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    Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, both dentists in New Delhi, were convicted of murder in 2013 after their daughter Aarushi Talwar was found dead on her bed in New Delhi in 2008.

    Couple accused of killing daughter Aarushi Talwar has been acquittedCouple accused of killing daughter Aarushi Talwar has been acquitted

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    Boyle, 34, and Coleman, 31, were kidnapped by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network in October 2012. Coleman was five-months pregnant at the time and the couple was backpacking through Central Asia.

    Kidnapped Canadian family released after 5 years of being held hostageKidnapped Canadian family released after 5 years of being held hostage

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    A 15-year-old boy and his 30-year-old alleged getaway driver have been arrested following a string of 10 bank robberies over a two-month period, Toronto police said Wednesday.

    The holdups happened at banks in Etobicoke and northwest Toronto between Aug. 10 and Oct. 6, police said. Investigators allege the teen, wearing sunglasses and a hoodie, approached bank tellers with a note demanding cash and saying he had a gun.

    The pair was arrested Oct. 6, the same day police allege they committed two bank robberies in just over an hour.

    The first that day happened at 11:40 a.m. at Jane St. and St. Clair Ave. W, in the Runnymede area, while the second happened at 12:48 p.m. at Lakeshore Blvd. W. and Mimico Ave. in Etobicoke.

    The other holdups happened in the mid-morning or afternoon hours, police said.

    In August, police allege the pair committed four robberies — at Kipling Ave. and Rexdale Blvd. on Aug. 10, at Weston Rd. and Finch Ave. W. on Aug. 17, at Avenue Rd. and Lawrence Ave. W. on Aug. 22 and at Weston Rd. and Eglinton Ave. W. on Aug. 31.

    The next holdup happened the day after, on Sept. 1, near Allen and Rimrock Rds. Another took place Sept. 10 near St. Clair Ave. W and Oakwood Ave.

    On Sept. 19, police allege the pair committed two robberies, again in the span of an hour. One happened at St. Clair Ave. W. and Lansdowne Ave. at 10:57 a.m., while the next took place near Eglinton Ave. W. and Marlee Ave. at 11:50 a.m.

    The 15-year-old has been charged with 10 counts of disguise with intent to commit a crime and 10 counts of robbery. Leonard Peralta, 30, was charged with dangerous driving and 10 counts of robbery.

    The pair appeared in court at Old City Hall on Saturday.

    Teen, 15, and alleged getaway driver, 30, arrested in 10 bank robberiesTeen, 15, and alleged getaway driver, 30, arrested in 10 bank robberies

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    WASHINGTON - Frustrated by failures in Congress, U.S. President Donald Trump is moving to put his own stamp on health care with an executive order Thursday that aims to make lower-premium plans more widely available.

    But the changes Trump hopes to bring about could take months or even longer, according to administration officials who outlined the order for reporters Thursday morning. The proposals may not be finalized in time to affect coverage for 2019, let alone next year.

    White House domestic policy director Andrew Bremberg stressed that Trump still believes Congress needs to repeal and replace the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. The White House described the order as first steps.

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    Why it would take so long: The proposals have to go through the federal government’s rule-making process, which involves public notice and comment, and that can take time.

    Administration officials say one of the main ideas is to ease the way for groups and associations to sponsor coverage that can be marketed across the land, reflecting Trump’s longstanding belief that interstate competition will lead to lower premiums for consumers who buy their own health insurance policies, as well as for small businesses.

    Those “association health plans” could be shielded from state and federal requirements such as mandates for coverage of certain standard benefits, equal pricing regardless of a customer’s health status, and no dollar limits on how much the insurer would pay out.

    Other elements of the White House proposal may include:

    • Easing current restrictions on short-term policies that last less than a year, an option for people making a life transition, from recent college graduates to early retirees.

    • Allowing employers to set aside pre-tax dollars so workers can use the money to buy an individual health policy.

    Read more:

    Senate Republicans give up on latest health bill vote

    Trump slams McCain, McConnell over health care in radio interview

    U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence blasts ‘failings’ of Canadian health system

    “This executive order is the start of a long process as the gears of the federal bureaucracy churn, not the final word,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

    It’s also unlikely to reverse the trend of insurers exiting state markets. About half of U.S. counties will have only one “Obamacare” insurer next year, although it appears that no counties will be left without a carrier as was initially feared. White House officials said over time, the policies flowing from the president’s order will give consumers more options.

    Democrats are bracing for another effort by Trump to dismantle “Obamacare,” this time relying on the rule-making powers of the executive branch. Staffers at the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury have been working on the options since shortly after the president took office.

    The president’s move is also likely to encounter opposition from medical associations, consumer groups and perhaps even some insurers — the same coalition that so far has blocked congressional Republicans from repealing Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

    State attorneys general and state insurance regulators may try to block the administration in court, seeing the plan as a challenge to their traditional oversight authority.

    As Trump himself once said, health care is complicated and working his will won’t be as easy as signing a presidential order.

    Experts say the executive order probably won’t have much impact on premiums for 2018, which are expected to be sharply higher in many states for people buying their own policies.

    Sponsors would have to be found to offer and market the new style association plans, and insurers would have to step up to design and administer them. For insurers, this would come at a time when much of the industry seems to have embraced the consumer protections required by the Obama health law.

    Depending on the scope of regulations that flow from Trump’s order, some experts say the alternatives the White House is promoting could draw healthy people away from “Obamacare” insurance markets, making them less viable for consumers and insurers alike

    But conservatives such as Sen. Rand Paul believe the federal government has overstepped its bounds in regulating the private health insurance market. They argue that loosening federal rules would allow insurers to design plans that — although they may not cover as much — work perfectly well for many people.

    About 17 million people buying individual health insurance policies are the main focus of Trump’s order. Nearly 9 million of those consumers receive tax credits under the Obama law and are protected from higher premiums.

    But those who get no subsidies are exposed to the full brunt of cost increases that could reach well into the double digits in many states next year. Many in this latter group are solid middle-class, including self-employed business people and early retirees. Cutting their premiums has been a longstanding political promise for Republicans.

    LIVE: Trump to issue executive order aiming to boost lower-premium health insurance plansLIVE: Trump to issue executive order aiming to boost lower-premium health insurance plans

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump was having a relatively quiet week of dishonesty. Then he did a couple of interviews.

    Trump made 11 false claims in a 50-minute interview with Forbes magazine last Friday. He made 11 more in a 28-minute quasi-interview with ardent supporter Mike Huckabee, which aired Saturday on Christian television station Trinity Broadcasting.

    All in all, Trump made 34 false claims last week. That is not quite the record he set the previous week, 40, but still a whole lot.

    All together, he made 688 false claims over his first 262 days in office — an average of 2.6 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: Oct. 12, 2017

    Donald Trump makes 11 false claims in Forbes interview, 11 more in sit-down with HuckabeeDonald Trump makes 11 false claims in Forbes interview, 11 more in sit-down with Huckabee

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    Ian Dwight Gray pleaded guilty to allegations of misconduct and abusive behaviour dating back to 2006, at an Ontario College of Teachers hearing on Thursday.

    The now-retired Toronto teacher was not present for the hearing as lawyer Shane D’Souza detailed a joint submission for the panel, which he called misconduct, verbal, physical and psychological or emotional abuse.

    The allegations began in 2006 at the MukiBaum Accessibility Centre: a facility for students with complex disabilities, where Gray used his foot to “make contact” with a ball a student sat on. The student then fell to the floor.

    An investigation was launched by the principal and vice-principal in 2007, after parent and staff complaints about Gray’s behaviour. He didn’t agree to an allegation about being found alone with a student with the door nearly shut. But, D’Souza said, Gray agreed that he’d acted inappropriately.

    The incident was one of many alleged at MukiBaum. Gray was seen at one point “totally surrounding” a student crying in the hallway, D’Souza said, and told another that, based on his behaviour, he was a candidate for jail.

    The student had family in a correctional facility at the time, D’Souza said.

    Gray was given a two day suspension without pay after the investigation, and assigned to another school in Toronto. At Keele Street Public School, though, alarms were raised about Gray again from 2010 to 2013.

