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    Transgender athlete Aaron Stewart is competing in the Invictus Games for the third time — but this is his first as a male.

    The retired army sergeant from Missouri will be among 550 ill, injured or wounded servicemen and women from 17 nations who will take part in 12 adaptive sports over the next week in Toronto.

    Discharged from the army in January 2015 due to a serious injury suffered earlier during a deployment to Kuwait, Stewart immediately began taking steps to change his identity and appearance — he had his breasts removed, had a hysterectomy, began hormone shots and legally changed his name from Bethany Erin Stewart to Aaron Edward Stewart.

    Read more:

    Prince Harry in Toronto setting the stage for Invictus Games

    A rookie’s guide to the Invictus Games

    As a transgender athlete, Stewart, who specializes in swimming and cycling and has won eight Invictus medals including two golds, will be competing in Toronto against other servicemen at a time of heated debate in the U.S. over whether transgender people should even be allowed to serve their country.

    U.S. President Donald Trump ignited a storm of controversy in July when he tweeted he was reinstating a ban on transgender individuals in the military. He cited medical costs and “disruption” in the military as his reasons.

    The move would reverse a policy — announced under former U.S. president Barack Obama and still under final review — that would allow them to serve openly. Transgender personnel, of whom there are 1,320 to 6,630 active members, according to a RAND study, remain in the U.S. military while the matter is being studied.

    Stewart calls Trump’s ban “unjust.”

    “As long as you can perform your job, it’s nobody’s business,” Stewart, 33, says in a lengthy phone interview from Missouri before setting out for Toronto. He agreed to speak to the Star before the Games got underway because he didn’t want to be constrained by spokespeople for the event, especially given his views on Trump’s transgender ban.

    “Because you identify as a male when you were born female . . . we can’t die for (our) country. My country says you’re not good enough for that. It’s insulting.”

    Stewart says that while serving as a female in the army there were fellow soldiers and some at higher ranks who knew he wanted to transition to a male, and had no problem with it.

    “I have friends in the military who are transgender. They have awards, decorations, they’re pilots . . . I just don’t see how (being transgender) has any effect on their ability to do their job.”

    Stewart wants to share his story so that other transgender individuals — in the military and otherwise — can be inspired by how he overcame adversity.

    He was born a she, in Springfield, Mo., population 159,000, the third-largest city in the “Bible Belt” state. Stewart struggled with his identity, but knew that voicing his feelings was taboo.

    During the interview, Stewart shied away from revealing too much about his parents, except to say he hasn’t spoken to them in several years. They live only 20 minutes away.

    He’s also estranged from his sister, but close to his brother.

    “I was home-schooled,” Stewart recalls of his sheltered upbringing, “and I wasn’t allowed anywhere except the church, basically.” His family switched churches several times, bouncing from Baptist, to Assemblies of God, non-denominational, to inter-denominational “whatever the flavour of the month was,” he says.

    Though he was a girl named Bethany, wearing his hair in pigtails as a child and polishing his fingernails as a teenager, he was uncomfortable in that skin.

    “I’ve always known since a young age that I was not who I wanted to be. Nothing fit how I felt,” Stewart says.

    Around the time he turned 20, prompted by the horror of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the memory of his great-grandfather who served in the Second World War, Stewart decided to enlist.

    “I’m proud to be an American, and as part of being American it was my duty to serve.”

    He joined the air force in 2004, doing basic training in San Antonio, Texas. He later moved to Gulfport, Miss., to study air traffic control.

    It was there that a female trainee began to suspect Stewart and a group of other women in the base’s living quarters were lesbians, and complained to higher-ups.

    “I had short hair. I guess I looked like a lesbian,” he recalls.

    This was under the Clinton administration’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which banned openly gay and lesbian individuals from serving in the military. (Canada’s armed forces lifted its ban on transgender and gay members in 1992.)

    As many as 20 women were brought in for questioning, but not told why, Stewart recalls. “We were told . . . not to talk to each other about the matter.”

    Roughly a month later, after an agonizing wait, lawyers told the women they were under investigation for violating the “don’t ask” policy.

    Stewart denied the accusations. He had his dream career and didn’t want to lose it.

    He had the choice of fighting the case before a military board of discipline, but losing would mean a dishonourable discharge and the risk of jail time, his lawyer told him. The other option was not fighting the case and accepting an honourable discharge, which Stewart did, in August 2005, as airman, first-class.

    For the next two years Stewart petitioned the government to get back into the armed forces.In 2007, he was successful, but there were conditions. Still living as a female, Stewart was told by an army recruiter that he had to sign a waiver promising to marry a man, and set a wedding date.

    Stewart chuckles now at the absurdity of such a pledge. “Looking back it’s amusing, but it’s also sad that it had to come to that. That you had to fight that hard to serve your country,” he says.

    A close friend promised to stand in as “husband” but there was no wedding in the end. “Once I got approval to join the army — I swore in, took my oath — it wasn’t necessary to marry. No one followed up to ensure the marriage happened,” Stewart says.

    In 2009, Stewart married a woman he met in New York, and the couple lived happily for a time. He was stationed in Kansas and lived with his wife in Missouri during his time off. “(We) didn’t look like a transgender couple or heterosexual couple because I hadn’t been physically able to move forward with the changes (to a male).”

    His wife knew about his gender identity issues and was very supportive, he says.

    Stewart was eventually promoted to sergeant before being deployed to Kuwait in 2010. While there, he seriously injured his back while moving equipment. The army wasn’t able to treat him properly in the field, so he was flown home in 2011, a devastating blow given how hard he’d fought to get back into the armed forces. He was sent to Utah to recover in a warrior transition program.

    By this time, his marriage had ended — the separation during his assignments away hindered the relationship, Stewart says — and he was suffering emotionally and mentally.

    “I had a lot of depression and anxiety. I didn’t handle the pain from my injury well. They said I couldn’t stay in the military because my injury meant I wasn’t deployable. I was of no value to the army. So, for the second time in a short number of years, I saw my military career ending. It was something I fought so hard for, so it was devastating.”

    Despondent, he attempted suicide in July 2012, swallowing a combination of pills.

    Staff Sgt. Leonard Cyre, another soldier in the transition unit, found Stewart passed out and managed to keep him alive until a nurse and ambulance arrived.

    Stewart remained in a coma for several days before regaining consciousness. He recovered, and was stationed back in Kansas to continue the warrior transition program when his command asked for volunteers to participate in an upcoming competition in Las Vegas involving adaptive sports.

    In 2014, Stewart competed in the Air Force Trials in Vegas and Army Trials in New York, the inaugural Invictus Games in the U.K. and the Warrior Games in Colorado. He performed well at all the competitions, including Invictus U.K. where he participated in recumbent cycling and swimming, taking two golds in cycling. At the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla., Stewart captured two silver medals in cycling and four swimming medals — three silver, one bronze.

    The bike Stewart uses in cycling allows him to sit reclined, easing pressure on his back and shoulder. In swimming he adapts his moves to accommodate his injury.

    Whenever he competes, he dedicates his performances to Cyre, the soldier who rescued him and whom Stewart befriended. Cyre died at home five months to the day after Stewart’s attempted suicide.

    Cyre will be in Stewart’s thoughts as he competes in Toronto this week.

    The exact number of transgender athletes to participate in Invictus isn’t known. However, everyone is welcome, says Michael Burns, CEO of the Toronto Games: “The responsibility of the organizing committee is to ensure that all of the competitors, families and guests coming to Toronto feel included, respected and have the finest experience possible that will help them with their healing and recovery.”

    U.S. First Lady Melania Trump will attend the opening ceremonies Saturday, representing her husband who continues to stand by the ban.

    Professor Angela Hattery, director of women and gender studies at George Mason University in Virginia, says the U.S. is “out of step” with most post-industrial societies in terms of dealing with LGBTQ issues.

    “The resistance has come primarily from the religious right. The majority of people in the United States do not identify with the religious right, or ultra-conservative Christian faith, but (these groups) are very vocal,” she says.

    Trump’s ban on transgender personnel in the military doesn’t make sense to her.

    “There are thousands of trans people serving in the military doing their jobs. Why relieve people of their duty when they’re doing what you’re asking them to do — in a job a lot of other people frankly don’t want?” Hattery adds.

    As the controversy over this issue swirls, Stewart, who legally changed his gender last year, is continuing his transition. He self-administers testosterone — one injection every week in the thigh — to maintain normal male levels. He is saving up for the $40,000 he’ll need for surgery to give him a functioning penis, a two-year process.

    He lives in Missouri with his female partner, Emily — they were neighbours as children — and Emily’s daughter. The couple plan to marry in November.

    Stewart, who receives medical retirement payments, is planning to go to school to study radiation therapy and hopes to find work in that field.

    He is a caring, giving person who has a huge heart and loves people for who they are, says Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, 38, of San Antonio, who met Stewart at an adaptive games competition in New York in 2014.

    Elmlinger, a cancer survivor who lost a leg, will also be participating in Toronto.

    When Stewart was homeless for about two months in 2015 after leaving the army, and was living in his car, Elmlinger took him in.

    “He’s my best friend,” she says.

    Stewart says he’s “proud and excited” to be in his first Invictus Games as a man.

    He anticipates tougher physical rigour given he’s going up against males, and he doesn’t expect to grab as many medals as his previous two Invictus performances.

    “It will be completely different competition for me.”

    It’s the third Invictus Games for this transgender athlete — but his first as a maleIt’s the third Invictus Games for this transgender athlete — but his first as a male

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    Wounded soldiers from several countries shook hands, conversed and shared a laugh with Prince Harry on Friday as the royal readied to launch the Invictus Games in Toronto this weekend.

    The Games, a multi-sport event for injured and sick soldiers, including current and veteran members of the forces, run until Sept. 30 and are being hosted in Canada for the first time.

    Harry founded the Games in 2014 as a way to inspire and motivate wounded soldiers on their paths to recovery. For participants training at a Toronto arena on the eve of the event, the royal’s approach appears to be working.

    “We’re using the Games to get out of dark holes and back into life — and without Harry, we wouldn’t be here having fun and enjoying the camaraderie, which is what you miss from the army days,” said Charlie Walker, a coach of the United Kingdom’s sitting volleyball team.

    Walker, who was with the British army’s bomb disposal unit, lost both his feet after contracting meningitis. He got a chance to have a solo chat with Harry for five minutes on Friday.

    They spoke about the team, the sport, the Games, and how Walker was doing, he said.

    Nearby, Canadian athlete Gaetan Lortie made eye contact with the prince as he walked through the sports centre. The two nodded at each other briefly, he said.

    Lortie, a veteran of the Canadian Forces and a retired civil servant with the Department of National Defence, came to the court early to catch a glimpse of the royal.

    Read more: It’s the third Invictus Games for this transgender athlete — but his first as a male

    A rookie’s guide to the Invictus Games

    “These games got me going again, got me active,” said Lortie, who is also competing in swimming.

    He has had major surgeries on both knees, has trouble with his hearing and struggles emotionally at times.

    “I think the Games give us the opportunity to push ourselves, to prove to ourselves we are still capable, still able people,” Lortie said.

