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Articles on this Page
- 09/04/17--12:49: _New head of Peel sc...
- 09/04/17--09:23: _Thousands march dow...
- 09/04/17--17:58: _Boeing won’t back d...
- 09/04/17--13:32: _Toronto school boar...
- 09/04/17--13:00: _Hurricane Harvey sh...
- 09/04/17--07:21: _One man arrested af...
- 09/04/17--05:28: _‘Our country’s pati...
- 09/04/17--06:06: _‘Tone is negative’ ...
- 09/04/17--16:59: _String of shootings...
- 09/04/17--18:46: _Leslieville just on...
- 09/05/17--03:00: _Canadian history le...
- 09/05/17--11:12: _Babysitter facing c...
- 09/05/17--09:46: _Agnes Wenjack, resi...
- 09/05/17--14:08: _Brad Trost looks to...
- 09/05/17--04:47: _Florida declares st...
- 09/05/17--13:11: _‘I don't want him t...
- 09/05/17--12:00: _Adult sentence uphe...
- 09/04/17--16:08: _Trying to stop prim...
- 09/05/17--03:00: _Why one Toronto fam...
- 09/05/17--10:27: _Barricades have bee...
- 09/04/17--12:49: New head of Peel school board vows to support marginalized students
- 09/04/17--09:23: Thousands march downtown in Labour Day parade
- 09/04/17--13:32: Toronto school board extends ban on Snapchat, Instagram, and Netflix
- 09/05/17--03:00: Canadian history lessons need a back-to-school reboot: Paradkar
- 09/04/17--16:08: Trying to stop prime Ontario farmland from being ‘entombed forever’
- 09/05/17--10:27: Barricades have been taken down outside Caledonia
As Ontario's 2 million students head back to class on Tuesday, Canada's second-largest school board is pledging to remove barriers for those who feel excluded or are struggling with mental health issues.
Peel District School Board's new education director, Peter Joshua, was greeted with cheers as he stepped up to the podium and delivered that message to the hundreds of staff who filled a Brampton conference centre last week.
“Teaching is very much about meeting students halfway through understanding and empathy,” he said. “And some of our students need more from us. They need us to identify, understand, minimize and eliminate the marginalization they experience so they can rise.”
That includes Black, LGBTQ and Indigenous students, and those who live in poverty, he said.
It was Joshua’s first opportunity to introduce himself at the annual back-to-school kickoff held by the Peel board. But it wasn’t long before he was sharing the stage.
First came a Grade 12 student who spoke about her years struggling with anxiety and depression, and dreading school.
“Sound familiar? Students like me are in your schools right now,” she told the crowd last week, before delivering a stirring vocal performance.
She was followed by a Grade 11 pupil who used spoken word to describe how, as a Black student, he had felt labelled, judged and discouraged from his goal of becoming a veterinarian. At one point “I stopped trying,” he said, adding that he is now determined to set his own path.
“If you as educators want to do better, reconsider judging,” he urged staff. “Reconsider judging my looks or my friends . . . encourage never discourage. Care not because it’s your job, but because we matter.”
Joshua said the students’ messages needed to be delivered without being “watered down.”
The voices of students who are struggling or feel marginalized “are sometimes difficult to hear,” he said in his remarks. “Our backs go up. We think, ‘have I said this to a student?’ Our discomfort should lead to self-reflection.”
Those voices also underscore the need for more training to help staff meet the diverse needs of the children and youth they teach. In a survey last year, mental health was an area staff requested more help with, he noted. And additional training will be provided to help equip them with strategies to support students with anxiety and other conditions.
In the past year, the board has announced initiatives to address the needs of Black students after surveys revealed many felt excluded, subject to suspicion and harsher discipline, and that they faced lower expectations for careers and university and were streamed into courses below their abilities.
In response, the board presented a plan starting with mandatory bias and anti-racism training for all staff, which begins this fall. It also pledged to revise curriculum to include the history and experiences of Black Canadians throughout, and to create mentoring programs aimed at getting more Black students involved in taking on leadership roles.
It committed to collecting race-based statistics at a time when boards across the province are being encouraged to take that step.
Peel’s first student census to provide that information is expected to be completed by December 2018.
Its first workforce census earlier this year found that while visible minorities make up more than half of Peel Region, only about a quarter of staff and teachers at the board identify as “racialized.”
Joshua says Peel’s 153,000 students need to see themselves reflected in the people who teach them and what they learn in their classrooms.
“If students see themselves reflected in the curriculum, if they believe their identities are validated and their narratives are included they will be engaged,” he told staff last week.
He said the board will be working with York University professor Carl James to measure the impact of the steps it is taking and what more should be done.
“I’m encouraged with the conversations we’ve had, and the fact the board has had these discussions with the community,” said James, who last spring published a major study on the barriers faced by Black students in the GTA.
“They’ve put in place a number of processes that I think should bode well,” he said in an interview, adding that it has the potential to become a model for other boards.
The population of Peel has changed dramatically since Joshua, 53, was a young student and one of the few non-white faces in his class photos.
Raised in Mississauga by parents who immigrated from Pakistan and India, he attended Peel schools until he left for McMaster University in Hamilton, where he earned a degree in biology followed by a master’s degree in molecular virology and immunology and studied with a leading HIV-AIDS researcher.
His stint as a teaching assistant made him realize he wanted to pursue a career in education.
After attending teachers college at Western University in London, he returned to the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to teach high school biology and chemistry for eight years before moving into administration.
His most recent role was executive superintendent of leadership and learning, which included exploring non-traditional teaching, programs and classrooms.
Joshua lived, worked and raised two daughters in Hamilton with his wife before returning after 28 years to take the helm at a board three times larger than his previous one.
In an interview earlier this summer, he said he plans to stay the course with the ground laid by predecessor Tony Pontes and put student experience front and centre.
“Ultimately if I’m not listening to our students, why are we doing what we’re doing?”
Alan Doucette’s father spent two years less a day in jail for union activity.
As member of the Canadian Seaman’s Union, he was part of the 1946 strike at England’s London Harbour, fighting for worker’s rights after the Second World War.
It’s a story his son has never forgotten.
“He was very proud of that because he did it on principle,” said Doucette, a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 873.
“That’s why I belong to union and that’s why I’m marching today.”
Doucette is just one of thousands of people who gathered in downtown Toronto to support the labour movement Monday morning.
“The Labour Day parade is a celebration of all the things we are accomplishing together and a reminder about why we fight,” said Tracy McMaster, a member of OPSEU, which represents 130,000 public service workers across the province.
For Francesco Luberto, who spent decades working in road construction, on water mains and sewers, and bridges, the parade was a chance to celebrate his retirement five years ago.
“It gave me the opportunity and the chance to enjoy my retirement. It’s the best thing that ever happened to my life after my wife,” he said of his union, Laborers' International Union of North America, Local 183, which represents construction workers.
Jagmeet Singh, an Ontario NDP MPP running for leadership of the federal party, said the parade is an opportunity to celebrate the victories of the labour movement — everything from weekends to workers’ safety.
But an ongoing strike by about 700 ground crew workers at Pearson International Airport is a reminder there’s more work to do.
“It just highlights how important it is to continue to fight for rights,” he said.
It’s a sentiment Premier Kathleen Wynne echoed in a statement Monday morning.
“I have spent the summer travelling around our province, and what I am hearing is that people are worried.”
“We need to do all we can to ensure that people are given every chance to get ahead during this period of change,” she said, adding that’s why the government is raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
OTTAWA—Boeing Co. has no plans to back down in its trade dispute with Canadian rival Bombardier — a high-stakes, cross-border conflict that the U.S. transportation giant says could have long-term ramifications for the future of the entire aerospace sector.