    He left red marks on a young girl after physically restraining her. At one point, he raised a guitar over his head, saying “I oughta!” to a group of students who wouldn’t settle down. A student was singled out and humiliated, the College said, by Gray’s refusal to let them use a washroom.

    The student urinated in their pants.

    He was given a chance to respond to those and other allegations in September 2013, and was asked to complete classroom management workshops and anger management counselling. Since then, Gray has retired from teaching.

    In April last year, his certificate of qualification and registration was suspended for non-payment of fees. Gray never intends to return to teaching again, D’Souza told the room, and had made a joint submission for penalty.

    That penalty was a six month suspension, plus additional coursework in boundaries and anger management, and an in-person reprimand. All three penalties would be imposed if Gray ever wanted his certification back.

    “Why not revocation?” appointed panel member Marie-Therese Hokayem asked D’Souza. “Since this is the second time, and since the person is saying he’s not returning, and he’s retired? To prevent him from teaching again?”

    “It is literally the death penalty,” D’Souza replied.

    He listed multiple precedents where similarly serious incidents received lower penalties. The panel later agreed to the submission, with provisions like having the syllabus for Gray’s course or courses approved by the registrar.

    D’Souza maintained that imposing a penalty was important, whether the defendant was still teaching or not: for Gray, for other teachers, and for the public perception.

    “You’re reminding and reassuring the public that this College, that this committee of the College, does properly and proportionally, sanction members when they engage in professional misconduct.”

    Victoria Gibson can be reached at

    Retired Toronto teacher suspended for misconduct dating back to 2006Retired Toronto teacher suspended for misconduct dating back to 2006

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    Motherisk’s flawed hair-strand tests tainted thousands of child protection cases across Canada, but was every parent who tested positive for drugs or alcohol potentially harmed in some way? How much is that harm is worth? And what’s the best way to determine who should pay?

    These are among the complex questions that were debated in a Toronto courtroom this week in the high-stakes battle over the fate of a proposed national class-action seeking millions in damages for families affected by the litany of failings uncovered at the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk Drug Testing Laboratory.

    Whether the class-action will proceed is now in the hands of Superior Court Justice Paul Perell, who reserved his ruling on Thursday. His decision will play a key role in shaping what promises to be years of legal wrangling in the fallout from the problems at Motherisk. Already, some 275 plaintiffs are named in a series of individual lawsuits against Sick Kids and the major players at the lab, the court heard.

    “This class-action is for the thousands of families who have received an apology but no compensation,” Rob Gain, a lawyer for the plaintiff, told the court, at the outset of the two-day hearing to determine whether the case meets the bar for class-action certification.

    The proposed class includes anyone who had a positive Motherisk hair test between 2005 and 2015, the period during which a government-commissioned review by retired judge Susan Lang concluded Motherisk’s results were “inadequate and unreliable” for use in legal proceedings. (Close family members of those who tested positive are also included.)

    Gain argued that a class-action is the best way to ensure access to justice to a vulnerable group of people who suffered a shared harm due to Motherisk’s faulty tests, ranging from parents who briefly came under the scrutiny of a child welfare agency to cases where children were removed permanently.

    “When you’re dealing with the child protection regime . . . and there’s a test result from the lab showing drug or alcohol abuse, it is not discretionary what a Children’s Aid Society does. They must act,” he said. “That act is common to the entire class.”

    However, that rationale was rejected by the defendants, who include Sick Kids, Motherisk’s founder and longtime director, Dr. Gideon Koren, and former lab manager Joey Gareri, who argued that a class-action is not appropriate because the circumstances in each case are highly individualized.

    Koren’s lawyer, Darryl Cruz, told the court that his client “obviously opposes certification.”

    Cruz said a negligence claim may be valid in some individual cases, but only if the plaintiff proves there was a false positive Motherisk result, and that result led to negative consequences.

    “The link between what happened at Motherisk and these outcomes . . . is absolutely crucial, and not simple,” he said. “In each and every claim, one needs to consider, who are the various players? How do they relate to one another? How does the outcomes flow from the various players?”

    Sick Kids lawyer Kate Crawford said the hospital is “very willing to engage in discussions about compensation with the appropriate people in appropriate circumstances,” but does not accept that there are “any common issues” that could be litigated through a class-action.

    Although much of Motherisk’s hair-testing was performed at the request of child welfare agencies, some of the lab’s tests were ordered by physicians for clinical purposes, which shows the relationships between the lab and the proposed class members are “different in every case,” Crawford said.

    Complicating matters further, the lab’s practices were “not consistent” and changed over time, as did the internationally accepted standards for hair-testing, which evolved as the science advanced, she said.

    The proposed lead plaintiff is a mother whose access to her son was “repeatedly interfered with as a result of unreliable (Motherisk) hair tests” from 2009 to 2012, according to the plaintiff’s written arguments.

    If the class-action is certified, the members of the class, however it is defined, will have to choose whether they want to pursue individual claims or join the class proceeding.

    The hearing did not deal with the merits of the case. In a statement of claim, the plaintiff argues the defendants were “negligent in (their) operation and supervision” of Motherisk, and were responsible for the consequences that followed. In his statement of defence, Koren denied the claims, arguing the tests were “accurate and reliable for their intended purpose” of providing clinical information “relevant to the medical care and safety of children.” In a joint statement of defence, Sick Kids and Gareri also disputed the claims, and said that if custody decisions were based on the tests, which they denied, children’s aid societies were responsible.

    Queen’s Park appointed Lang to probe Motherisk in late 2014 after a Star investigation exposed questions about the reliability of the lab’s hair tests. Sick Kids initially defended the reliability of Motherisk’s testing, but reversed course in the spring of 2015 after the hospital learned it had been misled about Motherisk’s international proficiency testing results, and closed the lab.

    Sick Kids CEO Michael Apkon issued a public apology in October 2015. Koren retired in June of 2015, and is now working in Israel.

    An independent commission is now probing individual child protection cases in Ontario to determine whether Motherisk’s hair tests had a significant impact on individual decisions to remove children from their families.

    Rachel Mendleson can be reached at

    Lawyers spar over whether class-action into Motherisk drug-testing scandal should go aheadLawyers spar over whether class-action into Motherisk drug-testing scandal should go ahead

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    The giant rubber duck brought in the big bucks.

    Feathers were ruffled at Queen’s Park over a $120,000 government grant that helped land the world’s largest rubber duck for a summer waterfront festival, but a report released Thursday said the attraction brought in record crowds and profits.

    The study by Enigma Research found the Redpath Waterfront Festival held in Toronto over the July long weekend, which featured the duck, had a $7.6-million “economic impact,” and attracted 750,000 visitors, a third of them from out of town.

    Opposition MPPs had criticized the government for handing out funding to the festival when the duck has no connection to Ontario or Canada’s 150th anniversary. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation also organized a protest to oppose the spending, saying “this giant rubber duck isn’t all it’s quacked up to be.”

    The 13,600-kilogram rubber duck, almost 19 metres tall, also made appearances at summer festivals across the province, including Midland, Owen Sound and Sault Ste. Marie.

    Tourism Minister Eleanor McMahon said she was pleased to see crowds “flocked” to the festival, helping to create jobs and ended up “leaving a strong economic impact.”

    She had previously defended the grant, saying communities like to “find something really fun and sort of quirky” to attract visitors.

    Turns out the giant rubber duck brought in the bucksTurns out the giant rubber duck brought in the bucks

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    Bombardier will miss yet another target on its troubled TTC streetcar order, falling at least five cars short of the 40 it was supposed to deliver this year.

    In a statement released Thursday, the Montreal-based rail manufacturer said it will supply 35 streetcars in 2017, for a cumulative total of 65 since the order began. The company blamed the latest delay on “issues with the supply chain.”

    “This is not the result we worked towards and this is not the result we will accept for ourselves and for the people of Toronto. We own this challenge, and we fully intend to do everything necessary to mitigate the impacts,” said Bombardier spokesperson Eric Prud’homme.

    The company said it is enacting “forceful and far-reaching measures” to improve production, including opening up a second sitefor final assembly of the vehicles, which are currently manufactured and assembled at its plant in Thunder Bay, Ont. The company also said it would add additional suppliers, and work with current contractors to increase their capacity.

