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    A complaint to the city’s integrity commissioner alleges Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is improperly using city resources in an appeal where he is acting as a private citizen.

    Mammoliti is one of several people who have appealed council’s decision on new ward boundaries at the province’s Ontario Municipal Board, a land use planning tribunal.

    Toronto resident Tyler Johnson told the integrity commissioner’s office that at least one member of Mammoliti’s staff, community relations and issues specialist Jason Wang, was assisting with the appeal and that other staff members may be helping also.

    Johnson filed the complaint Friday.

    “Council’s code of conduct states city councillors cannot use their office or city resources for anything other than business of the city,” Johnson said in an email. “If Mammoliti is at the OMB as a private citizen, he shouldn’t be using city resources.”

    Mammoliti did not respond directly to questions from the Star about the use of his staff at the appeal.

    But he called the complaint “frivolous” and an attempt to silence him by those he said are in favour of a larger council.

    “So in response to those that want to silence me; ‘bite me Mammo style, I am not going anywhere,’” he wrote in an email response which he copied to several other media outlets.

    Wang did not respond to a request for comment.

    Johnson works for the Toronto District School Board and attended the OMB hearing this week as a private citizen, independent of his job, he told the Star. He said he does not have any political ambitions or connection to Mammoliti.

    The city’s code of conduct for members of council states: “No member of council should use, or permit the use of city land, facilities, equipment, supplies, services, staff or other resources (for example, city-owned materials, websites, council transportation delivery services and member of council expense budgets) for activities other than the business of the corporation.”

    A Star reporter attended the first three days of the OMB hearing, which began Tuesday, and witnessed Wang sitting with Mammoliti at a table for parties to the appeal, taking notes and assisting the councillor as he cross-examined witnesses called by the city.

    Councillors’ staff are funded through the city’s operating budget, which is funded in large part by property tax dollars.

    In November 2016, council approved a new ward boundary structure that would increase the number of wards to 47 from 44.

    Since then, several appeals have been filed with the OMB, which has jurisdiction to confirm or overrule the boundaries approved by council.

    Mammoliti, who filed his appeal in May, did so without referencing his role as a councillor.

    “I am a resident, home owner and taxpayer in the City of Toronto,” his appeal letter reads, with no formal letter head and using his home address.

    In his letter, Mammoliti complained the structure as adopted by council has “many flaws” and called consultation with the public “minimal.” He said a reduction in the size of council was not properly considered.

    The ward boundary changes remove a quadrant in the northeastern part of the area he currently represents, Ward 7 (York West) — a residential area southwest of the Jane St. and Finch Ave. intersection.

    At the hearing Thursday, Mammoliti complained repeatedly about a more than two-year consultative process he said did not include enough input from residents. The city’s hired consultants confirmed that while a single meeting in the Jane and Finch area saw no attendees, more than 2,000 people participated overall.

    Election results in Ward 7 from 2014 show the polls that would be moved out of that ward as a result of the council-approved boundary changes supported Mammoliti, who won with 46 per cent of all votes compared to the runner-up who won 36 per cent of the votes.

    “I’m not here for selfish reasons,” Mammoliti said on the hearing’s first day, arguing more consultation was required.

    Mammoliti has previously been the subject of complaints to city watchdogs.

    In 2014, the former integrity commissioner found Mammoliti violated the city’s code of conduct when he accepted an $80,000 gift from a fundraising event organized on his behalf. Council imposed the maximum fine by docking Mammoliti 90 days pay. An investigation conducted by the Toronto police financial crimes unit was subsequently launched, but no charges were ever laid.

    The city’s integrity commissioner can only recommend punishment to council if she finds a councillor has contravened city rules. Recommended punishment is limited to a reprimand or suspension of pay up to 90 days.

    Complaint alleges Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti improperly used city resourcesComplaint alleges Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti improperly used city resources

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    An Ontario Superior Court justice on Friday approved a motion to liquidate all remaining Sears Canada stores, ending a retail empire that served generations of Canadians.

    More on Sears Canada

    Liquidation sales are scheduled to begin Oct. 19 and finish no later than Jan. 21.

    “It is difficult to find the right words at times such as this and may seem inadequate,” said Susan Ursel of Ursel Phillips Fellows Hopkinson, the law firm representing Sears employees, speaking in court.

    “This company has touched the lives of generations of Canadians.”

    Ursel asked Justice Glenn Hainey to recognize the work the employees have done and are doing to keep the company going, even though they will be losing their jobs and won’t be getting any severance packages to tide them over until they find new work.

    “These employees truly deserve the thanks and appreciation of all the shareholders in this proceeding for their past and continuing efforts,” said Ursel.

    There are about 12,000 people still working for Sears Canada, after thousands more were let go from head office and in the first wave of store closures.

    “It’s not just the loss of a job for me,” said Blaise Lyle, 58, a former Sears employee who attended the court hearing in downtown Toronto.

    Lyle worked for Sears for 39 years. He was let go from his job as an in-store marketing manager at head office on June 22 when the company first sought creditor protection.

    “It’s the end of an era for a lot of Canadians.”

    Another 74 full-line department stores, eight Sears Home stores and 49 Hometown stores remain to be closed.

    Hometown dealers will be permitted to run their own liquidation sales, though they must conform to the same guidelines as the professional liquidators who have been hired to wind down the other stores.

    After paying for costs, proceeds from asset sales will be distributed to creditors around the globe.

    Outside the courtroom, Andrew Hatnay, a Koskie Minsky lawyer representing Sears pensioners, said his group will move to get their claim paid first, ahead of other creditors – the pension fund is owed nearly $260 million.

    “The retirees are obviously very concerned with the announcement that the company will be liquidating,” said Hatnay.

    A bid by Sears Canada executive chairman Brandon Stranzl to continue operating the company as a going concern has not been successful, but a legal window of opportunity has been left open for Sears to accept an offer up until Oct. 19.

    Hatnay declined to comment on the likelihood of an eleventh hour bid succeeding.

    “It’s a complicated commercial transaction,” said Hatnay.

    Sears Canada’s liquidation is a blow for billionaire Eddie Lampert, its biggest shareholder, who partially spun off the company from Sears Holdings Corp. in 2012.

    The windup raises questions about whether Sears Holdings may also falter as the company has racked up more than $10 billion in losses over the past six years. Sears shares have fallen more than 10 per cent since Sears Canada announced it was going to liquidate.

    Target Corp., which filed for creditor protection in Canada and then withdrew from the country in 2015, has left a hole in many of the country’s malls, which made it tougher for Sears Canada to find buyers for its real estate and leases.

    With files from Bloomberg

    Court approves Sears Canada liquidation, sales will start on Oct. 19Court approves Sears Canada liquidation, sales will start on Oct. 19

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday angrily accused Iran of violating the spirit of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, blaming it for a litany of malign behaviour and hitting its main military wing with anti-terrorism sanctions. But Trump, breaking with a campaign pledge to rip up the agreement, said he was not yet ready to pull the U.S. out or re-impose nuclear sanctions.

    Instead, he kicked the issue to Congress and the other nations in the seven-country accord, telling lawmakers to toughen the law that governs U.S. participation and to fix a series of deficiencies in the agreement. Those include the expiration of several key restrictions under “sunset provisions” that begin to kick in in 2025, he said.

    Trump warned that without the fixes, he would likely pull the U.S. out of the deal and snap previously lifted sanctions back into place. Without improvements, he said in a White House speech, “the agreement will be terminated.”

    “It is under continuous review, and our participation can be cancelled by me as president at any time,” he said in a speech from the White House.

    Read more: Europe is scrambling to save the Iran nuclear deal from Donald Trump

    Trump’s announcement was essentially a compromise that allows him to condemn an accord that he has repeatedly denounced as the worst deal in American history. But he stopped well short of torpedoing the pact, which was negotiated over 18 months by the Obama administration, European allies and others.

    Congress will now have 60 days to decide whether to put the accord’s previous sanctions back into place, modify them or do nothing. Any decision to re-impose sanctions would automatically kill America’s participation in the deal.

    Ahead of Trump’s speech, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other U.S. officials offered details of the president’s new stance. Tillerson said Trump will ask lawmakers to come up with legislation that would automatically re-impose sanctions that were lifted under the deal should Iran cross any one of numerous nuclear and non-nuclear “trigger points.”

    Those “trigger points” would include violations of the deal involving illicit atomic work or ballistic missile testing, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and other groups that destabilize the region, human rights abuses and cyber warfare, Tillerson said.

    Both defenders of the Iran nuclear deal and critics are likely to be displeased by Trump’s decision. Those who support the deal believe Trump’s move will badly damage U.S. credibility in future international negotiations, while opponents think he does not go far enough in unraveling the accord.

    Ali Larijani, Iran’s parliament speaker, said Friday that any U.S. move against a nuclear deal with Iran would be an “insult” to the United Nations because the UN had given the deal its blessing.

    He added that any revision of the deal would allow Iran to take its own actions, and warned that the U.S. move could destabilize the international situation.

    “We will continue to adhere to our obligations ... for as long as other parties observe the agreement,” he said on a visit to Russia.

    American allies, who have pressed the White House to remain in the nuclear accord, were closely watching the president’s address. The European parties to the accord — Germany, France and Britain — along with the other parties, Iran, Russia and China, have ruled out reopening the deal. But some, notably France, have signalled a willingness to tackle unresolved issues in supplementary negotiations.

    Among those issues are the expiration of several restrictions on advanced nuclear activity under so-called “sunset clauses” that will allow Iran to begin ramping up its enrichment capabilities after 10 years, the end of an arms embargo and the eventual easing of demands for a halt to its missile program.

    In the speech, Trump hoped to “recruit” the Europeans into joining his broad strategy, particularly by punishing the Revolutionary Guard, which he and his national security team believe is fomenting instability, violence and extremism throughout the Middle East and beyond, according to one official.

    In anticipation of Trump’s announcements, Republican legislators have drawn up a new version of the law replacing the current 90-day timetable with “semi-annual” certifications, according to drafts seen by the Associated Press this week.

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker said in a statement on Friday that his panel had agreed to fresh certification criteria to include items that are also the province of the UN nuclear watchdog and require the U.S. intelligence community to determine if Iran is carrying out illicit activity in facilities to which the International Atomic Energy Agency has not had access.

    Donald Trump accuses Iran of violating landmark nuclear deal, but says he won’t terminate it, for nowDonald Trump accuses Iran of violating landmark nuclear deal, but says he won’t terminate it, for now

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    A Toronto Catholic high school teacher has been charged by police with luring a child online for sexual purposes.

    Toronto police said a search warrant was executed in the area of Bloor St. W. and Lansdowne Ave. on Thursday.

    Police said the suspect taught at Bishop Allen Academy in Etobicoke.

    He previously taught at Bishop Morroco-Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School in 2007 and 2008.

    Police alleged that the teacher used different usernames online, including thepoppaship, poppaship, mrmcteacher, G-Note/ G Note, massive reggae/massivereggae.

    TCDSB spokesperson John Yan said the teacher has been removed from his position at Bishop Allen Academy.

    “We want to reassure our parents and students that these allegations are not reflective of the caring and compassionate teaching professionals who work in our schools,” said Yan. Counsellors are available to any students and staff who may need support.

    The teacher may have worked as an education assistant at St. Francis Xavier Secondary School in Mississauga from 1995 to 2000, police said. He worked as an administrative assistant at St. Francis Table in Toronto from 2000-2006.

    Gerard McGilly, 46, is charged with luring a child under 18, sexual exploitation, making sexually explicit material available to a person under 18, making child pornography, possessing child pornography, and accessing child pornography.

    Police said the investigation continues. They are urging anyone who may have been subjected to inappropriate contact by the teacher to call investigators.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact Sex Crimes, Child Exploitation Section at 416-808-8500, or Crime Stoppers, anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).

