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- 10/26/17--19:05: _Toronto woman who s...
- 10/26/17--18:54: _In space, Scott Kel...
- 10/26/17--15:53: _'Zombie law' in Tor...
- 10/27/17--06:23: _Highway 401 eastbou...
- 10/27/17--05:38: _Apple’s iPhone X se...
- 10/26/17--20:29: _Selma Blair, Rachel...
- 10/27/17--04:00: _Sick Kids kicks off...
- 10/27/17--05:14: _Catalan parliament ...
- 10/27/17--07:28: _First-time GTA home...
- 10/28/17--07:04: _Spain takes over Ca...
- 10/27/17--19:20: _First charges filed...
- 10/28/17--07:34: _Former president Ba...
- 10/28/17--07:53: _Article 7
- 10/28/17--03:00: _This woman may hav...
- 10/27/17--15:38: _Stephen Harper slam...
- 10/28/17--03:00: _45,000 children rel...
- 10/28/17--06:55: _Astros’ Yuli Gurrie...
- 10/27/17--16:59: _Trump greets report...
- 10/28/17--04:39: _Police shoot man af...
- 10/28/17--04:00: _He named the baby G...
- 10/26/17--15:53: 'Zombie law' in Toronto would deter distracted walking: Teitel
- 10/27/17--07:28: First-time GTA home buyers take to the skies in condos
- 10/28/17--07:04: Spain takes over Catalonia, fires defiant separatist leaders
- 10/28/17--07:53: Article 7
- 10/28/17--03:00: This woman may have the toughest job in Toronto
- 10/27/17--15:38: Stephen Harper slams Trudeau government over NAFTA talks
- 10/28/17--03:00: 45,000 children relying on Star readers’ goodwill this Christmas
A Canadian who survived the Second World War nuclear bomb attack on Hiroshima will accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
Setsuko Thurlow, 85, was 13 years old and living in Hiroshima when the U.S. dropped the first of two nuclear weapons on Japan.
Thurlow, who married a Canadian and moved to Toronto in the 1950s, will accept the awards with the executive director of ICAN, Beatrice Fihn, in Oslo, Norway in December.
ICAN says Thurlow has been a leading figure in its movement since its launch in 2007.
ICAN says she played a key role in efforts at the United Nations to adapt a landmark treaty outlawing nuclear weapons.
Thurlow has campaigned against nuclear weapons for her entire life and said in a release on Thursday that she is “deeply humbled” to be invited to the Nobel Prize ceremony.
“It has been such a privilege to work with so many passionate and inspirational ICAN campaigners around the world over the past decade. The Nobel Peace Prize is a powerful tool that we can now use to advance our cause,” she said.
Nobel said earlier this year that it was recognizing ICAN for its work in drawing attention to the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”
Toronto woman who survived Hiroshima nuclear bombing to accept Nobel Peace Prize
What attracted astronaut Scott Kelly to spend a year in space and then write a book about it was the challenge.
It was a mission he accomplished.
On the International Space Station for 340 days beginning in March 2015, he had almost constant headaches from bad air, got frustrated with management and the toilet broke down often.
A crew mate irked him, another he didn’t meet before he got there. Two ships with critical supplies had failures on launch and didn’t make it to space. And his drinking water was made up from recycled urine and sweat, part of the space station’s closed loop system.
Kelly, now retired from NASA and embarking on a promotional tour for his recently released memoir Endurance, sat down with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams at Ontario Science Centre on Thursday in a sold out event to share tales from space, including memories of his first launch to space in 1999.
“Man, this is a really stupid thing to be doing,” Kelly said he thought. “It’s risky.”
In the talk and in his book, Kelly described his record-setting experiences in unprecedented detail. He wrote that life off Earth can be wonderful, but it is hard and dangerous. The space station was nearly hit by space junk when he was aboard. A crew mate once came untethered on a spacewalk and nearly floated away into space. Both events would have been catastrophic.
When Kelly and Williams flew together on space shuttle Endeavour in 2007, the ship was damaged by foam on launch. Four years earlier, similar damage doomed the space shuttle Columbia on entry, killing seven astronauts.