    As Harry moved between groups of athletes training for various sports, he stopped at one point by a pool, beside Poppy Pawsey, a swimmer from the United Kingdom. The royal leaned over to watch her leap off the blocks into the pool and applauded after her dive.

    A beaming Pawsey said she’d never been coached by a prince before.

    “That was pretty good, wasn’t it,” she told reporters after climbing out of the pool. “I just said to him, would you do me the honour of starting my dive? And he went, ‘yeah, sure, how do I do it?’”

    Earlier Friday, Harry attended a symposium on veterans’ issues, where dozens of onlookers gathered outside to catch a glimpse of royalty.

    The prince, however, appeared determined to keep the focus on the Games and didn’t stop to interact with fans who cheered and called out to him.

    Adele Eccleston, who is originally from England, was among those who waited to see the royal.

    “I just popped over from across the street just to see Prince Harry and show support for his support of the Invictus Games,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful that he’s taking a stand and supporting the efforts.”

    Some in the crowd, however, said they had hoped to see a bit more of the prince.

    “I wished he would have waved,” said Amanda Shovlin, who took a break from work to join those gathered outside the building.

    “It was very quick, but I am sure he is very busy,” added her friend Melissa Barkley.

    On Saturday, Harry will visit Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health before meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Later in the evening he will attend the Games’ opening ceremony at the Air Canada Centre, which will feature performances by Sarah McLachlan, Alessia Cara and the Tenors.

    Toronto Mayor John Tory said the Games allow people to come together and celebrate the bravery of veterans from a number of countries.

    “These athletes are heroes. And I hope they will inspire this city and this country,” he said at a flag-raising ceremony for the Games held outside Toronto City Hall on Friday. “They all collectively had the courage to serve, the courage to come back from injury and disability, and now they will show us the courage and skill of competitors in sports.”

    At least 550 athletes from 17 countries are slated to compete in 12 sports, including track and field, swimming and golf.

    The first Invictus Games were held in London, England, in 2014.

    Prince Harry in Toronto setting the stage for Invictus GamesPrince Harry in Toronto setting the stage for Invictus GamesPrince Harry in Toronto setting the stage for Invictus GamesPrince Harry in Toronto setting the stage for Invictus GamesPrince Harry in Toronto setting the stage for Invictus GamesPrince Harry in Toronto setting the stage for Invictus Games

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    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—Puerto Rican officials rushed to evacuate tens of thousands of people downstream of a failing dam and said they could not reach more than half the towns in the U.S. territory as the massive scale of the disaster wrought by Hurricane Maria started to become clear on Friday.

    Government spokesperson Carlos Bermudez said that officials had no communication with 40 of the 78 municipalities on the island more than two days after the Category 4 storm crossed the island, toppling power lines and cellphone towers and sending floodwaters cascading through city streets.

    Officials said 1,360 of the island’s 1,600 cell-phone towers had been downed, and 85 per cent of above-ground and underground phone and internet cables were knocked out. With roads blocked and phones dead, officials said, the situation may be worse than they know.

    “We haven’t seen the extent of the damage,” Gov. Ricardo Rossello told reporters in the capital.

    More than 40 centimetres of rain fell on the mountains surrounding the Guajataca Dam in northwest Puerto Rico after Maria left the island Wednesday afternoon, swelling the reservoir behind the nearly 90-year-old dam.

    Authorities launched an evacuation of the 70,000 people living downstream, sending buses to move people away and sending frantic warnings on Twitter that went unseen by many in the blacked-out coastal area.

    “This is an EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SITUATION,” the National Weather Service wrote. “All the areas around the Guajataca River must evacuate NOW. Your lives are in DANGER.”

    The 316-metre dam, which was built around 1928, holds back a manmade lake covering about 5 square kilometres.

    Read more:

    Ontario mother seeks help after Hurricane Maria leaves daughter stranded in Dominica

    Hurricane Maria leaves Puerto Rico facing weeks without power

    6,000 Canadians, who were in Hurricane Maria’s path, evacuated: minister

    An engineer inspecting the dam reported a “contained breach” that officials quickly realized was a crack that could be the first sign of total failure of the dam, said Anthony Reynes, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Weather Service.

    “There’s no clue as to how long or how this can evolve. That is why the authorities are moving so fast because they also have the challenges of all the debris. It is a really, really dire situation,” Reynes said. “They are trying to mobilize all the resources they can but it’s not easy. We really don’t know how long it would take for this failure to become a full break of the dam.”

    Maj. Gen. Derek P. Rydholm, deputy to the chief of the Air Force Reserve, said at the Pentagon that it was impossible to say when communication and power will be restored. He said mobile communications systems are being flown in. But he acknowledged “it’s going to take a while” before people in Puerto Rico will be able to communicate with their families outside the island.

    Until Friday, he said, “there was no real understanding at all of the gravity of the situation.”

    Across the island more than 15,000 people are in shelters, including some 2,000 rescued from the north coastal town of Toa Baja, including several who were stranded on roofs.

    Rossello couldn’t say when power might be restored.

    The island’s electric grid was in sorry shape long before Maria struck. The territory’s $73 billion (U.S.) debt crisis has left agencies like the state power company broke. It abandoned most basic maintenance in recent years, leaving the island subject to regular blackouts.

    “Some transmission structures collapsed,” Rossello said, adding that there was no severe damage to electric plants.

    He said he was distributing 250 satellite phones from FEMA to mayors across the island to re-establish contact.

    Secretary of State Luis Marin said he expects gasoline supplies to be at 80 per cent of capacity because the port in the southeastern town of Yabucoa that receives fuel shipments received minor damage.

    Hours-long lines formed at the few gas stations that reopened on Friday and anxious residents feared power could be out for weeks — or even months — and wondered how they would cope.

    Some of the island’s 3.4 million people planned to head to the U.S. to temporarily escape the devastation. At least in the short term, though, the soggy misery will continue: Additional rain — up to 15 centimetres — is expected through Saturday.

    In San Juan, Neida Febus wandered around her neighbourhood with bowls of cooked rice, ground meat and avocado, offering food to the hungry. The damage was so extensive, the 64-year-old retiree said, that she didn’t think the power would be turned back on until Christmas.

    “This storm crushed us from one end of the island to the other,” she said.

    The death toll in Puerto Rico stood at six but was likely to rise.

    At least 27 lives in all have been lost around the Caribbean, including at least 15 on hard-hit Dominica. Haiti reported three deaths; Guadeloupe, two; and the Dominican Republic, one.

    By Friday afternoon, Maria was passing about 185 kilometres east-northeast of the southeastern Bahamas with top sustained winds of 205 km/h. The storm is not expected to pose a threat to the U.S. mainland.

    Israel Molina, 68, found that Maria had ripped away roofing from his Israel Mini Market in San Juan.

    “I’m from here. I believe we have to step up to the task. If everyone leaves, what are we going to do? With all the pros and the cons, I will stay here,” he said, and then paused. “I might have a different response tomorrow.”

    Diana Jaquez, one of the owners of the Coquette hair salon in San Juan’s Santurce area, assessed storm damage with her husband Friday as their children played nearby. She said she hadn’t decided whether to leave the island.

    “Business has dropped a lot,” she said. “People have other priorities than looking good.”

    Outside her store, more than 100 people stood in line waiting to get money out of an ATM machine and hoping there would still be some cash left when their turn came.

    New York plans to send about 240 National Guardsmen and state troopers to assist Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The state is also sending drinking water, ready-to-eat meals, electrical generators and other supplies.

    Failing dam in northwestern Puerto Rico causes ‘extremely dangerous’ flash-flooding, evacuationsFailing dam in northwestern Puerto Rico causes ‘extremely dangerous’ flash-flooding, evacuations

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    A painful story was palpable in three places on Friday.

    In court, it was the steely gaze of Zeljana Kosovac, released on bail for charges of criminal negligence causing the death of a three-year-old.

    Patrick Adamski was found unconscious yesterday, after being left in a hot car for hours.

    At the parking lot where he was found, a makeshift memorial grew.

    And across the street from the child’s house, a shocked neighbour cried quietly on her front step. She’d been planning to bring the boy and his brother coloured paper, as she had brought them toys her son outgrew a couple of times before.

    “Oh my god,” Natalia Mahno said, processing the information she’d just received. “I am so sorry about this.”

    Kosovac, 50, was the child’s caregiver. Police say she’d pick him up in the mornings, then they believe he was taken to a second care facility for the day. Later on, she’d pick the boy up again and take him home.

    When he was found, it was in her red Hyundai — parked near Burnamthorpe and Mills Rds. The high on Thursday was 26 C, and the child was estimated to have been in the car four hours when he was found by a superintendent.

    Read more:

    Child dies after being left in car in extreme heat in Etobicoke

    Woman charged in child’s gruesome death in hot car released on bail: DiManno

    Around 1 p.m. the superintendent smashed in the vehicle’s window, and the child was rushed to hospital but could not be revived.

    In her brief appearance at the College Park courthouse Friday, Kosovac was dressed in a grey long sleeved T-shirt, her dark hair freely falling on her shoulders. She kept her gaze straight ahead, making just one passing glance back at the courtroom gallery that was packed with reporters.

    The Crown did not oppose bail, and Kosovac left the court flanked by officers. She put on dark sunglasses and didn’t utter a word or change her neutral expression as she left the building. Two other men accompanied her for the long, silent walk out of the courthouse.

    One of them marched ahead and made several attempts to hail a cab before one stopped, amid the cameras of waiting journalists.

    Bail conditions for Kosovac’s release, on her own recognizance, include prohibited contact with the parents of the dead child, Justyna and Dariusz Adamski, supervision to be around children under 14, and a relinquishing of her passport within 12 hours of release.

    Toronto Police Const. David Hopkinson said that it was too early to say whether it was the temperature inside the car that caused the toddler’s death, but that the case serves as a stark reminder of the perils of hot vehicles.

    “It’s a horrible reminder,” he said of the case.

    Jolanta Pawlowsk lives just down the street from the family and had just found out what happened.

    “They are the nicest neighbours, the nicest family,” she said, adding the parents have another young son.

    “The boys were very, very, very well behaved and gentle.”

    Pawlowsk has lived there for 15 years and has known the family for as long as they’d been there, which was about three or four years. She got to know them because they often played in their front yard.

    “I can’t imagine what they’re going through. How is it really possible to do something like this?”

    In the parking lot where the child was found, general contractor Roger Reynolds and his co-worker Lisa Taschuk stopped to pay their respects.

    They said they were working in the adjacent building all day Thursday and passed by the lot where the car was parked several times on their way to get coffee and lunch. They didn’t notice anything was amiss until the emergency crews arrived.

    “We knew something wasn’t right, with the brigade of emergency vehicles coming down the road,” Taschuk said. “You just don’t expect something like this to happen, but every year it seems to happen.”

    “The baby seat was sitting right here,” Reynolds said, gesturing to the sidewalk, steps away from the vigil. “When I got home, I hugged my four-year-old and just kept hugging. I didn’t sleep last night.

    “I keep asking myself, could I do something like that?”