    Catholic high school teacher facing sexual exploitation chargesCatholic high school teacher facing sexual exploitation charges

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    The wait is almost over for our purported premier-in-waiting.

    We may soon know a little more about Patrick Brown, the little-known leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative opposition.

    Next month at a convention centre near the airport — same place where he won a leadership convention two years ago — Brown is giving us a sneak policy peak. Then as now, it is a fait accompli, held mostly for show.

    Brown had the party’s votes in 2015, just as he has them in 2017. But to win the province’s votes in 2018, the PC leader can’t keep playing possum with policy.

    Or it won’t be worth the wait.

    Most public opinion polling shows Brown poised for victory over Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose personal unpopularity is dragging down a Liberal brand tarnished over time. Yet after all this time, most Ontarians still tell pollsters they don’t know anything about Brown.

    Why is there so little to show, or know, about where he stands? Is it because the province’s next premier is merely afraid to say, has nothing to say, or both?

    All along, the PCs have been pointing to next month’s policy convention as the big reveal, an insight into how the party will steer the province when it takes power. Against that backdrop, we bring you a sample from this week’s list of 139 “Recommended Policy Resolutions” that the party brass are feeding the grassroots — and the rest of us — as leading edge thinking:

    • “PC Party policy is to help make life more affordable for families with young children.”

    • “PC Party policy is to create a wider range of options for child care.”

    • “PC Party policy is to protect workers, their economic freedoms, and the pensions they’ve been promised.”

    You get the idea about the lack of ideas, crafted with platitudes to cover virtually every base — something for everyone, or perhaps nothing for anyone.

    Yes, there are a few deadly serious promises, mostly to kill programs such as cap-and-trade or renewable energy supports. But the rest of the policy folio is a fig leaf — serving as strategic foliage for the grassroots to chew on.

    And cloaking an emperor with no ideas.

    The only certainty is that a policy convention announced with great fanfare to give voice to the grassroots has rolled over them with a fresh layer of Astroturf. The better for Brown to sprint to power without tripping up.

    Absent from the agenda is any hint of social policy of the kind he played footsie with during and after his leadership run. No more talk of tackling abortion, sex education or gay rights that won him the support of socially conservative PCs in the past.

    It may be that Brown’s U-turn — steering clear of the people to whom he once hitched his wagon — is a politically astute move. What helped him in the party leadership race, and as a backbench MP in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa (when he backed a motion opening the door to criminalizing late-term abortions) would likely hurt him with the general population.

    “Let me be very clear: I am pro-choice,” Brown declared this month.

    How to square his reincarnated pro-choice persona with his pro-life stance, in a previous life, suggesting a fetus is a person?

    “I was a backbench member of a broader team,” he told The Canadian Press this week by way of explaining his voting record. “Now that I’m the leader of the party I can much (more) clearly speak from my own heart.”

    But the abortion vote in Ottawa was a free vote of conscience — you know, from the heart — which Harper urged his own backbenchers to oppose. Brown now insists that as premier he wouldn’t reopen the debate.

    That’s to his political credit, but not his political credibility. Was it a matter of conviction then, and convenience now — or vice versa?

    There is nothing especially scary about Brown, beyond his being scared of his own shadow. Nor are there any ominous signs of a hidden agenda about which he won’t speak, just warning signals that there is no agenda to speak of.

    Don’t take my word for it. Listen to his fellow Tories — not just the vast majority of caucus members who lined up against Brown in the leadership race, but the growing number of party members complaining about internal party democracy. Apart from dissent over the policy process, protests over candidate nominations have dissolved into a police investigation — and litigation involving an awkward tape recording.

    Brown and his team are gaining a reputation for telling people what they want to hear, and then changing their story — not just with the general public, but the party faithful. That may work at next month’s carefully choreographed policy convention, but not on the campaign trail next spring, by which time motherhood resolutions promising apple pie will be awfully stale.

    No one really knows who will be Ontario’s next premier — just that if it’s Brown, he may be truly unknowable.

    Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday., Twitter: @reggcohn

    What we don’t know about Patrick Brown as premier: CohnWhat we don’t know about Patrick Brown as premier: Cohn

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    After more than 1,000 students and graduates signed a petition to save a “yearbook’” wall dating back to the 1980s, Malvern Collegiate Institute has decided to move forward with its decision to paint over it.

    The wall of the dressing room in the Upper Beach high school has been signed by Grade 11 and 12 drama students over the years as a tradition, but earlier this month the school board planned to paint over it because of “offensive comments” that were also written on the wall.

    The dressing room was locked after Malvern’s new principal, Bernadette Shaw, saw the comments. Earlier this month painters came to the school but left following outrage from students.

    After a meeting Thursday with staff and students, the decision was made to move forward with the paint job, according to Toronto District School Board spokesperson Ryan Bird.

    “I still think this is the wrong decision,” said Ben Loughton, who graduated from Malvern last year.

    But before the names and comments are erased, the wall will be photographed in high resolution (without the offensive writing) and the pictures will be put up in the school.

    “Removing the writing isn’t that simple. You’re tearing away memories and history,” said Loughton.

    “I don’t think the photographs do the students and graduates justice but it’s better than nothing.”

    Bird said there’s currently no set date for when the wall be will repainted.

    With files from Alex McKeen

    Malvern Collegiate will paint over students’ ‘yearbook’ wallMalvern Collegiate will paint over students’ ‘yearbook’ wall

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    As more allegations spill out about Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual misconduct against women in Hollywood, the phrase “open secret” is being tossed around quite a bit. People in the entertainment industry have gossiped about Weinstein’s behaviour for years, even though it’s just now being discussed in public after the New York Times and New Yorker investigations, as A-listers including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Ashley Judd are on the record describing disturbing experiences.

    Much earlier, Weinstein’s reputation was already referenced quite openly in pop culture — and it was no secret about what TV writers thought of him.

    Read more:

    Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein fired from own company

    Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie join flood of allegations against Harvey Weinstein

    Harvey Weinstein being shunned not for wrongdoing, but for getting caught: Paradkar


    The HBO comedy/Hollywood parody had a brief but memorable arc in the mid-2000s with a character named “Harvey Weingard,” an over-the-top terrifying producer who was a very loosely veiled version of Weinstein. (The Hollywood Reporter reported that Weinstein was initially not a fan, and told star Kevin Connolly that the producers were “dead” if they mentioned him again.)

    On the show, Harvey was portrayed as an extremely influential, verbally abusive power player who threatened to end people’s careers if he didn’t get his way — he went ballistic on Vince (Adrien Grenier) and the guys when they changed their minds about a movie deal.

    30 Rock

    On NBC’s 30 Rock, actress Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) could always be counted on for a random tidbit about her past with celebrities — there were jokes about how she dated O.J. Simpson or was engaged to David Blaine. In a March 2012 episode, Jenna was furious that “Weird Al” Yankovic was parodying one of her songs. Her co-star, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), tells her that it’s a bad idea to mess with Weird Al.

    “Oh please, I’m not afraid of anyone in show business,” Jenna says. “I turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions. Out of five.”

    The next season, it comes up again as Jenna consoles Kenneth the page (Jack McBrayer) about his love interest.

    “I know how former lovers can have a hold over you long after they’re gone,” she says. “In some ways, I’m still pinned under a passed-out Harvey Weinstein, and it’s Thanksgiving.”

    The Oscars

    Weinstein was known to do everything in his power to secure Oscar nominations for his movies. In Tuesday’s bombshell New York Times piece that featured quotes from Paltrow and Jolie, the story reminded everyone that in 2013, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane cracked a joke about this while announcing the Oscar nominees for best supporting actress: “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.” MacFarlane and his announcing partner, Emma Stone, paused as the audience cracked up at that one.

    Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour was a dark inside jokeHarvey Weinstein’s behaviour was a dark inside joke

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    One winter night in December 2016, Ghulam Faqiri answered a knock at the door to see two police officers in his driveway. It had been 11 days since he had seen his second-born son, Soleiman who had been arrested on Dec. 4 for charges of aggravated assault, assault and uttering threats.

    His older brother, Yusuf, said Soleiman, whohad suffered with schizophrenia for the past 11 years, was the Faqiri family’s “gentle giant.” He was his mother’s best friend, his father’s helper, his two younger brothers’ mentor, his sister’s protector, his own idol. Soleiman wanted to be the greatest scholar in the world.

    But he was sick. He had gotten sicker and needed help, and, seeing the police officers at his doorstep, Ghulam had a feeling of dread. In his broken English, the 53-year-old Afghan-Canadian man asked police: “Is my son dead?”

    Read more:

    Family of mentally ill inmate who died in Ontario jail looks for answers

    Human Rights Commission calls on province to end segregation for prisoners with mental health disabilities

    Family of mentally ill inmate who died in Ontario jail still waiting for answers

    He translated their answer in Farsi for his wife of more than three decades, Maryam, with help from Yusuf. The police told them there was an “altercation” between Soleiman, 30, and correctional officers on Dec. 15 in the Lindsay, Ont., jail where he was being held on remand, awaiting a mental-health assessment.

    It’s been 10 months since Soleiman died and two months since a coroner’s report found he suffered more than 50 physical injuries from a three-hour long confrontation with prison officers before dying in a segregation cell.

    That is all the family knows.

    That night, Yusuf said he sat in the living room with his father and younger brothers for an hour, asking — begging — for more information from the two police officers. Maryam, he said, paced back and forth in the next room, crying. She hadn’t slept properly since her son had been taken to prison — and hasn’t since he died. “My son, my beautiful son is dead,” she kept repeating. “My baby, my baby, I miss you so much.”

    Since that night, the police have conducted a forensic examination of the death scene; interviewed the responding paramedic and dozens of correctional staff members and inmates; reviewed the transcript of the 911 call; reviewed video footage; established a timeline of events; and spoken to the coroner.

    Despite these investigative steps, the family is still waiting, desperately, for answers: Who killed Soleiman? Why did they kill him? When will they know?

    In emails to the Star, both the police and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) offered their deep condolences to the family. They did not say when the investigation will conclude.

    “The safety and security of our inmates and staff is our top priority,” said an MCSCS representative, who couldn’t comment further because of the ongoing investigation.

    “I am unable to estimate how long this may take,” said Sgt. Tom Hickey of the Kawartha Lakes Police in an email. “We are committed to conducting a full, frank and fair investigation, but the trade-off is the length of time in which it takes.”

    “It has been a priority to conclude this investigation in a professional and completely thorough manner,” Hickey wrote, “with the secondary priority of concluding this investigation as quickly as possible.”

    The ongoing police investigation is also a factor for Dr. David Eden, regional supervising coroner for inquests, who is still considering an inquest into Soleiman’s death.

    “(The police) have been responsive,” said Edward Marrocco, the family’s lawyer, “They just haven’t told (us) anything substantive.”

    At the last update, on Sept. 26, Marrocco was told the police were waiting for a legal opinion from the Office of the Crown Attorney regarding criminal charges. The police said they would know in a few weeks. The delay in the investigation, they explained in an email to him, was “due to the complexity of the case, and the thoroughness of the review.”

    “If there’s complexity here I wish someone would explain to me what it is,” Marrocco said.

    In the spring of 2005, Soleiman was in a car crash and diagnosed with schizophrenia soon after. Medical research suggests there is an increased risk of developing schizophrenia after a traumatic brain injury, but there are many other factors that could trigger the condition in a 19-year-old male.

    “He was not himself. He became more anxious, less focused,” said Sohrab, 29, the middle brother. “He became not the brother we grew up with.”

    Maryam’s three sons say that Soleiman had a special relationship with his mother, which became even stronger after his illness, but on the afternoon that he was arrested, Maryam and Soleiman had a disagreement. He had been struggling with his illness — he had refused to take his medication since March 2016 and had started to have hallucinations — a common symptom of schizophrenia, along with delusions, disorganized thinking and apathy. That day, he was confused — he didn’t recognize Maryam.

