in Houston, 6 family members feared dead after van swept away

    Shivering girl, 3, found clinging to drowned mom in Harvey aftermath

    Nevertheless, many thousands of homes in and around the nation’s fourth-largest city were still swamped and could stay that way for days or longer. Some Houston-area neighbourhoods were still in danger of more flooding because of the risk of a levee breach. And officials said 911 call centres in the Houston area were still getting more than 1,000 calls an hour from people seeking help.

    Authorities expect the death toll to rise as the waters recede and they are able to take full stock of the destruction wrought by the hurricane.

    The dead include a man who tried to swim across a flooded roadway, a former football and track coach in suburban Houston and a woman who died after she and her young daughter were swept into a rain-swollen drainage canal in Beaumont. The child was rescued clinging to her dead mother, authorities said.

    Houston Police confirmed Tuesday a 34-year department veteran died while driving through floodwaters to aid in the response to Hurricane Harvey.

    Sgt. Steve Perez, 60, died late Sunday or early Monday, police chief Art Acevedo said during a news conference Tuesday.

    “He was a sweet and gentle public servant,” Acevedo told reporters.

    Authorities said Perez left his home at 4 a.m. Sunday during heavy rain. Officials said he spent more than two hours trying to get to his command post in the downtown area, but could not find a path.

    As was protocol, he informed his chain of command and tried to get to the closest command post in Kingwood, but got caught in floodwaters under an overpass.

    Acevedo said while the Kingwood post was conducting roll call Monday, they noticed Perez was not present. Commanders tried to get in contact with him, but were unsuccessful. They contacted his wife, who said she hadn’t seen him since Sunday.

    On Tuesday morning, divers recovered Perez’s body in 16 feet of water.

    Harvey itself was “spinning down” and expected to weaken into a tropical depression sometime Wednesday, National Hurricane Center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said. A tropical depression has winds of 38 mph or less.

    The remnants of the hurricane are expected to move from Louisiana into Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky in the next few days, with flooding possible in those states.

    “Once we get this thing inland during the day, it’s the end of the beginning,” Feltgen said. “Texas is going to get a chance to finally dry out as this system pulls out.”

    Eugene Rideaux, a 42-year-old mechanic who showed up at evangelist Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch to sort donations for evacuees, welcomed the reprieve from the rain.

    He said he had not been able to work or do much since the storm hit, so he was eager to get out of his dark house and help.

    “It’s been so dark for days now, I’m just ready to see some light. Some sunshine. I’m tired of the darkness,” Rideaux said. “But it’s a tough city, and we’re going to make this into a positive and come together.”

    When Harvey paid its return visit to land overnight, it hit near Cameron, Louisiana, about 45 miles from Port Arthur.

    Port Arthur found itself increasingly isolated as floodwaters swamped most major roads out of the city and spilled into a storm shelter with about 100 people inside. Motiva Enterprises closed its Port Arthur refinery, the largest in the nation, because of flooding.

    Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman posted on his Facebook page: “city is underwater right now but we are coming!” He also urged residents to get to higher ground and to avoid becoming trapped in attics.

    In the Houston area, Harvey’s five straight of rain that totalled close to 52 inches, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental United States.

    Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said 30,000 to 40,000 homes, perhaps more, may have been damaged.

    “It could be more,” he told Houston’s KTRK-TV. “We just don’t know. A number are irreparable. We’ve got some difficult months and perhaps years ahead.”

    Some 13,000 people have been rescued in the Houston area, and more than 17,000 have sought refuge in Texas shelters. With the water still high in places and many hard-hit areas still inaccessible, those numbers seemed certain to increase.

    About 195,000 people have filed for financial assistance, and about $35 million in direct aid has been distributed — numbers expected to climb dramatically in coming days and weeks, the chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

    “This is going to be an incredibly large disaster,” Brock Long said in Washington. “We’re not going to know the true cost for years to come. ... But it’s going to be huge.”

    Harvey initially came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane in Texas on Friday, then executed a U-turn and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days, inundating flood-prone Houston.


    0 0


    A man was acquitted of a drunk driving charge after a Newmarket judge found his rights were violated when police allowed a TV camera operator to film him giving breath samples and speaking to a lawyer on the phone.

    Ontario Court Justice David Rose wrote that there was no evidence to suggest that York Regional Police placed any restrictions on a Global News TV crew on the night in question in 2016 after approving their presence at a RIDE check in Richmond Hill.

    He concluded that Kunal Gautam’s rights to counsel and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure were infringed, threw out the breath samples and acquitted him.

    “What is regrettable in this case is that otherwise reliable evidence of blood alcohol content of a motorist is excluded because York Regional Police saw apparent wisdom in giving Global News access to the RIDE truck (where the breath samples were taken),” Rose wrote in a decision released last week.