    Laying four white roses at the vigil and holding her eight-month-old son in her arms, Helen Ksiazek cried. She didn’t know the boy or his family, but lives down the road.

    “I’m overcome with so much sadness this happened. As a mother of a son, it is very upsetting,” she said, kissing her sons cheeks and stroking his head.

    Linda Canning and her son walked over from a neighbouring building and laid yellow carnations down in between stuffed animals and notes. She said she watched the scene unfold from her balcony yesterday.

    “I saw that car seat sitting there and it breaks my heart. We keep visiting the vigil because we want the family to know we are thinking of them,” Canning said.

    Larry Armstrong lives across the street from the building, and arrived with a bouquet of flowers and a prayer.

    “It just really hit me,” Armstrong said. “I wish I had a child of my own, and I don’t. I just feel so bad for the family.”

    After saying a prayer while dropping off the flowers, Armstrong said he’d continue to pray for the boy.

    “I just pray to God he didn’t suffer,” he said.

    Lisa Frenette brought her two young sons to pay their respects at the parking lot where the boy, not much older than either of them, died.

    The two brothers brought a brown stuffed bear and moose, with a red maple leaf stitched to their chests, to leave at the back of the building.

    With files from Star staff and the Canadian Press

    Caregiver gets bail as community mourns death of boy, 3Caregiver gets bail as community mourns death of boy, 3Caregiver gets bail as community mourns death of boy, 3Caregiver gets bail as community mourns death of boy, 3Caregiver gets bail as community mourns death of boy, 3Caregiver gets bail as community mourns death of boy, 3

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    MONTREAL—Bloc Québécois Leader Martine Ouellet was not really trying to stop the campaign of presumed NDP frontrunner Jagmeet Singh in its tracks when she suggested this week that he was too religious for the good of Quebec.

    For notwithstanding Ouellet’s assertion that Singh’s candidacy is testament to the “rise of the religious left” Bloc strategists see his potential victory next month as the most desirable of all possible outcomes.

    They have high hopes that a turban-wearing Sikh leader would drive Quebec voters in general and some of the party’s current MPs in particular away from the NDP.

    The BQ is currently two seats short of the 12 members required to have official party status in the House of Commons. If Singh wins, party insiders suggest there are better than even odds that at least two Quebec NDP MPs will cross over. That would ensure the sovereigntist party recoups the automatic speaking rights it has lost since Jack Layton almost wiped it off the map in 2011.

    As a bonus, Pierre Nantel — the NDP MP who has been the most outspoken about his discomfort at the notion of serving under Singh — holds the federal riding where Ouellet would likely have the best shot at being elected in 2019. The federal riding of Longueuil-Saint-Hubert includes the BQ leader’s current provincial seat.

    But the Bloc could be counting its chickens before they hatch. It would hardly be the first time.

    It is possible that some New Democrat defectors will bolster the thin sovereigntist ranks in the Commons between now and 2019. But looking to the next general election, some of the assumptions behind the Singh narrative Ouellet and her party are pushing are at best untested and — potentially — dead wrong.

    It was not so long ago that a fair number of Quebec watchers were ruling out of hand the possibility that a leader from out of the province would get the time of day from Quebecers.

    Conventional wisdom also had it that support for sovereignty would rise significantly under a non-Quebec prime minister.

    Then Stephen Harper and Jack Layton came along.

    Even more recently it was assumed that a party led by someone whose last name was Trudeau would be shut out of majority francophone ridings.

    In 2015, the Liberals, under Justin Trudeau, won a majority of Quebec seats. These days the prime minister’s Liberal party is more popular in his home-province than any of its federal and provincial counterparts.

    The widespread notion that Singh would not get a hearing in Quebec for the sole reason that he is a practicing Sikh is based on the same untested assumptions as those listed above.

    What if, against all current expectations, the presence on the television set of the 2019 election debates of a left-leaning Sikh NDP leader turned out to be a positive game-changer. By that I don’t necessarily mean a big NDP victory in Quebec. That may not be in the cards in two years under any of the contenders for the leadership.

    But depending on the result of next fall’s Quebec election, the 2019 federal campaign may well take place against the backdrop of the province’s open-ended securalism debate.

    A Mainstreet poll published by Postmedia on Friday projected a picture of a Quebec so split between the four provincial parties that it may be hard for any of them to secure a majority government next year. Both the CAQ and the PQ are proponents of more restrictive measures to reinforce the secular character of the province’s public service.

    If only for the purpose of political pedagogy, a more diverse federal leaders’ line-up could potentially do more to enrich the debate or at least offer some Quebecers a chance to consider a different perspective on the balance between religious rights and a secular state than any federal homily about charter rights.

    Over the past decade, Quebec voters have turned every presumably safe notion about political mindset on its head. Prudence would suggest that one not prejudge their reaction to a Singh-led NDP.

    There are valid reasons, ranging from policy preferences to concerns over Singh’s nonexistent federal experience or lack of a seat in the House of Commons, why the New Democrats could select one of his three rivals to lead the party but the fear of a Quebec backlash should not be one of them.

    Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

    If Jagmeet Singh wins the NDP leadership don’t assume he will be rejected in Quebec: HébertIf Jagmeet Singh wins the NDP leadership don’t assume he will be rejected in Quebec: Hébert

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    The woman hired to help city hall improve its relations with Indigenous communities has resigned and filed a human rights complaint against the city, Metro has learned.

    Lindsay Kretschmer, a Mohawk Wolf Clan member, was hired last March as a full-time Indigenous Affairs consultant in the city’s Equity, Diversity and Human Rights division. Part of her job was to liaise with local Indigenous communities and provide the city with expert policy advice, in line with the city’s efforts to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

    But her stint was short-lived. In early July, Kretschmer tendered her resignation over what she calls “disrespectful” treatment of the Indigenous file. She has since filed a complaint at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, claiming the city violated her right to practise smudging, an Indigenous ceremony that involves burning sacred medicines.

    Read more:The ‘Indigenization’ of Toronto city hall

    “I waited for three months but I was never allowed to smudge in that building,” she said. She wanted Indigenous people to have a specific room at city hall where smudging can be performed, like the prayer/meditation room where members of any religion can pray.

    City spokesperson Wynna Brown did not discuss specifics of the case with Metro but wrote in an email that the city has responded to Kretschmer’s application and “looks forward to the opportunity to present its case through the tribunal process.”

    Kretschmer said she was later told she could smudge inside one of the managers’ offices — a response she regarded as “not dignified” because of the lack of privacy and personal space. One colleague even suggested she smudge outside.

    “In 2017 you’re forbidding me from practising my culture. That’s essentially a repeat of colonization behaviour,” she said. “It’s just really bad to work there as an Indigenous person.”

    Mayor John Tory has committed to increasing Indigenous presence at city hall, and the hiring of Kretchmer was seen as the first step. The city recently started acknowledging Toronto’s position on traditional Indigenous land at council and committee meetings. Indigenous flags fly on a permanent basis, and there’s a plan to give councillors and staff cultural competency training.

    Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat referred Metro to strategic communications for answers on the case, adding the mayor “is committed to continuing to build positive relationships with Toronto’s Indigenous communities. He recognizes there is still much work to be done.”

    At its meeting next Monday, the Aboriginal Affairs Committee will discuss the recruitment of a new consultant as they continue to work on the creation of an Aboriginal Office at city hall.

    Kretschmer now believes that’s all “glamour” because there’s no concrete plan to promote Indigenous communities across the city. She says her hiring was just for show.

    “It was a token position to make themselves look good, but they are doing nothing on the Indigenous file,” she said, adding there’s no Indigenous employment strategy and no budget to train staff.

    “They are very far behind on that file. People are very upset with them. They’ve failed in so many ways it’s not even funny.”

    Toronto’s Indigenous consultant resigns, files human rights complaintToronto’s Indigenous consultant resigns, files human rights complaint

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    Snap of the fingers bail. Released on her own recognizance.

    And then — entirely without precedent, flanked by court constables as she exited the public door of the courtroom, scooting in quick-step down the long corridor -escorted by two men, one presumably a lawyer, the other who’d been clutching instructions for posting bond, never needed.

    Down to the main floor of the College Park courthouse, out and across the plaza, walking briskly south on Bay Street — trailed all the way by a posse of reporters and news cameras — then into a cab.

    That was the last we saw of 50-year-old Zeljana Kosovac, the caregiver charged with criminal negligence causing death of a four-year-old child. A little boy, police say, who was left alone in a car, all the windows rolled up in the Indian Summer heat, for several hours in a parking lot behind an Etobicoke highrise complex on Thursday morning.

    Read more: Caregiver gets bail in hot-car death of boy, 4

    According to property documents found by the Star, Kosovac, widowed a year ago, owns a unit at that Mill Rd address.

    In court, she spoke not a word aloud, conferring only in hushed tones with the duty counsel.

    Outside afterwards, chased by media — in what might have been the longest perp walk ever — she spoke not a word either, all three in the party studiously avoiding shouted questions and cameras right in their faces.

    Earlier, the man believed to be Kosovac’s lawyer denied having anything to do with the matter, denied even recognizing Kosovac’s name.

    The dead boy’s name has not been released by police.

    But the youngster suffered a gruesome demise.

    As news of the boy’s death became public Thursday evening, a whole city wondered: Who could have done that? Who would leave a child suffocating in a stifling car — until the building’s superintendent smashed the sedan’s window in order to rescue the child.

    None of those questions were answered in Kosovac’s first court appearance at what is commonly known as “ladies’ court” — where women charged from across the city usually appear for bail.

    The heavy-set woman wore a long grey T-shirt, black leggings and flip-flops, her thick black hair loose and untamed at her shoulders.

    Crown and duty counsel jointly agreed that Kosovac should be released on her own undertaking — $5,000 bail — with no deposit.

    The hearing was otherwise subject to a routine publication ban.

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

    Woman charged in child’s gruesome death in hot car released on bail: DiMannoWoman charged in child’s gruesome death in hot car released on bail: DiManno

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    Prosecutors have mapped out the case against two key aides of Dalton McGuinty, alleging they “destroyed records they had a duty to preserve” during a political furor to reveal backroom decisions in the scrapping of two natural gas-fuelled power plants before the 2011 election.

    “They acted contrary to the public interest,” Crown attorney Sarah Egan said in her opening argument Friday at the long-awaited criminal trial of David Livingston, 65, and Laura Miller, 38.

    The pair worked for McGuinty before he stepped aside as premier amid the gas plants turmoil in February 2013, with Livingston serving as his chief of staff and Miller deputy chief.

    The two are accused of being “directly involved” in the deletion of computer hard drives and documents linked to the cancellation of the gas plants, which faced community opposition.

    Opposition parties insist the plants in Oakville and Mississauga were axed to save Liberal seats in the 2011 election that saw McGuinty reduced to leading a minority government.

    The case is being closely watched with a provincial election looming next June and two other Liberals on trial in Sudbury for alleged bribe offers to get a would-be candidate out of the nomination race in a 2015 byelection.