    According to Durham Regional Police, he allegedly pushed and spat on a female neighbour—he was on his own at the time, said the family. When another woman came out to confront him, he allegedly stabbed her, which resulted in minor injuries.

    From the onset, his fitness to face the charges was questioned because of his mental illness.

    In the course of 10 days, Ghulam and Maryam tried to visit their son three times in prison and each time they were denied access to their son. Yusuf, 33, and Sohrab went to both court and jail, too.

    On Dec. 12, Soleiman appeared in an Oshawa courtroom via a video link from jail. It was the first time Yusuf had seen Soleiman in a week; he could see his brother was not doing well. He told the court the family had struggled to place him in a health-care facility and get him the medical attention he needed — Soleiman needed help in a medical institution, he said, not time in a jail.

    A nurse told the presiding justice that Soleiman wasn’t speaking to anyone, refusing his medicine, not eating properly, and lying on the floor, making no eye contact.

    When the Crown attorney asked him if he had ever seen Soleiman like this in the 11 years of his illness, Yusuf replied “This is much worse.”

    Three days after that hearing, before his mental-health evaluation could be performed, Soleiman died.

    On Dec. 18, 2016, the Faqiris brought Soleiman’s body home. They buried him that same afternoon at Pine Ridge Cemetery in an unmarked grave, in the shadow of a giant tree.

    Today, there’s a profound emptiness in the Faqiri’s suburban family home in Whitby, Ont. — a house they moved into five months after Soleiman died. The house Soleiman had grown up in, a short distance away, was too difficult to live in anymore.

    Ghulam came to Canada early 1993 as a refugee from Kabul, Afghanistan, to escape the violence and uncertainty of the Afghan Civil War that began after the Soviet Union withdrew from the country. His family joined him several months later; they became Canadian citizens a decade later.

    “We did not expect to come to this country as refugees and bury our brother” said Yusuf, the oldest Faqiri sibling.

    Soleiman was an intelligent kid — a straight A-student who was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Waterloo. He was a good athlete, too, captain of his high school rugby team and a strong football player — he’d race his brothers every chance he’d get and tease them every time he won, which, Sohrab said, was almost always.

    Now he exists in just memories: A late night out, just the brothers, at a restaurant in Pickering, eating wings; a water gunfight that still makes them laugh; the shoes he bought their nieces and nephews a month before he died.

    “Without him, it’s different. I lost a big muscle out of this family,” said Ali, the youngest sibling. “It’s hard to explain.”

    His mother visits his grave everyday. The tombstone that will be placed there next month says, “You are loved beyond words and missed without measure.”

    “After his death, I don’t work, I don’t know what to do,” said Ghulam, his voice breaking. “In the streets, at the mosque, I’m always looking for him. Where is he? In every room, I just look for him.”

    “He shouldn’t have died like this,” Maryam said.

    ‘My beautiful son is dead’: Family still searching for answers after Whitby man’s 2016 death in prison‘My beautiful son is dead’: Family still searching for answers after Whitby man’s 2016 death in prison

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    Finance minister Bill Morneau is headed back to the House of Commons on Monday with a target on his back and much of the burden of his government’s declining popularity on his shoulders.

    On Friday, an Angus Reid poll on voting intentions confirmed the ongoing erosion of Liberal support. It is no accident that Justin Trudeau’s government mid-term slump comes at a time when Morneau is taking a prolonged public relations beating over his plan to tighten the rules that govern private corporations.

    Over the past two years, other ministers have been left twisting in the wind as a result of poorly conceived and/or poorly executed policies without the government taking a corresponding hit in voting intentions.

    Read more:

    Bill Morneau’s French villa controversy couldn’t have come at a worse time: Editorial

    Six facts you need to know about Ottawa’s tax reforms: Olive

    Morneau grilled at town hall meeting in Oakville over tax changes for small businesses

    Think of ex-democratic reform minister Maryam Monsef’s electoral reform fiasco or, more recently, of House leader Bardish Chagger having to walk back her talk about overhauling the rules of the Commons.

    But when it is the finance minister who is being wounded in battle day in and day out, it is the government’s core managerial reputation that takes a licking.

    For if politics were a game of chess, the finance minister would be one of two pieces — the other being the prime minister — that is not disposable or at least not at less than prohibitive cost.

    Morneau cannot be shuffled off to some other portfolio or quit without the move sending a loud signal that something big is amiss within the government.

    Liberal strategists are hoping the imminent release of a revised set of proposals for private corporation taxation rules will take the pressure off the finance minister. There is a fiscal update in the pipeline that will feature some better-than-expected economic numbers.

    The remainder of the fall sitting should also see the nomination of a new chief justice for the Supreme Court. Who knows, a government in search of diversions may get around to filling some of the many vacant parliamentary watchdog posts.

    Morneau’s team has been shored up. Senior PMO adviser Justin To has moved to the finance minister’s office. Former broadcaster Ben Chin, who most recently was in charge of communications for former B.C. premier Christy Clark, has joined his inner circle.

    A special “mandatory” Liberal caucus meeting featuring a briefing by the finance minister has been called for Monday morning.

    But whether a rewritten policy, a bolstered palace guard and new marching orders for a nervous government caucus will reverse the tide or just make things worse, remains to be seen. In politics, the line between healthy flexibility and weak-kneed vacillation is a thin one.

    At this juncture, the public perception is that Morneau is beating a retreat under his critics’ fire either out of lack of fortitude and/or lack of fiscal foresight.

    For the many Canadians who actually back his tax reform, the minister’s increasingly apologetic tone is not conducive to confidence. Ditto, of course, for those incensed by his initial proposals.

    Whispers that Morneau is already disillusioned with politics have not helped. Nor does speculation that Trudeau could kill two birds with one stone by promoting economic development minister Navdeep Bains — who like incoming NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is a Sikh — to the finance post.

    In the circumstances, the news reported by the CBC on Friday that Morneau omitted to disclose the private company that owns his villa in Provence for the better part of two years could not have come at a worse time.

    It is unlikely to cause him lasting ethics-related wounds, but raising the existence of the villa itself will reinforce the opposition narrative that the minister is a wealthy political dilettante who is out-of-touch with the reality of ordinary Canadians.

    At this juncture, it is hard to see a probable scenario that would not have Morneau emerge from the fall’s travails as, if not a spent force, at least a weaker one.

    He is hardly the first finance minister to be forced to change tack on a policy. In their days in the finance hot seat, Ralph Goodale and Jim Flaherty had to scramble to avoid the demise of their respective minority governments. But both were seasoned politicians, well-versed in the cut and thrust of partisan duels.

    Morneau is the first parliamentary rookie to hold the post of finance minister in modern federal history. Two years ago there were questions as to the wisdom of appointing an untested politician to the second-most powerful post in the government. The jury is just about no longer out on that.

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

    Bill Morneau feels the heat as Liberal support slips: HébertBill Morneau feels the heat as Liberal support slips: Hébert

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    Author/geographer Adam Shoalts delves into the history of Canada, and the fearlessness and ingenuity of its explorers. Perhaps none were as influential, and skilled at mapmaking, as Samuel de Champlain, who as a young boy in France learned from his father how to read currents and navigate by the stars.

    In the early 17th century he began expeditions to what’s now eastern Canada and founded the town of Quebec. The dangers were far from over.

    While Champlain could smooth over, at least temporarily, differences between the Algonquin and Mohawk, England remained a bigger problem. In 1628, when English privateers led by the three Kirke brothers arrived at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, they pillaged and burned the French farmsteads there. They then turned their attention to Quebec itself, sending a messenger demanding that Champlain surrender the fort to them. The winter had been a particularly harsh one, and Champlain’s band was running desperately low on food and gunpowder. But Champlain had devoted his life to founding Quebec, and he wasn’t about to hand it over to a bunch of English pirates. He refused their demand.

    The pirates weren’t stupid — they knew it was better to starve out the French than fight them. They waited in their ships at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, keeping an eye out for the expected relief ships from France that would be carrying provisions and more settlers. When the sails of these French vessels loomed into sight, the English pirates opened fire with their cannons and quickly captured the unsuspecting, outgunned ships. In all, they captured over a dozen French ships and took some 400 prisoners. Well satisfied with their prize, they left Quebec and sailed back to England.

    This put Champlain and his settlers in a desperate plight. Already low on food, they would have to last another winter without any resupply — and were reduced to living off a tiny morsel of beans and peas rationed out per day, which they turned into a thin soup.

    Outside the fort’s walls, they dug up roots and scrounged around for whatever berries they could find. They bartered for food with their Montagnais and other Algonquin friends — mostly eels and moose meat — but the natives themselves had precious little to spare. By the time the snows melted the next spring, the situation at Quebec was becoming horrendous.

    Their only hope was the arrival of French relief ships, but their hearts sank when they learned that the first sails spotted on the horizon were more English privateers — all five of the Kirke brothers this time. Their fleet had swelled to six heavily armed ships and some 600 men, vastly outnumbering Champlain’s little settlement.

    Starving as they were, further resistance was futile. When faced with a renewed demand to surrender, Champlain grudgingly capitulated to the privateers. The Kirke brothers took the celebrated explorer on board their flagship as a worthy prize and planned to sail back to England with him. But in the waters off the Gaspé Peninsula the English encountered their own surprise — an incoming French ship. The English and French ships exchanged fire; one cannonball took the head clean off an English sailor. But the French ship, outnumbered and outgunned, soon surrendered.

    The English sailed on to Tadoussac to pillage there and round up as many furs as they could lay their hands on. Here, Champlain met with a shock. His chief scout, (Étienne) Brûlé, whom he’d once looked upon almost as a son, treasonously agreed to help the English. The English were in need of Brûlé’s skills — he’d now lived most of his life as a native, and was fluent in several native languages. Champlain denounced Brûlé and warned him that traitors got their just deserts. Brûlé ultimately met a fate worse than what Champlain probably had in mind — if the stories are to be believed, the Bear clan of the Wendat, knowing of Brûlé’s treason, slowly tortured, killed and cannibalized him.

    Champlain was taken to London on board the Kirkes’ flagship. But by the time they reached Europe, peace had been signed between England and France, which made Champlain a free man. Back in Paris, he argued strenuously in favour of Canada’s long-term potential and pressed the French king to demand its return. It took three years, but finally, in 1632, the English Crown agreed to give back Quebec to the French. Champlain was overjoyed, and as soon as he could he set sail for Canada.

    He found it in need of much work, but with the energy that always characterized his actions, he threw himself into it. Champlain oversaw the building of new fortifications and buildings, dispatched more of his scouts to explore the interior and provide reports, and put in motion plans to establish habitations at Trois-Rivières and other strategic points along the St. Lawrence. But he was no longer the young, seemingly invincible explorer who had survived war wounds, Atlantic gales, scurvy, disease, frostbite and whitewater rapids.

    Champlain’s health, as he turned 65, declined rapidly. On Christmas Day 1635, he died in his bed — a rare achievement for a man of action in his era. His death was greatly mourned, not only by the French colonists, but also by dozens of northern native nations from the Wendat to the Mi’kmaq — who had seen in Champlain an honest and brave man, and a loyal friend. They would not soon see his like again. The founder of Quebec was buried inside the town’s walls.

    Champlain had successfully crossed the dangerous Atlantic some 27 times, never once losing a ship. He travelled and explored widely, saw two great lakes, ran rapids in a canoe in a manner no European aside from Brûlé and a few of his other scouts had previously dared, fought in wars on two continents, and planted the first permanent seed of European colonies in Canada. He was, as French Canadians later named him, le père du Canada — “the Father of Canada.”

    His legacy is perhaps most fully told in the maps he left behind— maps many consider to be among the greatest ever made by any single explorer. Looking at Champlain’s maps today, one is struck by their accuracy: they represent a great leap forward over all previous maps of North America. His masterful maps were the result of a complex, multi-layered approach that combined geographic data from many sources.