    “An effort to publicize a fairly routine police alcohol driving interdiction program will result in an acquittal. The irony is not lost on me.”

    York Regional Police have often stated that the region has a serious problem with drinking and driving. It was something that was also raised by the Crown attorney in the hearing before Rose. Police reported there were more than 1,200 drunk driving incidents in 2016.

    “Despite our efforts, the problem of impaired driving continues to exist as you can see in the impaired driving media releases that we issue on a weekly basis,” said York police spokesman Const. Andy Pattenden.

    The issue was put front and centre when a drunken Marco Muzzo slammed into another vehicle in Vaughan and killed three children and their grandfather. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 2016, about two months before Gautam was arrested.

    Gautam had provided two breath samples showing results of 152 and 146 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood — nearly twice the legal limit.

    The judge wrote that the rights violations were “particularly serious” because the order to allow Global News to film came from an unknown police official.

    “What aggravates the seriousness of the Charter violations in this case is that there appears to have been no input from the actual officers on scene about what might happen if a TV news crew were allowed inside the RIDE truck,” Rose wrote.

    “The presence of Global News that night appears to have been an order ‘from on high.’ No witness personally took responsibility in the evidence to explain the rationale for Global TV being in the RIDE truck.”

    A segment that aired in May 2016 shows Gautam being taken into the RIDE truck by police, providing breath samples, and telling officers he only had one drink. He then spoke briefly to a Global reporter afterward.

    The segment caused him embarrassment at work, and came as a surprise to some of the officers who worked the RIDE check that evening, Rose wrote in his ruling.

    Pattenden, the police spokesman, told the Star that the ride-along was set up by the corporate communications department to demonstrate how serious a problem drunk driving continues to be. He did not say who gave approval.

    “The case that you specifically mentioned was dealt with by the courts and we respect the decision,” he wrote in an email. “Since that time, corporate communications has made changes in policy to ensure media is more closely supervised while on ride-alongs.”

    A Global executive said in a brief statement to the Star that Global’s journalists are trained to balance the rights of accused persons with the public’s right to know.

    “We operated in plain sight with police authorization, keeping as low a profile as the environment allowed,” said Ron Waksman, vice-president of digital and editorial standards and practices for Global News and Corus Radio.

    Gautam testified that while he spoke to duty counsel — the free legal advice hotline — in a phone booth in the RIDE truck, the Global camera operator placed his camera at the window looking into the booth.

    Rose wrote that he found Gautam’s testimony to be truthful, and that he didn’t feel comfortable asking the lawyer questions because of the camera. His rights to counsel were therefore violated, the judge found.

    He also concluded that his right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure had been infringed because he had a privacy interest while he was in the breath room area of the RIDE truck.

    “Justice Rose did an excellent analysis and decided it was in the long-term best interests of justice to exclude the evidence,” said Gautam’s lawyer, Ken Anders.


    0 0


    With students headed back to classrooms, police are stressing school safety even more after a school bus driver was charged with impaired driving after a bus crashed with 20 students on board.

    York Regional Police said the 54-year-old driver struck another vehicle near Enterprise Blvd. and Warden Ave. around 4 p.m. on Tuesday. Police said the bus was carrying 20 students from Bill Crothers Secondary School, which is located minutes away from where the collision occurred.

    According to police, the driver of the vehicle that was hit said “the school bus struck her car then kept bumping into it.” There were no injuries.

    When police arrived on scene they noticed signs of impairment and placed the school bus driver under arrest. She was then brought to district headquarters where she refused to undergo a breath test.

    The 54-year-old woman from Georgina has been charged with refusal to provide a breath sample and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

    “Any case of impaired driving is serious and now we’re at that time of the year when we’re talking about school safety. And with this case of the school bus driver—I mean I can say that with all the impaired driving cases I’ve looked at, nothing surprises me anymore,” said Const. Andy Pattenden.

    The driver was hired by York Region District School Board from Stock Transportation, who conducts background checks and medical exams of all drivers.

    “The driver has been immediately terminated and will be ineligible for future hire by our company,” said Stock Transportation in a statement.

    “The safety of the students we transport is our top priority. Without exception, our drivers are required to abide by our company drug and alcohol policy.”

    Kathryn Wallace, interim director of education at the board, said in a statement that the board will be investigating the incident and following up with Stock Transportation, the vendor which Wallace confirmed was responsible for the placement of the driver.

    “We will also conduct a review of the process undertaken to place this driver, to ensure an incident like this does not happen again. We have high expectations for our employees and contracted vendors. This time these expectations were not met,” the statement read.