    “A significant number of emails, including emails related to the gas plants, were deleted from the government and mail boxes of Mr. Livingston and Ms Miller” and on 21 other computers used by staff in the McGuinty premier’s office, said Egan, hinting at testimony to come from retired OPP detective and forensic computer investigator Robert Gagnon.

    Before the trial began, 11 bankers’ boxes of papers where wheeled into the courtroom for the case that police code-named “Project Hampton.”

    Livingston and Miller are charged with breach of trust, mischief in relation to data, and misuse of a computer system under the Criminal Code.

    The pair, who have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the wiping of hard drives in McGuinty’s office before Premier Kathleen Wynne took power, plead not guilty.

    They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

    In her brief summary, Egan said materials were destroyed while the McGuinty government was “under intense pressure” from opposition parties and orders from a legislative committee ‎to produce documents on the cancellations.

    The Progressive Conservatives and NDP have long accused the government of a cover-up and using taxpayer money to bail itself out of trouble, while McGuinty has testified before a legislative committee that the plants were axed because they were too close to homes.

    Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk concluded in a 2013 report that it will cost taxpayers up to $1.1 billion for the scrapping of the two plants and relocating them to Napanee and Sarnia.

    Egan said Livingston, a former investment banker, instructed staff to “double delete” documents on their computers on the same day they were received, making sure the material would not be in the backup system as it would normally be for the next two weeks.

    That means there would be nothing available to fulfill freedom-of-information requests or demands from the committees of MPPs probing the controversial gas plant cancellations, Egan told Judge Timothy Lipson.

    In addition, backups are not part of the computer system accessed to fulfill freedom-of-information requests, she added.

    Both Livingston and Miller purported not to have any of the requested documents, but witnesses to be called by the Crown — which relied on forensic examinations of computer hard drives from the premier’s office obtained by the OPP through search warrants — “will demonstrate that they did,” Egan said.

    BlackBerrys were also obtained under subsequent warrants.

    Under the OPP charges, prosecutors allege Livingston arranged for a special computer password to a non-government employee, Peter Faist, Miller’s common-law spouse and an information technology consultant, enabling him to clean the computer drives in the premier’s office before Wynne was sworn in on Feb. 11, 2013.

    Egan said Faist did not have a government security clearance and that Livingston “notably then did not use the IT department dedicated to the Office of the Premier.”

    Faist is not facing charges and McGuinty, who co-operated with police, was never under investigation.

    Egan said Faist was hired despite the fact Livingston was “painstakingly warned” the week before by then-cabinet secretary Peter Wallace of obligations to keep proper records of public policy decisions.

    The Crown’s first witness is slated to be Gagnon, a retired team leader of the OPP’s electronic crime section, who said he set up a separate lab to examine the premier’s office hard drives because “a higher level of security” was needed.

    Defence lawyers spent most of Friday’s court time challenging the Crown’s ability to use Gagnon as an expert witness, arguing he was in numerous meetings with investigators and prosecutors and is therefore biased.

    Prosecutors want to use Gagnon so he can give his opinion on the evidence gathered.

    The judge said he will hear legal arguments on Gagnon’s suitability on Monday morning before issuing a ruling next Wednesday.

    ‎The trial, which was delayed almost two weeks because of defence concerns the Crown did not properly disclose all evidence to the defendants, is expected to last into early November.

    Lawyers for Livingston and Miller will outline their defence later in the proceedings at Old City Hall.

    McGuinty staffers ‘destroyed records they had a duty to preserve,’ gas plant trial toldMcGuinty staffers ‘destroyed records they had a duty to preserve,’ gas plant trial told

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    WASHINGTON—Bruce Brown, a Donald Trump devotee in rural Pennsylvania, thinks that Hillary Clinton should be “shot or put in prison” and that liberals have a “mental disease.”

    He also thinks Trump’s latest health-care plan might kill him, at least leave him homeless.

    Brown, 58, has severe diabetes, and he is awaiting a leg amputation. He and his 11-year-old son, who has autism, get health insurance from Medicaid, the program the new plan would subject to major cuts.

    “I barely make it month to month as it is,” said Brown, who is unable to work. “I saw how many billions and billions they want to cut from Medicaid. I depend on Medicaid. Without Medicaid, I have nothing. I couldn’t afford any insurance.”

    Democrats thought in July that they had crushed the Republican effort to eradicate Obamacare. The repeal push is suddenly back, with all its familiar-by-now rituals.

    Read more:

    Jimmy Kimmel slams Bill Cassidy, Trump over GOP health-care bill

    GOP’s repeated efforts to repeal health care law is ‘aggravating,’ Obama says

    Patients, including Trump voters, say they are terrified. Policy experts say they are horrified. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel is improbably driving the resistance. Key swing voters Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are facing immense pressure from all sides. And senior Republicans in Congress can’t really explain what it is they’re doing, but they insist it must be done.

    There is one big difference this time: the substance. This plan is a special doozy — far more extreme, health-policy experts say, than the ones already rejected because they were themselves seen as imposing cuts too drastic.

    While Republicans had claimed those previous proposals would have fulfilled their pledge to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, they had actually wanted to retain significant portions of Barack Obama’s signature law. This proposal, known as Graham-Cassidy, would tear Obamacare apart to produce a massive transformation of the U.S. health system.

    Proponents say Graham-Cassidy would give individual states much-needed flexibility, and Trump says the bill “really will do it the right way.” But just about nobody outside of Republican circles likes it — not the insurance industry, not medical professionals, not the seniors’ lobby, not groups for people with cancer and disabilities, not scholars.

    The bill appeared close to defeat on Friday afternoon.

    With a slim majority in the Senate, Republicans can only afford to lose three senators, and Arizona Sen. John McCain, who cast a key vote to kill the last proposal, announced Friday that he would vote against this one too.

    With Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul claiming to be staunchly opposed, only one more no vote would appear to doom the bill. Collins, who was steadfast in opposition to previous bills, has sounded overwhelmingly negative about this one, and at least five other wavering senators have not taken a public position.

    Jonathan Oberlander, a University of North Carolina professor who studies health policy and politics, described the early proposals as “terrible.” Graham-Cassidy, he said, is “catastrophic.”

    “They, for seven years, have pledged to do this, and they’re committed to do it come hell or high water. And damn the consequences,” Oberlander said. “Including virtually universal opposition from the health-care industry, the incredibly low polling numbers, and the fact they don’t even have an analysis of what the impact of this bill would do.”

    Facing a de facto deadline of Sept. 30, Senate Republicans are attempting to ram the bill through without committee hearings or an official estimate of how many people will lose coverage. But the conclusions of outside analysts have been scathing.

    Read more:

    Eight reasons Donald Trump failed on health care the last time: Analysis

    These Americans beat Donald Trump and saved Obamacare. They say they can do it again

    Toronto doctor plays starring role in selling Bernie Sanders’ single-payer plan

    The bill would likely impose between $160 billion and $250 billion in cuts by 2026. In place of Obamacare’s key components — a Medicaid expansion to cover more low-income people and federal subsidies for low- and middle-income people to buy their own insurance — each state would be given a shrunken pile of money to spend on a health system of their own design.

    A limit would be imposed on Medicaid spending, which until now has been available to everyone who qualifies. And states could ask for federal permission to free insurers from Obamacare’s restrictions — letting them again charge hefty prices to people with “pre-existing conditions” and refuse to cover “essential health benefits” like prescription drugs, hospitalization and addiction treatment.

    While the majority of states would get less funding, Democratic states would be hurt worst: states that expanded Medicaid would essentially transfer funding to the Republican states that resisted expansion.

    All of the funding would vanish in 2027, creating a giant health-care “cliff.” Healthy people would not be required to buy insurance anymore, so prices would almost certainly rise for sick people. And each state would be forced to develop its own system in two years, a timeline most experts say is unrealistic.

    “Graham-Cassidy would likely be the biggest devolution of federal funding and responsibility to states, ever, for anything,” Larry Levitt, vice-president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which analyzes health policy, said on Twitter. “It’s hard to think of any other bill that commits so much federal money with so few details as Graham-Cassidy.”

    The primary authors of the bill are South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, a physician.

    Kimmel, whose baby son was born with a heart defect, has used his monologues this week to shame Cassidy for breaking a spring promise to only support legislation that would allow kids like Kimmel’s to get all the treatment they need no matter how much money their parents make.

    Obamacare forbids insurers from imposing annual and lifetime limits on coverage — but only for “essential health benefits.” If a state got permission to take items off the “essential” list, the caps could come back.

    “This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face,” Kimmel said Tuesday.

    Cassidy and Graham will debate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar on CNN on Monday night. To the dismay of some Democrats, Sanders picked last week to introduce a proposal for national single-payer health-care, providing Republicans a “socialist” foil to which to contrast their own plans.

    He was not the only one distracted. The Graham-Cassidy push intensified as the liberal activist groups crucial in sinking the previous bills were turning their attention to fights over taxes and immigration. They have quickly swerved back to Obamacare — making phones “ring off the hook” in Republican senators’ offices, spending money “hand over fist” on web ads, and planning a “huge wave of protests” for senators’ return to Washington next week, said Ben Wikler, Washington director for progressive group

    “Last Friday afternoon, I was concerned about whether the movement would be able to throw itself at the barricades fast enough. As of today, I’m very glad to say that the energy is there. People are tuned into this threat even with the crush of hurricanes and earthquakes and Russia-investigation news. There is an appropriate and enormous level of alarm and fight exploding from the grassroots,” Wikler said.

    Brown, the Trump supporter, will be watching in fear, sincerely concerned his beloved president might send him to his death. Trump, he said, “just wants to pass it so it makes him look good.”

    ‘Catastrophic’: Millions at risk, again, as Trump and Republicans push new health bill‘Catastrophic’: Millions at risk, again, as Trump and Republicans push new health bill‘Catastrophic’: Millions at risk, again, as Trump and Republicans push new health bill‘Catastrophic’: Millions at risk, again, as Trump and Republicans push new health bill

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    The CSI-style wall created in an office washroom of the mayor of Whitchurch-Stouffville was “vexatious” and “disturbing to staff” and amounted to a “serious incident of workplace harassment,” an ethics probe has found.

    In a highly anticipated report released Friday afternoon, integrity commissioner Suzanne Craig’s findings say Justin Altmann’s wall — made up of photos of staff, colleagues and members of the public connected by black lines — affected the work environment and his behaviour toward staff interfered with their ability to do their jobs.

    “The respondent’s conduct in developing the wall created and contributed to an intimidating work environment for the complainant and other employees,” Craig wrote in her 30-page report. “I find that the respondent’s creation of the wall was discreditable conduct that fell below the decorum expected of his office,” she wrote.

    However, Craig also wrote that Altmann “demonstrated an error in judgment” and not a willful desire to cause harm or breach the town’s code of conduct. Moreover, Craig wrote that his conduct was misplaced but was not carried out in bad faith.

    Read more:

    Stouffville mayor asks for community support as investigation into his CSI-style wall nears its end

    Here’s who’s who on Stouffville mayor’s creepy washroom wall of photos

    Stouffville residents raise alarm over ‘CSI-style’ wall

    Craig, who will present the report to council on Tuesday, has asked council to consider other penalties: asking Altmann for a formal apology; reprimanding Altmann; including an admonition to interact respectfully with staff; using town offices and facilities appropriately, and suspending his pay for 30 days. The maximum penalty under the Municipal Act is to dock an elected official three months’ pay.