The potential consequences of the Boeing-Bombardier standoff extend beyond any single deal — especially for Boeing itself, said Marc Allen, president of Boeing’s international division.
“In Canada, we face a situation with a competitor, an emerging competitor, that has, yes, long received government support — but that just went beyond the pale in 2016,” Allen said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“That aggressive move had to be addressed if we really believe in establishing a global architecture that will create the greatest prosperity for our industry and for us as a company in the long term.”
Boeing triggered the dispute earlier this year when it complained that Montreal-based Bombardier was selling its CSeries passengers jets to U.S.-based Delta Air Lines at an unfairly low price, thanks to loans and grants from both the province of Quebec and the federal government.
When the U.S. Commerce Department and its associated International Trade Commission agreed in May to investigate the complaint, the Trudeau government fired a warning shot, threatening to scrap its multibillion-dollar “interim” plan to buy 18 of Boeing’s “interim” Super Hornet fighter jets.
“The interim (fighter) procurement requires a trusted industry partner,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said on May 31, in what amounted to the government’s strongest public words on the dispute to date.
“Our government is of the view their action against Bombardier is unfounded. It is not the behaviour we expect of a trusted partner and we call on Boeing to withdraw it.”
Boeing initially hoped to resolve the dispute through diplomacy, Allen said, and convinced the U.S. government last year to send an official note to Canada, known as a demarche.
“There was just no response,” Allen said. “It was clear that no progress was going to be made, and that if any progress was going to be had, it would have to be through some form of enforcement action.”
Boeing knew the dispute would spark a strong reaction from Ottawa, Allen continued, but company executives decided that it needed to take action in order to protect the firm’s broader interests.
And while the American aerospace titan — which also happens to employs thousands of people across Canada — would still prefer finding a resolution through more amicable means, Allen said it is singularly focused on achieving its objectives.
“There’s certainly no desire to do something that any one of our customers or any one of our sovereign-state partners would take offence at,” he said. “But the effort to enforce our interests in an even playing field in aerospace is a very large interest.”
Some have questioned why Boeing is being so aggressive; the CSeries planes manufactured by Bombardier do not directly compete with the U.S. company’s existing passenger jets.
But Allen said the situation has echoes of the rapid ascent of Airbus, the European consortium that was formed in the 1970s and has since grown to become the second largest aerospace company in the world, and Boeing’s most formidable rival.
“We watched another competitor come up and enter the market in a very similar fashion,” he said. “And in retrospect, I think that you find across the board in U.S. aerospace, people . . . who would have said they wish they had confronted the uneven playing field.”
Boeing and Airbus have been locked in their own trade dispute at the World Trade Organization for more than a decade.
Many defence officials and industry representatives have circled Sept. 25 on their calendars; that’s the date the U.S. Commerce Department is scheduled to release the preliminary findings of its investigation into Bombardier.
But Allen said he expects the dispute to drag into next year, as U.S. officials finalize their findings and decide whether to level fines or tariffs against the Canadian manufacturer.
That could force the federal Liberal government into making a decision about whether to move ahead with the Super Hornet purchase, or abandon it before a final decision is reached.
The Trudeau government announced in November its plan to purchase the planes to temporarily fill a critical shortage of fighter jets until a full competition can be run to replace the aging CF-18s.
The government said at the time that the Super Hornet was the only aircraft able to meet its immediate requirements, including being a mature design compatible with U.S. fighters.
Since the Boeing-Bombardier spat erupted, however, it has largely cut off direct contact with the U.S. company and says that all options for filling the fighter-jet shortage are on the table.
Many defence experts, including 13 retired air force commanders, have criticized the plan to purchase interim Super Hornets and called for an immediate competition to replace the CF-18s.
There will be no back-to-school selfies or binge-watching for students of the Toronto District School Board as a restriction on Instagram, Snapchat and Netflix will continue this year.
In a statement released last week, the school board said there were unexpected delays in upgrading its Wi-Fi network during the summer.
The school board announced in May that access to the popular image-sharing and streaming apps would be blocked until June 30.
“As mobile device usage increases, so do the demands on this network, which was not designed to support this level of activity,” the board said at the time.
According to the board, almost half the schools in the system use an “older, slower network,” which cannot keep up with the growing traffic. The traffic overload has caused “slowness and lagging on the network.”
The board was hoping to have installed faster, reliable internet network before the school year started.
“In the spring, when these three sites were initially blocked, staff reported experiencing faster internet speeds as a result of the reduced traffic and were able to complete necessary operational tasks such as attendance,” the board said in a statement.
“This continued measure will help alleviate congestion and boost network capacity while minimizing the impact on teaching and learning.”
The board will revisit the policy in June 2018.
With files from Star staff
With files from Star staff
Come the apocalypse, most Torontonians know exactly what they'd do: just hop in the car and head north for the cottage.
Dream on. That fantasy would come to a screeching halt on the Don Valley Parkway somewhere well before the Bloor Viaduct.
As Hurricane Harvey has made painfully clear in recent days, when disaster strikes a big city, there's no way out. Residents become prisoners. Either stuck in their homes or their vehicles; for many reasons, there's nowhere for them to go.
Regardless, ever since a flood of biblical proportions laid waste to Houston, people have been demanding to know why no evacuation order was given. The answer is simple; it would only have piled one disaster on top of another.
“You literally cannot put 6.5 million people on the road,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “If you think the situation right now is bad, you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare.”
This flies in the face of the basic human impulse to run away from catastrophe, but Turner was right. Though heavily criticized, he told a truth no one wanted to hear. Sitting in a car in shoulder-high floodwaters isn't exactly smart.
When Hurricane Rita hit Houston in 2005, locals — about 3.7 million of them — decided to hit the highway. They had seen what unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere during Hurricane Katrina, when some 1,800 people stayed home and were killed, and weren't inclined to hang around. What followed has been called the “largest evacuation in U.S. history.”
It was also a nightmare. As National Public Radio reported at the time: “In searing 100-degree heat . . . The traffic jam stretched for over 100 miles and has been going on for over a day and a half . . . Gasoline was not to be found along the interstate and cars that ran dry made the gridlock even worse. Abandoned vehicles littered the shoulder lanes.”
Closer to home, an evacuation order was issued last year when devastating forest fires hit Fort McMurray, but not until buildings in the city were burning. Almost 90,000 people fled in their cars. Given that Fort McMurray is “a one-road-in, one-road-out city,” the inevitable result was chaos. Indeed, the only deaths connected to the fire came when a couple was killed in car crash during the evacuation.
In the aftermath, officials were criticized for not ordering the evacuation sooner. No surprise there; but call it too soon, you're overreacting; wait too long, you're risking lives. Damned if you, damned if you don't.
The only thing these disaster-stricken cities have in common was their lack of preparation. Whether it's even possible to prepare for catastrophe is doubtful, but some cities seem better at it than others. Vulnerability accumulates over decades through series of seemingly unrelated decisions. At the urging of Mayor John Tory, for example, Toronto recently opted to kill a plan that would have included a special levy to fund the costs of stormwater management. At the time council made its decision, much of the Toronto Islands was under water. Lake Ontario was at its highest level in a century, a full metre above the average of 2016.
In July 2013, when a month's worth of rain fell in less than 24 hours, the subway was brought to a standstill, GO trains were stranded in water, power was cut to 300,000 and hundreds of cars abandoned, many on the parkway, which would be a major evacuation route in a disaster. Yet even at the best of times, the DVP, the Gardiner Expressway and the whole regional highway system are overwhelmed with traffic; their usefulness in a Hurricane Harvey-type situation would be limited.