    Stock Transportation conducts background checks and medical exams of all drivers. The background checks are then approved by Student Transportation Services in an annual audit, said board spokesperson Licinio Miguelo.

    Pattenden said he will not be releasing the school bus driver’s name as this is regular practice of York Regional Police regarding impaired driving charges.

    “In some of these cases it’s embarrassing for them and they’re shamed by their family and their community.”

    Pattenden said 20 impaired driving charges are laid every week.

    In June York Regional Police launched a summer impaired driving prevention campaign called Not One More.

    “Impaired driving on our roads in York Region is such a huge problem year after year after year,” said Pattenden.

    The driver will appear in court in Newmarket on Sept. 30.


    0 0


    Kathleen Wynne doesn’t want to be your friend; she just wants to be your premier.

    Languishing at historic lows in personal popularity polls, even as her government’s initiatives appear to be gaining traction, Wynne says Ontarians don’t have to love her when they vote on June 7, 2018.

    Asked earlier this week by CP24’s Cristina Tenaglia why Liberal policies are popular while polling suggests she, herself, is not, the premier smiled gamely and interjected.

    “You know what, you’re going to have to determine what it says about me,” Wynne said at a campaign-style event Tuesday at the Berkeley Street Theatre.

    “Here’s what I do in the morning: I get up. I read the newspaper. I listen to you guys. I go for my run and then I come to work and I do my job,” she said.

    “And my job is about creating a fair Ontario, creating an Ontario where kids and adults, seniors have the opportunity to live a life that is the very best life that they can live.

    “That’s my job.”

    That moment of candour at first seemed as though it may have been a slip of the tongue.

    But Wynne and her aides have retweeted video of her response to Tenaglia to tens of thousands of people on Twitter and posted it on Facebook.

    The Liberals have done so because they want voters to be thinking about policies, not personalities, when casting their ballots nine months from now.

    “Whether people like me or not, I’m really glad that people think that free tuition for kids who live in low income families is a good idea,” said Wynne.

    “I’m really glad that people think that having free medications for kids from zero to 25 is a really good idea,” she said.

    “I’m really glad that people think that increasing the minimum wage is a good idea, and that that makes for a fairer Ontario.”

    The premier, who trails both Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in personal approval ratings, indicated she has no illusions about winning a popularity contest.

    “The people who love me are my family and I go home to them.

    “My job is to make sure that the people of Ontario have the best opportunity possible.”

    Internal government polling obtained by The Canadian Press through a Freedom of Information request suggests the Liberals are rebounding thanks in part to support for increasing the $11.40 hourly minimum wage to $14 in January and $15 in 2019.

    Last month, 71 per cent of respondents said they supported the policy, which is opposed by many business groups concerned about labour costs.

    “Increasing the minimum wage, along with protection for temporary and part-time workers, serves to increase confidence in government even more than increases to healthcare spending,” the Gandalf Group pollsters wrote.

    Gandalf, which is headed by David Herle, Wynne’s campaign manager, also found Ontarians like the 25 per cent cut in consumer electricity rates, which is being paid for through increased borrowing.

    One insider confided Wednesday that Liberals still have an uphill climb to ensure the premier, herself, is seen as the face of popular policies.

    “It’s great that people like the minimum wage, the hydro plan, and pharmacare, but we aren’t yet getting much credit for it,” said the senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal strategy.

    “We still have a long way to go.”


    0 0


    Mohammed Shamji, a Toronto neurosurgeon charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, was denied bail Wednesday.

    Shamji is accused of killing his wife, Elana Fric-Shamji, a family physician found dead inside a suitcase by the West Humber River in Vaughan on Dec. 1.

    At the time, police said they believed Fric-Shamji had been strangled and suffered from blunt-force trauma. The pair were married for 12 years and had three children together. Days before her body was found, Fric-Shamji had filed for divorce.

    Shamji’s trial is expected to begin in fall 2018.

    He’s also charged with indignity to human remains.

    Read more:

    ‘We miss her greatly’: Slain doctor’s family thanks public for support

    Toronto doctor accused of murdering wife was charged with assaulting her in 2005

    Toronto neurosurgeon charged with murder of family doctor wife

    Shamji, dressed in a blue button-up shirt and a dark grey suit, looked nervous, staring straight ahead throughout the proceedings. The 41-year-old had a faint five o’clock shadow, his hair neat and trimmed short.

    Details of what happened in court are covered by a publication ban.

    At one point, as the judge detailed the allegations against him, Shamji shook his head.

    Members of Shamji’s family sat behind the prisoner’s box, with some holding onto each other for support. Members of Fric-Shamji’s family didn’t appear to be in the courtroom.