    First of all, Champlain had the maps of his predecessors to guide him — they were often crude and full of errors, but still provided a rudimentary base map. To these, Champlain could add his own detailed observations and corrections, the result of his many sea voyages to the waters off Newfoundland, Acadia as far south as Cape Cod, and all through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as well as his many canoe journeys. With his astrolabe and knack for celestial navigation, he recorded hundreds of sun and star observations that gave him his latitude.

    This helped fill in the details of his maps and correct previous errors. But most of his mapping remained essentially intuitive — sketching features that he saw from the deck of a ship or the bow of a canoe. It took a trained eye to pull that off with the degree of accuracy Champlain managed.

    He had ventured far in his travels in the interior — all the way up the St. Lawrence from its mouth to the island of Mont Royal. He’d ranged southward to Lake Champlain and had seen the peaks of the Adirondacks; northward he had struggled up the Ottawa River and over the height of land to Lake Huron. He journeyed through much of what is now central Ontario, and across part of Lake Ontario and south into Iroquois territory.

    All these lands he mapped as he explored them — pausing whenever he could to take readings with his astrolabe. And what Champlain wasn’t able to explore himself he dispatched his scouts — the coureurs de bois — to explore and report back on. He also incorporated into his maps the charts of other contemporary European explorers — like those of the English, who were busy exploring the Arctic regions in their quest for a northwest passage.

    Last, but certainly not least, Champlain drew from the knowledge of his aboriginal allies, whom he almost constantly asked about geographical matters. Several times he noted asking his native friends to draw birchbark maps for him. Undoubtedly, these maps filled in many of the final details on his charts.

    Champlain was always revising his maps. His final version of his map of North America, published in 1632, shortly before his death, is a magnificent accomplishment. It reveals the outline of much of northeastern North America, from Baffin Island in the north to Chesapeake Bay in the south, and west to the Great Lakes. The Atlantic seaboard is charted in impressive detail; earlier errors are gone from his map, and we can see clearly now the Bay of Fundy, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, the Gaspé, Anticosti and Newfoundland.

    The St. Lawrence River is mapped from its wide mouth all the way to its headwaters on Lake Ontario. The Ottawa is mapped northward, not only as far as Champlain made it, but also, on the basis of his aboriginal reports, beyond. Lake Huron and Superior — here labelled as “Mer douce ” and “Grand Lac” — appear for the first time on a European map. They are large and not particularly well defined — since Champlain never saw Superior and only paddled Lake Huron’s eastern shoreline through Georgian Bay’s Thirty Thousand Islands.

    He didn’t know about lakes Michigan or Erie — but he conjectured, from his native reports and Brûlé, that Huron drained through some unknown watercourse eventually into Lake Ontario.

    Of particular note is how Champlain paid great attention to labelling the homelands of many different aboriginal nations — indicating their villages with drawings of their longhouses. And for a lifelong sailor, it’s not surprising that Champlain liberally illustrated his map with sea creatures and ships under sail. On the technical side, he included an accurate scale and lines of latitude and longitude that correspond impressively to the measurements found on modern maps.

    But although he set a new standard for accuracy, there remained much that Champlain didn’t know — much in fact that no one really knew. What lay beyond the Great Lakes to the west was a complete mystery to Champlain — even the Wendat had been unable to tell him anything about these lands — and he still wondered whether there might yet prove to be a passage to China. The northern seas beyond James Bay were also unknown to Champlain. These were questions other explorers would have to answer.

    The founder of Quebec — the consummate seafarer, explorer, soldier and mapmaker that was Samuel de Champlain — had done his part by founding an enduring French colony in the wilderness of the New World. To explore and map more of it would be a task taken up by the children and grandchildren of those first hardy settlers who managed to survive the winters — settlers who would, starting in the mid-1600s, refer to themselves increasingly as “Canadiens” and think of their country no longer as France, but as Canada.

    Excerpted from the book A History of Canada in Ten Maps by Adam Shoalts. Copyright © 2017 by Adam Shoalts. Published by Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Limited. All rights reserved.

    How Champlain put eastern Canada on the mapHow Champlain put eastern Canada on the map

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    The Trump administration has made another demand that could destroy NAFTA talks, this time unveiling a protectionist auto manufacturing proposal considered outlandish and unpalatable by Canada, Mexico, unions and car companies.

    The new U.S. proposal creates yet more pessimism about the chances for a successful renegotiation of the continental free trade pact. It is the second major U.S. proposal in two days that Canada and Mexico are unlikely to even consider endorsing.

    The latest proposal has experts wondering again whether the Trump team is making unrealistic demands as a bargaining ploy or whether the president who has threatened to terminate NAFTA is deliberately trying to sabotage the negotiations.

    “I think it’s one of these poison pills. I just think there’s no way, at all, ever, not-no-how, that Mexico and Canada can accept it. I don’t know what they’re thinking. The auto industry hates this,” said Jon Johnson, a C.D. Howe Institute senior fellow who worked on auto issues during the negotiation of the original North American Free Trade Agreement.

    The long-rumoured proposal, discussed at NAFTA renegotiation talks on Friday, would make a car need to be composed of 50 per cent American content to avoid tariffs. At present, there is no American-content rule: NAFTA requires only that a car include 62.5 per cent content from North America as a whole.

    The U.S. also proposed to raise that North American requirement to 85 per cent. This, too, is considered an unreasonable threshold by the industry given the importance of Asian electronics and other elements found overseas.

    Further, the timeline proposed by the U.S. was extraordinarily aggressive. Companies would have just one year to meet the 50 per cent U.S. requirement, two years to meet the 85 per cent North American requirement — an unusually rapid implementation period for an industry in which it takes years for companies to turn an idea into a product.

    The proposal for 50 per cent U.S. content was described as “madness” by Flavio Volpe, president of Canada’s ‎Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, and “completely ridiculous” by Jerry Dias, president of the Unifor union representing Canadian autoworkers. The Canadian government views it as so bad and so important that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office issued its first written denunciation of a U.S. demand.

    “On NAFTA, we are working for a good deal, not just any deal. That means that we will continue to defend our national interest and stand up for Canadian values. We will not accept proposals that put Canadian jobs at risk,” said Freeland spokesperson Adam Austen. “We will continue to make clear, reasoned arguments based on fact and to put forward pragmatic, mutually beneficial proposals.”

    Trump’s negotiators formally unveiled the proposal late Thursday at the fourth round of NAFTA talks in a suburb of Washington. It came a day after the Trump team proposed a “sunset clause” that would automatically terminate the deal in five years if all three countries did not approve it again.

    Experts say the proposal is unwise since it would likely lead carmakers to simply choose to get their components from outside the NAFTA zone, killing jobs throughout North America, rather than attempting to meet the overly onerous thresholds.

    The tariff on cars that do not meet NAFTA thresholds is a mere 2.5 per cent — hardly enough to compel carmakers to stay put in North America, industry players said Friday.

    “They’ll just say, ‘You know what, I don’t need to comply with NAFTA. If my price advantage of sourcing out of South Asia is 7 per cent, why wouldn’t I pay the 2.5 per cent tariff?’” said Volpe.

    For that reason, Volpe said, a proposal supposedly designed to protect U.S. jobs would actually hurt them.

    “The only ones who are going to win are non-North American suppliers,” he said. “Never mind Canada and Mexico — I know (Trump officials) don’t care. But if you game it out for U.S. industry? Anybody who’s making cars or car parts right now under this scenario, if it was accepted, would be hurt, including workers.”

    Johnson said the content proposals are particularly confusing because U.S. demands for auto trade are usually in line with the wishes of the U.S. auto industry. In this case, the industry is aghast.

    “Any increase in the rules of origin would add complexity, burden and cost, thus reducing Canada’s competitiveness as well as the competitiveness of the trade bloc as a whole,” the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, which represents General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, said in a statement.

    Dias said the auto proposal, like the sunset clause proposal, is evidence the U.S. is not really interested in making a deal.

    “I spend a lot of time with the Canadian team. They view the U.S. proposals as as foolish as I do. So they’re not going anywhere. This deal is falling apart,” he said. “There’s not going to be a NAFTA.”

    The U.S. team also proposed Thursday to include steel, for the first time, on the list of components that count toward the content threshold, an idea designed to boost the U.S. steel industry.

    Speaking to the media at a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada remains committed to the talks and “will not be walking away from the table based on proposals put forward.”

    In a speech to the Mexican Senate on Friday, Trudeau promoted gender equality and warned of a rising tide of isolationism.

    “Isolationism is taking hold in too many corners of the world, but our people must not succumb to fear. We, as leaders, must not succumb to fear,” he said.

    Another Trump poison pill for NAFTA? Ottawa slams demand for 50% U.S. content in carsAnother Trump poison pill for NAFTA? Ottawa slams demand for 50% U.S. content in cars

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    When Andy Rielly plans a trip to see his son Morgan play for the Maple Leafs, he prefers to scope out a long weekend. It’s a hefty trip to Toronto from the Rielly home in Vancouver. Identifying a pair of games a day or two apart — anchored around a Saturday night game at the Air Canada Centre — provides the framework for a worthwhile stay.

    So when the elder Rielly recently scanned the early part of the schedule for possibilities, he was unenthused by the offerings. Saturday home games, a traditional Maple Leaf staple, are surprisingly scarce in the opening few months of the season. This Saturday, the Maple Leafs are in Montreal. Next Saturday they’re in Ottawa. Two weeks hence, on Oct. 28, they play at home against Philadelphia — the lone Saturday date at the Air Canada Centre in a six-week stretch in which they play Saturday road contests in St. Louis, Boston and Montreal.

    This year the Leafs don’t play a single Saturday home game in the month of December. They’ll play just 11 all season, tied for the lowest number in franchise history in a schedule made up of at least 60 games, according to an analysis of historical schedule data by the Star’s Andrew Bailey. This is the first campaign in the Hockey Night in Canada era — which stretches back to 1952-53 — in which the Maple Leafs will play more Saturday nights on the road (12) than at home (11). They’ll play nearly as many home games on Monday and Wednesday, 10 apiece.

    “My dad’s trips to Toronto are based around those (Saturday home) games . . . He was not impressed,” said Morgan Rielly. “That’s strange. I don’t know why that is.”

    An NHL spokesperson, citing information provided by league scheduling guru Steve Hatze Petros, said in an email that the scarcity is a product of a few factors, including fewer than normal available Saturday home dates at the busy Air Canada Centre; more Saturday requests from other clubs; and an instance or two in which the Maple Leafs decided a Saturday home game coming off a road trip wouldn’t be in the team’s best competitive interest.

    Still, an NHL source said the Leafs requested a lot more Saturday home games than they were given. And this year’s allotment appears to be a new normal in the centre of the hockey universe. A year ago, when the Leafs also played 11 Saturday home games, some chalked it up to an NHL schedule compressed by the World Cup of Hockey and newly introduced bye weeks, and to the presence in Toronto of the world junior championship, which gobbled up arena availability for two-plus weeks.

    But Saturday home games have been slowly disappearing for a while. As recently as 2006-07 the Leafs played 19 of their 41 home games on Saturday. By Rielly’s rookie year of 2013-14 the number was down to 15 — a month of Saturdays more than currently on offer. There were 14 a season later. And 12 a year after that.

    As a Toronto tradition wanes — and at least some of the club’s legend was built on the romantic allure of the Saturday night pilgrimage to a hockey mecca — there are those who’ll tell you it’s a shame.

    “I love those Saturday night home games,” said Nazem Kadri, the veteran centreman. “To me, it’s more fun. It’s not like it changes the way I play or changes the way anyone else plays, but it’s just a bigger stage. You feel like more is on the line, even though it’s not.”

    Said Zach Hyman, the second-year forward: “Saturday night in Toronto is a special night.”