    In the report, Altmann said the “purpose of photos and the display on my wall is simply a ‘mind-mapping’ exercise — a method I use to visually organize information.”

    He also added: “Some of these members (of council) have sought to undermine me in my capacity as mayor and impede the mandate for which I was elected, namely to govern council and staff with proper policies and procedures befitting of our municipality. Therefore, it is very possible that the complaint is a further attempt to undermine me personally and professionally,” he said.

    The wall has been taken down.

    The investigation began in March, when Craig was approached by the complainant.

    Craig wrote she only looked at whether Altmann had breached the code of conduct in relation to harassment, discreditable conduct and conduct respecting staff.

    She suggested a complaint of workplace violence be taken by the complainant to police. But in her report she touched on the complaint, writing that Altmann allegedly told one staff member he wanted another’s “head on a platter” and that he “was going to blow up this place.” Craig did not investigate because it was outside the scope of her investigation.

    In her findings, Craig said she relied on interviews, documents and the findings of an independent investigator.

    “Being shown the wall by the respondent with its pictures, clip art, meticulous lines, sheer size over three walls and location in the respondent’s washroom was objectively reasonably vexatious to Staff A who we accept was legitimately shocked and thrown off balance in a negative way,” the investigator wrote.

    “In all the circumstances, the respondent reasonably ought to have known that the wall would be unwelcome to anyone who saw it, particularly an employee,” the investigator wrote. “It clearly had a dramatically negative lasting impact on Staff A that cannot be attributed to the political agenda of the respondent’s detractors.”

    Craig wrote that even if Altmann’s intention was to create a “flow chart that would enable him to present his evidence to the law enforcement authorities to strengthen his position that he was on the receiving end of harassment, intimidation and threats… it is clearly unreasonable to have done so on the walls of a public building, together with photographs of staff, members of council and private citizens and with captions such as ‘you are dead.’ ”

    She also chastised him for breaching the confidentiality of the investigation, when he sent out an email to supporters this month, asking them to submit letters of support to Craig.

    Craig wrote that during her investigation there were a number of allegations she couldn’t look into as they occurred before the town instituted a code of conduct this year.

    A list of them, included in the appendix, are: bringing personal furniture into town offices, changing the position of the video surveillance cameras outside the mayor’s office, and questionable use of the mayoral chains and the mayor’s unpredictable behaviour with staff.

    Stouffville mayor created an intimidating workplace for staff, investigation findsStouffville mayor created an intimidating workplace for staff, investigation finds

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    This was a week that saw men with fingers on nuclear codes reduced to blathering name-calling idiots, while women in the public eye rose up and spoke and inspired.

    It was a week when some men acted like infants even while others tried to discredit women by infantilizing them.

    Exhibit A for baby-men were Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in a tense exchange of brinkmanship, where — get this — Kim made more sense than the U.S. president. In a statement, Kim castigated Trump’s “unethical will to ‘totally destroy’ a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system.”

    Then he responded with a threat to conduct “the biggest ever hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific,” and returned Trump’s name calling in kind.

    Read more:

    The Gerry Ritzing of Catherine McKenna: Mallick

    A short history of ‘dotard,’ the arcane insult Kim Jong Un used in his threat against Trump

    How an article defending colonialism was ever published is a mystery roiling academia: Paradkar

    In their defence, they offered the hollow comfort of hilarity.

    “Rocket Man!” roared the vapid villain who had already reduced to dust the dignity of his American seat.

    “Frightened dog. Deranged dotard,” raged the pipsqueak ruler of the kingdom of ashes, the wondrous creature who once called South Korea’s first female president “a crafty prostitute.”

    At this, the wounded egomaniac summoned up his finest vocabulary.

    “Madman,” he screeched.

    You’re fired, Donny boy. In a war of words at least, Kim’s weapons possess longer range than yours.

    Earlier in the week, the ever-mature president had retweeted a doctored GIF of himself swinging a golf ball and hitting his former rival Hillary Clinton on the back, leading her to take a tumble. Such power! Such machismo! See, here was a man to put women like her in their place.

    Then there was the football fans’ derision directed at Beth Mowins, who made history this week by becoming the first woman to call a game on Monday Night Football. “Can’t stand the voice.” “Her voice is like fingernails on a blackboard,” “Your voice ruined it for me,” whined viewers.

    There’s no point pretending this was personal preference rather than sexism.

    As Rebecca Martinez, who teaches women’s and gender studies at the University of Missouri told the New York Times, “The comments, mostly from men … focus on the naturally higher pitch of women’s voices and ‘shrillness,’ all the while claiming their critiques of higher pitch have nothing to do with sexism.”

    This is how women sound — different from men. This is how women look — different from men.

    As with men, not one is without flaws. Unlike men, not one escapes ridicule.

    Exhibit A of infantilizing women took place in Canada when Saskatchewan MP Gerry Ritz referred to our country’s environment minister as a “climate Barbie” in a tweet.

    Of what confounding nature is this duplicity foisted on women? Shamed as inferior if you’re not white and blond. Shamed as inferior if you are.

    Two MPs tackled both issues this week.

    Women in Catherine McKenna’s position of having received sexist or racist comments are often counselled to click mute at this point — even by well-wishers.

    Let it go, we are told. Happens all the time. Not worth it.

    Sometimes, though, it’s the silence that’s not worth it when all it serves to do is maintain the status quo.

    McKenna called him out.

    “Do you use that sexist language about your daughter, mother, sister?” she responded. “We need more women in politics. Your sexist comments won’t stop us.”

    Some 20 minutes later, Ritz apologized for using the word Barbie. “It is not reflective of the role our minister plays.”

    If only we could also recalibrate the thinking that leads to such expression.

    In New York to talk climate change with high-level diplomats, McKenna spoke about the incident to reporters.

    “You know what’s really sad?” she asked. “That I’m having to talk about this.”

    “I want to be talking about what I’m doing. But unfortunately we’re having this conversation. … We need to move on. I’ve got two daughters. There’s lots of young women who want to get into politics, and I want them to feel like they can go do that, and they can talk about the great work they’re doing — not about the colour of their hair.”

    About hair.

    There was Celina Caesar-Chavannes, the MP from Whitby, rising magnificently in Parliament Hill wearing her hair in braids in solidarity with women who have been shamed based on their appearance. She delivered a one-minute speech that was a marvel of composure and wisdom and defiance.

    I leave you with her words as your motivation:

    “It has come to my attention that there are young girls here in Canada and other parts of the world who are removed from school or shamed because of their hairstyle.

    “Mr. Speaker, body-shaming of any woman in any form from the top of her head to the soles of her feet is wrong.”

    “Irrespective of her hairstyle, the size of her thighs, the size of her hips, the size of her baby bump, the size of her breasts, or the size of lips, what makes us different makes us unique and beautiful.

    “So Mr. Speaker I will continue to rock these braids. For three reasons. No. 1, because I’m sure you’ll agree, they look pretty dope. No. 2, in solidarity with women who have been shamed based on their appearance.

    “And No. 3, and most importantly, in solidarity with young girls and women who look like me and those who don’t. I want them to know that their braids, their dreads, their super-curly afro puffs, their weaves, their hijabs, and their headscarves, and all other variety of hairstyles, belong in schools, in the workplace, in the boardroom and yes, even here on Parliament Hill.”

    Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar

    Women step up as man-babies throw tantrums: ParadkarWomen step up as man-babies throw tantrums: Paradkar

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    SOMERSET, N.J.—The National Football League and its players’ union on Saturday angrily denounced U.S. President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national anthem and that fans consider walking out in protest “when somebody disrespects our flag.”

    “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players,” the league commissioner, Roger Goodell, said in a statement.

    DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, tweeted: “We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports.”

    Trump, during a political rally in Alabama on Friday night, also blamed a drop in NFL ratings on the nation’s interest in “yours truly” as well as what he contended was a decline in violence in the game.

    Read more: Trump says NFL players who kneel in protest during national anthem should be fired

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    Smith said the union won’t shy away from “protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks.”

    Trump kept up his foray into the sports world on Saturday, when he responded to comments by Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, who has made it clear that he’s not interested in a traditional White House trip for the NBA champions

    “Going to the White House is considered a great honour for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Trump tweeted while spending the weekend at his golf club in New Jersey.

    It was not immediately clear whether Trump was rescinding the invitation for Curry or the entire team.

    Several athletes, including a handful of NFL players, have refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest of the treatment of blacks by police. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the trend last year when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, hasn’t been signed by an NFL team for this season.

    Trump, who once owned the New Jersey Generals of the U.S. Football League, said those players are disrespecting the American flag and deserve to lose their jobs.

    “That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” Trump said, encouraging owners to act.

    “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump said to loud applause.

    Trump also predicted that any owner who followed the presidential encouragement would become “the most popular person in this country” — at least for a week.

    The players’ union said in a statement that “no man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights. No worker nor any athlete, professional or not, should be forced to become less than human when it comes to protecting their basic health and safety.”

    The NFLPA said “the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just ‘shut up and play.’”

    Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy tweeted, “It’s really sad man” and then used an obscenity to describe Trump.

    On the issue of violence on the field, Trump said players are being thrown out for aggressive tackles, and it’s “not the same game.”

    Over the past several seasons, the NFL and college football have increased penalties and enforcement for illegal hits to the head and for hitting defenceless players. A July report on 202 former football players found evidence of a debilitating brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them. The league has agreed to pay $1 billion to retired players who claimed it misled them about the concussion dangers of playing football.

    During his campaign, Trump often expressed nostalgia for the “old days” — claiming, for example, that protesters at his rallies would have been carried out on stretchers back then. He recently suggested police officers should be rougher with criminals and shouldn’t protect their heads when pushing them into squad cars.

    It’s also not the first time he’s raised the kneeling issue. Earlier this year he took credit for the fact that Kaepernick hadn’t been signed.

    Television ratings for the NFL have been slipping since the beginning of the 2016 season. The league and observers have blamed a combination of factors, including competing coverage of last year’s presidential election, more viewers dropping cable television, fans’ discomfort with the reports of head trauma and the anthem protests.

    Ratings have been down even more in the early 2017 season, though broadcasters and the league have blamed the hurricanes that hit Florida and Texas. Still, the NFL remains by far the most popular televised sport in the United States.

    Trump said the anthem protest was the top reason NFL viewership had waned.

    “You know what’s hurting the game?” he asked. “When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem,” he said.

    Trump encouraged his supporters to pick up and leave the stadium next time they spot a player failing to stand.

    “I guarantee things will stop,” he said.

    ‘We will never back down’: NFL commissioner, players’ union denounce Trump‘We will never back down’: NFL commissioner, players’ union denounce Trump

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    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was one of the scores of people paying tribute at the funeral for Liberal MP Arnold Chan on Saturday morning in Toronto.

    Chan, the member of parliament for Scarborough-Agincourt, died of cancer this month at age 50.