An astronaut communicating so candidly of the challenge and danger is unusual, he said.
“I think people can relate more to stories that are like their lives where everything is not always perfect.”
A trained U.S. navy test pilot inspired by Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff, Kelly became an astronaut in 1996, training alongside newly-named Canadian Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette. He flew two shuttle missions and a 159-day space station mission.
After that, Kelly said he wasn’t interested in a one-year mission, but later wanted the challenge and pushed to get the job.
“Doing something twice as long (as my 159-day mission) seemed more challenging,” he said. “I knew what I was getting into. I put a lot of thought into how I was going to pace myself and get through with my sanity intact.”
The main focus of the mission was science. He studied his physical changes on a long space stay in weightlessness. He spent one third of his time on 400 experiments, three quarters of that on medical studies. That included ultrasounds as well as collecting blood, saliva, urine and fecal samples.
With an identical twin brother on the ground for comparison studies, both were test subjects. Only Russian cosmonauts have stayed in space that long, so the data was considered important for international research teams, he wrote in Endurance.
Life on the station is a “marathon over months, and every day (there is) a sprint,” he said.
When not working on science, he worked on space station maintenance, did three spacewalks and conducted media events. His personal time included communication with family, looking at planet Earth and watching Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad or Fifty Shades of Grey.
He missed new and different people other than the five he was with. He also missed weather.
The worst moment in space was when he was mistakenly told his daughter on the ground was having an emergency.
You can’t go home for personal circumstances when in space. He was there in 2011 when his sister-in-law Gabrielle Giffords, then a U.S. congresswoman, was shot in the head at a political event.
Landing aboard a Russian space capsule in March 2016, which falls to earth under a parachute and lands on hard ground, was “like going (over) Niagara Falls in a barrel but you are on fire.”
Kelly said he has missed living in space.
“I miss the work and how exacting and precise you have to be,” he said. “And I miss the people ... When we are in space you miss Earth and when you are on Earth, you miss space.”
He would go back to space with an American commercial company rocket in a heartbeat, including on a long mission to the Moon or Mars.
Kelly said the challenge of a mission to another planet is not technology, but having politicians who are “science minded, believe in science and are data and logic driven.”
“Getting to Mars is not about the rocket science, it is about the political science,” he said.
But before any interplanetary mission, Kelly said he is rooting for the Houston Astros to win the World Series. He will watch Game 3 in Houston on Friday.
In space, Scott Kelly had headaches, dodged space junk, did science research and watched Game of ThronesIn space, Scott Kelly had headaches, dodged space junk, did science research and watched Game of Thrones
The thing I fear most when I am looking at my phone while walking down the street isn’t the possibility that I will get hit by a car or fall into a ditch. It’s that an elderly person will make eye contact with me.
I fear this more than death or sudden descent into a hole because the look that elderly people give me when I text and walk at the same time — an activity that usually leads me to lose my footing in a divot or stumble over a buried tree root — is one of profound judgment and pity. It’s a look that says, “You don’t need to use a cane or a walker to get around. All your faculties appear to be in order, and yet you still can’t manage to make it down the street in one piece because of that device in your hand. You’re a bit of a loser.” If looks could kill, in other words, this would be one of the lethal ones.
This is why I wholeheartedly support the belief that governments should issue fines to people crossing the road who have their eyes glued to the screens of their smartphones. Not only is the practice exceedingly dangerous, it provokes soul-crushing looks of disapproval from old people that no one should ever have to bear.
The first city government to take this problem seriously did so this week. According to a brand new law in Honolulu, Hawaii, anyone crossing the road with their head in their phone can be fined up to $35 (U.S.) by police. Some have dubbed this the “Zombie Law,” an allusion to the supposedly zombie-like nature of people like me who walk around with their eyes fixed on their screens.