    The 35 cars Bombardier is pledging to deliver this year is a more optimistic figure than one published Wednesday in TTC CEO Andy Byford’s report to the transit agency board. In that document, the TTC estimated Bombardier would deliver just 30 cars in 2017.

    In a joint statement, Byford and TTC board chair Josh Colle appeared to accept Bombardier’s 35 car estimate. But they called the latest blown deadline “extremely disappointing and frustrating.”

    “There should be 146 new streetcars in service today; instead there are just 45. This is completely unacceptable. The TTC is having to continue to use buses on streetcar routes to meet ridership demand,” the statement said.

    Since the TTC placed the $1-billion, 204-car order with Bombardier in 2009, the company has repeatedly blown delivery schedules, and revised its yearly targets downward four separate times.

    According to the latest schedule, which Bombardier gave the TTC in May 2016, the company was supposed to ramp up production and deliver 22 cars in the final three months of the year, for a total of 70. That would require building at least seven streetcars a month, a rate the company has never achieved.

    In July,Bombardier alerted Byford it might not be able to meet the 2017 target, due to what it described as a “very limited, short-term issue.” It said it was “deploying extraordinary resources” to keep delivery on track.

    Confirmation that the company will miss the target for 2017 represents yet another blow for both the transit agency and Bombardier. While Byford has previously berated the company for overpromising on how quickly it could deliver, the relationship improved last year when Bombardier appointed Benoit Brossoit as its new president for its Americas division.

    Byford has praised Brossoit for at least providing the TTC with realistic timelines, but the company has now failed to meet even the lower benchmarks it provided under his watch.

    In its statement Thursday, Bombardier asserted “it is still fully on track to deliver the entire fleet of 204 streetcars” by the original contract deadline of the end of 2019. To do so, the company will have to build an average of more than 69 cars a year, twice the number it says it will supply in 2017.

    Mayor John Tory expressed what he described as his “immense frustration” with the company on Thursday morning, telling reporters at a SmartTrack news conference that “this has got to the point of almost farce.”

    “Having said that, I think we’re taking all reasonable steps,” he said, noting the TTC is suing the company for millions of dollars in penalties for late delivery. The TTC board is also seeking alternative suppliers for its next streetcar purchase.

    Tory said it would be impractical to abandon the Bombardier order at this point because it would take a long time to find another supplier.

    “I think people would be fooling themselves if they thought we could just cancel the Bombardier contract and move to some other person tomorrow morning and start getting streetcars by Christmas. It’s not going to happen.”

    “We’re just going to have to press forward” he said.

    With files from David Rider

    Bombardier to miss year-end streetcar delivery targetBombardier to miss year-end streetcar delivery target

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    Provincially owned Ontario Power Generation is in talks to potentially sell the hulking, long-decommissioned Hearn Generating Station on Toronto’s east waterfront, city councillors were shocked to hear Thursday.

    “I’m gobsmacked,” Councillor Paula Fletcher said after her intense questioning of two OPG representatives appearing before a city committee confirmed negotiations to sell the landmark publicly owned waterfront site to private owners.

    “It’s very disturbing because the province should be stewards for that land, for when the spectacular redevelopment of our waterfront moves eastward.

    “It’s a unique building in the world to have on your waterfront — it’s big, it’s beautiful, there could be a fantastic repurposing like we have seen of similar buildings in New York City and other cities.”

    Ray Davies, OPG’s real estate strategy manager, and Mary Flynn-Guglietti, a McMillan LLP lawyer representing OPG, appeared before the planning and growth committee considering future plans for the Port Lands.

    The OPG representatives repeated past objections to city redevelopment plans, saying new roadways, intersections and public space impinge on OPG’s Portlands Energy Centre at 470 Unwin Ave. and the neighbouring Hearn, which is leased to Studios of America for film production.

    Fletcher asked if there is any truth to talk that OPG is in talks with Studios of America to sell the 16-hectare (40-acre) Lake Ontario site.

    “I’m not aware of that,” Davies said, adding the Hearn is not among his files but he knew that, under its long-term lease, Studios of America would have first crack at buying the site if it is sold.

    Davies said he believes the land title is in the name of OPG, a “private corporation,” but conceded OPG is wholly owned by the Ontario government and “we wouldn’t make a decision without their blessing.”

    Fletcher continued pushing. “Are you telling me categorically that it is not up for sale, that the Ontario government is not planning, your shareholder, is not planning to sell that? ... Has that been offered up, as many people have heard, as the province is now looking to sell the Hearn and it’s being offered first?”

    Flynn-Guglietti jumped in. “I believe there has been discussions in that regard,” she said. Recently?, Fletcher asked. “Yes,” Flynn-Guglietti said.

    Studios of America, owned by partners including company president Paul Vaughan and prominent real estate developer Mario Cortellucci, has a lease on the massive building, decommissioned as a power plant in 1983, that runs from 2002 to 2041 if all extensions are exercised.

    Asked in a phone interview Thursday if he is aware of sale discussions, Vaughan said he was but could not talk about it.

    “We have to defer to others to make that decision, I can’t do it on my own. What can I say?,” Vaughan said.

    “I have to defer to (OPG) because I’m under a gag order, I really can’t say anything. You should be talking to OPG. They are the land owners, obviously.”

    Neither OPG nor Cortellucci have yet responded to the Star’s request for comment.

    In June, the province announced it was putting up for sale the old Lakeview generating station site on Mississauga’s waterfront. The developer or consortium that buys that property will have to remediate the industrial lands before transforming the area into a mixed-use community expected to house up to 20,000 residents and 9,000 jobs.

    Many proposals for the Hearn have been floated over the years, including ice rinks, other sports facilities and demolition. It is used for specialized film studio work and, in recent years, has hosted events including the Luminato Festival. Proximity to the Portlands Energy Centre, a 550-megawatt natural gas electrical generating station, makes it unsuitable for housing.

    Fletcher said the OPG representatives’ portrayal of the land ownership reminded her of 2011 when a city agency leasing out Port Lands property launched, with the blessing of then-councillor Doug Ford and then-mayor Rob Ford, a doomed redevelopment plan including a giant Ferris wheel and megamall.

    “The public owns that land, not OPG, and I’m concerned OPG doesn’t see their job is to introduce this land into waterfront planning at some point the same way Toronto’s lands will be staged and introduced, even though we have leases on them,” she said.

    The Ontario government is a partner, along with the city and federal government, in Waterfront Toronto, the agency overseeing waterfront redevelopment.

    Mira Shenker, Waterfront Toronto’s communications manager for the Port Lands, said in an interview: “We’ve known that Studios of America, which has a long-term lease, has been in discussions with OPG but we are not privy to those. We hadn’t heard about a sale.

    “Whether we support (a sale) or not depends on the longer-term vision of the Port Lands, what the proposed re-use is. We know there is an interest from the community in some creative adaptive reuse of the Hearn.”

    Province’s waterfront Hearn site subject of sales talksProvince’s waterfront Hearn site subject of sales talks

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    The demise of Sears Canada, announced this week, is a reminder that size works powerfully against a large enterprise’s ability to reinvent itself.

    General Motors failed to reinvent itself, and the erstwhile world’s biggest corporation landed in bankruptcy court in 2009. IBM was twice compelled to reinvent itself, as a punch-card maker betting the company on mainframe computers, and later morphing into a computer-services provider.

    Each of those transitions was a trial-by-fire experience, which is why firms like Sears are loath to fully commit to change even when a renaissance is their only hope of survival.

    If the Canadian retail sector is to give meaning to the legacy of the combined workforce of approximately 32,000 Canadians that Sears and Target Canada employed when they perished, it will have to quicken its pace of embracing e-commerce, invest more heavily in information technology to better ensure rapid turnover of inventory and at lower cost, and to be absolutely clear with consumers what they stand for.

    Eddie Lampert, 55, the U.S. hedge fund manager who has long controlled Chicago-based Sears Holdings and is still the largest shareholder in its Canadian affiliate, Sears Canada, has a demonstrated incompetence in retailing with few equals in the annals of North American merchandizing.