    If he was granted bail, Shamji would not have been permitted to practise medicine “in any capacity,” said Kathryn Clarke, spokesperson at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO).

    Shamji’s profile with the college shows the former neurosurgeon’s registration expired on Aug. 10 due to a failure to renew his membership. His privileges to practise at the University Health Network were previously suspended in December 2016.

    Since his arrest in 2016, he’s been held at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton.

    In 2005, when the pair were newlyweds living in Ottawa, Shamji was charged with uttering threats and assaulting Fric-Shamji. The charges were dropped after he signed a peace bond.


    0 0


    Portrait of a mother’s misery: Downcast face, eyes firmly shut throughout, each hand clasped by a supportive woman to the right, a supportive woman to the left.

    But she couldn’t have shut her ears to what was being said in court, a quite detailed account from the bench of her daughter-in-law’s harrowing life and brutal death.

    A son, Dr. Mohammed Shamji, charged with first-degree murder.

    Such an accomplished family, the Shamjis: father a prominent thoracic surgeon, mother a now retired child psychiatrist, two doctor sons.

    Dr. Mohammed Shamji, the accused, a renowned Toronto neurosurgeon beloved by his patients.

    The victim, Elana Fric-Shamji, a doctor too, family physician at Scarborough Hospital and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. Her body was discovered stuffed in a suitcase in the Humber River in Kleinburg on Dec. 1, 2016. She had been, police said at the time, strangled and beaten.

    The dead woman’s mother was not in court on Wednesday, to hear the decision on a two-day bail hearing held earlier this month. Doubtless she would have looked just as stricken and sad.

    It took Justice Michael Brown more than an hour to get to the critical point, as he reviewed the interim evidence and legal admissions which had been put to him, the Crown objecting to Shamji’s release on surety — to be put up by his parents and other relatives — the defence mounting arguments to convince the bench otherwise.

    In a word: No.

    Shamji would be returned to Maplehurst jail to await trial. His lawyers have said he intends to plead not guilty.

    It is extremely rare for a person charged with first-degree murder to be allowed back into the community, even under stringent conditions.

    Yet there was doubt in the downtown courtroom — hope, let us say, for his family — as Brown wove through the legal thresholds that must be met under a Section 522 application: primary, secondary and tertiary grounds.

    These would be the same for anyone applying for bail: Primary, the flight risk factor, whether an accused can be reliably expected not to flee the jurisdiction; secondary, risk to the public if the defendant is allowed back in the community; tertiary, the necessity to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice.

    The hearing was under an automatic publication ban.

    Shamji wore a blue shirt, no tie and a charcoal suit.

    When the proceeding was over, he turned to his father and mouthed: “I love you.”

    There is plenty on the media record already, however, in the public domain before the bail hearing began.

    The couple, married in 2004, had three children, the oldest only 11 when her mother was killed.

    From the outside, they certainly appeared to be a couple blessed by good fortune, enviable professional success and a lovely family. Their social media accounts over recent years were replete with mutual pride and professions of love. But close friends would later tell reporters that the marriage was not as it seemed and Fric-Shamji had confided she wanted to end it.

    Police have alleged Fric-Shamji was killed at the couple’s upscale home, located in the Bathurst St.-Sheppard Ave. area, sometime between the evening of Nov. 30 and the morning of Dec. 1.

    Eleven years earlier, Shamji had been charged with one count of assault and two counts of uttering death threats against his wife, when the couple was living in Ottawa. Those charges were dropped when Shamji agreed to a peace bond that required him to not come within 200 metres of their residence without his wife’s consent.

    It’s unclear what happened in subsequent months but the couple clearly reconciled, moving to Toronto in 2012.

    And then, four years later, she’s dead in a suitcase.

    Shamji was arrested at a Mississauga coffee shop where he was meeting with his lawyer Liam O’Connor on Dec. 2.

    Outside court following the hearing Wednesday, O’Connor characterized Brown’s ruling as “a good legal judgment.”

    “I don’t have a problem with it and I won’t be discussing how my client is feeling or what he’s told me.”

    Adding, though: “I’m surprised given the level of support out there for Dr. Shamji … Dr. Shamji has an enormous amount of support out there. I can tell you from the day this charge was laid I’ve been inundated with support for the doctor from friends, from family, from patients, from people who don’t know him.”

    The children, said O’Connor, are now living in Windsor.

    “There’s three children suffering in Windsor, I have no doubt about that. But I haven’t seen a story where there wasn’t a second side to the story and that story will be told, I assure you.”

    That trial is not expected to begin before the fall of 2018.

    Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.


    0 0


    A blockade by members of Six Nations has barred a portion of Argyle Street, the main road in Caledonia for the past 21 days.