    Others don’t claim as much of a day-specific attachment.

    “Toronto is such a good city to play in, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Saturday. Traffic is less — that’s the only good thing (about playing at home on Saturday),” said Leo Komarov, the veteran forward.

    For the local team, there’s another good thing about playing on Saturday. It’s a historically successful night, and not simply at the cash box. In the 70 seasons going back to 1947-48, the franchise’s overall winning percentage, home and away, is higher on Saturdays than it is on any other day of the week. It’s even better on Saturdays at home, where the Leafs have won 53 per cent of games over the time period.

    “It’s obviously the best day of the week, I think,” Kadri said.

    Moaning about the schedule’s quirks is a regular complaint heard ’round the sports world. At times during his tenure, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock has blamed the tough stretches in Toronto’s 82-game grind on the team’s status as a ratings draw co-owned by a pair of telecommunications behemoths, Bell and Rogers.

    “Our schedule has a little bit to do with TV, if I’m not mistaken,” Babcock said in 2015.

    GM Lou Lamoriello has said in the past he would make it a priority to endeavour to reduce Babcock’s calendar-related angst, specifically the number of back-to-back games on the slate. While the league ultimately sets the schedule, teams have considerable input. Last season the Leafs played 18 sets of back-to-back games. They’ll play 14 this season. It’s conceivable that achieving that reduction sacrificed a Saturday home game or two. A club spokesperson said team management declined a request to comment on the schedule.

    Scott Moore, president of Rogers Sportsnet and the overseer of Hockey Night in Canada, said the whereabouts of Toronto’s Saturday games “has nothing to do with TV,” even if, he said, road games typically add to production costs.

    “We have in our contract a number of Leaf games on Saturday. We don’t have any input, nor do we care, whether they’re at home or on the road,” said Moore in an interview.

    Moore said the geographical location of a Maple Leafs game “doesn’t change the ratings.” A home game draws the same number of eyeballs as a road one.

    There was a time when the Maple Leafs played the majority of their home games on Saturdays. For the bulk of the 1950s and ’60s, when the league featured six teams and the regular-season schedule ran 70 games, the Leafs routinely played 24 games at Maple Leaf Gardens — about 69 per cent of its 35-game home schedule. In the 1970s and ’80s, as the league added more teams and more games, the percentage of Saturday home games still hovered above 50 per cent.

    Toronto hockey fans hankering for that throwback feeling will appreciate the tail end of this season’s schedule. Each of its final five weekends will see the Maple Leafs playing where they’re famous for playing — on home ice on Saturday night.

    “I think the players get a special feeling for those Saturday home games,” said Rielly. “You get excited to play on that stage.”

    Saturday night Leafs tradition fading away: FeschukSaturday night Leafs tradition fading away: Feschuk

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    OTTAWA—Finance Minister Bill Morneau is expected to lay out possible changes Monday to the controversial tax reforms that have put the Liberals on the defensive.

    Liberal MPs have been summoned to a presentation by Morneau on Monday morning at a rare special caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.

    In a tweet, Morneau would only say that he’s “looking forward” to the meeting “to listen and keep working together on our plan to grow and strengthen the middle class.”

    The finance minister is expected to outline next steps in his plan to bring in reforms to how privately incorporated businesses are taxed.

    Read more:

    Bill Morneau feels the heat as Liberal support slips: Hébert

    Closing tax loopholes a sure vote winner: Mallick

    Justin Trudeau’s tough road ahead: Editorial

    But Morneau comes to the meeting a wounded finance minister who, over the past several weeks, felt the sting of caucus ire over both proposed changes that triggered widespread opposition and his own inability to communicate the rationale for them.

    Morneau, who was an independently wealthy businessperson before he entered politics, has faced steady fire from the Opposition for painting small business owners as tax cheats while not targeting other tax measures that favour big corporations such as his family company Morneau-Shepell.

    On Friday, there was renewed interest in Morneau’s ownership of a villa in France through a numbered company in that country. This allows him to pay lower taxes there. He had previously disclosed the villa, but not the ownership structure.

    It’s all made for a rough two months for the rookie minister, who unveiled the new tax measures during the summer.

    The proposed changes sought to limit the ability of business owners to engage in so-called “income sprinkling,” or paying part of their income to family members, named as employees, to reduce their tax exposure.

    Ottawa also wants to crack down on passive income from investments parked within a private corporation, money that can be shielded from the higher personal income tax rate.

    Finally, the finance department wants to limit the ability of private corporations to convert some income into capital gains, which are subject to less tax.

    While Monday’s meeting is billed as a “listening exercise,” Morneau and his Liberal colleagues have already had an earful on the proposals.

    Small businesses, doctors and farmers are among the groups who have spoken out against the changes. They argue they will cost jobs.

    The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has called the measures the “most significant tax changes in decades” and launched a campaign to oppose it.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Morneau have defended the changes as an integral part of the government’s efforts to make the tax system fairer.

    Trudeau has said that the concerns voiced by small business owners, opposition MPs, even members of his own caucus, could result in modifications to the planned reforms.

    “We will ensure that we’re doing it the right way, so that hard-working, middle-class small businesses, hard-working, middle-class farmers, do not get penalized by a measure that is aimed at wealthy Canadians,” Trudeau said last month.

    That was echoed by Morneau, who said, 10 days ago, the reforms would be adjusted slightly to accommodate public concerns.

    Morneau has downplayed hopes the government would ditch the proposals altogether. The measures have enraged many small business owners who say they need to shelter income at lower tax rates within their company to expand the business or get through hard times.

    A Liberal caucus source told the Star the final version of the proposed tax reforms will be introduced in the fall fiscal update. But it is possible they could be introduced in a separate bill.

    The finance minister said he’d heard loudly and clearly objections in five areas and promised any changes would: not curb the ability of small businesses to grow; still allow other small businesses to remain small; allow intergenerational transfers of family farms or fishing licences without additional penalty; allow small businesswomen to save for maternity or other family-related leave, and would not increase red-tape. Morneau said he would ensure any measures that require family members prove they are doing work for the business are “administratively efficient.”

    Morneau said he is entertaining other “technical” changes as well, including ensuring there is no unintended double-taxation upon death for those who have private corporations. (Concerns had been raised about whether small business owners will be able to hold life insurance within their corporations.)

    Appearing at a question period in the Senate on Oct. 3, Morneau said government did not want to create “unintended consequences.”

    But he has insisted the government’s objective remain; it doesn’t want a tax system that “allows wealthy Canadians to incorporate to get a lower tax rate than other Canadians.”

    Finance minister tinkers with tax-reform proposalsFinance minister tinkers with tax-reform proposals

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    Rescued hostage Joshua Boyle lashed out at his kidnappers, calling for the Afghan government to track down those members of the Haqqani network who raped his wife, Caitlan Coleman, and ordered “the murder of my infant daughter.”

    He made the statement to journalists gathered at Pearson International Airport just hours after landing in Toronto. His hands shook as he read the script he had carefully written in a small notebook.

    While Boyle did not take questions, his comments confirmed what the couple had darkly hinted at in the letters home and “proof-of-life” videos his captors released during their five years in captivity.

    Coleman said in one video that her children had seen her “defiled.” Boyle suggested cryptically in a letter that Coleman had a forced abortion.

    While he spoke to the press, the rest of his family was loading into an RCMP van — with baby seats bought by Boyle’s mother already installed — and preparing to drive to their Smiths Falls, Ont., home.

    Read more:What we know about the rescue of Canadian Joshua Boyle and his family in Pakistan

    Joshua’s parents, Linda and Patrick Boyle, along with Boyle’s three sisters, who had brought their nephews cellophane balloons with Canadian flags, had a chance to meet the young couple and the children privately in a small room inside the airport shortly after they landed.

    Boyle told journalists that one of his children had required medical attention during this time.

    It is hard to fathom the shock Friday must have been for the children — Jonah, Noah and Grace — who know no other life than being held hostage. Just the plane rides from Islamabad to London to Toronto would have been one of the many firsts they will now experience.

    Their arrival in Toronto ended a five-year-long kidnapping ordeal that has captured international attention.

    But even before their plane touched down, questions already had been raised.

    What were the exact circumstances of their rescue?

    How will these children cope?

    Why did the couple go backpacking in Afghanistan in the first place?

    Friday night, Boyle told journalists he was there to help “the most neglected minority group in the world, those ordinary villagers who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.”

    Earlier Friday, Coleman’s father, Jim, told ABC News that he was angry with his son-in-law: “Taking your pregnant wife to a very dangerous place, to me, and the kind of person I am, is unconscionable.”

    Coleman, 31, and Boyle, 34, were travelling across Central Asia when they crossed into Afghanistan in October 2012 and were kidnapped. Their families did not know Afghanistan was part of their itinerary.

    The powerful Taliban-linked Haqqani network held them captive until Wednesday’s dramatic rescue by Pakistani forces, which was reportedly based on intelligence provided by the U.S. All three of their children, boys aged 4 and 2, and an infant daughter, were born in captivity.

    Boyle spoke to the Star Thursday from a guesthouse in Islamabad and again briefly at the airport Friday night. He said his family was “psychologically and physically shattered,” but they were looking forward to “restarting.”

    Read more:‘We’re looking forward to a new lease on life,’ Joshua Boyle tells the Star after five-year kidnapping nightmare

    But if the Boyle and Coleman story follows the narrative of other hostage cases, then moving on means looking back, and public celebrations about their freedom will quickly turn to recriminations about their character.

    An eight-part Star investigation, titled Held Hostage, found that hostages are either hailed as heroes, derided as foolish, or worse.

    And rescues are always political, while determining the facts about them is always difficult.

    The most detailed account so far of what happened Wednesday in Pakistan, near the border of Afghanistan, comes from Boyle earlier this week.

    He told his parents in a Thursday morning phone call that he was in the trunk of the car with his wife and children when shooting began.

    He said he was hit by shrapnel and five of the kidnappers were killed. The last words he said he heard his captors yell were: “kill the hostages.”

    Later Thursday, when speaking with the Star, he said some of the captors fled and he was desperate to help investigators find them so they could face justice.


    Boyle and Coleman will have quite a story to tell.

    But so do their relatives — stories that include the years of negotiations that moved from Ottawa to Washington and New York to Doha, Kabul, Islamabad and a few places in between.

    Linda and Patrick Boyle say they have met people over the last five years they never thought they would now have on speed dial.

    Just this year Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal, the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, became an important member of an unofficial team of advisers, which included diplomats, security consultants, government officials, journalists and other professions more difficult to categorize.

    Zakhilwal, who is also a Canadian citizen, reached out to the Boyles after watching a December “proof-of-life” video that showed their grandsons for the first time while Joshua and Caitlan pleaded for release.

    “I was surprised that women and children were held hostage for so many years and I had not even heard about it,” Zakhilwal told the Star. “I wanted to help with their release if I could, or if not, at least better treatment of them.” On his visits back to Canada, he met with the Boyles to discuss what could be done.

    In January, back in Pakistan, he quickly helped get letters and videos from the Boyles and Colemans to the kidnappers. In reply, Coleman and Boyle sent a video in which Coleman says it will be a “miracle” if her family is freed and Boyle praises the speed with which the letter was delivered. Whoever this “Zakhilwal” is, Boyle said, he puts Canada Post to shame.

    Boyle’s parents believed at that time there could be a miracle, clinging to a New York Times report that suggested a rescue could be former U.S. president Barack Obama’s parting act.

    It was under Obama that U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release was negotiated with the Haqqanis; a politically unpopular deal that set Taliban detainees from Guantanamo free, in exchange for a soldier who had deserted his post.

    Donald Trump, on the other hand, had called Bergdahl “a dirty rotten traitor” on the campaign trail, falsely claiming “six young beautiful people were killed trying to find him.” He even lamented the “old days” and pretended to fire a gun twice. “Bing bong,” he said.