But the zombie comparison is inaccurate because a zombie is on a mission and he can’t be deterred. He must eat brains, but in order to eat brains he has to follow a human who has some. This usually involves walking in a straight line, uninterrupted. But those of us who walk around with our heads in our screens lack the focused determination of the average undead stalker. The moment our phones buzz in our pockets we are prone to forget where we are going and what our purpose is. Worse, we stop in our tracks quite suddenly in order to check our messages, sometimes causing a pedestrian pileup behind us. We are in a sense, less predictable and harder to evade than zombies.
Worse still, if the source of our phone’s buzzing is an email from a colleague whose tone is difficult to read, we stand there hunched in the middle of the sidewalk for several minutes analyzing the office memo like an ancient scroll: “Is Susan annoyed? She usually signs ‘Thanks!’ But this time she just signed ‘Thanks.’ Something must be wrong.”
No wonder old, phoneless people pity us. We are a sad bunch. And I think we know it. According to a poll from last year by the market research company Insights West, the majority of Canadians surveyed support regulations to ban “distracted walking.” Though this idea was unsurprisingly more popular with older Canadians in the baby boomer demographic, a little more than half of respondents 18 to 34 reported that they’d support such a ban.
The takeaway from this, in my mind, is that most people don’t enjoy distracted walking. It isn’t fun to multi-task strolling and scrolling. It’s anxiety inducing and often nauseating. But an addiction is an addiction. Nobody realistically thinks it’s a good idea to cross a busy intersection totally immersed in a screen, but people do it everyday. And they do it everyday, presumably, because our hyper-connected culture is an excellent enabler of smartphone addiction.
Therefore, the threat of a steep fine might make texting while walking a compulsion that is easier to curb. But 35 bucks isn’t nearly steep enough. Toronto, always looking for a way to be “world class,” has an opportunity here. We should one up Honolulu. We should adopt a similar distracted-walking fine, but double it to $70.
Of course, not everyone is convinced fines are a good solution to this problem, least of all our provincial government, which last year denied Toronto city council’s request to prohibit distracted walking. This week, reporters at the CBC revisited the issue with Const. Clint Stibbe, a Toronto Police spokesperson, who said “we shouldn’t need a law for common sense.” But unfortunately, we do.
And we have plenty of them on the books already. In Ontario, we have Ryan’s Law, which makes it mandatory for schools to allow kids with asthma to carry their inhalers on their persons (as opposed to storing them in their lockers). In Alberta, it is illegal to shave your beard while driving. Nationwide, it is illegal to take somebody water-skiing one hour after sunset. These are all common sense laws I’m certain that many Canadians are quite grateful for. So why not add another? In the name of our streets and our scrambled brains — and in the hope that the two don't meet — we should follow Honolulu and write a distracted-walking law into our city’s books.
Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.
'Zombie law' in Toronto would deter distracted walking: Teitel
One man is dead following a collision including two transport trucks in Cambridge Friday morning.
The crash occurred at around 7:30 a.m. on Highway 401 east near Cedar Creek Rd. All eastbound lanes are now blocked, the Ontario Provincial Police said.
“It’s absolutely devastating, there’s debris everywhere,” OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told media.
Schmidt said firefighters and air ambulance were on scene waiting to transport the victim, but the person succumbed to their injuries.
It might take most of the day to investigate the collision and re-open the highway, he said, due to the amount of damage at the scene.
Highway 401 eastbound lanes near Cedar Creek closed after deadly crash
Apple Inc. began accepting early orders for its iPhone X at 12:01 a.m. in California and within minutes shipping times quickly lengthened to as much as six weeks in the U.S., signalling supplies will likely remain tight as the new device goes on sale Nov. 3.
Around the world, Apple fans posted images and comments online of how they were planning to get their hands on one of the $1,287 (or more) phones. You had to be fast. In Hong Kong, the phone appeared to sell out less than half an hour after ordering began in the mid-afternoon, with the online store there showing the phone “currently unavailable.” It was a similar story across Asia.
In the U.K., the device sold out within minutes. By mid-morning, customers were being told they would have to wait four to six weeks before the phone became available. And if New Yorkers didn’t stay up all night, they were likely out of luck. By early morning on the East Coast Apple’s website was already registering a wait of as much as six weeks.