In other words, we're stuck — all 2.8 million of us. And indications are that the outcome wouldn't be pretty. Consider, for example, the small but telling fact that the city forks out about $70 million annually through its basement protection scheme. Rather than confront the causes of flooding, it prefers to pay homeowners to bail out. As civic bureaucrats know only too well, in tough economic times — pretty well permanent in these parts — stormwater management budgets are among the first to be affected.
Clearly, city officials believe climate change measures can always be put off for another day. Though the effects of global warming are apparent, there is no collective sense of urgency. Toronto's unspoken policy remains the same as always — it won't happen here. If only.
Christopher Hume’s column appears weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com
Christopher Hume’s column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
One man has been arrested after an Ontario Provincial Police officer was struck and dragged by a vehicle during a routine traffic stop in Mississauga.
Peel Regional Police say the incident happened just before 9 a.m. at Hwy. 403 and Hurontario St., where an OPP officer and a car he had stopped were involved.
“When he was conducting the traffic stop, the vehicle that he had pulled over had dragged him a (short) distance,” Peel police Const. Baljit Saini said.
Const. Mark Fischer said the male was arrested in between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. after the suspect vehicle was found unoccupied.
He said no charges have been laid as the investigation is still ongoing.
The car was last seen fleeing northbound on Hurontario St. and it was located around 1 p.m. at Hurontario St. and Tailwood Dr. which is about a 10-minute drive from the incident.
Fischer said the car was in a parking lot of an apartment building.
“The car has now been taken in for forensics.”
OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said Const. Patrick Chatelain left the hospital just before 6 p.m. and he is now recovering at home.
He was initially rushed to Sunnybrook hospital with serious injuries but he is expected to make a full recovery.
Chatelain has been with the service for four years and is part of the Port Credit detachment.
Saini said there were four people in the vehicle when it hit the officer. The car is described as a charcoal grey Chrysler 300 with black rims and a Quebec licence plate FLK8756.
Anyone with information is asked to call Peel police or Crime Stoppers.
Some Hwy. 403 on- and off-ramps in the areas were closed for the police investigation but have since reopened.
Ambassador Nikki Haley said the U.S. would look at countries doing business with the North — which include China — and planned to circulate a resolution this week with the goal of getting it approved Sept. 11.
“Enough is enough. War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited,” Haley said.
“The United States will look at every country that does business with North Korea as a country, that is giving aid to their reckless and dangerous nuclear intentions,” she said.
The move came as South Korea said it was seeing preparations in the North for an ICBM test and fired missiles into the sea to simulate an attack on the North’s main nuclear test site.
Also on Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump spoke by phone with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and agreed that Sunday’s underground nuclear test by North Korea was an unprecedented provocation. The two leaders also agreed to remove the limit on the payload of South Korean missiles.
The emergency UN session was scheduled after North Korea said it detonated the hydrogen bomb and came six days after the council strongly condemned what it called Pyongyang’s “outrageous” launch of a ballistic missile over Japan. Less than a month ago, the council imposed its stiffest sanctions yet on Kim Jong Un’s reclusive nation.
Still, the U.S. resolution faces an uncertain future. Russia and China have both proposed a two-pronged approach: North Korea would suspend its nuclear and missile development, and the United States and South Korea would suspend their joint military exercises.
Washington and Seoul say the manoeuvres are defensive, but Pyongyang views them as a rehearsal for invasion. The North recently requested a Security Council meeting about the war games.
The U.S. says there is no comparison between its openly conducted, internationally monitored military drills and North Korea’s weapons programs, which the international community has banned.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters after the meeting that sanctions alone will not solve the issue and that negotiations are needed as well.
“Resolutions aimed solely at sanctioning North Korea have not worked well before,” he said.
Diplomats from France, Britain, Italy and other countries reiterated demands for the Kim regime to halt its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs and urged further sanctions.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre said France was urging the adoption of new UN sanctions, swift implementation of existing ones and new, separate sanctions by the European Union.
“Pyongyang poses a clear threat to international peace and security and is increasingly and seriously challenging the global nonproliferation regime,” said Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi of Italy, which heads the North Korea sanctions compliance committee. He noted that North Korea is the only country to have tested a nuclear device in the 21st century.
The North trumpeted that its sixth nuclear test blast since 2006 was a “perfect success.”
“We cannot waste any more time. And in order to do that, we need North Korea to feel the pressure, but if they go down this road there will be consequences,” Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho told reporters before the meeting.
Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi said the situation on the Korean peninsula “is deteriorating constantly as we speak, falling into a vicious circle.” He called for restarting talks and asked Washington and Seoul to suspend their exercises.
The council aimed to take a big bite out of the North Korean economy earlier this month by banning the North from exporting coal, iron, lead and seafood. Together, those are worth about a third of the country’s $3 billion in exports last year.
The council could look to sanction other profitable North Korean exports, such as textiles. Another possibility could be tighter limits on North Korean labourers abroad; the recent sanctions barred giving any new permits for such workers. The United States suggested other ideas earlier this summer, including air and maritime restrictions and restricting oil to North Korea’s military and weapons programs.
MEXICO CITY—Negotiators have run into a series of early sticking points on nearly every major element considered key to achieving a new NAFTA deal, The Canadian Press has learned.
A recurring pattern involves one country raising a prized priority only to have other parties systematically refuse to engage in the conversation, said one source with knowledge of how the talks are unfolding in Mexico City.
“The tone is negative,” said the source, who made sure to add that it’s still early. He said he remains hopeful a deal can be reached this year, and that obstinacy is to be expected in initial bargaining.
The source cited two examples.
One is the Canadians asking for greater access to professional visas. It’s a priority not just for the Canadians, but also for businesses that struggle to send staff across the border. NAFTA’s visa list is outdated and doesn’t include modern digital jobs. The Americans have pushed off that conversation, which risks bumping into the country’s sensitive immigration politics.
Canada has returned the favour. The second example cited by the source involves Canada’s supply management system. The U.S. has started to raise it as an issue. While the U.S. has not yet tabled a formal request, with numbers, it has declared its interest in loosening Canada’s import controls on dairy and poultry.
He said the Canadians refused to open the discussion on two grounds: that Canada opposes the changes on principle, and that the U.S. has its own agricultural protections, such as tight controls on sugar imports and myriad programs to help struggling farmers.
These are just two examples of an emerging pattern.
“That’s literally the conversation playing out at every table,” said the source, who asked not to be named given the sensitivity of the discussions. “Almost everything has been raised (even if formal proposal papers have not yet been presented). People respond, ‘We have no mandate. We can’t discuss it.’”
The negotiators broached additional difficult topics on Monday. A schedule obtained by The Canadian Press showed that the 12 negotiating tables meeting included the groups responsible for working on auto parts rules, government procurement and Buy American rules, and intellectual property.
The fighting is internal as well. Canada’s push to include climate change action in a revamped agreement is turning into a heated domestic dispute just as it makes its debut at the official negotiating table. The NAFTA schedule obtained by CP showed the environment was on the schedule for seven hours of NAFTA talks on Monday and another seven hours on Tuesday.
It could be one of the more contentious chapters, as significant differences of opinion about the environment exist between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna launched an angry missive at Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole on Sunday for suggesting the environment was a mere “trinket” better left to the sidelines to protect Canada’s economic well-being.
She wrote a lengthy response on Facebook, noting it was O’Toole’s party under former prime minister Brian Mulroney that first included the environment in a Canadian trade deal with NAFTA’s parallel environment agreement.