    That sorry track record, and Sears Canada having struggled for so long – its liquidation follows four straight years of losses – makes it possible to miss how significant a place on the retail landscape Sears Canada has occupied.

    Deeply rooted in Canada, having launched in the 1950s, Sears Canada at the time of its death had a sprawling network of big-city and suburban department-store emporia, a network of small-town catalogue distribution outlets, and a renowned Wish Book catalogue. Together, those assets made Sears a household name with a truly national reach that perhaps only Canadian Tire could match.

    At its peak, Sears Canada was a go-to source for auto repair. And its Kenmore appliances and Craftsman tools epitomized value – that is, high quality at a reasonable price. Those two factors – Sears’s sprawling “footprint” across the country and its “value proposition,” in retail parlance – kept Sears viable longer than it had reason to expect, given the chronic ineptitude of its absentee owner.

    It’s no small irony that Sears Canada was early to get serious about e-commerce, back in the 1990s. Alas, it didn’t ramp up that capability. Only too late, starting last year, did Sears make a dedicated effort to upgrade its e-commerce operation, remodel its stores, experiment with stand-alone boutiques (“pop-up” stores), and refresh its product offerings.

    But with sharply declining revenues and deepening losses, Sears Canada was running out of the money needed to keep the lights on, much less finance a thorough reinvention.

    Because of the enormity of Sears Canada, even modest improvements rolled out across the company were very costly. And given Sears’s huge customer base, improvements also risked alienating shoppers averse to change – as the late T. Eaton Co. learned.

    And it didn’t help that Sears could not achieve traction in reinventing the business because of a revolving-door CEO suite. That crippling disability can be laid at Lampert’s feet.

    Canadians rejected Target Canada because its stores were understocked and overpriced. And the novelty of Target offerings that made its U.S. stores so popular with cross-border shoppers was utterly absent in the firm’s hastily launched Canadian outlets.

    Canadians drifted away from Sears because of the unacknowledged identity crisis that it suffered in recent decades. What was the compelling reason to shop at Sears Canada, apart from the convenience of its many locations?

    Sears Canada seemed helpless in distinguishing the “hard goods” at the core of its business from the appliances and furniture available at lower prices at Leon’s and The Brick. Meanwhile, the remodelled stores of Shoppers Drug Mart made a strong play for its cosmetics business, among the most lucrative product segments for department stores.

    And like all retailers on the continent, Sears Canada was losing business to Amazon, world’s largest online merchant, whose ever-growing banquet of offerings includes fresh produce, sex toys, motor oil and boxed CD sets of all nine Beethoven symphonies.

    The shareholder value of Amazon, at close to $600 billion (Cdn.), is about 35 per cent greater than the combined market cap of North America’s 10 largest traditional bricks-and-mortar general merchandizers, including Wal-Mart.

    In the short space of two years, Canada has lost two giant retailers. But one thing we can be certain of, in this moment of doubt in some quarters about Canada as a healthy retail environment, is that this country is a great place to be a merchant.

    At the time of Target Canada’s demise, more than one Bay Street analyst said Canadians are too frugal to support merchants like Target.

    In a week when Canada has yet again been admonished by an international authority for the over-indebtedness of its shop-till-you drop consumers, that assessment could not be more off-base.

    Canada has one of the highest per capita incomes worldwide. Canadians reward new retailing concepts like homegrown Dollarama, at the discount end of the spectrum, and Lululemon in premium-priced goods. And Canadian consumers happily patronize interlopers like and H&M, Ikea, Wal-Mart, Costco, Winners, Home Depot, Staples Inc., Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret, Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue and Cartier.

    Other markets are not so welcoming. For now, at least, Wal-Mart is sticking with Japan despite consumer resistance, but has quit the huge German market, where shoppers and regulators treated the firm with disdain.

    It’s worth noting that in Canada, the world’s largest branch-plant economy, unhappy customer experiences at the local foreign-owned store usually trace back to troubles at an offshore head office, and have little if anything to do with the Canadian operation.

    Target’s arrival in Canada coincided with a massive hacking theft of the Minneapolis-based firm’s customer data, which prompted the ouster of the Target CEO spearheading that company’s first international expansion. Target had also abandoned its unique in-house designer lines as a cost-saving measure. That blunder has weakened the parent company, and accounted for the surprisingly bland product offerings at Target’s short-lived Canadian stores.

    The demise of Radio Shack and Circuit City in Canada, and the underperformance of Abercrombie & Fitch and of Gap and its Banana Republic and Old Navy banners in Canada, derive from international over-expansion and other disastrous mistakes made at a non-Canadian head office.

    And so, another hard lesson from the Sears and Target debacles is that prospective employees, suppliers and landlords are bound for trouble if they fail in their due diligence about the sagacity or chaos at an international headquarters before committing to its Canadian operations.

    Sears Canada’s demise shows why size matters: OliveSears Canada’s demise shows why size matters: Olive

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    You could almost feel the city’s collective eyes roll last week when the Star reported on a Forest Hill couple who sued a neighbouring house flipper over allegations they copied the look of their 8,000-square-foot Tudor-style house. The same shade of blue window trim and similar stonework were the basis of a $2.5-million lawsuit that, after three years, was settled out of court for undisclosed terms. More than 1.1 million people have read the story online, testament to the eternal popularity of watching rich people fight.

    Only Henry VIII or Elizabeth I coming back from the dead to sue everybody who has built a mock Tudor McMansion could be more absurd. As any lawyer will tell you, the hidden costs of a lawsuit are the time and stress burdens it places on people on top of all the money involved in paying those lawyers. Suing over some window trim and brickwork is a conspicuously wanton display of wealth and leisure time when Toronto is going through a housing affordability crisis, where hundreds of thousands of people are struggling to just make rent, and many more will never get to buy a house of their own here.

    Aside from all that, what is even more curious is all of this was over pastiche architecture. Pastiche is when an artwork or design imitates or replicates an older or original work or style, in this case, medieval English architecture, evoking an unearned history and gravitas. In his famously vicious 1937 poem, “Slough,” John Betjeman skewered the Tudor pastiche of suburban Slough outside of London. Calling on bombs to blow it to smithereens, he wrote, “And talk of sport and makes of cars / In various bogus-Tudor bars / And daren’t look up and see the stars / But belch instead.”

    Pastiches are everywhere and are mostly harmless, often boring homages to past or popular styles. Indeed, we are a city full of glorious pastiches of various kinds — Gothic, Victorian, Edwardian, classical and even more modern styles. Perhaps the trick with a good pastiche is to not make a big deal about your imitation and let it sink into the background, rather than suggest yours is somehow special, as these folks did with their lawsuit. A pastiche shouldn’t put on too many airs lest they risk a rebuke.

    When Charles Dickens visited New York City in 1842 while compiling his “American Notes,” he went to the city jail, then and now nicknamed “The Tombs,” though the building he visited has been replaced since. Of the Egyptian Revival building he saw then, he wrote, “What is this dismal-fronted pile of bastard Egyptian, like an enchanter’s palace in a melodrama! — a famous prison, called The Tombs. Shall we go in?”

    Create a pastiche at your own risk.

    Though Dickens did visit Toronto on that 1842 trip for a couple days, what might he write of the mock Tudors of Forest Hill today, those of Leaside, or the “bit of England far from England” homes of the Kingsway? There are neighbourhoods here full of copies of mythical original versions found somewhere in the United Kingdom. Toronto was not called “The Queen City” for its loyalty to Empire alone: it actively tried to look like London and other British cities.

    Today, if you walk some of the (for now) less-polished East London neighbourhoods like Dalston, Bethnal Green or Whitechapel, the retail streetscapes, with former homes peeking out from behind the storefronts, look a lot like the Dundas, College and Bloor strips do here. It’s clear where Toronto’s inspiration came from.

    Even many of our street names in this city are derived from British dudes and places (and a handful of other locations like Avoca in Ireland or Roncesvalles in Spain.) Old Toronto is a colonial city and is a definitive pastiche of its founders’ mother country, with a few token gestures to First Nations such as the name Toronto (Tkaronto) itself or Spadina (Ishpadinaa.)