    Trudeau was one of several speakers at the ceremony, along with Chan’s wife, Jean Yip, their three sons as well as childhood friends.

    Former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty read from the Bible, and many of Chan’s colleagues were honorary pallbearers, including Conservative MP Erin O’Toole and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

    Chan was remembered as principled and optimistic, a devoted family man and a talented musician, and an MP completely engrossed with the political process.

    Read more:

    In posthumous speech read by fellow MP, Arnold Chan urges good will and courage

    In an emotional tribute, Trudeau described Chan as passionate and convicted, calling him “one of the most honourable members of that House of Commons.”

    He said the last time he saw Chan, they sang Elton John’s “Your Song” together, with Chan on piano.

    “You all know that I don’t sing often, and there’s a reason for that,” Trudeau said. “But Arnold had me belting out the words while he played beautifully.

    “Arnold, your song will forever be ours.”

    Trudeau also quoted Maya Angelou: “Your legacy is every life you’ve touched.”

    “I look around this room, I look back at the days that followed the tragic news of our friend’s passing, and I see Arnold’s lasting legacy,” he said. “A legacy that goes far beyond the bills he authored or the votes he won. Far beyond the victories he celebrated and the losses he bore.”

    Chan grew up in Toronto. He earned masters degrees in political science and urban planning, and also has a law degree. He was named the Liberal Party’s deputy House leader after they took power in the 2015 federal election.

    In June he gave an impassioned speech to his fellow MPs, urging them to reject acrimonious debate and what he called “canned talking points” in favour of civility. At the time, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called the speech “truly extraordinary.”

    Chan was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma shortly after he won the Scarborough-Agincourt seat in a 2014 byelection. He began a difficult treatment regime of radiation and chemotherapy, but revealed in March 2016 the cancer had returned.

    His funeral was jointly officiated by Toronto MP Rob Oliphant, an ordained minister, as well as Rev. Sarah Chapman. Other politicians in attendance were Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

    Trudeau pays tribute at funeral for Liberal MP Arnold ChanTrudeau pays tribute at funeral for Liberal MP Arnold Chan

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    A TTC board member is warning that the city is at risk of “cheaping out” on a key waterfront transit connection, as it mulls proposals to scrap streetcar service to Union Station in favour of less costly alternatives.

    At a public meeting about waterfront transit plans on Monday night, the city unveiled a set of three options to overhaul the tunnel that links the station and Queens Quay.

    Streetcars running on the western waterfront currently operate in the 530-metre tunnel and terminate at Union. But with a new East Bayfront streetcar line planned, the existing underground infrastructure can’t handle the extra service.

    The three options being proposed to link Union and Queens Quay are: expanding the tunnel to accommodate the additional streetcars; replacing the streetcar tracks with a below-ground pedestrian walkway; or, in what would be a first of its kind project in Toronto, installing an underground cable car.

    Read more: If it’s worth spending billions to build a subway in Scarborough it’s worth properly linking the waterfront to Union: Keenan

    Expanding the tunnel and preserving the streetcar service would be the most expensive option — previous estimates indicate it would cost at least $270 million. It’s also the only one that would provide seamless transit access between the waterfront and Union. Under the other two proposals, streetcars would operate east and west along Queens Quay but not travel north to the station.

    Councillor Joe Mihevc, who sits on the TTC board, argued the city would be foolish not to maintain the streetcar link. He said it’s the only option that improves transit, while the other two are aimed at keeping costs low.

    “This is not a project that we should frankly cheap out on,” he said, describing the other proposals as “second-rate.”

    The high cost of expanding the tunnel is driven by the complex underground work it would require, including expanding the streetcar loop beneath Union Station to accommodate additional boarding platforms, and the creation of a second tunnel entrance on Queens Quay east of Yonge St.

    “It is a lot of money but . . . it is worth every penny, considering what we’re building south of Front St.,” said Mihevc. “The congestion in that area will be unrelenting.”

    The number of residents and jobs on Toronto’s waterfront is expected to grow by about 470,000 over the next 25 years. Planners predict that by 2041, there will be 10,000 people headed south from Union Station in the morning rush hour.

    Nigel Tahair, a program manager for transportation planning at the city, said all three proposals meet the waterfront study’s threshold of accommodating at least 7,000 people per hour.

    But he acknowledged that “the experience of using these three different systems will obviously be quite different.”

    Under the pedestrian walkway option, it would take the average person at least six minutes to walk from Union to Queens Quay through the tunnel. A moving sidewalk of the type commonly seen in airports would speed up the trip, but there is only space in the eight-metre-wide tunnel for one of the devices.

    That means the moving sidewalk would operate in one direction in the morning and then in the opposite direction in the afternoon. People not travelling the peak direction would be stuck in the slow lane, on a regular walkway beside the moving sidewalk.

    Tahair said a moving sidewalk that only travels in one direction is “obviously a shortcoming,” but the proposal does have the potential to offer connections to the PATH network at midpoints between Union and Queens Quay.

    “We need transit service, but we also need really good, high-quality pedestrian links in the network. They’re complementary,” he said.

    The underground funicular, the most unorthodox of the proposals, would operate on a cable-pulled system within the existing streetcar tunnel. The driverless cars would travel at 36 km/h, operate at one-minute intervals and have a peak capacity of 8,250 people in each direction per hour.

    Tahair said the main drawback would be that people trying to switch between train service at Union and the streetcar line on Queens Quay would have to make two transfers.

    “People generally don’t like transfers, so that’s a negative experience,” he said.

    The city planning department, Waterfront Toronto, and the TTC are working together on the waterfront transit study. According to Mihevc, there “is a vigorous debate” among them on which option is best.

    TTC spokesperson Brad Ross declined to comment on which one the transit agency favours, saying it will wait until city staff release their final recommendations.

    A spokesperson for Mayor John Tory also said it was too early to weigh in.

    A report detailing all three options is expected to go before Tory’s executive committee in October. Tahair said he hoped the city, Waterfront Toronto and the TTC will select a preferred option within months.

    Proposals to link Queens Quay and Union Station include a moving sidewalk, a cable car or more streetcarsProposals to link Queens Quay and Union Station include a moving sidewalk, a cable car or more streetcars

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    Walk south on High Park Ave. in the Junction from Dundas St. toward Bloor St. and you’ll see detached houses rubbing shoulders with humbler semis and walk-up apartments.

    “You’ve got it all right there,” says Toronto urban planner Sean Galbraith.

    High Park Ave. is a model street, he says, when it comes to one of the hottest topics in the Toronto region’s pervasive housing conversation. It’s a rare example of “the missing middle,” a planning term for homes that fall between a single detached house and a mid-rise apartment building. It includes semis, laneway homes, secondary suites and townhouses. In some settings, small apartment buildings are also considered part of the missing middle.

    It’s the kind of housing that a growing number of politicians, planners and urbanists say we need to build if we’re going to encourage gentle densities and make the region’s prized neighbourhoods vital and accessible to young families.

    It’s not that this type of housing doesn’t exist. It’s just too scarce for the growing number of young families who can’t afford a detached house but want to live close to transit, shops and schools.

    Zoning rules have shut missing middle homes out of large swathes of the city. There are about 20,000 hectares where it’s virtually impossible to build anything except single-family detached houses, said Galbraith. (Toronto covers just over 64,000 hectares.)

    The average Toronto household is 2.4 people.

    "If you added a single duplex per hectare, you've made room for like 48,000 extra people and not changed neighbourhood character one bit," he says.

    "Make it a triplex and that goes up to 72,000 extra people. If you're outside of the former city of Toronto and you see a lot that has a single house on it, odds are very, very, very good that the underlying zoning says that's basically all you're allowed to put on it," said Galbraith.

    “I can’t remember the last time somebody built a small walk-up apartment like a four-plex, something like you see in Parkdale or the old Annex,” he said.

    Galbraith blames the city’s official plan for freezing neighbourhoods to protect against the block-busting of the 1960s. That’s when developers bought up homes, tore them down and built apartment towers in the middle of established areas.

    Now, he said, “You can knock a bungalow down and build a two- or three-storey house as long as there’s only one unit in it. Doesn’t matter if it’s the scale of the neighbours or not, which makes no sense to me.”

    It's not that time has stood still in Toronto. City council has adopted a report setting standards for laneway suites. City planners have been focused on avenues such as Eglinton, making them more transit-oriented, walkable and bike friendly. Missing-middle advocates admit the city can't do everything at once.

    But they also recognize it is difficult for politicians to persuade home-owning constituents that gently increasing the density of their neighbourhoods with missing middle housing won't erode their property values.

    The 905 communities surrounding Toronto are often seen as an affordable alternative to families who can’t afford to buy in the city. But like many global cities, even Toronto’s commuter communities are becoming prohibitively expensive.

    A stacked townhome in Brampton might go for $300,000 or $400,000. It sounds like a lot, but in today’s housing market that’s relatively affordable, said Michael Collins-Williams, director of policy at the Ontario Home Builders Association.

    Space and distance are two inevitable compromises of the region’s rising property values. “Even with this missing middle, they’ll have to accept less space,” he said.

    It helps that there’s a spreading ethos embracing the idea that smaller is better and rejecting the accumulation of stuff, said Collins-Williams.

    “Housing is much more expensive now in terms of the multipliers of average income. If you want the space, you’re going to have to compromise on location and live far, far away from the city to afford the traditional subdivision,” he said. “If you’re willing to compromise on space, you may be able to get a better location. You could ride transit instead of having a car.”

    To meet provincial growth targets, Mississauga has been building its own vibrant skyscraping downtown. But without more stacked and back-to-back townhomes and small apartment buildings, Mayor Bonnie Crombie fears her city will be missing another middle — the middle-class families with annual incomes between $50,000 and $100,000, for whom Mississauga has traditionally been a destination.

    So the city has developed a missing middle strategy with zoning and tax provisions to encourage the development of affordable — not just subsidized — housing.

    “Many middle-income households in Mississauga are struggling to enter the housing and rental market due to rising prices. One in three households are spending more than 30 per cent of their gross household income on housing, which is considered unaffordable,” Crombie told a Peel Region housing summit this year.

    But a lack of data may be undermining the suspected urgency behind the need for more missing middle homes, said Cherise Burda, executive director of the Ryerson City Building Institute.

    “We have over 100,000 multi-unit homes coming down the pipe over the next five years. The question is, are we building the right type of housing?

    “We’re building a lot of studios and one-bedrooms in high rises but is that for families or is it a lot of building for investment?” she said.

    If we aren’t building for families, there’s nowhere for millennials to go once they leave their small condos except farther away from their jobs, transit and existing infrastructure. It adds to congestion and puts more pressure on the limited supply of family-friendly housing in urban centres.

    “When you talk about affordability, it’s the housing that’s in our more location-efficient neighbourhoods that is holding more value. If we don’t build more of that appropriate housing, we’ll gut out the city and young families will have to live away,” said Burda.

    The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation measures the number of condos built, but it doesn’t break down their size or whether they are high-rise apartments or stacked townhouses.

    The province sets growth targets, but the ministry of housing told the Toronto Star that it’s up to municipalities to forecast their own needs and track the kind of housing built there.