A few people posted complaints about glitches, saying the screen was freezing or that they received a notice of a reservation number, but also that Apple couldn’t reach the “carrier systems to process your request.” Such gripes are typical after the launch of a major gadget and don’t necessarily mean there are substantial issues. Mostly people were either sad that they couldn’t get one of the first phones, or ecstatic that they did.
A spokesperson for Apple didn’t immediately respond with a comment on whether the company expected wait times to decrease.
Shares of Apple rose as much as 1.5 per cent to $205.80 in New York.
Waiting several weeks for major new Apple devices has become common. Shipping times for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, launched in 2014 and the previous end-to-end iPhone overhaul, extended to as much as four weeks in the hours after becoming available to pre-order. Apple typically takes a few weeks or months to reach a balance of supply and demand for major new iPhone launches.
The iPhone X has an OLED screen with slimmer bezels, matching recent designs from Samsung Electronics Co., in addition to a unique facial recognition scanner that lets the user unlock the phone rather than using a fingerprint. Apple struggled to manufacture aspects of the new features, and the iPhone X’s Nov. 3 debut will be about six weeks after the arrival of the iPhone 8, which is a less sophisticated device.
What’s new in the iPhone X
In recent years, Apple has come to rely more heavily on pre-orders. It’s a smart tactical move for Apple because it helps lock people in — even though the company doesn’t collect payment until the phone actually ships. That in turn dissuades shoppers from buying competing devices should there not be enough iPhone Xs available during the holiday shopping season.
Consumers who ordered early will get their iPhone Xs next Friday. Apple also plans to set inventory aside for people choosing to buy an iPhone X at one of the company’s physical stores. For those prepared to fight the crowds, Apple had some advice: “Arrive early.”
Apple’s iPhone X sees shipping delays in U.S. as device quickly sells out in U.K., Hong Kong
LOS ANGELES—Actresses Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams have added their names to the growing list of women who have come forward to allege that writer and director James Toback sexually harassed or assaulted them following a report Sunday in The Los Angeles Times detailing the accounts of 38 accusers.
Since Sunday, the number of accusers has ballooned to over 200 alleging inappropriate encounters with Toback, an Oscar-nominee for his Bugsy screenplay. Speaking to Vanity Fair in an article published Thursday, Blair and McAdams describe encounters similar to those detailed in the L.A. Times report — many of which assert that Toback, now 72, would talk up his accomplishments and promise stardom, often referencing his friendship with Robert Downey Jr., before masturbating or simulating sex acts on the women.
Blair had already filmed Cruel Intentions when her representative arranged for her to meet Toback for a possible role in his film Harvard Man. The meeting was set at a hotel restaurant, but Blair said when she arrived the hostess said that Toback wanted her to meet him in his room.
There, she described a long meeting in which Toback asked her to perform a monologue naked, propositioned her for sex, and said he would not let her leave until he “had release.” Blair said he then simulated sexual intercourse on her leg.
“I felt disgust and shame, and like nobody would ever think of me as being clean again after being this close to the devil,” Blair said. “His energy was so sinister.”
Afterward, Toback implied that if she told anyone, he could have her killed.
“I didn’t want to speak up because, it sounds crazy but, even until now, I have been scared for my life,” Blair said.
McAdams, an Oscar nominee for her supporting role in Spotlight, also met Toback to audition for Harvard Man. She was 21 and just starting out in the business. After her audition he told her he wanted to workshop with her. They met that night in his hotel room where, she said, the conversation quickly turned sexual.
“He said, ‘You know, I just have to tell you. I have masturbated countless times today thinking about you since we met at your audition,’ ” McAdams said.
He later asked if she would show him her pubic hair. McAdams said she eventually excused herself and left.
“I was very lucky that I left and he didn’t actually physically assault me in any way,” she said, adding that she has felt shame ever since that she didn’t leave earlier. When she told her agent about the encounter the next day, she said the agent said Toback had done this to another one of her actress clients.