    The protest is connected to a parcel of land that was put into a federal corporation in March by Six Nations’ elected band council, allegedly reneging on an Ontario promise to return it to Six Nations people in 2006 to ameliorate the Caledonia Standoff — a protest that saw a group of Indigenous people occupy a housing development called Douglas Creek Estates. The blockade is situated near the site where violence broke out over 10 years ago.

    It concerns a disagreement between the elected band council and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, a traditional government system comprised of five First Nations. The latter says it has been responsible for the lands for over 10 years.

    A letter penned by former Ontario premier David Peterson in 2006 states that “The title of the Burtch lands will be included in the lands rights process of the Haudenosaunee/ Six Nations/Canada/Ontario. It is the intention that the land title be returned to its original state, its status under the Haldimand Proclamation.”

    Ontario honoured the 2006 commitment by transferring the land into the corporation, said a spokesperson with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

    “We are hopeful that all of the parties involved will be able to work together in a spirit of mutual respect to ensure the land benefits all the people of Six Nations,” said Antoine Tedesco in a written statement. “As this matter is before the courts right now, any further comment would be inappropriate.”

    This summer, Mohawk farmer Kristine Hill was evicted from the Burtch lands— about 380 acres west of the reserve line — after an injunction was filed against her, despite the Confederacy issuing a five-year lease to her. A decision on this case, along with a contempt of court charge, will be delivered in an Ontario court on Sept. 22, said Hill.

    “The government needs to sit down and talk,” said Hill. “They can’t make unilateral decisions, pan-Aboriginal decisions and expect individual nations to be happy with that.”

    Hill did not want to comment about the blockade or Burtch lands because her court case is ongoing.

    “Ontario defaulted on the original agreement,” she said, adding that the elected band council is carrying out the province’s bidding. “The province is responsible for what’s happening here because it did not live up to its obligations, in terms of that letter and the promises they made. They broke their promise.”

    The land is being held in trust until it becomes designated reserve land. The Confederacy is at odds with this concept — it wants the area to be independent from the Canadian government.

    The Confederacy has been invited to sit on the board of the corporation, Tedesco said.

    In a press released dated June 4, a Confederacy chief says the offer relegates the council from a government to an individual on the board.

    Elected band council staff did not respond to requests for comment.

    On Tuesday, members of Six Nations addressed the media on the outskirts of Caledonia, south of Hamilton, providing site updates. Independent interviews were refused and no photographs of people at the barricade were permitted.

    “We the Onkwehonwe of Kanonhstaton are still standing strong,” said Ronda Martin, in front of the blockade decorated with Haudenosaunee and Mohawk Warrior flags, built of what appeared to be part of a decommissioned electrical tower. “We ask again for the public’s patience as we work on some very complicated issues.”

    In a YouTube video uploaded by Turtle Island News on Aug. 17, a woman identified as Doreen Silversmith lists off three demands of Six Nations people at the barricade. They include that the province and the Canadian government return to the negotiation table with the Confederacy, that Ontario honour its promise encapsulated in the 2006 letter and that Six Nations elected band council withdraw its injunction against Hill.

    A camp has been established behind a gate — surrounding a small hut were tents, lawn chairs and a small crowd.

    A Caledonia resident who lives close to the blockade called the demonstration an “inconvenience” because it obstructs the thoroughfare.

    “The local businesses, they’re being impacted severely,” said Sean Sullivan, 45. “It’s a land dispute, but it has nothing to do with Caledonia. This is in the wrong place.

    “I’m supportive of their claims, but let’s compensate them and deal with it,” he said.

    OPP cruisers are stationed at opposing stretches along Argyle St. around the clock, said OPP spokesperson Rod Leclair.

    “Our only role is preserving the peace,” he said. “There has been no problems. It’s been peaceful.”

    Martin said that First Nations people have been corresponding with Indigenous councils this month to raise awareness and gather support.

    “We continue to put pressure on the Canadian government to honour our treaties and respect our jurisdiction over our sovereign lands, people and water.”


    0 0


    If you’re looking for a simple answer to the question “Why do so many people hate the media?” all you have to do is turn your attention to this week’s hullabaloo over Melania Trump’s shoes.

    On Tuesday, the first lady of the United States boarded an airplane bound for hurricane Harvey-ravaged Texas, rocking sky-high snakeskin pumps. Not surprisingly, minutes after photos of this spectacle hit the internet, thousands of observers wondered why the first lady didn’t don a getup a little more practical for the purpose of entering a disaster zone. What kind of person, Twitter wanted to know, wears stilettos into the eye of a storm? The Trump kind, of course.