    There’s a philosophical notion called a “simulacrum,” a copy of an original found somewhere else, distorted to some, more real than the original to others. Toronto is Simulacrum City writ large. Let’s put that on a bumper sticker.

    With our pastiches and colonial copies in mind, for neighbours and neighbourhood groups that protest developments small and large that violate the “historic character” of the neighbourhood, it’s often a defence not of a history unique to Toronto, but one copied from somewhere else. Exquisite copies sometimes, but copies nonetheless.

    It comes down to taste and lifestyle doesn’t it? People have affinities for particular kinds of architecture, no matter how it came to be. Earlier this year, a Cabbagetown residents’ association started an ongoing campaign to move a Bike Share dock from Riverdale Park (home to a cool simulacrum of a working farm) because it clashed with the heritage neighbourhood.

    In Cabbagetown, the most defining aspect of the streetscape, apart from those Victorians, are all the cars parked along its streets, but nobody there or anywhere else “historic character” is used to oppose something new ever wants to remove on-street parking. Lifestyle is as powerful as taste.

    What is the Toronto style then? Dozens of styles are emulated here, and they’re all part of the mix. That beautiful, messy heterogeneity might be the style itself: like the celebrated multicultural population, it’s the mix of everything that makes Toronto “Toronto.” We’re still a young city by global standards so it might be too soon to suggest a homegrown Toronto style, but perhaps the brick, concrete and glass neo-modern buildings exemplified by local architecture firms like KPMB will be it.

    Perhaps it’s also the ease at which Toronto melds new and old styles together, like the modern floors added to the Tip Top Loft buildings on Lake Shore Blvd. W., or the glass restaurant at the top of the historic Dineen Building at Yonge and Temperance Sts. Other cities would resist where Toronto allows a certain healthy looseness around some older buildings.

    Modernism and its various movements is Toronto’s dominant style, as much of the city grew in the postwar years when it was in vogue. So while Toronto was influenced by other places, it was being developed simultaneously or even leading the way. Don Mills, one of the first modern planned suburbs, is perhaps most deserving of being declared a heritage landscape and is as original as we might get. Other suburban neighbourhoods could make this claim too, though it would be heretical to suggest a split-level has more local heritage value than a Victorian in this city.

    No matter, they too will all be replaced by mock Tudor McMansions soon enough.

    Shawn Micallef writes every Saturday about where and how we live in the GTA. Wander the streets with him on Twitter @shawnmicallef.

    Toronto’s architectural style is a historic pastiche: MicallefToronto’s architectural style is a historic pastiche: Micallef

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    Police say a doctor — who allegedly paid to have unprotected sex with a 15-year-old girl in his office at a Toronto hospital — is facing multiple charges.

    Toronto police say investigators looking into the alleged trafficking of the girl learned a man met the teen in December 2016 after responding to an escort ad for sex on an online classifieds site.

    It’s alleged he had unprotected sex with her and met with her at different hotels in the Toronto area over the next few months and paid to have unprotected sex with the girl.

    Investigators allege that after the encounters he would prescribe birth control and inject the girl with the medication.

    They allege that on one occasion he had sex with her in his office at Toronto General Hospital.

    Ernest Chiu, 32, of Toronto, is charged with sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, obtaining sexual services from a person under 18 and sexual assault.

    Investigators say Chiu is a doctor of nephrology and is associated with St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto Rehab and Sinai Health System.

    According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario's records, Chiu studied medicine at the University of Toronto, beginning in July of 2012. His first three years of post-graduate study were in Internal Medicine, followed by two years of Nephrology ending on June 30 of this year. During that time, Chiu was practicing under a postgraduate education certificate.

    A specialty in Internal Medicine was issued to Chiu on May 8 of this year.

    The College's site, as of Thursday afternoon, lists the terms and conditions of Chiu's certificate of registration as expired.

    - With files from Victoria Gibson

    Toronto doctor had sex with 15-year-old girl, injected her with meds, police allegeToronto doctor had sex with 15-year-old girl, injected her with meds, police allege

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    It was 3 a.m. on Thursday, when I woke up, too nervous to go back to sleep. On the other side of the world, millions of people shared my anticipation, awaiting an Indian High Court judgment of an appeal by two people convicted for murder.

    A little before 6 a.m., my phone began buzzing like a string of firecrackers on silent mode. When I finally dared to pick it up, I scanned the notifications for one nugget of information: convictions overturned.

    Oh sweet relief. Vindication. Now was the time to let the tears flow, but they've stubbornly held back so far, damn them.

    Four years ago, when I was a digital editor at the Star, I had shared a story of the pain and betrayal that followed the sensational 2008 murder of Aarushi Talwar and the live–in cook Hemraj Banjade in India. Aarushi’s parents – Nupur and Rajesh Talwar – were eventually convicted in 2013, when the judge called them, “freaks in the history of mankind.”

    Nupur is my cousin — our mothers are sisters. In Indian relationships, a cousin is like a sibling, which made her daughter my niece.

    The whole story had begun with what should have been a pretty straightforward case of murder. There were two crime scenes that were rich with evidence including a bloodied shoe print, a bloodied handprint on a wall, and 22 fingerprints.

    However, the continuous bungling by various investigators — none of those prints were identified, for instance — created not just twists and turns but explosive craters in a case that held a nation in thrall as the media breathlessly chased every morsel of gossip, innuendo and information.

    The scandalous narrative spun by the police in the early days was the one that stuck until the end: A pretty 13-year-old was doing something “objectionable, though not compromising” with the 45-year-old cook, an enraged father approached stealthily with a golf club that accidently hit the girl, he killed the cook, then finished off the job by slashing his daughter’s throat with his dental scalpel. The parents, both dentists then tried to cover up the crime with medical precision. They dragged the man’s body upstairs to a terrace, and wiped out every trace of his blood. The next day, they showed no grief, no remorse.

    Since truth is stranger than fiction, any of this was plausible.

    Except, there was not a shred of evidence to support it.

    No sign of the cook in the child’s room — neither blood, nor hair nor semen.

    Nor was his blood on her parents’ clothes. Her blood, meanwhile, was splashed up on her bedroom walls, the bed, the floors, and their clothes from holding her body when they found her. There was no credible murder weapon. The motive, which alternated between honour killing (premeditated) and fit of rage (spontaneous), was never established.

    Meanwhile, there were partially drunk bottles of wine, beer and pop in the cook’s room that suggested the presence of outsiders there.

    I won’t rehash the story as you can read it at or read the best-selling book titled Aarushi or watch the filmTalvar on Netflix.

    But it now has visible Canadian markings on it. When I first wrote it, I expected it to have the distant appeal of a foreign news story, but I had underestimated the cultural linkages between India and Canada. I had also overlooked the universality of human connection. My editor Lynn McAuley did not, and she guided my work, helped sew it up and play it big, as we say in the newsroom.

    My inbox was flooded for months. Photographer Spencer Wynn who came with me to India to capture the story visually told me working on it was a highlight of his career.

    A couple of years later, quite by coincidence, Cameron Bailey, the artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival, went movie spotting with an eye out for strong independent work by women and brought Talvar to premiere at the festival.

    The indomitable Win Wahrer of Innocence Canada, formerly the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, once introduced me to John Artis, the man who spent 14 years in a U.S. prison with boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter for murders they did not commit.

    “Dream, hope, never give up,” Artis told me.

    Another time when I was looking for an independent forensic expert, Harold Levy, a retired investigative Star reporter and former defence lawyer, swung into action and used his unique skills to identify and track a man down — while he was on vacation in Romania.

    On Thursday, there were various nationalities among the Indians whooping with joy, sending congratulations, acknowledging the end of a miserable ordeal that will allow us to begin the process of grieving.

    These have been a long and exhausting 9 years, felt most intensely by the couple at the epicentre of a tragedy but also by those caught in the aftershock.

    It will take my cousin and her husband time to feel their way back to freedom. When they last had any semblance of normalcy, Facebook and Twitter was nascent, and digital cameras were still a thing. Obama was America’s new president, the Arab Spring had not happened, and “occupy” was a word without political meaning.