The accounts come as sexual harassment in the workplace, and, specifically Hollywood, has been under increased scrutiny after dozens of women accused movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault going back decades.
Blair said in the case of Toback she was emboldened by the “brave women” who spoke out in the Times and the rage she felt when Toback dismissed the accounts. Toback denied the allegations to the paper, and declined to comment on the new allegations to Vanity Fair. He has not responded to requests for comment from The Associated Press.
She also said she hoped that “someone bigger” than her would “call him out.”
Weinstein accusers, who now total over 50, have ranged from assistants to aspiring actresses to some of the industry’s most famous, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted that Blair and the others are “big enough.”
“You’ve helped someone out there. You have,” DuVernay wrote to Blair.
Like Weinstein, reports of Toback’s alleged behaviour toward women have been around for decades. Spy magazine wrote about him in 1989, and the now-defunct website Gawker also published accounts from women in New York who had had run-ins with Toback on the street. Julianne Moore said on Twitter Tuesday that Toback approached her on the street in New York in the 80s, asking her to come to his apartment to audition.
But exactly what might happen to Toback is still a question. As Blair pointed out, unlike Weinstein and Amazon executive Roy Price, Toback is not an employee of a company from which he can be fired. He is also not currently a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“Toback was an Academy member but stopped renewing his annual membership nearly a decade ago. He is no longer a member of the Academy,” a film academy spokesperson said Thursday.
He does, however, currently has a completed film, The Private Life of a Modern Woman, starring Sienna Miller and Alec Baldwin that debuted at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year. It does not yet have a distributor.
Some see a silver lining in the dominoes falling like this.
“For years, many in power tried to divide & conquer women in order to dominate, control, & victimize them,” said actress Jessica Chastain on Twitter on Thursday with a link to the Vanity Fair article. “The inexcusable behaviour stops now.”
Selma Blair, Rachel McAdams share James Toback harassment stories in Vanity Fair
If 6-year-old Steven Spice is going to tell you why part of his skull was surgically removed, he’ll ask you first to guess his favourite colour. When you land on the right answer — blue — he’ll ask you to guess his brother’s.
So the process goes, prattling through the hue preferences of everyone he knows, until the precocious tot is satisfied enough to talk shop. “Sick Kids actually saved my life,” he said, perched on a tall director-style chair in the early hours of a mid-September morning.
“I would have died.”
With that cleared up, he returned to trivia about colours.
That was the nature of the Hospital for Sick Children’s latest campaign video — the emotional black and white video which was released this morning, to kick off a campaign to rebuild the aging hospital.
The heartwarming video shows Sick Kids patients and some actors scavenging in houses for building supplies, dismantling a building, and blanketing downtown Toronto streets as they rush to build the hospital a new facility.
The campaign goal is $1.3 billion, meant to address a wide swath of issues with the existing hospital. The neonatal intensive care unit, which tends to babies with high infection susceptibility, is still a ward-style room designed in the 1980s. In the pediatric intensive care unit, low ceilings and a lack of space mean they can’t adapt to new technology.
While Sick Kids performs more than 50 per cent of bone marrow transplants in Canada, the unit’s air filtration system doesn’t currently have the state-of-the-art infection control technologies they want, and while patients face diarrhea as a side-effect of their medication, patient rooms there don’t have private washrooms.
While Steven took a small break from filming — cheerfully annihilating zombies on his mom’s phone — his mother, Crystal, talked to the Star about her son’s diagnosis. Chiari malformation; it’s like a blister on his spine, she said.
Halfway through the conversation, another parent slipped into the tent. Jodi Baxter’s son Jack has grown up as a patient at Sick Kids, battling severe epilepsy. Dark days were scattered throughout his childhood— days where she was faced with what she believed to be final goodbyes with her son.
But every time, the now-14-year-old came back to her.
Crystal and Jodi shared knowing glances while comparing experiences, getting their sons home and back to regular schooling. Both expressed unfathomable gratitude to the staff at Sick Kids for getting them there.
But while affection for the hospital ran deep, patients and their parents also didn’t scrub the unflattering details about Sick Kids out of their experiences.