    But a senior researcher with the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development at Ryerson University says the Toronto area is behind other Canadian cities in building the missing middle.

    “Twenty per cent of (housing) completions in 2016 were in the missing middle in the GTA, compared to 30 per cent in both Calgary and Vancouver and 43 per cent in Montreal,” wrote Diana Petramala in a recent blog post.

    Other cities, including San Francisco and New York, are also promoting the missing middle, says urban policy consultant Brian Kelcey.

    “The difference in Toronto is, there is a real sense from people who work on smaller developments that the city and city planners and prominent urbanists are talking a lot about this but they’re not actually doing anything,” he said.

    Kelcey points to North Vancouver, where residential, detached housing lots have been re-zoned to allow for the building of up to three units.

    “There is no such thing as a one-home lot in North Vancouver,” he said.

    But missing-middle housing isn’t an overnight solution to the Toronto region’s sprawl and affordability challenges. It’s part of an evolution, not a radical makeover, stressed Galbraith.

    “This is a 20-year idea, not a two-year idea. It would allow neighbourhoods to evolve and reflect basic demographic changes. We don’t have as many kids as we used to, so why do we need a five-bedroom house with one person living in it when that person could replace it with a duplex? They still live there, sell the other half or rent it out,” he said.

    “I can’t think of any real valid reason we wouldn’t want to do this from a public perspective.”

    Stacking the deck

    When the Hampshire Mews townhomes hit the market in Richmond Hill about four years ago, the buyers weren’t exactly lined up at the developer’s door.

    “It took a little while for people to get their heads around the product type,” said Bob Finnigan, chief operating officer of Herity Homes, which owned the two-acre site near Yonge St. and Elgin Mills Rd.

    It was the conventional townhouses in the complex, with a garage in the front and a patio at the back, that sold first. The stacked towns — 42 of the 60 units — were a newer commodity. They had less outdoor space and the garage was at the rear.

    Hampshire Mews was among the first stacked town developments in Richmond Hill and the first for Herity’s Heathwood Homes division.

    But in the two years since the Mews was built, that format has been increasingly recognized as an important solution in creating the population densities the province demands through its recently updated anti-sprawl growth plan.

    Priced and built to provide an option between high-rise and single-family detached houses, stacked and back-to-back towns are more familiar to buyers now, said Finnigan, a past president of the Canadian Home Builders Association.

    “This would sell faster (today) because people understand what’s available. If they go from a 600-square-foot or 700-square-foot apartment to ground level (homes), this helps them make that transition,” he said.

    At Hampshire Mews, there are three homes in a series of 30-foot-wide modules. Two two-level units of about 1,400 square feet occupy the upper levels. A third entry leads to a bungalow “flat” of about 1,100 square feet.

    Occupants have to climb a short set of stairs from their garage to the lower bungalow unit and an additional staircase to the upper units. Recently, builders have begun making stacked home modules wider and shallower to eliminate at least one set of stairs, said Finnigan.

    Each unit has parking for two cars — one in the driveway and one in the garage — and York Region’s new bus rapid transit system is a short walk away on Yonge St.

    The bigger homes have a tiny square of green at the front. The flats have balconies. Two landscaped parkettes with benches in the middle act as communal gardens. They didn’t install playground equipment because it seldom gets used, said Finnigan.

    It’s a myth that builders only want to construct single-family detached homes, he said. The profit on stacked towns is about the same because you can put more homes on the same piece of land — about twice as many as conventional towns.

    But the stacked homes are more difficult to build and design because of the horizontal and vertical separations between the units. Heat flows up, not down. The heating systems have been built into closets in the upper units and off the garage in the lower ones.

    Strict municipal planning rules in the Toronto region dictate road widths and other external design elements allowing for fire, ambulance and garbage truck access, meaning the actual bricks and mortar of the homes cover about 45 to 50 per cent of the site.

    But in California, some builders are finding ways to make 85 per cent of a site available for housing itself. One California development has built park-like trails through its complexes. Another has devised narrow side patios in place of rear and front yards.

    Why High Park Ave. may be Toronto’s ideal streetWhy High Park Ave. may be Toronto’s ideal street

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    MONTREAL—More than 150 people gathered in front of Montreal’s Spanish consulate Saturday to express their solidarity with the Catalan independence movement.

    Organizers also denounced what they describe as the Canadian government’s timid response to the intensifying Spanish crackdown ahead of a planned referendum on Oct. 1.

    The Spanish government has increased its suppression of the independence vote with the arrests of a dozen regional officials Wednesday and the seizure of 10 million ballot papers.

    Regional government officials, including Catalonia’s president, so far have vowed to ignore a constitutional court order to suspend the referendum on Catalan independence from Spain.

    The rally in Montreal was organized by a Quebec sovereigntist group and was attended by several separatist politicians, including the leaders of the Bloc Québécois and the Parti Québécois.

    Others in the crowd said they weren’t Quebec separatists, but were present because they believe the Catalan government has the right to consult its population.

    Read more:

    Students occupy Barcelona university in support of Catalan secession

    Parti Québécois wants Quebec government to denounce Spanish crackdown on Catalonia

    Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée said he couldn’t explain why the Quebec and Canadian governments have refused to denounce the Spanish government’s actions.

    “When democratic rights are suppressed, whether it’s in South Africa, Ukraine, Russia, China, we’re there,” he said at the rally.

    “We don’t understand why (Quebec Premier) Philippe Couillard and (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau are there for South Africa, for China, for Ukraine, but they aren’t there for the Catalans.”

    Couillard said this week that he’s “very preoccupied” by the situation, but did not go further in condemning Madrid.

    Trudeau, when questioned, has stressed the importance of the right to self-determination and the rule of law, but has said he doesn’t want to intervene in what he described as an internal debate.

    Two Catalan-Quebecers who attended the rally said they hope the Canadian government will change its position and speak up.

    “We need other government to say something because internally, we can’t do anything,” Ferran Llacer said.

    He and his girlfriend, Laia Blanco, plan to travel to Spain next week to try to vote in the referendum.

    “We want to know how many of us want to be a different country,” Blanco said. “Just count us.”

    Montrealers rally in solidarity with Catalan independence movementMontrealers rally in solidarity with Catalan independence movement

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    OTTAWA—The head of Canada’s autoworkers union predicted NAFTA renegotiation talks would end in failure after U.S. negotiators arrived Saturday for Round 3 without setting out precise demands for how exactly the Trump administration wants to boost the made-in-America manufacturing sector.

    “I’m convinced that the U.S. doesn’t want a deal, not before Christmas,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias told the Star. “It is impossible … they’re too far apart” more than a month and a half after negotiators first sat down for in-depth discussions in Washington, he said.

    Steve Verheul, the chief Canadian negotiator, said it was too early to say whether significant progress overall could be made in the Ottawa round, a comment echoed by Mexico’s chief negotiator, Kenneth Smith Ramos. “We’re just starting,” Ramos told reporters. “I have no comments on the actual meetings.”

    Dias predicted the deal would come together in 2018, closer to the U.S. congressional mid-term elections in November. Meanwhile, he said, the Trump administration talks tough for show, to curry political popularity, but is unlikely to get Canada or, for that matter, Mexico to “capitulate.”

    Canada didn’t put higher labour standards (which would also affect Mexico as well as so-called “right-to-work” states that curb collective bargaining rights in the U.S.) on the table “just to fill time,” Dias said. And Mexico is determined not to change its rock-bottom labour and environmental standards, which underpin its low-wage non-unionized work force, he said, “so we are heading on a philosophical collision course.”

    Trade lawyer Lawrence Herman disagreed that the U.S. was deliberately stalling. “These are very complex issues,” he said, and the U.S. Trade Representatives office is obliged to consult with the U.S. Congress and its “complex constituencies” along the way.

    “The Americans have to show that they put, from their perspective, a serious proposition on the table on every issue, they can’t play games … I would think it’s more a question of sorting out the details of what they want to ask and ensuring they’ve lined up all the various constituencies in Washington.”

    Regardless, Herman, one of Canada’s top experts on international trade, also sounded a pessimistic note about the prospect for success, given the “egregious” comments by Donald Trump about NAFTA to date. “He’s basically saying we’re going to walk if you don’t agree to our position. The other two parties are saying, ‘OK, what’s your position?’”

    “At some point,” Herman said, “the Americans will put some extremely tough demands responding to an America-First agenda and that’s going to cause significant difficulty in completing these negotiations.”

    “I think these will become extremely nasty and difficult negotiations as things continue.

    Besides the lack of exact demands about the manufacturing sector, the U.S. team has also not presented specific demands regarding Canada’s supply-managed agricultural sectors — dairy and poultry — despite those also being high on the U.S. hit list for a new NAFTA, said Gary Stordy, a spokesperson for the Canadian Pork Council. Agriculture is on the agenda for detailed talks Tuesday and Wednesday.

    Read more:

    Environment minister confident Canada’s green goals can be met in new NAFTA

    Canada nervous about U.S. NAFTA proposal on auto content

    Getting a NAFTA deal by 2018 is within reach: Canadian officials

    Canadian government officials downplayed the significance of the lack of clarification from the U.S. side. They said with four more days remaining, there was time left for the U.S. to provide more specifics.

    Verheul told reporters Saturday he did not expect the American team to lay out specific text for new “rules of origin” for the auto sector during this round. And Verheul said he was “doubtful” the three-way negotiations will close or sign off on a final version for a chapter on the environment either, despite a U.S. official’s earlier suggestion that “significant progress” had been made and could be finalized in Ottawa.

    Those are two of the contentious issues on the agenda at the Ottawa round. A copy of the schedule of negotiations, obtained by the Star, shows a range of Canada’s top priorities will be dealt with this week, including digital trade, environment, labour and gender.

    But there is no negotiating table devoted to another Canadian objective: a chapter to recognize Indigenous rights within a new trade agreement.

    And two of the big U.S. priorities are up for detailed discussion only later in this round. Negotiators will do a deep dive on “rules of origin” and “trade remedies and dispute settlement” only on Tuesday and Wednesday.

    Rules of origin for the auto sector — NAFTA now requires 62.5 per cent of autos and auto parts to be made in North America for tariff-free status — “will be a subject for discussion, but we’re not expecting to see anything radically new at this point,” Verheul said.

    U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wrote an opinion column Friday in the Washington Post saying the top priority was boosting American jobs in the auto sector.

    “The declining U.S. share of content in imports from Canada and Mexico puts those jobs at risk. The United States accounts for an overwhelming share of the total NAFTA auto market today — 83 percent, in fact — yet American workers are not reaping the benefits of that purchasing power,” Ross wrote.

    “If we don’t fix the rules of origin, negotiations on the rest of the agreement will fail to meaningfully shift the trade imbalance. Our nation’s ballooning trade deficit has gutted American manufacturing, killed jobs and sapped our wealth. That is going to change under President Trump, and rules of origin are just the beginning.”

    Flavio Volpe, of the Canadian Auto Parts Manufacturers Association, disagreed with Dias’s assessment, saying, “The longer they take the better we feel about it.” He said the U.S. Trade Representative’s office is working hard with American industry to understand the dynamics of tougher U.S. content rules, and Volpe said it will realize its own workers would suffer from them.