The history of international trade negotiations suggests it is best not to read too much into early intransigence.
Former Canadian negotiator Gordon Ritchie, in his memoirs of the original 1980s Canada-U.S. trade talks, expressed frustration that the lead U.S. negotiator repeatedly refused to engage in discussions that were considered politically sensitive and that would ultimately be decided by his bosses in Washington.
That’s what ended up happening in 1987: the thorniest issue involved a new international dispute settlement mechanism and it was settled in a final-night phone call between Mulroney and Ronald Reagan confidant James Baker.
The source said he isn’t overly concerned about the early-round head-butting, which he says is expected. He said he still believes an agreement is possible by the end of the year: “I am not any more or less optimistic than I was going into this round.”
The one irritant that has publicly surfaced is labour.
Canada has several labour priorities, sources say: it wants the U.S. to sign a series of international labour agreements it has yet to approve, and it wants changes to labour laws in Mexico that would increase the salaries of autoworkers.
Mexican business and labour leaders are resistant to any attempt by the United States to tighten labour standards or ensure that Mexican wages rise. Mexico has drawn plants and investments by capitalizing on low wages and weak union rules.
Mexican and Canadian auto unions say in a report that Mexican autoworkers earn about $3.95 an hour, which is about one-ninth of average wages north of the border.
Canadian union leader Jerry Dias said wages should be equalized, arguing that higher southern salaries are a win-win: Mexican workers would benefit, and Canadian and American workers might save some future jobs as more plants remain in the wealthier countries.
But top Mexican union leader Carlos Aceves del Olmo says equalizing wages is “a pipe dream.”
With files from The Associated Press
With files from The Associated Press
From last Wednesday to Monday, Toronto saw at least one shooting each day — a chilling series of events that included the deaths of two people: 22-year-old Jovane Clarke and 34-year-old Awad Hurre.
Six of the seven shootings took place in an area of the city police call the northwest corridor — which includes a large part of North York and some parts of Etobicoke and York, bordered by Bayview Ave. to the east and the Humber river to the west. The seventh took place in Regent Park on Monday.
The attacks have injured communities, roused advocates, and left police searching for answers.
“When something like that happens, it shakes up the community,” said Keaton Austin, an Etobicoke pastor who advocates for safety of young people. “It makes the community get in more trouble; it’s more violated. The community is traumatized.”
The string of events was particularly unnerving to police because of the public nature of some of the incidents.
Like the 2012 Eaton Centre shooting deaths of Ahmed Hassan and Nixon Nirmalendran, which drew the city’s attention toward gun violence, the shooting that killed Clarke took place inside a busy mall. Many shoppers and staff at Sheridan Mall in North York witnessed the attack, which took place around 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The shooting death of Hurre just two days later bore similarities to Clarke’s death that police said they could not ignore.
Both victims were targeted for unknown reasons. Both were killed in public spaces with lots of people around. The two victims lived in the same apartment building, where Hurre was found dead.
In each case, police said they were looking for four suspects.
On Saturday Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook called Clarke’s killing, along with two non-fatal shootings that occurred Wednesday and Friday, “concerning.”
“I don’t want to say that it is a threat to public safety,” she said. “It is a concern.”
Const. Caroline de Kloet said Monday the message is the same, and called on communities to assist with investigations.
In the wake of the attacks, Austin thinks more must be done to improve the security and safety of the areas where the shootings took place.
“The Sheridan Mall is not the Eaton Centre,” Austin said. “A bunch of community housing, a bunch of people who are not that well off live in that area. If it was downtown, there would be more outcry.”
Part of that, he said, means prioritizing security guards in malls, apartment buildings, and other busy spaces in that area of the city. (Sheridan Mall management did not discuss security details but said there was security in place at the location.)
Austin also called gun access a major problem.
“How are they getting the firearms?” he said Monday. “I think it should be way more stiff penalties with the firearms.”
Homicide data made public by Toronto police show that, while 26 per cent of total Toronto homicides occurred in the northwest corridor between 2007 and 2016, 34 per cent of shooting homicides occurred in that area over the same period of time — 110 shooting homicides out of 163 for the area.
Toronto police were unable to immediately comment on the specific shooting homicide statistics for the northwest corridor on Monday.
“We do know that area is a concern,” de Kloet said.
TORONTO—Serina Manek has been living in Leslieville for seven years and has watched it go from a rough-around-the-edges area in Toronto’s east end, to one of the city’s most desirable neighbourhoods.
The demand for Leslieville was always building, she says, but when the condos started going up, the boom of young families started to have an effect on the neighbourhood dynamic and, ultimately, the schools.
“It was starting to burst at the seams with just the young families coming in at first,” said Manek, who has a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. “But with the addition of the condos, things are becoming unmanageable. It’s too much.”
Toronto public schools in condo-heavy neighbourhoods are starting to feel the squeeze of a dense population. The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has been warning new home buyers in certain neighbourhoods that not all children will be accommodated in their home school.
TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird says the board has placed signs on the street level warning potential home buyers that a spot in a home school isn’t guaranteed and similar warnings are also included in the home buyer’s agreement. Bird says the most recent statistics show that there are 110 new developments in Toronto with those warnings.
Leslieville is one of them and Manek says that she doesn’t know if her daughter will be able to go to the same school as her brother when she starts kindergarten.
“It’s unsettling to walk around the neighbourhood and see that sign, and for that to be your form of communication,” Manek said. “I guess the frustration is the communication, but I don’t know where that communication would come from.”
Sitting in a buzzing Leslieville park — one that Manek notes used to be empty a few years ago — she says that she doesn’t see the population boom as sustainable.
Her friend, Holly Andruchuk, will be sending her son to his first year of kindergarten in the upcoming school year, but says that the implications of her crowded nearby school just keep piling up.
Their school, Morse Park Junior Public School, is nestled on a small street just off of Leslieville’s main thoroughfare. In 2010, it was home to around 200 students, according to the TDSB. This year, it’s grown more than double that with over 500 students. Bird says the dramatic increase is due to changing demographics in the region, as well as the addition of French immersion at the school.
Andruchuk says that the high number of students means that her son will be in a classroom with as many as 27 other students, and that is one of five kindergarten classes this year. And his classroom will be on the second floor, which she says is unusual for a kindergarten student.
“Our teacher on orientation night actually said that, because we’re on the second floor, our kids don’t go outside as often,” Andruchuk said. “Because in winter time, trying to dress 4- and 5-year-olds (and then get them down the stairs) is a challenge on its own.”
However, Andruchuk is optimistic that her son’s education won’t suffer. She believes that the community will have to step up to support their children in a way that a stressed school system might not be able to. Her friend Manek, however, is not so sure. She thinks that ultimately, some parents will give up on the Leslieville area and move on further away.
Whether a community culture can save Leslieville or not, the problem isn’t isolated to the one Toronto neighbourhood. Bird says the housing development warnings are sprawled in locations all across the city.
Next door in Mississauga, the Peel District School Board (PDSB) uses the same warning messages to prospective buyers in the crowded city centre area, where more families are living in condos than originally expected.
“The numbers would bear out a trend that families are seeking a more affordable form of apartment condominiums,” said Randy Wright, a planning controller with the PDSB, who says that finding land for new schools for the incoming families is proving to be a difficult task.
And across the country in Vancouver, the city’s public school board says it can’t always guarantee that students will be able to go to their home school and may have to be bussed out to further schools.
In the meantime, Andruchuk and Manek are gearing up for the upcoming school year and plan to volunteer in the school system as much as possible.
“I will always put my kids’ education first,” Manek said.