    As the inauguration neared, officials from Global Affairs Canada and the RCMP flew to Qatar — always a big player in hostage negotiations — then on to Kabul.

    Read more:Why the rescue of the Boyle-Coleman family is no cure for the troubled U.S.-Pakistan relationship

    Then on Jan. 20, Trump became the 45th president. And there was no news.

    “We’re just hanging on,” Patrick Boyle told me when we met a few weeks later. “It’s so hard when you get your hopes up.”

    “We had never felt closer to getting them home. And we’ve never been more scared of losing them.”

    Flash forward to Friday and Trump heralding their rescue as a sign of Pakistan’s new respect for America.

    “I have openly said Pakistan took tremendous advantage of our country for many years, but we’re starting to have a real relationship with Pakistan and they’re starting to respect us as a nation again and so are other nations,” he said.

    Details beyond what Boyle has said about the rescue are slowly emerging in media reports — although some are conflicting and most are from unnamed sources.

    There was much speculation Friday as well about reports that Boyle had refused to board a U.S. flight once freed. Boyle’s father said he believed his son was fearful of getting on a flight that was bound for the U.S. base at Bagram.

    But Boyle appeared Friday to dispute the claim that he turned down any transportation.

    “I assure you I have never refused to board any mode of transportation that would bring me closer to home, closer to Canada and back with my family,” he said.

    Joshua Boyle lashes out at kidnappers after returning to CanadaJoshua Boyle lashes out at kidnappers after returning to CanadaJoshua Boyle lashes out at kidnappers after returning to CanadaJoshua Boyle lashes out at kidnappers after returning to CanadaJoshua Boyle lashes out at kidnappers after returning to CanadaJoshua Boyle lashes out at kidnappers after returning to Canada

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    SARNIA, ONT.—In the hours before daylight on Feb. 8, 2014, toxic benzene leaking from a Sarnia chemical plant wafted toward the homes of the Sherwood Village neighbourhood in the shadow of the city’s industrial stacks.

    “Yeah, I can smell it,” muttered Dwayne DeBruyne, a plant employee at the Plains Midstream Canada chemical plant who reported the incident just after 6 a.m. to a provincial government hotline for spills.

    “So it’s a spill?” the operator from the Spills Action Centre in Toronto is heard asking on a recording of the call, obtained through a freedom-of-information request.

    “I wouldn’t classify it as a spill,” he says. “It’s an odour release.”

    “I mean, it sounds like a spill to me,” she counters.

    DeBruyne concedes with a slight laugh, “OK, we’ll call it a spill … It’s very contained.”

    Not so, government records show.

    Benzene — which causes cancer at high levels of long-term exposure — was already spreading.

    Air quality measurements taken over a few minutes that morning by an independent company hired by Plains Midstream Canada measured benzene levels at 50 parts per billion.

    If sustained over 30 minutes, that level would have been 22 times the provincial standard in place today.

    This government incident report — along with more than 500 others from 2014 and 2015 — was obtained by a national investigation involving the Toronto Star, Global News and journalism schools at Concordia and Ryerson through freedom-of-information requests.


    That rotten stench in the air? It’s the smell of deadly gas and secrecy

    ‘There’s no sense in speaking up’ despite deadly gas risks

    The documents reveal the details of industrial leaks in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley that released a range of emissions — from a valve left open for three months venting hydrocarbons in 2014 to particulate matter from a boiler stack falling onto cars that year, to a two-hour leak of hydrogen sulphide from tanks in 2015.

    Only one public warning has been issued for an industrial incident through the city’s official alert system since it began in 2014. And the ministry has laid charges in four cases in the Sarnia area since January 2013. (One of those was a leak at an Imperial Oil plant in Sarnia the day before the Plains Midstream spill that triggered a $812,500 fine and criticism from residents and the mayor about insufficient public warning.)

    “It seems like government oversight is lacking,” says Joyce McLean, senior policy adviser with Ontario’s environment ministry from 1990-95, who reviewed a dozen incident reports.

    “There’s basically a toxic soup … Every time that there is an exceedance or a spill, the ministry should be paying attention and prosecuting where necessary. It seems to me … the ministry fell short of their responsibility.”

    Around midday Feb. 8, 2014, benzene readings more than a kilometre from Plains Midstream Canada remained twice the current standard if measured for a half-hour, according to the incident report.

    The WHO calls benzene “carcinogenic to humans,” and says, “no safe level of exposure can be recommended.”

    But Sarnia residents, including those living and working in the immediate vicinity, were never told what leaked that morning.

    “First I’ve heard of it,” said Mickey Cvejich, a manager at a motorcycle store nearby. “Completely shocked, I had no idea.”

    Reporters visited more than two dozen homes surrounding the plants earlier this year; only one person — who said she worked in health and safety but wouldn’t comment further — knew about that day. The ministry did not investigate or lay charges.

    “The incident did not warrant referral to the ministry’s investigations and enforcement branch,” reads a statement from a ministry spokesperson. The spill fell below the regulator’s “emergency screening value” for benzene.

    A written response from Plains Midstream Canada says: “There were no injuries or air safety concerns during the event and at no time was there a risk to the public … Third party air monitors … continued to indicate that the air remained safe.”

    Dean Edwardson, spokesperson for the Sarnia-Lambton Environmental Association — a non-profit co-operative of 20 industrial manufacturers — says industry is doing all it can to “limit the amount of benzene that might be coming from our facilities.

    “We have shown continuous improvement in reduction of volatile organic hydrocarbons, including benzene, over the last number of years. Without regulatory intervention, our companies have strived and made progress in the area.”

    Still, newly appointed Liberal Environment Minister Chris Ballard acknowledges the air issues.

    “I am so concerned about what I hear that’s happening in this community. This is not right.”

    Several experts who reviewed the details of the incident questioned the industry and government response.

    Chris Stockwell, Ontario’s Conservative environment minister from 2002-03, called the benzene readings “alarming,” requiring an inspection and possibly charges. “I can’t explain why this would happen frankly.”

    Bud Wildman, the NDP minister from 1993-95, said the spill should have raised alarms in the ministry.

    “This is the kind of incident where the ministry staff should be on site and should be involved in the investigation,” he said. “Benzene is a very, very toxic substance.”

    The ministry did not send an inspector to investigate the site, records show.

    “That’s pathetic,” says Elaine MacDonald, an environmental engineer with EcoJustice, who also reviewed the incident report. “They got a free pass, definitely. There seem to be a lot of free passes in Sarnia.”

    Some days, you can smell Chemical Valley before you see it.

    The odour of chemicals and rotten eggs grows more pungent as you approach the stacks and tanks that dominate the skyline.

    Behind the fences of massive industrial plants are companies such as Imperial Oil, Shell Canada, Suncor Energy and Plains Midstream — part of an industry that emerged in the late 19th century when oil was discovered in Oil Springs, about 40 kilometres from Sarnia.

    Today, 57 facilities are registered as polluters with the Canadian and U.S. governments, all within 25 kilometres of Sarnia.

    The tidy rows of brick homes that comprise south-end neighbourhoods sit across the street, or the tracks, from tanks and flare stacks.

    Not far from that neighbourhood is the sprawling Aamjiwnaang First Nation, surrounded on three sides by Chemical Valley. An unlucky swing of a bat on a nearby field would send a baseball behind a fence where the industrial stacks stand.

    If current zoning laws had existed when many of these refineries were built, some of the petrochemical facilities wouldn’t be where they are.

    “This is a historic failure,” said Gord Miller, former provincial environmental commissioner, on the release of his 2014 annual report. “Current land use rules would not allow such a concentration of industry so close to a residential community.”

    Sarnia’s oil and gas companies are required to report nearly every pollutant spill — minor incidents, accidents and maintenance issues — to the environment ministry.

    A city-operated, industry-funded alert system called myCNN is designed to reach tens of thousands of people in minutes through electronic messages. In the three years since it began, it’s been used once for an industrial spill.

    “I can’t imagine there’s only been one incident that people should be drawing their attention to in three years,” says city councillor Brian White. “We have a responsibility to inform people.”

    Cal Gardner, Sarnia’s emergency management co-ordinator, says industry has the initial responsibility of notifying the city of incidents.

    “There is discretion from industry that we have to follow,” he said. “They are the ones at the control, they are the ones doing the monitoring, they are the ones that are going to be charged and fined if they are at fault for failing to notify. But we also have municipal fire departments that go and respond and monitor and check in as well and we also make sure Spills Action Centre is notified.”

    The province has been tackling air quality in Sarnia, says Ballard.

    He noted benzene levels in Sarnia have dropped significantly in 25 years.And last year, Canada’s toughest benzene emission standards came into effect in Ontario.

    “Everything that we’re made aware of, we respond to in some way. But it’s a scaled response. I mean if someone spills a toxic material on the ground it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to face a charge, right?

    “We need to continue to drive (pollutant levels) down.”

    But cities across Ontario are struggling to meet the new standard. Last year, when it came in, an industry-operated air monitor in Sarnia registered the highest annual benzene level in three years, nearly four times the new limit of .45 micrograms per cubic metre.

    A 2016 ministry report on petroleum refining standards found three Sarnia facilities in the top four per cent of 147 facilities surveyed in the U.S. and Ontario for benzene levels measured at the facility property line. That report indicates five of six Ontario petroleum refineries were estimated to be emitting three to 10 times the new annual standard.

    The industry has argued the new standard is so “restrictive” it needs time to upgrade equipment and several facilities have been given an amnesty on the new targets.

    “Our companies have engaged . . . in a number of measures for the reduction of benzene using best available technology,” says Edwardson, of the industry association.

    EcoJustice’s MacDonald says the delays amount to a “loophole” for industry.

    Meanwhile, troubling air quality readings persist.

    In the First Nation of Aamjiwnaang, a mobile unit operated by the ministry that tests air monthly has captured benzene spikes. On April 26, 2016, for example, benzene levels were logged at 161 micrograms per cubic metre — 23 times Ontario’s current standard for a half-hour.

    Ballard acknowledges there is much work to do before industry in Sarnia reaches provincial emission standards.

    “We have to have that low goal and we have to be very clear . . . that our goal is year-over-year reductions.”

    Weekly, often daily, Ada Lockridge watches smoke or flames billow from the plants that surround her house in Aamjiwnaang. She thinks it is slowly eating away at her health.

    “If I fed you arsenic every day… I’m poisoning you. You could charge me,” she says. “These companies, they’re leaking things everyday, and slowly doing harm, and they just seem to be getting a slap on the wrist or nothing at all. Because we have to prove it. Then we have to prove which company. But there’s so many, how can you point out one?”

    There is much speculation, but little clarity, on the impact the concentration of refineries and plants has on the health of city residents.

    “Obviously, the real question is do [petrochemical companies] alert when there’s an issue?” says Ron Smith, a one-time software programmer at Suncor, now a Sarnia police employee and president of the Sarnia Historical Society. “I really believe that they do. I think there’s a lot of ramifications and fines for them not to . . . Maybe I’ve got the glasses on incorrectly, where I’m thinking … they’re all playing by the same rules.”

    When Smith spoke, his wife was expecting their first child. His home is about two kilometres from an Imperial Oil plant.

    “I just hope that they’re good corporate citizens and they are doing that. And if not, then there’s the provincial and federal governments that have things in place that manage them and address them if they’re not following those guidelines, you know?”

    Since 2007, a group called the Lambton Community Health Study, which includes the county’s medical officer of health, has sought funding for an independent study on the city’s air and water and any public health effects. It was never done.

    While industry has offered funding, the province and federal governments have not.

    A modest survey released by the group, based on a phone poll of 500 residents, an online survey and five open houses in 2010 and 2011, found concerns.

    About 80 per cent felt pollution from local industries was causing health problems for them or their families, most commonly citing cancer or respiratory health. A “predominant” theme in the findings: “a need for better communication and increased transparency on the part of industry.”