    In addition to sheer disbelief, the first lady’s flashy footwear provoked something else: catty condemnation from journalists. For example, Vogue magazine, a publication I would have pegged as a natural ally to the first lady on a subject like this, was one of many outlets to make the case that not only are heels impractical in a disaster context: they are insensitive, too.

    “But what kind of message,” wrote Lynn Yaeger in Vogue, “does a fly-in visit from a First Lady in sky-high stilettos send to those suffering the enormous hardship, the devastation of this natural disaster?” Here’s Robin Givhan in the Washington Post, no less judgmental about Trump’s footgear. “And for her trip to Texas,” Givhan writes, “the first lady offered up a fashion moment instead of an expression of empathy.”

    Read more:

    First lady Melania Trump praises ‘strength and resilience’ of Texans

    ‘Texas can handle anything’: Trump offers reassurances on Harvey recovery

    Melania Trump thanks Chelsea Clinton for defending Barron after website criticizes his clothes

    At the risk of defending a woman who stands for nothing I like, I have to ask, why can’t a person offer up both things — fashion and empathy — at the same time? Why are fashion and empathy mutually exclusive? Is it really impossible to help people, dressed your best? (I guess Princess Diana never got the memo.)

    But more to the point, I think it’s time we finally laid to rest the expectation that leaders and their spouses dress for a part they will never realistically play. Does anyone honestly expect that a head of state and his wife are going to enter the fray, as relief workers, swimming down the street plucking stray cats from the floodwaters?

    Though she did change into tennis shoes upon arrival in Texas, I’m pretty sure that Melania Trump is perfectly capable of doing in five-inch heels what most politicians and their spouses do in disaster zones: hand out blankets and juice boxes and occasionally pose for photos with traumatized people who would rather be anywhere else.

    It’s no wonder so many people on social media have come to the first lady’s defence, cursing the mainstream media and leaving angry comments under editorials mocking her shoes. Some on the left appear incapable of recognizing that it is media preoccupation with the first lady’s shoes — not the shoes themselves — that many people find repulsive. They are repulsed because devoting so much space to Trump’s lack of sensible footwear implies that hurricane victims whose belongings are literally swimming away actually give a crap about wardrobe etiquette.

    Of course, it would be a different story entirely if the Washington Post were on the ground in Texas asking local residents “How are you holding up?” and the general consensus was: “We’d be a whole lot better if Melania Trump was wearing galoshes.” But to my knowledge no one has said this, which makes the media condemnation of the first lady’s footwear appear cynical, spiteful and disingenuous.

    So why do we — the media — do it? Why do journalists appear to turn every meme and every series of irreverent tweets into a full-blown news cycle? We do it because we think we have to. We do it because our industry is facing a disaster all its own (extinction) and editors are pressured to latch onto anything and everything “people are talking about” in hopes of racking up clicks and squeezing whatever revenue they can from a viral moment.

    This situation isn’t helped by the fact that the president of the United States regularly devalues our work and labels it false and irrelevant, a.k.a., “Fake News!”

    But when we take the viral bait, when we make fun of his wife’s shoes under the guise that we are expressing genuine concern for disaster victims, we make it way too easy for him to devalue us. And the end result is that we are, in fact, less relevant, and more loathed than before.

    Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.


    0 0


    EDMONTON—MacEwan University in Edmonton has been defrauded of $11.8 million in a so-called phishing attack.

    The university says workers were fooled by a series of fake emails asking them to change electronic banking information for one of the school’s major vendors.

    The change resulted in the transfer of nearly $12 million into a bank account staff thought belonged to the vendor, but on Wednesday, officials found out they had been scammed.

    University spokesman David Beharry says most of the funds have been traced to accounts in Canada and Hong Kong.

    Beharry says the university has conducted an interim audit of business processes and controls were put in place to prevent further incidents.

    He says the university’s computer systems have not been compromised, but a preliminary assessment has determined that controls around the process of changing vendor banking information were inadequate.

    He says a number of opportunities to identify the fraud were also missed.

    “There is never a good time for something like this to happen, but as our students come back to start the new academic year, we want to assure them and the community that our IT systems were not compromised during this incident,” Beharry said in a news release.

    “Personal and financial information, and all transactions made with the university are secure. We also want to emphasize that we are working to ensure that this incident will not impact our academic or business operations in any way.”

    MacEwan has informed both the minister of advanced education and the province’s auditor general, as well as other interested parties, Beharry said.


    0 0

    HALIFAX—The former CEO of Atlantic Canada’s biggest children’s hospital still owes more than $22,000 for “potentially personal” expenses charged to her corporate credit card before she resigned last week, an independent review has found.