There’s sweetness to packing the children back to school for a fresh academic year. If your Facebook feeds are like mine, they popped up with photos of kids walking on sidewalks shouldering their backpacks, or standing on the front porch holding blackboards declaring their new grades.
Much like time that continually draws curtains on a past less chronicled, social media feeds curated for cuteness obscure the yelling, the tears, the hustle-bustle of getting ready on school mornings.
When our children go to school, we expect inventions and new discoveries in science and math to have changed the curriculum from the years we learned those subjects. But we view history as static, assuming our scholarship of it was reasoned, factual and complete.
It’s no surprise then that the school system produces grown-ups intellectually incapable of reconciling the image of Canada’s first prime minister as astute statesman with that of a criminally flawed man.
Instead, we end up with adults who feel personally affronted by any slight on John A. Macdonald — except if you call him a drunk. Then it’s a laughing nudge, nudge, wink, wink. (Alcoholism is only derided as a cultural failing when applied to Indigenous people, but that’s another story.)
Why do we deify historical heroes and airbrush their complexities? I see historical stories as mythmaking vehicles created to foster a unified sense of national identity and pride in the past. In doing so, though, they sacrifice truth telling and integrity. This is true world over, but also in Canada, which prides itself on its exceptionally inclusive ways.
Macdonald was by all accounts a visionary and a deft negotiator, but he was also an enforcer of Aryan supremacy, an implementer of genocide of the Indigenous peoples. If he is credited with building the railway, he should also be held accountable for starving Indigenous people and marching them off to “reserves” to clear land for those railways. Under his authority, abusive residential schools were created, and the practice of segregation ensured Black children received substandard or no education.
For those who believe he should not be judged by today’s standards, historian Sean Carleton posted online newspaper cartoons from Macdonald’s era that showed he was considered racist even in his time.
It’s because the past cannot be discussed with honesty that reassurances about the present and future such as “things are getting better,” or that the next generation won’t have the same prejudices, ring hollow.
Why would today’s students be any different if they are learning the same things?
The Ontario Curriculum instructs teachers to include age-appropriate Indigenous references and diverse perspectives in all subjects. A Scope and Sequence of Expectations released in 2016 says the aim is to foster “greater awareness of the distinct place and role of Indigenous peoples in our shared heritage and in the future of Ontario.”
In Grade 3, for instance, it says, “Students will learn about the challenges faced by Indigenous peoples, including encroachment and racism during the late 1700s and early 1800s.”
So far so good. How does this translate in reality?
Teachers I spoke to from the TDSB were not even aware this document existed.
Why would they?
Their assumptions, too, are shaped by colonial narratives. Only 45 per cent of those surveyed for the Canadian Teachers’ Federation last year felt “somewhat confident” about their knowledge of Indigenous culture, while 35 per cent felt “not confident at all.”
That a majority of teachers are weaving in a small amount of Indigenous content in their teachings, suggests willingness. That they are doing so only occasionally indicates inadequacy of knowledge.
Teachers say they are already overburdened by expectations piled on them — teach the three Rs, develop character, build relations with parents, deal with special needs students without more assistance, deal with staff cutbacks, now prioritize math and science, now include “diverse” perspectives.
And oh, it’s not compulsory to do so.
The social studies curriculum for Grade 3, for instance, states students will: “describe some of the similarities and differences in various aspects of everyday life … of selected groups living in Canada between 1780 and 1850 (e.g., First Nations, Métis, French, British, Black people; men and women; slaves, indentured servants, habitants, seigneurs, farmers; people from different classes)”
Given a choice like that, you get no points for guessing which group teachers zero in on.
Apart from knowledge, incorporating different perspectives would require that teachers introspect on their own assumptions, drop their biases, not be fragile about past misdeeds of white settlers, and not be intimidated by new knowledge.
Teachers obviously care; it was their union that brought the John A. issue to the forefront.
Progress championed by educators makes me optimistic.
However, intention alone does not bring change. School boards will need to diversify teaching staff. They should provide teachers with a list of books for reference. Schools should have access to Indigenous Elders and consultants as well as Black educators. Teacher training on Indigenous knowledge should be made mandatory.
Otherwise, the goal of an inclusive curriculum risks being relegated to a mere feel-good rhetorical attempt at reconciliation.
Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar
Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar
MONTREAL—A woman who allegedly left a baby alone in a Montreal apartment that caught fire is facing a new charge of obstructing police work.
Josee Milot pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday to the obstruction charge before her lawyer told reporters he would seek an addiction therapy treatment for her.
“It’s a problem that seems to be recurring and my client would like to treat it,” said lawyer Antonio Cabral.
Montreal police believe Milot started cooking something on the stove in the wee hours Thursday and then left the apartment when she was meant to be acting as the baby girl’s temporary guardian.
A police unit working nearby crawled through heavy smoke to save the infant.
Milot pleaded not guilty last Friday to three charges: unlawfully abandoning a child, criminal negligence causing a fire, and failing to provide the necessities of life to a child.
Milot, 49, was ordered detained over the long weekend after the Crown opposed bail.
A bail hearing set for Tuesday was put off and the case returns to court on Sept. 11, by when Cabral hopes to know if therapy is something that can be proposed to the court.
“Before we know about therapy, bail will not be requested by the defence,” Cabral said. “She had pending cases which were on the docket for a while and she didn’t come back to court to address those cases, so it makes it more difficult to have her get out on bail for now.”
The new charge stems from Milot allegedly giving police a fake name following her arrest after the fire, said Crown prosecutor Roxane Laporte.
Cabral said he met with Milot briefly Tuesday and that she was still very shaken.
“She realizes that she’s facing very serious charges,” Cabral said, adding one of her first questions was about the baby’s health.
The child suffered smoke inhalation, as did several police officers, but all survived.
The mother of Chanie Wenjack, the 12-year-old boy who froze to death while on the run from a residential school and who later inspired a generation of Canadians to learn about this devastating chapter in Canada’s history, has died.
Mrs. Agnes Wenjack passed away in a Geraldton, Ontario hospital on September 1. A mother, a great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother, the matriarch of the Ogoki Post, Marten Falls First Nations family was 89-years-old.
Her son, Chanie, was found dead by Canadian National Railway workers on October 23, 1966, after he ran away from Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School. He was trying to walk home – a nearly 1,000 km journey.
His death might have gone unnoticed if it weren’t for a 1967 Maclean’s magazine article, “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack,” that movingly catalogued the tragic last movements of the boy’s life. An inquest was held into Chanie’s death but the family was not told about it. They didn’t have a chance to participate and they did not learn any details about how he died until they read it in the Maclean’s article.
Fifty years after Chanie’s death, his life has become an iconic symbol of the residential school era in Canada and the inspiration behind musician Gord Downie and documentary film maker Mike Downie’s, Secret Path initiative.
Across Canada there were 139 church run, federally funded residential schools operating from the mid-19th century until the 1990s. In Ontario there were seventeen, fifteen in northern Ontario and only two in the south. The schools were intended to assimilate Indigenous kids into Canadian society by taking them away from their families, their language and culture. About 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children attended residential school and it is estimated 6,000 died while there.
Cecilia Jeffrey, which changed Chanie’s first name to Charlie, was operational until 1974.
Marten Falls is a community within Nishnawabe Aski Nation, a political organization of 49 northern Ontario First Nations. Mrs. Wenjack was the matriarch of the Wenjack family, she loved to hunt, camp and fish. She was also a survivor of the residential school system, noted NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
“Like many families whose children were lost to the Indian residential school system, Agnes waited a lifetime for an explanation of why her son’s brief life had to end the way it did,” Fiddler said in a statement.