    Ballard said he would consider funding an independent study.

    The public data that exists is inconclusive. Hospitalization rates for respiratory problems are higher in Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang than nearby Windsor and London. There are more lung cancer cases and mesothelioma than the Ontario average, in part because of the region’s asbestos legacy.

    But leukemia and blood cancer rates are consistent with the rest of Ontario.

    Critics say the data, collected at the county level, misses the impact on people in the immediate vicinity of Chemical Valley.

    “The highly exposed population, their risk is diluted,” says Jim Brophy, former executive director of Sarnia’s Occupational Health Clinic.

    “Leukemia incidence and lymphoma incidence among the industrial workers could be through the roof but you wouldn’t see it if they’re all in the population as a whole.”

    His reading of available scientific evidence is that exposures in Sarnia “pose a cancer risk to the general population and may even be more profoundly dangerous for children or pregnant women,” he says.

    “This idea that (government is) on guard and they’re watching what’s going on and they’re protecting people from harm, this is really a naive view.”

    Having a First Nation community next to gas, oil and chemical plants amounts to “environmental racism,” he says.

    “There’s no way that a white community would be up against the fence line with one of the largest industrial concentrations in the country,” he says. “Anybody who is informed on this issue knows how dangerous this really is.”

    Robert Cribb can be reached at

    The Price of Oil series is the result of the largest ever collaboration of journalists in Canada, from the Toronto Star, Global News, the National Observer and journalism schools at Concordia, Ryerson, Regina and UBC.


    Robert Cribb Toronto Star

    Carolyn Jarvis Global News

    Emma McIntosh Ryerson University School of Journalism

    Sawyer Bogdan Ryerson University School of Journalism

    Morgan Bocknek Ryerson University School of Journalism

    Robert Mackenzie Ryerson University School of Journalism

    Senior Researchers:

    Patti Sonntag, Michener Awards Foundation

    Sandra Bartlett, Global News


    Sean Craig, Global News

    Stephanie Gordon, Global News

    Fallon Hewitt, Global News

    Nathan Sing, Global News

    Claire Loewen, Concordia University Department of Journalism

    Michael Wrobel, Concordia University Department of Journalism

    Chris Aitkens, Concordia University Department of Journalism

    Jeremy Glass-Pilon, Concordia University Department of Journalism

    Lucas Napier-Macdonald, Concordia University Department of Journalism

    Data analyst:

    Patrick Cain, Global News

    Series Producer:

    Patti Sonntag, Michener Fellow/Concordia University

    In Sarnia’s Chemical Valley, is ‘toxic soup’ making people sick?In Sarnia’s Chemical Valley, is ‘toxic soup’ making people sick?In Sarnia’s Chemical Valley, is ‘toxic soup’ making people sick?In Sarnia’s Chemical Valley, is ‘toxic soup’ making people sick?In Sarnia’s Chemical Valley, is ‘toxic soup’ making people sick?In Sarnia’s Chemical Valley, is ‘toxic soup’ making people sick?

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    WHITEHORSE—His mother puts the painkillers in the 4-month-old’s milk bottle to stop his crying and make him sleep. And he does — so quietly that she may have forgotten he was even there. She disappears that December night in 1978 and never comes back.

    By the time his grandparents find him, the infant is alone, unconscious, the codeine eating through his stomach lining.

    The emergency surgery in Edmonton marks the beginning of 39-year-old Gabriel Smarch’s 2,000-page government case history.

    The pages tell a story of repeated failures to keep a vulnerable child safe. Throughout his life, Gabriel asked for help, telling social workers, foster parents, nurses and doctors what was happening to him. He was ignored or not believed over and over again.

    Read more:

    Why is the Yukon government quietly settling lawsuits alleging sex abuse by a former school principal?

    By the time he says his school principal, a man identified in court documents only as “J.V.”, raped him as an 8-year-old, the trajectory of Gabriel’s life seemed irreversible.

    It’s also the story of a victim becoming a violent abuser, a cycle that is far too common in communities like the Kwanlin Dün First Nation in Whitehorse — communities still grappling with the intergenerational trauma of Canada’s colonial violence.

    Indigenous children are drastically overrepresented in the foster care and youth justice systems. Nearly 70 per cent of 161 clients that the Yukon Child Advocate’s Office dealt with in 2015-16 are Indigenous, and the vast majority of those are child welfare cases.

    “Many of the children we work with are intergenerational survivors of residential schools,” said Annette King, the territory’s child advocate.

    Gabriel shared his entire history with the Star because he wants people to understand the cycles of abuse he was caught up in, and how they continue today.

    Gabriel is 6 years old

    His family is large. Housing is cramped. The extended family lives sometimes three or four to a room, with siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles all underfoot. In the evenings, most of the adults go to bingo, leaving the children in the care of one of the aunts or uncles.

    “One night I woke up to pain,” Gabriel recalled, decades later. His shoulders begin to shudder. “It hurt. My uncle was having sex with me. He finished, and I couldn’t stop crying. Stop crying, he said. Everything will be OK.”

    As a child, Gabriel doesn’t tell anyone about the sexual abuse but his medical records show he repeatedly told nurses, doctors and social workers he was afraid of being sent home because he said he’d be beaten. He asks to be sent to a foster home, but every time his social workers insist there isn’t enough evidence of abuse to take him into care.

    Gabriel is 8 years old

    In his short life Gabriel has been to the emergency room 10 times for everything from pneumonia to facial lacerations, a cut from a table saw, two head wounds, and scars that look like they came from cigarette burns, but are later determined to be impetigo, a painful rash that can be caused by poor hygiene.

    Records show he is consistently late or absent from school. When he does arrive, he is distracted and irritable, and often caught stealing food from other children. One of his teachers suspects it is because he isn’t being fed at home.

    A local doctor is worried. He writes a letter to Gabriel’s social workers accusing them of failing to collect enough evidence to document his mistreatment and take him into permanent care.

    “The game we are playing is extremely dangerous,” Dr. Robert Menzies writes. If something isn’t done, Gabriel “could easily be further brutalized, and perhaps maimed or killed.”

    In the spring Gabriel and a group of other children are taken to J.V.’s house for a sleepover, according to the lawsuit he would file years later.

    Gabriel says he woke up to J.V. raping him.

    “They say when you’re molested as a child your innocence is taken from you and it’s replaced with evil,” Gabriel said. “I was replaced with that.”

    Despite repeated requests, including phone calls, emails and a hand-delivered letter, J.V. wouldn’t answer the Star’s questions for this story.

    Gabriel is 9 years old

    He sits in the pickup truck’s cab with his cousin Adrian. The two boys, not yet teenagers, huddle in the night, trying to ward off the cold creeping through their thin cotton sweatshirts.

    “We used to do that all the time, run away from the family,” Gabriel recalled. “When they caught us it was always bad. They’d make us cut our own willow branches for them to whip us with.”

    A psychological assessment in March 1988 recommends Gabriel be placed in therapeutic foster care for at least a year. He is sent back to live with his family.

    “It wasn’t an upbringing,” says Jane McIntyre. “It was an existence he had.”

    Jane was a sort of unofficial foster parent to Gabriel many times over the years, but their relationship never had any legal foundation. When things in Gabriel’s life got desperate, she would take him in. Other times he would show up on Jane’s doorstep, with nowhere else to go. He lived off and on with her for years.

    Gabriel still visits Jane occasionally, when he needs support. Sitting in her kitchen decades later, he listens quietly as she fixes coffee.

    “Those men in his family, they would be drinking,” she says, “and they would hold him up by his shirt with all of them in a ring. They’d tease him and poke him and pull his pants down. He was just a little boy. It was sick.”

    Gabriel became friends with some of Jane’s other foster children. With his temporary family, young Gabriel spends weekends cross-country skiing and eating family meals — distractions from his life of anger and pain.

    Gabriel is 10 years old

    On account of Gabriel’s behaviour problems he is placed in the Above 60 treatment centre, a now-shuttered residential youth facility outside Whitehorse run by Mike Rawlings.

    Almost immediately Gabriel starts running away, “escaping” as his psychological evaluation will later describe it.

    He goes AWOL 15 times in three months. Each time he’s apprehended he’s returned to Rawlings’s care.

    According to his statements to a psychologist in 2016, Gabriel says he was abused sexually and physically at the group home repeatedly, including at least two incidents of anal rape by unidentified staff members.

    He tells the psychologist that after one such assault, he sat in the shower crying for hours.

    “They’d take away my boots so I couldn’t run away,” he says.

    But that doesn’t always stop him. One time Gabriel and a friend hitchhike as far as Vancouver Island. They are discovered by police after sneaking onto the Vancouver Island ferry. Family and Child Services records confirm the incident.

    Gabriel’s records from the Justice Department show that when they were apprehended, Gabriel tells the RCMP officer about the alleged abuse at Above 60. He pleads with the officer not to return him there, and not to tell Rawlings.

    Instead, social services records show Gabriel is sent back to the home, Rawlings is told everything, and records say no investigation is done. A case worker makes a note to follow up “if the boy makes more accusations of abuse.”

    Gabriel is 17 years old

    He is arrested for assault and an attempted break-and-enter.

    In the six years since he ran away to Vancouver Island, Gabriel has racked up convictions for a previous assault, stealing a car, assault causing bodily harm and possession of stolen property. His case notes from Above 60 say he is “out of control.”

    In January 1996 a nurse makes a note on his emergency room intake form that he’s been admitted twice in 24 hours. “The past history on this young man is abysmal for abuse,” the nurse writes.

    By this point Gabriel is drinking heavily.

    Between April 1, 1996, and June 30, 2012, Gabriel is treated in the emergency room for broken fingers, multiple head injuries, cuts, contusions and damaged ribs, almost all attributed to getting into fights.

    Gabriel is 19 years old

    Blackout drunk at a party, he’s arrested for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl who was passed out. His arrest record says he had to be dragged off the victim. Gabriel says he woke up in the drunk tank with no memory of the assault, greeted with a pair of handcuffs and a ride to the arrest processing unit at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

    He says, and insists to this day, he has no recollection of the assault. He pleads guilty as a way of trying to take responsibility, he says. He’s sentenced to 16 months in jail, and two years of probation.

    Though he couldn’t see it at the time, Gabriel’s first lengthy stint in jail will become a turning point.

    Almost immediately he starts collecting jailhouse infractions for bad behaviour — mouthing off, fighting, stealing from the kitchen.

    But then he meets guard Harvey Reti, a retired infantry soldier and Olympic boxer working at the jail.

    Sitting across the kitchen table from his old coach years later, Gabriel recalled their first meeting.

    “I was working out in the gym and Harvey just approached me and said, ‘Maybe if you try punching it this way, try moving that way,’ and that was the start of the relationship right there. It bloomed,” Gabriel said.

    “We saw a lot of guys like Gabe come through the system,” Harvey said. “When you read part of their past you can start dealing with them rather than just being the boss. You try to be a friend, and a helpful friend.”

    Gabriel responded to boxing and to Harvey because they spoke to him in a way that no one had ever tried before. Harvey showed him how to harness his anger.

    But aside from hooks and right crosses, Harvey taught Gabriel another lesson. “It takes the bigger man to step back from a fight sometimes,” Harvey said.

    After his release, Gabriel starts boxing training with a furious intensity. The heavy smack of knuckles on leather shudders through his apartment building’s thin walls, broadcasting to every tenant the confined fury of the man in unit 5. He starts dressing almost entirely in black: black jeans, black hoodie, black steel-toed boots laced high up his shins like a gladiator’s armoured greaves.

    It won’t be the end of his conflict with the law, but along with heavy doses of Tylenol 3s and marijuana, martial arts become a way to help Gabriel keep the monster inside.

    Gabriel is 21 years old

    Gabriel is released on probation with the condition that he enrol in a sex offender treatment program. Notes from his probation officer, Colleen Geddes, say he is doing well.