    Also, the horrific Delhi gang rape that sparked a new conversation around rape culture had yet to take place. In those days, when people nudged and winked about the fabricated story of Aarushi and Hemraj’s “affair” — they tittered at her character, oblivious that they maligned him as a rapist, too.

    Hemraj is often the overlooked victim of this tragedy. I believe this is partly a class issue — he comes from a poor background, partly a geographical issue — his family lives in neighbouring Nepal, but also partly a news relevance issue — his family members weren’t being prosecuted.

    In my family, the nightmare never ends.

    Rajesh once told me he is haunted by that fateful night in May 2008 and he plays it in his head over and over again.

    In one scene, he’s asleep, he hears a sound, goes out, confronts the men in the living room. In another he’s about to sleep, then gets up to lock all the doors to the house — including Hemraj’s — before going back to bed. In a third, he’s asleep. He wakes up and realizes it is all a nightmare, that his Aaru is safe and sound.

    Sometimes the guilt of not being able to protect their daughter, of being asleep while she was killed next door, gets too much to bear for the couple.

    Nupur’s parents are in their 70s and 80s. That they’ve withstood this ordeal despite serious personal illnesses is proof of the power of love. My aunt who took care of granddaughter Aarushi had lost her cheer.

    “I was supposed to go first, I’m oldest,” she once said to me, weeping over the phone. We speak in Marathi, our mother tongue. “Instead, my Aarushi is gone, then my daughter has been taken away.”

    Some semblance of order will be restored when my cousin and her husband walk out of prison soon.

    Thursday was the first time in years I heard a smile in my aunt's voice. I let that sound wash over me, comfort me as it closed the thousands of kilometres between us. “They’re coming home!” she said. “Our Rajesh, our Nupa will be home for Diwali.”

    It will take time to sink in, but Thursday’s judgment liberates me, too. It feels like a boulder is starting to roll off me. It will perhaps help me relearn feeling pleasure without that awful guilt, that warning voice in my head, “Are you forgetting her?” accompanied by an image of my cousin caged behind bars.

    I don’t know what the future holds. The real killers are still at large. The prosecutors could appeal this decision at the Supreme Court, although I hope they don’t.

    Nupur and Rajesh have been traumatized enough. This ordeal has taunted their sorrow, prodded their pain and left them with searing scars. What they need now is the space to grieve their loss before they can move on with their lives.

    Once safely ensconced in their families, they need to be left alone.

    On Twitter @shreeparadkar

    My cousin acquitted in murder of her daughter Aarushi Talwar needs space to grieve: ParadkarMy cousin acquitted in murder of her daughter Aarushi Talwar needs space to grieve: Paradkar

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    SMITHS FALLS, ONT.—After five years of communicating with his family only through hostage videos and carefully written letters, Joshua Boyle spoke freely to his parents from a guest house in Pakistan.

    They talked of the passports his young family needed, the flights they could take and their long-awaited reunion. The couple and their children flew out of Pakistan with Canadian officials on a commercial flight early Friday.

    “My family is obviously psychologically and physically shattered by the betrayals and the criminality of what has happened over the past five years,” Boyle told the Star during a call from Islamabad to his parents, Patrick and Linda.

    It was a moment of calm for the Boyles — being able to hear their son’s voice, to listen to him laugh and at one point nearly cry — in what had been an emotional day marked by relief, anxiety and anticipation.

    “But we’re looking forward to a new lease on life, to use an overused idiom, and restarting and being able to build a sanctuary for our children and our family in North America,” Boyle told us as we sat listening around the dining room table.

    Then he added, with a laugh: “I have discovered there is little that cannot be overcome by enough Sufi patience, Irish irreverence and Canadian sanctimony.”

    Boyle, 34, his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, 31, and their children were freed Wednesday after a dramatic rescue by the Pakistani Army, based on intelligence provided by the U.S.

    Boyle told his parents in a phone call earlier Thursday that they had been in the trunk of the kidnappers’ car during the rescue and the Pakistani forces had shot dead five of the captors.

    He later told the Star that some of the kidnappers had escaped and he wanted to ensure they were caught and charged for their crimes.

    Read more:

    What we know about the rescue of Canadian Joshua Boyle, his wife and their three children in Pakistan

    Kidnapped Canadian-American family freed in Pakistan gun battle after 5 years in captivity

    A timeline of the captivity of Canadian Joshua Boyle and his family in Afghanistan

    The Taliban-linked Haqqani network has held the couple since 2012 and their two sons, age 4 and 2, and a two-month-old daughter were all born in captivity.

    For five years, since Boyle and Coleman were kidnapped while on a backpacking trip in Afghanistan, their families have prayed for this day.

    It began Wednesday.


    Canadian government officials emailed the family at 12:56 p.m. Wednesday and asked them to gather at their Smiths Falls home.

    “First and foremost, no bad news,” Jennifer Kleniewski, the head of Global Affairs Canada hostage team wrote.

    But minutes later the meeting was cancelled.

    The Boyles didn’t know what to think but it was impossible to not get their hopes up. There had been here so many times before, so many heartbreaking near misses — negotiations that seemed promising but then fell apart.

    At 4 p.m., they had their regularly scheduled weekly call with government officials. Nothing new was discussed. Officials told the Boyles there had just been some mixed signals. That wasn’t unusual — there were always rumours and erroneous reports that needed to be tracked down.

    But still, Patrick, Linda and Josh’s siblings hoped a deal was quietly underway and they just couldn’t be brought into the loop yet.

    It wouldn’t be until nine hours later, at 1 a.m. Thursday that the phone rang. “We’ll be there in five minutes,” Kleniewski said.

    “They couldn’t help but smile and just nodded their heads,” Linda Boyle said about the Canadian officials who knocked on their door moments later. “I just gave them a big hug.”

    The family was freed.

    All five were safe.

    It was not a deal.

    It was not release.

    It was a rescue.

    Linda cried. She’s not the one who usually cries — that’s the joke with her and her husband, a federal tax court judge, who on matters concerning their children is usually the first to break.

    They called security consultant Andy Ellis, a retired member of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, who the Boyles had hired earlier this year to help them navigate the political and security labyrinth that relatives of hostages must negotiate.

    But the celebration was short lived, as just 10 minutes later the Canadian officials were back in their dining room.

    There was a problem. Josh Boyle did not want to get on a U.S. flight.

    They asked Linda and Patrick if they could talk to their son. They would arrange a call.

    At 1:40 a.m. Thursday, they spoke to Josh.


    “Josh said he was doing pretty well for someone who has spent the last five years in an underground prison,” Patrick Boyle told me about the conversation with his son.

    Josh Boyle talked about being in the trunk of the kidnappers’ car and in what he called a shootout. He said the last words they heard from the kidnappers were “kill the hostages.”

    He said he didn’t want to board an American flight to the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan, and asked if they could be taken instead to the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad, Pakistan.

    That didn’t surprise his parents. Boyle had been a staunch civil rights advocate and critic of the security measures that were implemented after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It was through this advocacy that he heard about former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr. He was briefly married to Khadr’s controversial and outspoken sister Zaynab, who the RCMP once investigated for terrorism offences.

    Canadian and U.S. officials have dismissed any connection of his kidnapping with his involvement with the Khadr family.

    As dawn broke Thursday, the Boyles’ home filled with people and boxes of doughnuts. Ellis arrived. As did Linda’s sister, Kelli O’Brien, who had launched a social media campaign to make sure Boyle, Coleman and their kids were not forgotten.

    Josh’s sisters Kaeryn and Heather prepared the upstairs room — already filled with quilts, toys and a Maple Leafs jersey — for their two nephews and niece. Dan, Josh’s brother, kept an eye on the media gathering on the sidewalk.

    The dining room became a war room with cellphones ringing and pinging, and laptops open, waiting for news.

    Pakistan’s government issued a press release, confirming that it was “an intelligence-based operation by Pakistan troops and intelligence agencies.”

    The statement said U.S. agencies had been tracking the family and kidnappers as they crossed into the Kurram Agency, on the border with Afghanistan. The rescue was based “on actionable intelligence from U.S. authorities,” the statement said.

    “The success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards fighting this menace through co-operation between two forces against a common enemy.”