“She never received an answer, but we pray that she found some comfort having lived to see Chanie’s story immortalized as a catalyst for reconciliation, and a lasting tribute to all Residential School students who never made it home.”
Co-creator of the Secret Path multimedia project, Mike Downie, expressed his condolences at Mrs. Wenjack’s death. The Downie family, brothers Gord and Pat, have worked with the Wenjack’s to create the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack FundGord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund to teach Canadians about residential schools.
“May her strength, love and devotion help guide and comfort you on your life’s long journey,” he said.
Mrs. Wenjack leaves behind her surviving daughters, Pearl Achneepineskum, Daisy Munroe, Evelyn Baxter and Annie Wenjack and many, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She is pre-deceased by her husband, Jim Wenjack. A funeral will be held in Geraldton on Wednesday.
OTTAWA—Failed Conservative leadership candidate Brad Trost is seeking an Ontario court’s opinion on whether his campaign ought to have been fined for leaking the party’s membership list.
Trost filed a request for judicial review Tuesday, asking a judge to compel the party to return his campaign’s $50,000 fine, or — failing that — to require that the issue be reviewed by an impartial decision maker.
The Conservative party’s leadership organizing committee levied the fine in June after concluding Trost’s campaign was to blame for the membership list ending up in the hands of the National Firearms Association, a breach of the rules.
Several party members complained about getting correspondence from the group once the leadership contest was over, and insisted the list was the only way the NFA could have obtained their contact information.
After those concerns were made public, the party said a perpetrator had been identified, and that disciplinary action would be taken.
That, alleges Trost in the documents filed Tuesday, is where the problem began, kick-starting a fundamentally biased process that deprived him of basic procedural fairness and tarnished his reputation.
The party’s statement on the issue was made before Trost’s campaign was told they were being investigated, Trost notes in the documents. The campaign responded by saying they could find no source for the leak and demanded proof of the allegations.
The party responded with a letter accusing Trost’s campaign of breaking the rules by leaking the list, and said it would lose the $50,000 compliance deposit it paid at the start of the race.
Both the fine and the purported inquiry “were a sham designed to justify a decision that had already been reached by (party) officials, namely to blame the Trost campaign for the leak,” Trost alleges.
While Trost alleges the process was flawed, a spokesman for the party said the former leadership hopeful failed to take full advantage of it.
“Our leadership rules set out a process for appealing decisions any campaign may not agree with,” Cory Hann said in an email.
“As we have done throughout this, we’ll continue to invite the Trost campaign to utilize that appeals process. Our appeals committee remains ready to hear any appeal if or when that process gets used.”
In the documents, Trost said that the members of the appeals committee are all part of the broader leadership executive, and therefore “irremediably tainted with a reasonable apprehension of bias.”
Trost’s campaign was blamed for the leak thanks to a practice known as salting, whereby each campaign is given membership lists with different fake names, so that breaches in the party’s confidentiality rules can be traced.
Trost’s campaign denied the allegations they were behind the leak from the start, and in the documents, noted that officials within the party also had access to the specific list that was provided to the Trost campaign.
“At best, the available evidence permitted (the leadership organizing committee) to conclude only that the leaked list was the Trost list,” says the court filing.
“The evidence does not responsibly permit a finding that Mr. Trost of his campaign was responsible for the leak.”
For that reason, the party had every motive for finding somewhere else to lay the blame, Trost alleges.
“The executive director’s role in the party would motivate him to shift responsibility for the embarrassing leak onto one of the leadership candidates and away from CPC officials.”
Trost, a long time MP from Saskatchewan, finished fourth in the leadership race, which declared Andrew Scheer the winner after a 13-ballot battle.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a statewide emergency in response to Hurricane Irma, a roiling storm that intensified into “an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane” while it churned toward the United States.
Even as millions across Texas are reeling from the impact of Hurricane Harvey, which battered that region with record-setting rain and was blamed for at least 60 deaths, Irma continues to intensify and prompt increasingly alarming forecasts.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Tuesday morning that Irma had become a Category 5 storm.
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 295 km/h as it approached the Caribbean from the east, according to the National Hurricane Center, with NOAA Hurricane Hunters reporting maximum wind speeds of 280 km/h — making it among the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the Post’s Capital Weather Gang.
While the hurricane centre said Irma’s intensity may fluctuate, it is expected to remain a Category 4 or 5 storm over the coming days.
The Capital Weather Gang said that Irma’s forecast track shifted to the south and west over the weekend, but warned of a probable impact in the United States: “It seems likely now that the storm will impact or strike the U.S. coast early next week, although meteorologists don’t know exactly where. Florida and the Gulf Coast continue to be at risk.”
Irma bore down Tuesday on the Leeward Islands of the northeast Caribbean on a path that could take it toward Florida over the weekend.
The storm, a dangerous Category 5, posed an immediate threat to the small islands of the northern Leewards, including Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
"The Leeward Islands are going to get destroyed," warned Colorado State University meteorology professor Phil Klotzbach, a noted hurricane expert. "I just pray that this thing wobbles and misses them. This is a serious storm."
While its exact path won’t be known for days, the hurricane’s growth has sent many Floridians into familiar pre-storm routines of preparing hurricane shutters, stocking up on supplies and nervously monitoring the news.
“Everyone should continue to monitor, check supplies, and be ready to implement action plan,” the National Weather Service in Miami posted Tuesday morning on Twitter.
Scott signed an executive order Monday declaring an emergency in each of Florida’s 67 counties, pointing to forecasts at the time warning that Irma could make landfall in the southern or southwestern parts of the state and “travel up the entire spine of Florida.”
“Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm and Florida must be prepared,” Scott said in a statement accompanying the order.
The warnings arrive not long after Florida marked the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew’s devastating landfall there, and as residents of the state, like many others nationwide, have spent recent days glued to news reports documenting Harvey’s mammoth impact in Texas.
Scott said Irma’s potential impact — which could include millions of people in Florida and beyond — warranted the emergency declaration, which ordered state officials to waive tolls on public highways, ready the Florida National Guard and prepare public facilities such as schools to be used as shelters.
“In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared,” he said. “This state of emergency allows our emergency management officials to act swiftly in the best interest of Floridians without the burden of bureaucracy or red tape.”
Four other storms have had winds that strong in the overall Atlantic region but they were in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico, which are home to warmer waters that fuel cyclones. Hurricane Allen hit 190 mph in 1980, while 2005's Wilma, 1988's Gilbert and a 1935 great Florida Key storm all had 185 mph winds.
Irma is so strong because of the unusually warm waters for that part of the Atlantic.
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 60 miles (95 kilometres) from the centre and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 175 miles (280 kilometres).
The centre of Irma was about 130 miles (210 kilometres) east of Antigua and about 135 miles (220 kilometres) east-southeast of Barbuda, prompting an ominous warning from officials as the airport closed.
“Hurricane conditions are expected to begin within the hurricane warning area in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions beginning tonight,” the Hurricane Center said. “Hurricane and tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area in the Dominican Republic by early Thursday.”
Puerto Ricans braced for blackouts after the director of the island's power company told reporters that storm damage could leave some areas without electricity for about a week and other, unspecified areas for four to six months.
The utility's infrastructure has deteriorated greatly during a decade-long recession, and Puerto Ricans experienced an islandwide outage last year.
Both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands expected 4 inches to 10 inches (10-25 centimetres) of rain and winds of 40-50 mph with gusts of up to 75 mph.
"This is not an opportunity to go outside and try to have fun with a hurricane," U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp warned. "It's not time to get on a surfboard."