    The review of Tracy Kitch’s expenses was ordered by the IWK Health Centre’s board of directors because of discrepancies. Kitch resigned Aug. 23 for what the chairwoman of the hospital’s board described as personal reasons.

    The review by Grant Thornton covers expenses reported between August 2014 — when she started at the IWK after a stint as an executive vice-president at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital — and June 2017.

    The accounting firm said its review of corporate credit card transactions, expense claims and other costs identified $47,273.32 of potentially personal expenses, of which $25,009.28 has been reimbursed.

    “In many instances, the support for these expenses was not sufficient for us to determine the business reason, or appropriate approval may not have been documented,” the report said.

    It said there were “significant delays” in the submission of claims, which limited the hospital’s ability to identify potential issues.

    The report found Kitch had been allotted 10 days annually for professional development but exceeded that by 14 days in 2015 and seven days in 2016.

    It found the IWK paid for membership fees beyond those contractually agreed to, including the Air Canada Maple Leaf Club Lounge and membership in the College of Registered Nurses of Ontario.

    The report found she performed a review of the Montreal Children’s Hospital, and was compensated with an honorarium and expense reimbursement. But travel expenses were charged to the IWK and not reimbursed upon receipt of payment.

    Among items seen as potentially personal, the report detailed $26,463.80 for flight pass usage; $4,636.55 for mobile data overages; $4,474.34 for taxis; $1,580.31 for hotel-related costs; $394.75 for meals; and $161.40 in iTunes charges.

    “Hotel costs include a hotel stay by a family member of the CEO during a visit to Halifax, as well as hotel charges related to a personal trip to the U.S. that were charged to the corporate credit card,” the report found.

    In a statement Thursday, the IWK said its board has endorsed all of the report’s findings and approved its 14 recommendations.

    “Members of the board take very seriously the trust placed in them as they oversee the Health Centre and ensure patients and families continue to receive the world-class care they expect from the IWK,” it said.

    The Grant Thornton review included 31 Visa statements, with a total of 560 individual transactions, seven expense claims, one cash advance, and direct billed expenses.

    It found the hospital board’s chair only reviews CEO credit card transactions and expense claims, and not travel and hospitality expenses that may be billed directly to “the CEO cost centre.”

    “As well, credit card expense reports provided to the board chair during the period of review were not supported with credit card statements and detailed receipts, reducing the ability of the chair to determine the appropriateness and completeness of the transactions reported.”

    Kitch was earning an annual salary of $296,289 at the time of her departure.

    Dr. Krista Jangaard, vice-president of medicine and academic affairs, has been named interim CEO.

    The Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre, known locally as the IWK, provides care for women, children, youth and families from the Maritimes and beyond.

    The charitable organization has more than 3,600 employees and an annual operating budget of about $289 million, with the province covering roughly 80 per cent of costs.


    0 0


    The Toronto District School Board’s decision to suspend a controversial program that places armed police officers in high schools has come under criticism from officials who say the move was made in haste.

    TDSB trustees voted Wednesday night to discontinue the Student Resource Officer initiative, pending a review of the practice, due in November.

    “It was felt that the presence of (officers) during the review when we were asking people to talk about them might be intimidating and create a potential bias,” TDSB Chair Robin Pilkey told the Star.

    About 16 votes were cast in favour of suspension and six votes were cast against, said Pilkey, who voted to suspend.

    The Student Resource Officer program, in place since 2008, has garnered a mix of praise and criticism since its inception. Some students, parents and school staff have said the presence of armed, uniformed police improves safety, and gives teens a chance to get to know local officers.

    Others have expressed concern that the program leads to criminalization of relatively minor schoolyard problems and alienates marginalized students who may not feel comfortable around police.

    In June, the TDSB ordered a review of the program to take place this fall.

    A report on the planning for that review was scheduled for Wednesday night’s board meeting, prompting Trustee Marit Stiles to draft a motion for the program suspension.

    “Earlier in the day I circulated to all trustees a motion I intended to introduce related to the report (on the review),” Stiles told the Star. “It was introduced during the meeting as business arising from the (review) report.”

    The trustees debated the suspension issue for at least an hour, Stiles added.

    The decision to suspend the program was “unfortunate,” Mayor John Tory told reporters on Thursday.

    The Toronto Police Services Board, of which Tory is a member, has commissioned its own review of the SRO program, to be completed in Spring 2018.

    “The school board decided they would take a different approach and before that review is done cancel the program,” Tory said.

    “I wasn’t prepared to rush to judgment to say the program was perfect or imperfect,” he added.

    At least one trustee has said board officials should have been given time to consult their communities before the vote.