    Gabriel “seems proud of himself. He is staying sober and learning to control his anger,” Geddes’s notes say.

    His first child is born, a son, though it isn’t long before Gabriel and his mother have a falling out. His son goes to live with his maternal grandmother, and Gabriel doesn’t see much of him.

    His penchant for minor crimes continues, with a number of arrests for thefts under $5,000 and probation breaches, but his violence and drinking appear largely under control.

    In the early hours of Dec. 5, 1999, Gabriel is picked up by the RCMP and brought to the ER after being sexually assaulted by an unknown person in the Kwanlin Dün village.

    His clothing is collected for evidence, though no one is ever charged. The hospital conducts an examination with a rape kit and discovers a ragged laceration almost five centimetres long between his legs.

    Probation officer Geddes writes in her notes that after the sexual assault Gabriel “took it hard,” and started drinking heavily again.

    A month later he’s dragged unconscious from a car by RCMP officers after going off the road and crashing into a telephone pole.

    Gabriel is 22 years old

    He starts dating Marie Wilcott, and moves in with her and her daughter.

    One evening Marie wants to go partying, and leaves Gabriel at home with her daughter. When she comes back late that night, Gabriel is angry. They get into an argument, and Marie tries to leave.

    Gabriel chases her into the street. He pulls her by her hair, screaming, back inside the kitchen. Her daughter is hiding in the next room.

    The police are called. They find Gabriel in the basement, trying to hide in a clothes dryer. He is charged with assault and uttering threats.

    After the assault Marie leaves Whitehorse with her daughter and moves to Vancouver. Like too many Indigenous women fleeing violence, mother and daughter are homeless for a while until Marie gets back on her feet. Now she helps teach colonial history and the legacies of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people to outreach workers in the Downtown East Side.

    Meanwhile case notes from the Whitehorse jail say Gabriel is a “high risk for suicide.” He’s placed in solitary confinement.

    A case note from April 24, 2001, written by an unidentified jail employee, says Gabriel is asking repeatedly for gym time.

    “He asked to see me in my office and before I could ask what he wanted he burst into tears. I ended up spending an hour and a half with him between the yard and my office, and most of that time he cried,” the note says.

    Gabriel is 33 years old

    A case note from his probation officer in 2004 hints Gabriel may be getting paid to fight in illegal bare-knuckle boxing matches.

    His health records from 2005 say he’s brought unresponsive to the hospital by ambulance, eyes rolling back in his head. He’d been in a fight the previous day, and was kicked multiple times in the head. He tells doctors he collapsed in the shower.

    He has two more children, daughters with two mothers, but is only peripherally involved in their lives.

    His criminal record continues to grow. He’s arrested and charged multiple times for assaulting another girlfriend, and rotates in and out of jail.

    In 2008 he arrives, yet again, at the hospital emergency room. He claims he was beaten up by the RCMP while in custody. “Smashed head against cement wall, dragged across floor, slammed head into floor,” the intake record says.

    Notes from his probation officer say he was brought in on an outstanding warrant and was “resisting arrest.”

    During this time Gabriel’s probation officer convinces him to start seeing a counsellor, Joseph Graham. Over time, Gabriel tells Graham the full extent of the sexual abuse he’s suffered. It’s one of the first times Gabriel names the thing that’s torturing him.

    After the sessions with Graham, Gabriel decides to do two things: charge his uncle with sexual assault, and sue the Yukon government over what he says J.V. and Above 60 did to him.

    Gabriel is 35 years old

    On the morning of his uncle’s trial, Gabriel dresses in white track pants and sneakers. His armour — the heavy rings, steel-toed boots, black hoodie — is gone. Pinned to his sleeve is a tiny metal cross. He stands in his apartment, staring out the window, not speaking. Tupac Shakur’s “The Way It Is” blasts from the stereo, shaking the thin windowpanes.

    On the stand, exposed, Gabriel struggles to maintain his composure, especially under cross-examination. He bristles at every question from his uncle’s defence lawyer. He argues with the judge. As soon as his testimony is finished, he stands and bolts from the courtroom.

    In the witness room, behind closed doors, he presses his fists into his eyes.

    “There are no more words for this,” he tells a court support worker, his shoulders shaking. “I’ve used them all up.”

    Tears stream down Gabriel’s face, landing on the black T-shirt stretched tight across his chest.

    There is a knock at the door. The court sheriff pokes his head in to let Gabriel know that his uncle and family has gone. Gabriel walks out of the courthouse and into the spring sunshine. He strides three blocks to a nearby church, checks his pockets for change for the donation jar, and walks inside.

    The rows of pews are empty, silent. Gabriel tiptoes towards the altar. He crosses himself, kneels and clasps his hands together.

    “Thank you, Lord, for giving me the strength …” he begins, his voice trailing off to a murmur. For 15 minutes he stays almost motionless, head bowed.

    “I prayed for my uncle,” he says, back outside the church. “I prayed for his forgiveness and for the family. I prayed for forgiveness, too, for all the people I hurt, and for the family, all of them. You have to. God will judge all of us one day.”

    A week passes.

    “Hey, brother,” Gabriel says, looking up to the sky and waving. At the sound, the eagle dips its wings and scans the man in black, walking along the road beside McIntyre Creek.

    It’s a good omen, Gabriel says. Eagles always are. That’s why Gabriel comes here, to this little strip of marshland wedged into a canyon just off the Alaska Highway. There are eagles everywhere, often a half-dozen at a time. Coming here is a ritual Gabriel has been practising since childhood in one of the only places he feels calm.

    Gabriel doesn’t know it yet, but the case against his uncle is about to be thrown out. Gabriel urges a potential witness to come to court and back up his story. He loses his temper when the witness says no.

    The Crown decides to withdraw its case.

    Walking beneath the eagles in the canyon, unburdened by that knowledge, Gabriel says he can feel the crushing weight of his past lifted away on the winds.

    “It feels like the freedom I didn’t get, the happiness, the peacefulness,” he says. “Where no one could f---ing touch you or punch you or lock you behind some f---ing door.”

    It’s been more than two years since Gabriel first came forward about his uncle, two years since his family threw him out and disowned him for it, he says. Gabriel figures they were afraid of being tainted by the shame he says he wanted to expose.

    “I wanted to be ordinary, like every other kid. I wanted to finish school, do good things, have my own house and a vehicle for my kids. But it was never like that,” he says. “It’s still not like that.”

    Days later Gabriel’s probation officer finally gives him the news that his uncle was not convicted.

    He starts drinking again. Weeks pass. Gabriel is nowhere to be seen. Loud music reverberates from inside his apartment, but there’s no answer to a knock at the door.

    At 6 a.m. one morning, a reporter’s phone rings. Gabriel is on the other end of the line. “Hey. What’s goin’ on?” he says, his customary greeting. He sounds dopey and confused.

    An hour later, Gabriel stumps down the stairs from his apartment. He sways, and crashes into the doorframe. Fresh, red scars run down his arms. His knuckles are ravaged and evidence of a fight is written across his face. He winces and holds his sides. He thinks his ribs might be broken.

    He got jumped, he says, by a couple guys from the Kwanlin Dün village. There was a baseball bat, he says. There were boots.

    He won’t say exactly what happened, who started the fight or why.

    “This place is death, man,” he says. “It’s f---ing evil. I need to get out of here.”

    Gabriel is 36 years old

    He is leaning against a hotel room windowsill, staring out at the neon night. Vancouver’s Granville St. and the entertainment district stretch out before him. It’s early evening, but university students are already starting to fill the bar-lined street.

    In the morning, he’ll see Marie Wilcott, the woman he assaulted, for the first time in more than a decade.

    After his uncle’s trial, word reached Marie in Vancouver. She says she knew Gabriel’s early life had been hard, but she had no idea how hard.

    “It totally broke my heart,” she says.

    Despite their violent history, she decided to reach out.

    A friend at the Kwanlin Dün First Nation offices told Gabriel about a college program in Vancouver. It’s a course in auto mechanics, and it’s designed specifically for older Indigenous students like Gabriel.

    Gabriel flies to the city to visit Marie.

    On the SkyTrain from the airport, Gabriel stares out the window, arms clasped tight around his chest. He spends most of the day walking around Vancouver, staring up at the skyscrapers but saying little. Finally, he’s standing outside the downtown Shoppers Drug Mart, the appointed meeting place, but at first he won’t go in. Finally, he steps forward as the automatic doors open.

    Marie is standing inside, waiting. When she sees him, her face is unreadable. Gabriel waves faintly. Marie walks forward, her high-heeled boots rapping on the shopping mall floor. By the time they meet, Gabriel is laughing and Marie is smiling broadly. She links her arm through his and leads him back out to the parking lot.

    They climb into her van and drive, winding through the city but not really seeing it, lost in talk. She drops Gabriel at Vancouver Community College for his meeting. The head of admissions tells him he needs to get his high school diploma and improve some grades. Gabriel gets a tour of the auto mechanic shop. He shakes hands with the head instructor, and walks out smiling.

    The day ends at Jericho Beach, as the sun is setting over the city skyline. Marie and Gabriel walk along the sand. Gabriel pulls a joint from his pocket and walks alone towards a breakwater. Marie watches him go.

    “I don’t think honestly in my heart that his family ever wanted to treat him like that,” she says.

    “But that’s what was learned. That’s what was taught through residential schools. Now we have generations of people in their 20s and 30s struggling and wondering why this happened to me.

    “Will Gabriel ever get why that happened? That’s huge stuff. Who knows if that ever happens?” she says.

    She pauses, watching Gabriel standing alone and staring out across the water.

    “There’s no timeline on this. All I can say is pure patience. Pure understanding of what’s going on. Aboriginal people are speaking up about this now, and we’re doing it slowly. It took 200 years to do us wrong. It’s going to take 200 years to get better.”

    The ocean laps softly at the beach. Seagulls wheel in the sky.

    “I want Gabriel to find some peace,” she says, finally. “Find happiness. There is happiness in him. There is a good guy in there that deserves to live a good life.”

    Present day. Gabriel is 39 years old

    After speaking with the admissions staff at Vancouver Community College, Gabriel returns to Whitehorse, enrols in classes at Yukon College and, though it is occasionally a struggle, earns his high school diploma.

    He starts spending more time with his children, going on shopping trips with his daughter and driving his son to school each day.

    Things appear to be improving for him, but as potential trial dates for his lawsuit over J.V.’s alleged abuse are set and rescheduled repeatedly, his anxiety begins to rise.

    He’s arrested for assault, and ends up back inside the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. While he’s unable to collect his social assistance cheques, the rent on his government subsidized apartment goes unpaid. When he is released on bail he finds an eviction notice taped to his door.

    He gets into another fight — jumped again, he says, by three guys. He fights them off, smashing one in the head with a rock and spattering blood across his car’s windshield.

    The RCMP issues another warrant for Gabriel’s arrest. He ends up living in his car for three months until the social assistance office gets the paperwork on his apartment sorted out. Eventually he turns himself in to the police, and is charged and released on recognizance pending another trial date.

    The Yukon government puts a settlement offer on the table in his lawsuit against J.V. Gabriel rejects it, but when the government says it will put him on the stand in open court, and use his lengthy criminal history against him, he signs a settlement offer. He gets $19,000 in exchange for dropping the allegations about Above 60 entirely. The settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing by the government or J.V.

    Most of the money goes to pay off debts that Gabriel has accumulated over the past few years. In no time he has only a few thousand dollars left.

    In August 2017, Gabriel says his social assistance is cut off because his settlement money means he no longer qualifies. His toilet is broken. The heat doesn’t work.

    “I shouldn’t have to use that settlement money,” he says.

    “I nearly died for that money, and what did it get me?” he asks, looking around at the pockmarked walls of his apartment. “This? Is this what it got me?”

    Jesse Winter can be reached at

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