With files from The Associated Press
A newspaper photographer from Ohio was shot Monday night by a sheriff’s deputy who apparently mistook his camera and tripod for a gun, and fired without a warning, the newspaper reported.
Andy Grimm, a photographer for the New Carlisle News, left the office at about 10 p.m. to take pictures of lightning when he came across a traffic stop and decided to take photos, according to the paper’s publisher, Dale Grimm.
“He said he got out, parked under a light in plain view of the deputy, with a press pass around his neck,” Grimm told The Washington Post. “He was setting up his camera, and he heard pops.”
Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Jake Shaw did not give any warnings before he fired, striking Andy Grimm on the side, according to the paper.
Dale Grimm, who is Andy Grimm’s father, said his son called him from an ambulance on the way to the hospital. He is expected to recover.
The state attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Division is investigating the shooting. A representative for the attorney general’s office was not immediately available for comment Tuesday morning. It also remains unclear if Shaw has been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings, or if he will face disciplinary actions.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has not returned a call seeking comment. Sheriff Deborah Burchett has not responded to an email.
Andy Grimm, who knows Shaw, said he does not want the officer to be fired, the paper reported.
“I know Jake,” he said. “I like Jake. I don't want him to lose his job over this.”
Asked if he thinks the sheriff’s deputy or the department should be held accountable for the shooting, Dale Grimm said he’d rather not say anything.
“We know the deputy. This is a small town of 5,000 people . . . We know the deputies. We work with them on a daily basis. We have an excellent relationship with them,” he said.
Dale Grimm and his son run the family-owned newspaper, located in New Carlisle, a town just outside of Dayton, Ohio. The family contracts with reporters, editors and stringers.
The newspaper echoed the same sentiments of sympathy toward the officer and posted a message on its Facebook page asking its readers and followers to refrain from making harsh comments about Shaw.
“On behalf of our entire family, we thank you for all of the kind messages. One other thing. Please don’t mean mouth the deputy. Andy said he doesn’t want Jake to lose his job over this,” the paper wrote.
Dale Grimm said he saw Burchett, the sheriff, shortly after his son was shot.
“She held my hand. She said, ‘You know I love Andy,’” he said.
He said the sheriff’s office has not said much to him about what prompted the shooting, but he’s assuming that the officer thought the camera was a weapon.
“He probably didn’t know what it was,” he said. “I don’t want to second guess the deputy because they have to make split-second decisions. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong.”
Andy Grimm is a known photographer in the community and has been working at the paper for years, his father said.
“He really took to photography. He watched hundreds of tutorials on YouTube,” Dale Grimm said. “He’s a whiz with his camera, a whiz with Photoshop. He also lays out the newspaper.”
Dale Grimm said his son had finished laying out the paper before he was shot. Otherwise, the print edition would not have been published.
A middle-aged man who lived an ordinary life for decades after raping and killing his frail 70-year-old neighbour deserved the adult life sentence handed him when he was finally brought to justice for the grisly crime he committed as a 15-year-old, Ontario’s highest court ruled Tuesday.
In upholding the sentence, the Court of Appeal found the punishment given Christopher Ellacott reasonable and proportionate given the savage killing.
“He sexually assaulted and murdered his elderly, vulnerable neighbour. He went on as though nothing had happened, avoiding justice for nearly 30 years,” the Appeal Court said. “There is no explanation for his crime; no sense of what motivated him to have committed so heinous an act.”
Court records show Ellacott, a high school student, occasionally did household chores for Velma Thomson, of Petrolia in southwestern Ontario, who had suffered a stroke. In mid-October 1983, the 90-pound hairdresser was found at home, partly nude and lying in a pool of blood. An autopsy found several stab wounds to her heart and her jugular vein cut. She had likely been raped and sodomized, according to the records.
The case went cold for years until a random check at a fingerprinting convention allowed police to link a thumbprint from the crime scene to Ellacott. Police then secretly obtained DNA samples from him. They arrested Ellacott in 2008 in Owen Sound, Ont., and charged the working father of two, who had no convictions, with Thomson’s first-degree murder and rape.
A jury in Sarnia, Ont., convicted him in April 2012 and in March 2013, Superior Court of Justice John Desotti sentenced the then-45-year-old as an adult, as the Crown had requested. Ellacott was given life without parole eligibility for seven years, and a lifetime supervision order.
Ellacott, who abandoned his conviction appeal, challenged the sentence. He argued he should have been punished as a youth, which means he would have received a maximum six years behind bars as opposed to the minimum seven he was given, and only a four-year period of supervision.
Desotti made several errors, Ellacott argued, among them not properly considering his age at the time of the crime, and deeming his testimony an aggravating factor.
The Appeal Court rejected the idea that he had been less morally culpable because he was 15 when he killed his victim. His blameworthiness was self-evident, the court said.
“The appellant’s conduct was no mere mistake or lapse in judgment,” the Appeal Court said. “He committed an act of extreme violence against an elderly, vulnerable neighbour, who until then had no known reason to fear him.”
The higher court did find fault with Desotti’s dim view of Ellacott’s testimony. At trial, the accused insisted the incriminating thumbprint came from a day before the crime when he helped Thomson carry a cardboard box inside the home. He also maintained the DNA wasn’t his.
The testimony, Desotti said at various points, was a “lame and cobbled contrivance” and “nonsense,” and revealed something “quite sinister” about Ellacott.
Those statements crossed the line, the Appeal Court found. Nevertheless, it declined to interfere with the sentence.
“Although the sentencing judge erred in using the appellant’s testimony and denial of guilt as aggravating factors, the error is of no consequence,” the Appeal Court said. “The enormity of (Ellacott’s) crime renders a youth sentence manifestly inadequate to hold (him) accountable.”
The whiz of cars on Kennedy Rd. cuts through the sound of crickets singing and wind rustling through soy fields at Empringham Farms.
The busy north-south corridor can be “dangerous” for farmers moving equipment between fields, said Kim Empringham, who farms 800 acres with her husband.
They’re based on 10 acres in Stouffville, but they farm cash crops — corn, wheat, and soy — in fields from Markham to Newmarket. It can take an hour by tractor to travel between them.
Some of their equipment is so wide, it crosses the yellow centre line on narrow commuter roads that weren’t built for farmers.
At times, they have to stop what they’re doing and wait for rush hour to end, because “it’s just not safe,” she said.
It’s a familiar challenge for farmers in the GTA, but things could change: Ontario is developing an agricultural system in the Greater Golden Horseshoe to enhance the area’s agri-food industry. The sector contributed $37.5 billion to Ontario’s GDP in 2016.
The agricultural system will protect a continuous base of prime farmlands from development, support the services and communities critical to the farm and food industry and ensure farmers’ needs are considered in future infrastructure planning.
“It’s about making sure that the sector, as a whole, can survive,” said Empringham, who also serves as the secretary-treasurer for the York Region Federation of Agriculture.
For Janet Horner, the executive director of the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance, a simple rhetorical question almost says it all: “Don’t you want to eat?”
“Protecting our land, so we are able to be somewhat self-sufficient and food secure is important. If we could eat houses, that’s fine, but we can’t,” she said.
Protecting those prime lands for food productions becomes even more important as the population of the Greater Toronto Area is expected to grow by 42 per cent by 2041 and productive farmland is under threat from urban sprawl.
Most of Canada’s prime agricultural lands have already been lost, said Keith Currie, the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
Just look out from the top of the CN Tower. “It’s all the best farmland that’s been developed. Essentially it’s entombed forever under asphalt and cement,” he said.
While some agricultural lands are protected under current policies, even the Greenbelt Plan, which protected some farmland, including most of the land Empringham farms, left prime agricultural lands outside its bounds.