    Dias is not a fan of NAFTA and wouldn’t shed crocodile tears over its demise because he believes it has favoured Mexico to the detriment of Canadian and U.S. autoworkers. He suggests a Canada-U.S. free trade agreement would be the default backstop if NAFTA fails, and that would provide better protection for workers.

    Nevertheless, Unifor is a key stakeholder and Dias is in close consultation with the Canadian government as talks proceed.

    Dias said Canadians expected more as this round got underway.

    “From what I understand they (the U.S.) were supposed to drop the entire text this time around,” Dias said. “They haven’t dropped one piece of paper yet.”

    “They’ll want a deal, but not before Christmas, just leading up to the (congressional) elections, so they’re going to show they were tough, they cancelled NAFTA, they walked away, and that’s all completely loaded in the U.S.’s favour. So this thing is going nowhere and if I’m the Canadian government, I’d just relax, there’s no need bargaining with themselves.”

    For now, the negotiating teams are racing through talks on an accelerated schedule. Usually weeks or months can pass between rounds of international trade negotiations.

    In the case of NAFTA, there are just two or three weeks scheduled between meetings.

    Mexico’s lead negotiator, Ramos, said he expects successive NAFTA negotiation rounds to go ahead as scheduled despite devastating earthquakes that have hit Mexico City.

    “Unfortunately, it’s been a traumatic experience for the country, but we haven't had any impact in terms of the negotiations,” Ramos said. “Fortunately all of the negotiating teams and their families are okay and we’re working on that basis.”

    “We have our schedule from now till the end of the year and that will be maintained for now.”

    Ramos was part of Mexico’s negotiating team on the original NAFTA agreement.

    Emily Davis, a spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, said “significant progress” has already been made in the areas of the environment, small and medium-size enterprise and competition.

    “How many chapters will actually close is to be determined but there are areas where significant progress has been made and so that’s part of the goal of this round,” Davis said.

    Here are the topics at the negotiating table at Round 3 in Ottawa.

    Saturday: Customs, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, cross border trade in services, government procurement, digital trade, anti-corruption, environment, gender, and small and medium size enterprise, financial services

    Sunday: customs, textiles, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, cross border trade in services, government procurement, digital trade, environment, state-owned enterprises, financial services, good regulatory practices, legal and institutional issues

    Monday: textiles, goods, competition, telecoms, state owned enterprise, temporary entry rules, environment, good regulatory practices, technical barriers to trade, legal and institutional issues

    Tuesday: rules of origin, goods, agriculture, energy, investment, intellectual property, telecoms, temporary entry, labour, technical barriers to trade

    Wednesday: rules of origin, agriculture, investment, intellectual property, trade remedies and dispute settlement, labour, sectoral annexes

    U.S. fails to deliver demands for next round of NAFTA talksU.S. fails to deliver demands for next round of NAFTA talks

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    Standing on the easternmost riverside city of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in the shadow a Burmese horizon that’s still on fire, Zaid Al-Rawni watched small boats crossing the treacherous waters full of people. They’d go back empty and come back with more people.

    A regular and steady flow of dead bodies came alongside the boats, as Bangladeshi men and women wait on the other side to bury them.

    On the opposite bank, queues of people, as far as Al-Rawni could see, were waiting their turn to cross the river, dead or alive.

    “It was chaos, complete chaos,” he said. “When I got there (early last week) the numbers were in the (high) 200,000s. By the time I left, they were talking about 400,000 people who had crossed.”

    Al-Rawni is the CEO of Islamic Relief Canada, an aid organization that has been working in the area since May 2008 when cyclone Nargis caused the worst natural disaster in Burmese history. Islamic Relief and the Canadian chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America are the only Canadian aid agencies to have gained access to one of the world’s biggest refugee crisis.

    Together, they have distributed thousands of food packages, tens of thousands of donations from Canadians and started building shelter.

    Read More:

    10 photos from Bangladesh camps, 10 stories of Rohingya desperation

    Fires continue in Rohingya villages in Burma, Amnesty International says

    Rohingya Muslims being wiped off Burma’s map

    “The most dangerous thing for this community right now is hygiene,” Al-Rawni said. More than 420,000 people “just showed up overnight. Where are they defecating? Where are they washing their hands?”

    With heavy rains constantly pouring in Bangladesh, Al-Rawni is worried by “the real potential for an insane cholera outbreak, worse than Yemen, if we don’t move fast.”

    Shaukat Hussain, a member of ICNA Canada, agrees. Camps have had to be evacuated because of heavy rains, he said from Cox’s Bazaar. Landslides have made the temporary tents impossible to live in and forced people to sleep on open roads.

    “It’s a matter of humanity suffering and if organizations like the UN and powerful countries do not intervene soon, then, definitely, (the Rohingya) will be eliminated,” Hussain said.

    Typically, it takes six or seven weeks after a crisis to set up a fully functional refugee camp with the right volume of aid. Both Al-Rawni and Hussain estimate that hundreds of millions of dollars will be needed to set up a camp with facilities adequate for people of this scale.

    Normally this happens under one of the UN agencies, Al-Rawni said. “The UN doesn’t have the capacity to do the work, but they have the capacity to co-ordinate everyone.”

    Islamic Relief and ICNA, along with a handful of international aid agencies including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, Save the Children and Oxfam, are waiting for the Bangladeshi government to decide where the Rohingya refugees will be staying, and to issue the paperwork that will allow these agencies to start work.

    For now, the Rohingya “have no life in Bangladesh,” Hussain said. “It’s just like they’re living in Burma. They do not have the fear of death, but they have fears of social and medical problems.”

    Al-Rawni has a list of 30 people — and growing — who are waiting for the green light to go to Cox’s Bazaar in southeastern Bangladesh near the border with Burma. Among them are mental-health counsellors, engineers and general do-gooders.

    Hussain said aid agencies need to focus on education and development to help the Rohingya survive into the next generation. He wants industrialists to look into the area to create jobs and donations to create schools.

    He is also worried for those still stuck in Burma, where aid agencies are still not permitted to enter.

    “We do not know yet what their condition is,” Hussain said. “In my last visit, in 2015, they were alive. They were living in bad conditions, but they were alive. Now we just don’t know.”

    Al-Rawni and Hussain said there is no official support from the Bangladeshi government at the moment. At present, local communities and private individuals from within the country have banded together to offer as much as they can.

    “Obviously, its one of the poorest countries and they don’t have the means to look after that many people for that long,” Al-Rawni said, “but they are doing a phenomenal job right now of being good neighbours.”

    Canadian aid workers describe chaos at Rohingya border campCanadian aid workers describe chaos at Rohingya border camp

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    WASHINGTON—Pyongyang’s top envoy told the UN General Assembly on Saturday that a strike against the U.S. mainland was “inevitable.”

    The reason wasn’t that U.S. B-1 bombers, escorted by fighter jets, were flying over international waters near North Korea at the time, but that the U.S. president had mocked the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un with the belittling name “little Rocket Man.”

    In a show of U.S. military might to North Korea, Washington sent bombers and fighter escorts beyond the Demilitarized Zone on Saturday, to the farthest point north by any such U.S. aircraft this century. The Pentagon said the mission showed how seriously President Donald Trump takes North Korea’s “reckless behaviour.”

    “This mission is a demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” a Defence Department spokesman, Dana White, said in a statement.

    “North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies,” White said.

    At the United Nations, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said his country’s nuclear force is “to all intents and purposes, a war deterrent for putting an end to nuclear threat of the U.S. and for preventing its military invasion, and our ultimate goal is to establish the balance of power with the U.S.”

    He also said Trump’s depiction of Kim as “Rocket Man” makes “our rocket’s visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more.”

    Ri called the U.S. president “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania and complacency” with his finger on the “nuclear button.” And he said Trump’s “reckless and violent words” had provoked “the supreme dignity” of North Korea.

    Ri said that during his eight months in power, Trump had turned the White House “into a noisy marketing place” and now he has tried to turn the United Nations “into a gangsters’ nest where money is respected and bloodshed is the order of the day.”

    Kim has said Trump would “pay dearly” for threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea if the U.S. was forced to defend itself or its allies against a North Korean attack. Ri told reporters this past week that the North’s response to Trump “could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific.”

    Read more:

    Kim Jong Un threatens hydrogen bomb test after Trump calls for total destruction of North Korea

    Trump’s threat like the sound of dog barking, says North Korean foreign minister

    North Korea has said it intends to build a missile capable of striking all parts of the United States with a nuclear bomb. Trump has said he won’t allow it, although the U.S. so far has not used military force to impede the North’s progress.

    B-1 bombers are no longer part of the U.S. nuclear force, but they are capable of dropping large numbers of conventional bombs.

    U.S. Pacific Command would not be more specific about how many years it had been since U.S. bombers and fighters had flown that far north of the DMZ, but a spokesperson, navy Cmdr. Dave Benham, noted that this century “encompasses the period North Korea has been testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.”

    Trump on Friday had renewed his rhetorical offensive against Kim.

    “Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!” the president tweeted.

    On Thursday, Trump announced more economic sanctions against the impoverished and isolated country, targeting foreign companies that deal with the North.

    “North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development is a grave threat to peace and security in our world and it is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime,” Trump said as he joined Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a meeting in New York.

    Hours later, Kim responded by saying Trump was “deranged.”

    In a speech last week at the United Nations, Trump had issued the warning of potential obliteration and mocked the North’s young autocrat as a “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission.”

    Trump’s executive order expanded the Treasury Department’s ability to target anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea, and to ban them from interacting with the U.S. financial system.

    Trump also said China was imposing major banking sanctions, too, but there was no immediate confirmation from the North’s most important trading partner.

    If enforced, the Chinese action Trump described could severely impede the isolated North’s ability to raise money for its missile and nuclear development. China, responsible for about 90 per cent of North Korea’s trade, serves as the country’s conduit to the international banking system.

    U.S. flies bomber, fighter mission off North Korean coastU.S. flies bomber, fighter mission off North Korean coast

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump went to Alabama on Friday to deliver a speech in support of his chosen candidate, Luther Strange, in the Republican primary for the state’s open Senate seat.

    He made false claims about Strange. He made false claims about the crowd. He made false claims about Alabama itself. All in all, it was a vintage Trump rally performance: 16 false claims in all.

    On Monday, we’ll do a full update tallying up all of his false claims from the last week. 604.Counting the rally alone, though, the president has now made 604 false claims over 246 days in office — an average of 2.5 false claims per day.

    Trump has proven uniquely willing to lie, exaggerate and mislead. By all expert accounts, he is more frequently inaccurate than any of his predecessors.

    Read more:

    How Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale fact-checks Trump

    We are keeping track. Below is a list of every false claim Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20.

    Why call them false claims, not lies? We can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional; in some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not telling the truth.

    Last updated: Sept. 23, 2017

    Donald Trump makes 16 false claims at Alabama rallyDonald Trump makes 16 false claims at Alabama rally

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