When Emma Neagu, 14, was first diagnosed with bone cancer in her leg and her lungs, she and her mom were bombarded with information they didn’t understand in quick succession.
“It’s going to be a long process, but you’re going to have this surgery called rotationplasty, they’re going to take your leg, and twist it,” Emma recalled. “And she started explaining – mom, you remember?”
Her mother, Claudia, shook her head. She recalled asking the doctor to stop, and saying that it was too much information. Later on in Emma’s treatment, when she and that doctor became much more familiar with one another, they came to an understanding.
Both Emma and her mom acknowledged that the medical team had only meant to assure the then 12-year-old that she had options for treatment.
For the months that followed, they say that the physicians at Sick Kids went above and beyond to make Emma feel comfortable. One went so far as to pass along his cellphone number, telling her to text him if she ever needed to.
Emma, ever the teenager, giddily pulled up an old yearbook photo she’d found of one of her doctors. They went to the same high school, she said. Another photo showed the pair of them recently, beaming beside each other.
The photos in her phone show moments of difficulty, but also moments of triumph. She had elected to have the rotationplasty — where the top half of her leg was amputated, the bottom half was twisted and re-attached so that her ankle formed a new knee — over a procedure that would have kept the cosmetic appearance of her leg.
That way, she could do anything she wanted.
And before dashing off for another scene, the 14-year-old happily displayed a photo of herself proving that true: with a waterproof prosthetic in place, doing a handstand on a paddle board.
Sick Kids kicks off $1.3B rebuilding campaign with patients who know hospital best
BARCELONA, SPAIN—Catalonia’s regional parliament passed a motion Friday to establish an independent Catalan Republic, voting to secede from Spain after an acrimonious debate that saw opposition lawmakers walk out in protest before the vote.
The vote in Barcelona came after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy delivered an impassioned speech in Madrid, urging the country’s Senate to grant his government special constitutional measures that would allow it to take control of Catalonia’s autonomous powers and halt the region’s independence bid.
The vote was approved with 70 in favour of independence, 10 against and two blank ballots in Catalonia’s 135-member parliament.
In Madrid, Spain’s Senate responded by authorizing the government to take control of the government of Catalonia.
A majority of senators gave Rajoy the go-ahead Friday to apply unprecedented measures including sacking Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont and his cabinet. It also authorized him to curtail Catalan parliamentary powers.
The Spanish government must now decide how and when to apply the measures. It says they are temporary and aimed at restoring legality in the northeastern region that is an economic powerhouse in Spain.
Rajoy immediately called for calm despite the vote, which Spain is deeply set against. No country in the world has expressed support for independence for Catalonia, a region in northeastern Spain that has 7.5 million people.
“I call on all Spaniards to remain calm. The rule of law will restore legality to Catalonia,” he said on Twitter.
In Barcelona, separatist lawmakers in the regional parliament erupted in applause and chants when the chamber’s main speaker, Carme Forcadell, announced the passing of a motion to declare the region’s independence.
The lawmakers stood to chant the Catalan official anthem, joined by dozens of guests. Regional President Carles Puigdemont and his vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, exchanged congratulatory embraces and handshakes following the ballot.
Outside, thousands who had gathered near the parliament building to call for independence cheered, with some dancing and raising glasses after seeing the vote and the counting live on a giant screen.
The motion that passed calls for beginning an independence process that includes drafting Catalonia’s new top laws and opening negotiations “on equal footing” with Spanish authorities to establish co-operation.
Hours earlier in Madrid, Rajoy made his case for measures to keep Spain unified. The conservative leader, who received sustained applause before and after his speech, told the chamber that Spain was facing a challenge not seen in its recent history.
Rajoy said there was “no alternative” but to seize power because the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, and his separatist Cabinet had pursued an illegal and unilateral path that was “contrary to the normal behaviour in any democratic country like ours.”
“What would France or Germany do,” he asked lawmakers, if faced with a similar insurrection?
Rajoy said his government’s first move would be to dismiss Puigdemont and his regional ministers if the Senate approves the Spanish government’s use of Article 155 of the Constitution in a vote later Friday.