The urban development spreading outward from Toronto’s core has left farmland fragmented, at its worst creating farm islands in a suburban sea.
“When you’re surrounded by subdivisions, you can’t farm,” Empringham said.
The further your farm is from the other services and businesses that support you, the less competitive you are, she explained.
An agricultural system that ensures protection for a continuous tract of farmland creates an incentive for other agri-food businesses — vets, mills, equipment sellers and others — to expand or move into dense agricultural areas, boosting the economic outlook for farms.
For farmers, protected land can also give them confidence to plan long-term, without fear they’ll be squeezed out by development.
“We know we can stay here, so we can make improvements to the buildings, to the infrastructure that we’ve got here on our home base,” Empringham said.
Even if they sell, they know they’ll be selling to farmers, making investments in the farm worthwhile.
That’s not something she sees happening on the farms to the south, which fall outside the greenbelt in an area Empringham said is likely to become subdivisions at some point.
Developers in the region have a very different outlook. They are concerned the ministry isn’t considering pre-existing infrastructure and development approvals as it moves through the process of establishing an agricultural system.
“Remember 90 per cent of the housing that’s built is built by the private sector, so . . . if you want to provide that supply, the industry needs to have some certainty, not just in the future, but also some certainty with the approvals they currently have,” said Joe Vaccaro, CEO of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said the government is committed to managing growth, while protecting Ontario’s farmland and supporting economic viability.
The development of the agricultural system, which stems from the co-ordinated review of four land use plans and was recommended by the review panel chaired by David Crombie, is still in its early stages.
The provincial government has developed a draft map of the agricultural system, showing proposed protection boundaries as well as existing infrastructure and services.
The draft system map and implementation procedures are out for public consultation until Oct. 4. This concerns Empringham, who notes the summer and fall are a busy time for farmers.
For those that can spare two-and-half hours, there’s an online webinar, provided by the ministry, on Sept. 6, on the mapping and implementation procedures, for members of the agricultural community.
Once the public consultation is closed, the government will move forward with plans to update the map by the end of this year. Municipalities will have a couple years to refine it as part of their official plan reviews, which are required by July 2022.
Down the road, Horner, who is also a Mulmur Township councillor, expects there could be challenges between municipalities and the province over which lands should be protected for agriculture and which should be open to development.
For the Athanasopoulos siblings, collecting TTC transfers from every subway station in one day was all about strategy.
“Me and Matthew ran extremely fast up all the steps,” said 8-year-old Sophia Athanasopoulos, describing the race to climb flights upon flights of stairs on their journey to each of the TTC’s 69 subway stations (including the Scarborough RT).
She and her eldest brother Matthew drew up a game plan on their TTC map one night prior to their August 31 trip, after middle-child Lukas casually suggested the idea.
It’s something their mother Lydia said she may have subliminally planted in her kids’ minds through stories from her childhood, and memories of collecting TTC transfers back when they were multicoloured.
“It’s like collecting trading cards, they think it’s rare,” Lydia said, her family’s dining room table covered in arts supplies as the siblings worked away at showcasing their TTC treasures.
“We went to the (Canadian National) Exhibition the day before, and this was far more entertaining. They had so much fun the whole day,” Lydia said.
“I think that’s why they got extras,” she said, noting her kids usually picked up more than one transfer from each station, “because they think it’s going to be worth something down the road.”
With the encouragement of their mother, the Athanasopoulos kids kicked off their journey at 3 p.m., starting at Jane Station. They travelled east on the Bloor-Danforth line up to McCowan station, the last stop on the Scarborough RT line.
The family made their way back to conquer the northbound section of the Yonge-Univeristy Line and then travelled east on the Sheppard Line. Sheppard, or the purple line, was the favourite stretch of TTC track for the kids, who stopped to take a minute and enjoy the artwork displayed at each station platform.
Fuelled by carrot sticks, burritos, cookies, chocolate milk, and Bathurst station’s beef patties — the finest patties the TTC has to offer, according to the siblings — they went back down Yonge-University to seize the west side of the U-shaped line. Then they hopped back onto Bloor-Danforth to complete their trip, ultimately travelling more than 130 km on the TTC.
“It’s cool to just have them all,” said 13-year-old Matthew, who wants to keep his collection displayed beneath a Plexiglas sheet on his desk. “It’s a hundred per cent complete.”
Despite gentle nudging from their mother Lydia to call it a day as the hours wore on, the siblings raced to snag the last transfer just as the clock struck midnight.
Transfer time stamps show some trips were made in under a minute, but stops north of Yorkdale Station took up to 17 minutes to get to.
“At Wilson, it was really hard to get to Sheppard-West because the trains were all messed up and people wouldn’t get off,” said Lukas.
The children turned into animated transit critics as they described the subway shortfalls that got in the way of their efficiency, like signal delays, aging subway cars, and the inconvenient positioning of some transfer machines.
While Lydia was impressed with the boost in maintenance of some TTC washrooms since her youth, she said accessibility at the stations hasn’t improved as much as she expected.
“The accessibility factor . . . that should be a priority. I would say nothing’s changed really, from when I was a kid on the yellow and green line,” she said.
The kids say they’re relieved to now have a copy of all the transfers, but would make the trip again to include new stations.
Barricades erected by Six Nations people near Caledonia have been dismantled, marking an end to an occupation that lasted for nearly a month.
An OPP spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that officers intercepted the development on Monday. A “verbal interaction” occurred between land defenders and OPP officers and they were subsequently instructed to leave, said Rod Leclair. Officials are on-site clearing leftover debris, he added.
The issue is linked to a contentious move by the Six Nations Elected Band Council to place a parcel of land into a federal corporation, ostensibly defaulting on a promise entered into by Ontario and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in 2006 to stem the Caledonia Standoff, a protest that grew to a fever pitch after Indigenous people occupied a subdivision called the Douglas Creek Estates.
The unelected, hereditary council want the Burtch lands, located near Brantford, to be independent from the Canadian government, citing expropriation concerns. It validates its position through a letter signed by former Ontario premier David Peterson which says the land will return to its original state and status under the Haldimand Proclamation, an official order of 1784 that gave land to the Haudenosaunee people for their military allegiance to the British during the American Revolutionary War.
The blockade was initially located on Argyle St., a thoroughfare outside Caledonia. On Monday, the barricade was transplanted to Highway 6 and Sixth Line Rd., where it was later shut down, said Caledonia councillor Craig Grice.
“As of right now, Argyle St. is clear, Sixth Line is clear,” he said. “We’re just waiting for the reopening of the bypass. It was a small group of protestors that didn’t have the support inside Six Nations and I think that was proved last night.”
The OPP is investigating a fire that was set on Saturday on railroad tracks near the site of the botched occupation. No demonstrators were seen on Monday afternoon in the area, said Leclair, and no arrests have been made.
Grice said he is relieved, that the hope is to move on.
“We are forever tied to relations, friendships, and business inside Six Nations, the last 11 years have really come a long way to bring us forward from 2006,” he said. “I know a lot of residents were concerned that we’d be going back there again, and I’m certainly glad to see that hasn’t happened.”
Members of Six Nations who were manning the barricade said the land transfer is unacceptable, in a press release issued over the weekend.
“The Canadian government has broken its promise by transferring the land to the Elected Band Council system and their corporations,” it says. “While the actions spurred by the Burtch lands in particular are seemingly internal, this is about the bigger issues in the context of land transfer, sovereignty and self-determination.
“If Ontario does not want to further contribute to internal division, they will halt all land transfers to the (Six Nations Elected Band Council) and return to the negotiation table.”