    The Pakistan press release appears to support what U.S. President Donald Trump alluded to in a speech Wednesday in Coleman’s home state of Pennsylvania. “Something happened today, where a country that totally disrespected us called with some very, very important news,” Trump said. “And one of my generals came in. They said, ‘You know, I have to tell you, a year ago they would’ve never done that.’ It was a great sign of respect. You’ll probably be hearing about it over the next few days. But this is a country that did not respect us. This is a country that respects us now. The world is starting to respect us again, believe me.”

    In a Thursday morning statement, the White House called the rescue, “a positive moment in our country’s relationship with Pakistan.”

    The Haqqani network is a powerful Afghan group with a history of taking and holding Western hostages. On Aug. 29, 2016, an Afghan court sentenced to death Anas Haqqani, the son of the group’s founder. In a YouTube video released around that time, Boyle told the Afghan government that if it does not stop executing Taliban prisoners, his family would be killed. He appeared to be reading from a script.

    Negotiations about the family’s release always involved what the Haqqani’s regarded as a “prisoner swap.” Their highest profile captive was U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was held for nearly five years before being freed in May 2014, in return for five Taliban detainees held in Guantanamo Bay.

    “Afghanistan was never going to release Anas Haqqani because of the political cost,” said New America Foundation’s Peter Bergen. “At the same time the Haqqanis were never going to harm the hostages because they wanted their brother back. So that’s the equilibrium that it settled into.”

    Hostage rescues, however, almost always end in tragedy.


    Phone calls came from around the world all day Thursday at the Boyle home. CNN, BBC and Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Ottawa, whom Linda and Patrick had met repeatedly, emailed congratulations.

    A morning of sensational news turned into an afternoon of waiting.

    One of Josh’s sisters took their pet Labradoodle to the groomer for an appointment. Someone bought sandwiches. Linda wondered if she should keep her dental surgery for Friday morning and later went out to buy three children’s car seats — astonished at how the cost had gone up since her five children needed them.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was travelling with the prime minster on a visit to Mexico City Thursday, issued a statement expressing gratitude for the rescue.

    “Canada has been actively engaged with the governments of the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan and we thank them for their efforts, which have resulted in the release of Joshua, Caitlan and their children,” Freeland said in the statement.

    “Joshua, Caitlan, their children and the Boyle and Coleman families have endured a horrible ordeal over the past five years. We stand ready to support them as they begin their healing journey.”

    The Boyles kept in touch by phone and email with Canadian officials throughout the afternoon.

    Then came the second call of the day to Josh. It was after midnight Thursday in Pakistan. Caity and her three children slept.

    Patrick Boyle began: “Hi Josh. How are you? It’s Dad. Are you OK?”

    Canadian Joshua Boyle and family leave Pakistan after five-year kidnapping nightmareCanadian Joshua Boyle and family leave Pakistan after five-year kidnapping nightmare

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    WASHINGTON—Adding to the gloom surrounding negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration began the latest round of talks by making a proposal loathed by Canada and Mexico: a “sunset clause” that would automatically terminate the agreement in five years if all three countries did not approve it again.

    Trade experts say the U.S. may simply be issuing aggressive demands as a negotiating tactic. If the sunset clause proposal is not eventually withdrawn, however, it could well lead to the collapse of talks.

    Canadian and Mexican officials have both slammed the idea in the last month. And it is fiercely opposed by business groups in all three countries, who say it would deny companies the certainty they need to make investments.

    “What manufacturers want more than anything is certainly and predictability. And it’s rather hard to make long-term capital decisions or sourcing decisions if there’s an automatic sunset of five years,” said Dennis Darby, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. “With a five-year potential sword hanging over your head, I think what it’s going to do is cause manufacturers to not invest and be really, really risk-averse.”

    “I think this will be one of the most difficult for the business community to accept,” said Dan Ujczo, a trade lawyer and president of the Ohio-Canada Business Association.

    Jerry Dias, president of the Unifor union that represents Canadian autoworkers, said he would support a sunset clause on a bad final deal, oppose it on a good final deal. Regardless, though, he said the proposal is a “schoolyard bully” tactic that conveys “they don’t want a deal in the first place.”

    The proposal comes amid a growing consensus around the continent that the talks might fail because of Trump’s protectionism. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday he was “ready for anything,” and Dias said Thursday that “this thing is going into the toilet.”

    “They want to hold this weapon over people’s heads to get them to surrender more, surrender more, more concessions, more concessions. But they’re not fooling anybody,” Dias said.

    The sunset clause was endorsed by Canada’s United Steelworkers. National director Ken Neumann said the threat of termination would “add some accountability” for politicians making the kinds of promises the original NAFTA has not fulfilled.

    “We got sold a bill of goods with NAFTA,” Neumann said. “If you would have had a sunset clause, it wouldn’t have survived going forward.”

    U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross floated the sunset idea in September. It was formally put on the negotiating table late Wednesday, said a source with knowledge of the negotiations.

    “Yes, that’s our proposal,” Ross said at a Wednesday event.

    In a speech the day prior, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue, described the proposal as a “poison pill” that “could doom the entire deal.”

    The fourth round of talks, scheduled to run until Tuesday in a suburb of Washington, are expected to be the most challenging to date. The U.S. is likely to introduce a contentious proposal to require that a hefty percentage of an automobile be manufactured in the U.S. itself, rather than just in the NAFTA zone, to be exempted from tariffs.

    The specifics of the sunset proposal were not immediately clear. One key question: whether it would give the president unilateral authority to renew NAFTA or if Congress would have to vote again as well.

    Canadian ministers did not address the proposal Thursday. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one official said, “We expected a tough round.”

    Trump administration introduces 5-year ‘sunset clause’ into NAFTA talksTrump administration introduces 5-year ‘sunset clause’ into NAFTA talks

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    Toronto police are looking for a man who they say has broken into three east-end homes and confronted women in them over the past three weeks.

    In each of the break-ins, which started Sept. 25, the man has spoken with the victims, Const. Caroline de Kloet said.

    The suspect has “attempted to gather personal information” about young women and girls inside the homes, which are in the area south of Ellesmere Rd. and east of Morningside Ave., de Kloet said.

    “The last victim had a lengthy discussion with the suspect,” she said.

    The man is described as a six feet tall, in his mid- to late 20s, with a thin-medium build. The break-ins have occurred in the early hours of the morning.

    In one of the incidents, the man cut a screen to get into the home.

    De Kloet said there has been no physical or sexual contact, and no threats were made.

    East-end break-ins target young women, girlsEast-end break-ins target young women, girls

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    “Retail politics” doesn’t sound all that smart or easy these days in Canada.

    It’s been a bruising week for the retail business, with the imminent collapse of the Sears department store empire and accompanying job losses all over Canada.

    There was also the news that the Canada Revenue Agency had some plan to treat employee discounts as taxable benefits— a move that, if enacted, would be a direct hit to thousands and thousands of low-paid retail employees across the country.

    That crazy tax idea was in retreat by the end of the week but the massive failure of Sears is not as easy to make go away. Roughly 12,000 jobs are on the line, which is about 2,000 more jobs than those created overall in Canada in September, Global News reported this week.

    More than 130 big stores are also due to go dark in malls and communities all over the country as soon as this Christmas. Assuming one store to a political riding, that means more than one-third of the MPs in the House of Commons will be dealing with those darkened shop aisles.

    Retail failure, like manufacturing failure, hits at the heart of the suburbs, where politicians have been aggressively courting their voters for decades.

    In happier times, the retail industry was something for politicians to cultivate and imitate — a symbiotic relationship I wrote about in my last book, Shopping For Votes. Now, the shopping business in Canada a constant source of concern and disruption for the political class.

    Retail analysts have been warning for some time now that e-commerce is threatening the very nature of shopping.

    Those same analysts are saying, however, that you can’t draw a straight line between the rise of digital shopping and the downfall of the big stores like Sears or Zellers.

    “The bigger thing is the shrinking of the middle class,” Barry Nabatian, market research director of Shore-Tanner Associates, told Ottawa’s local CBC Radio morning show this week.