    Trustees would normally have a week or two to discuss a motion like this, “but we had no chance to do any of that,” Trustee Pamela Gough, who voted against the suspension, said.

    “My decision last night not to support it was basically a status quo until we hear the evidence and we hear the voices of the people actually in the schools,” she added.

    “Evidence-based decision making is better than taking a stab in the dark on a topic, especially when the motion, came with such short notice.”

    Stiles acknowledged that not all the trustees were comfortable with suspending the SRO program, but added that officials have had ample time to consider the public’s feelings about the practice.

    “We’ve been talking about the future of the SRO program for quite some time,” Stiles said.

    “I think if enough trustees were concerned about that we would have seen a vote against the motion,” Stiles added.

    Forty-six of the TDSB’s 113 high schools had student resources officers in 2016-2017, though one has since closed and three others suspended the program due to “schedule issues.”

    Five schools have an officer assigned solely to them last year. The rest shared one or two officers with other TDSB and Toronto Catholic District School board institutions.

    The SRO program has been in place since 2008, instituted in large part as a response to the murder of 15-year-old Jordan Manners, in the halls of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in North York.

    As part of the TDSB’s review of the SRO program, the board’s research department will conduct a written survey of staff and students at participating schools.

    The TDSB has also scheduled three community meetings for the week of September 18 to 24 to discuss having police in schools.

    Research findings will be made public by November, at which time the board will discuss whether, or how, the program should continue, Pilkey said.

    With files from Annie Arnone and Jennifer Pagliaro.


    0 0


    OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken to U.S. President Donald Trump to offer condolences over the deaths and destruction in Texas and Louisiana caused by hurricane Harvey.

    The Prime Minister’s Office says the two men spoke by phone today.

    Trudeau also offered assistance with rescue and recovery efforts.

    The storm has killed at least 30 people and wrecked thousands of homes in Texas.

    Tens of thousands of people have taken refuge in shelters.

    Torrential rains have flooded vast swaths of Texas and rain continues in some areas as the storm, now reduced to a tropical depression, creeps inland.

    Read more:

    Harvey is moving on. These 23 photos show what the storm left behind

    Rescuers start block-by-block search of flooded Houston

    Drake donates $200,000 U.S. to Houston flood relief


    0 0


    EDMONTON—A hearing to determine whether bail conditions for former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr should be eased allowing him unsupervised visits with his controversial sister did not go ahead as planned Thursday.

    It was put over to Sept. 15 after lawyers for the Justice Department said they needed time to consult with the federal government.

    “The Crown requested an adjournment to receive instructions,” Khadr’s lawyer Nate Whitling said Thursday. “We agreed and the matter’s been rescheduled.”

    Khadr is seeking unrestricted internet access and more freedom to move around Canada while on bail pending the appeal of his conviction by a U.S. military commission for five purported war crimes.

    Khadr, now 30, has been free on bail for more than two years and notes no issues have arisen since his release.

    Read more: $134-million claim against Khadr is based on false information and should be thrown out, lawyer argues

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

    Right now, he can only have contact with his sister Zaynab Khadr if one of his lawyers or bail supervisor is present.

    Several years ago, Zaynab and her mother infuriated many Canadians by expressing support for the Al Qaeda terrorist group.

    In 2005, Zaynab was investigated by RCMP for allegedly aiding Al Qaeda, but no charges were filed. She is now reportedly living in Sudan with her fourth husband, but is planning a visit to Canada. Khadr is arguing he wants to reconnect with his family and is old enough that he can’t be negatively swayed.

    Thursday’s hearing is the next phase in a 15-year legal journey for Khadr that has ignited sharp and divisive debate among Canadians over terrorism, human rights and the rule of law.

    The Toronto-born Khadr spent years in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay after he was caught when he was 15 and accused of tossing a grenade that killed special forces soldier Christopher Speer at a militant compound in Afghanistan in 2002.

    In 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty to multiple charges before a U.S. military commission, including to killing Speer, but has since said he can’t remember if he tossed the fatal grenade. He has said he entered the plea to try to get out of Guantanamo, where he says he was mistreated, and into the Canadian justice system.

    He returned to Canada in 2012 to serve out the rest of the eight-year sentence he was given.

    Canada’s Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that Khadr’s charter rights were violated at Guantanamo and Canadian officials contributed to that violation.

    Khadr filed a $20-million lawsuit against the government and last month it was revealed he had settled the case for a reported $10.5 million. That set off a fierce debate.

    Khadr has said he wants to get on with his life. He recently married and plans to move to the city of Red Deer, halfway between Edmonton and Calgary, to begin studies to become a nurse.


older | 1 | .... | 1010 | 1011 | (Page 1012) | 1013 | 1014 | .... | 1060 | newer