    Politics watchers are familiar with that concept. In the 2015 election, if voters got a nickel for every time a politician, of any stripe, mentioned the middle class, we’d all be part of the wealthy 1 per cent.

    But think about it. If Sears and other mid-class stores are failing because they’re losing their target consumer demographic, that also means that Canada’s political parties have also been pursuing a segment of the electorate that’s shrinking. Aren’t they worried they’ll end up like Sears?

    When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau keeps saying “the middle class and those aspiring to join it,” we can probably assume that his hopes for political growth are pinned more on the second part of that phrase.

    Aspiration is a big part of our ideas of middle class — the old American (or Canadian) dream. It’s called the pursuit of happiness in the U.S., not the attainment of it, after all. Shopping is a big part of that old, middle-class dream, too.

    So if politicians want to fix the middle class, the whole retail business bears some close scrutiny — at least as much as trade and manufacturing or a favourite economic fix these days, infrastructure.

    The current troubles in the Canadian retail business have at least three dimensions, fallout-wise. When things go badly, we have to worry about the people who work in the stores, the people who shopped in the stores, and, as a Star story pointed out this week, all the businesses that supply the shops, too.

    “The list of suppliers left in the lurch by the Sears Canada insolvency reads like a who’s who of retail and it circles the globe,” the Star’s Francine Kopun wrote, describing the tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars Sears owes to a vast array of businesses whose products fed into the once-great store empire.

    Politicians often urge people to go shopping in times of upheaval. George W. Bush famously told people to go out and buy things to get the U.S. economy moving after the 9/11 attacks. I’ll always remember how Jean Chrétien, campaigning to be prime minister in 1993, argued that when people see construction equipment, it makes them confident enough in the economy to go shopping. Maybe he was right. Who knows?

    What we do know is that bad news in the shopping world is bad news for politicians, too, most particularly among exactly the voters all the parties are trying to court. Retail politics may be all about glad-handing and salesmanship, but the politics of retail in 2017 is a little more serious and sobering.

    As Sears goes dark, middle-class votes may be elusive: DelacourtAs Sears goes dark, middle-class votes may be elusive: Delacourt

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    Category 2 Hurricane Ophelia is threatening everything from farms to a golf course owned by the family of U.S. President Donald Trump as it heads for Ireland.

    Ophelia’s top winds were 155 km/hby 3:40 p.m. London time on Friday, reaching the second level of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. The storm, about 877 kilometres southwest of the Azores, is forecast to stay a powerful cyclone over the next few days, and may scrape the west coast of Ireland on Monday before dissipating over Scandinavia, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

    After Hurricane Irma closed Trump’s Mar-a-Lago in Florida last month, Ophelia could make landfall close to the Trump family’s golf resort near the village of Doonbeg. The resort, which has said it can lose as much as 10 meters of land to coastal erosion during a bad storm, is along the route expected to be hit by Ophelia’s gale force winds. Trump International Golf Links & Hotel is constantly reviewing the situation, a spokesperson said by email.

    “At the moment, in one model the actual centre in Ophelia is basically supposed to rub the west coast of Ireland,” said David Reynolds, senior meteorologist at The Weather Co. In Birmingham, England. “It’s really touch and go.”

    Ophelia could become the strongest post-tropical system to rake Ireland since Hurricane Debbie in 1961, which killed 18 people and stripped almost 25 per cent of the trees in some areas, according to Weather Underground. Sixty people died in a plane crash in the Azores caused by Debbie.

    The Irish government is monitoring the situation, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. It will decide later Friday whether to convene a task force to co-ordinate its response to the storm.

    Ophelia will move across the country very quickly and may bring heavy rain if it makes landfall, Gerald Fleming, head of forecasting at the Irish weather service, said on RTE radio Friday. The storm could pummel the Cork and Kerry coast but it’s still three or four days away.

    Using the current forecast track from the National Hurricane Center, damages could reach $800 million in Ireland and $300 million in the U.K., as well as tens of millions in France, Spain and Portugal, according to Chuck Watson, a disaster modeller at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia. Using European forecasts, those numbers could be cut in half. 

    “My subjective guesstimate is more like $600 million in Ireland and under $100 million for the U.K.,” Watson said. Debbie’s damages would’ve reached $338 million in today’s dollars.  

    Ireland’s Met Eireann weather office and the Met Office in the U.K. issued yellow warnings for Monday, meaning residents need to be aware of encroaching risks.

    “Power cuts may occur, with the potential to affect other services, such as mobile phone coverage,” the Met Office said in its warning. “Some damage to buildings, such as tiles blown from roofs could happen, perhaps leading to injuries and danger to life from flying debris.”

    It’s unusual for a hurricane to head toward northwest Europe. The Atlantic hurricane season, usually a bigger threat to the U.S., Mexico and Caribbean, has produced 15 named storms, including 10 consecutive hurricanes—the most since the late 19th century. The storms have killed hundreds and caused an estimated $300 billion in damage across Central America, the Caribbean and the U.S.

    Hurricane Ophelia may become Ireland’s strongest storm since 1961Hurricane Ophelia may become Ireland’s strongest storm since 1961

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    WARNING: Graphic details follow.

    A “touchy-feely” anesthesiologist handed a 10-year sentence for sexually assaulting 21 sedated women during surgery has failed to have his conviction overturned.

    In a decision Friday, Ontario’s top court ruled that the judge who convicted Dr. George Doodnaught after a 76-day trial was bang on.

    “The grounds of appeal advanced track closely the submissions made to, and rejected by, the trial judge,” the Court of Appeal said. “They are the subject of lengthy and detailed reasons which describe the findings of fact essential to proof of guilt and the evidentiary stuff of which those findings were made.”

    Doodnaught, who is in his late 60s, was convicted in November 2013 on all counts for assaulting women, who ranged from 25 to 75 years old, while they were semi-conscious at the North York General Hospital. Among other things, Doodnaught inserted his penis into women’s mouths, used some for masturbation, and sexually fondled others over a four-year period.

    The defence never argued the women fabricated their complaints or colluded with one another, but at trial and on appeal suggested the complainants may have been hallucinating while under anesthetic. Doodnaught’s lawyers further argued that the assaults, in the confined space of an operating theatre close to others in the surgical team, could not have happened.

    Superior Court Justice David McCombs rejected the defence arguments, siding with the prosecution that Doodnaught had the opportunity to commit the assaults from behind a screen and that the women’s accounts of what happened were honest and realistic.

    McCombs found Doodnaught’s closeness to patients during surgery didn’t draw suspicion because he was known as a “touchy-feely” doctor who stroked a patient’s cheek or hair to soothe her during procedures. The judge also lambasted him for compounding his victims’ distress by trying to make them believe they were somehow responsible for what happened.

    On appeal, the doctor argued the evidence at trial fell short of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the offences actually happened. His lawyers pointed at expert evidence about the hallucinogenic properties of the anesthetics in support of their position.

    “This case is overwhelming only if one presumes that the possibility of drug-induced dreamlike states is impossible, as the trial judge did,” Doodnaught’s lawyers argued on appeal. “The trial judge failed to adequately consider the defence submission that a significant proportion, indeed the majority, of the alleged incidents were impossible.”

    The Appeal Court would have none of it.

    The higher court noted McCombs had even visited the operating rooms in which the anesthetist had worked to gain a better understanding of the layout before finding that Doodnaught did indeed have the opportunity to commit the assaults as alleged.

    The Appeal Court also found the judge had carefully looked at the expert evidence on whether patients might hallucinate about sexual experiences, noting no witness had ever heard of a case of multiple allegations of sexual assault on patients under the kind of sedation Doodnaught administered.

    “The appellant’s quarrel is not rooted in any legal principle so far as I can determine but rather in the factual findings the trial judge made,” Justice David Watt wrote for the Appeal Court. “Those factual findings put paid to the defence position that the conduct each complainant honestly believed took place — and which amounted to sexual assault — simply never happened.”

    Doodnaught’s medical licence has been suspended for several years but a disciplinary hearing that could see him barred from ever practising again has been awaiting the outcome of the appeal.

    Toronto anesthetist who sexually assaulted sedated patients loses appealToronto anesthetist who sexually assaulted sedated patients loses appeal

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