The special measures, he said, were the only way out of the crisis, adding that Spain wasn’t trying to take away liberties from the 7.5 million Catalans but instead trying to protect them.
Rajoy says the measures to take over Catalan affairs are aimed at restoring order and has promised to call a new regional election once that is achieved.
If Rajoy’s measures are granted, it will be the first time in four decades of democratic rule that the national government in Madrid would directly run the affairs of one of Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions, a move that will likely fan the flames of the Catalan revolt.
Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party has an absolute majority in the Senate, thus guaranteeing the approval of his proposals. But he has also sought support from the country’s main opposition parties. It will then be up to the government when to implement the measures taking over the Catalan government.
Catalonia represents a fifth of Spain’s gross domestic product and polls show its people roughly evenly divided over independence.
In Barcelona before the vote, about 500 mayors of Catalan towns chanted “independence!” and raised their ceremonial wooden staves in a hall inside the regional parliament.
The proposal that was approved had been submitted by the ruling Catalan Together for Yes coalition and their allies in the far-left CUP party. It states that “we establish the Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign state of democratic and social rule of law.”
“Today is the day that many Catalans’ long-held desire will be fulfilled, but tomorrow the cruel reality will set in with the Spanish state armed with its interpretation of Article 155,” the former speaker of the Catalan parliament Joan Rigol i Roig, told The Associated Press. “We can only hope that the conflict remains in the political realm.”
The independence move was opposed by all opposition lawmakers in the prosperous region.
Carlos Carrizosa, spokesman for the pro-union Citizens party, the leading opposition party in Catalonia’s parliament, ripped a copy of the proposal into pieces during the debate ahead of the vote.
“With this paper, you leave those Catalans who don’t follow you orphaned without a government. And that’s why Citizens won’t let you ruin Catalonia,” he said. “Today is a sad, dramatic day in Catalonia. Today is the day that you (secessionists) carry out your coup against the democracy in Spain.”
Marta Ribas of the leftist Catalonia Yes We Can party said “two grave errors” were being committed Friday.
“First, the Article 155 which will take away our rights and impact all the country. But it is a grave error to respond to that barbarity with an even bigger error,” she said. “The unilateral declaration of independence won’t protect us against Article 155, you will only make the majority of people suffer.”
Before the parliament session, large crowds of independence supporters gathered outside in a Barcelona park, waving Catalan flags and chanting slogans in favour of a new state.
“I am here today because we will start the Catalan Republic,” said 68-year-old protester Jordi Soler. “Madrid is starting with total repression — and there is no longer any (other) option.”
Puigdemont scrapped hopes of a possible end to the political deadlock on Thursday when he opted not to call an early election and halt the drift toward independence.
With files from the New York Times
Catalan parliament declares independence as Spanish PM says ‘no alternative’ but to seize power
Six hundred square feet isn't huge. But Emily Pickles figures her new condo in Burlington will be larger than anything she could afford downtown.
"Where the market's at right now it's a little scary. It was surprising to see what I could get for my budget — it's not much," said the 22-year-old TTC customer communications and special events co-ordinator.
When Pickles moves into her place next year, she will join the one in five Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) households that live in condos, according to the latest census data. That proportion is about the same in Burlington although it's not part of the Toronto CMA.
For first-time millennial buyers like Pickles, condos have become the de facto starter home, an answer to ownership in the face of big city prices.
But in Toronto, high rises come with questions about whether we're building the right kind of housing. If not, how do we sustain vibrant high-rise communities suitable for all ages?
In Canada, 13.3 per cent or 1.9 million households live in condos and the Toronto region accounts for 445,650 of those, according to the census.
In Vancouver, nearly one in three households live in condos. Even some smaller cities such as Calgary and Kelowna, B.C. — where the numbers are 21.8 per cent and 21.5 per cent, respectively — have proportionately similar condominium populations to Toronto.
In Toronto the trajectory of condo development is clear. It's less straightforward in the 905 communities, according to information provided by the city.
"The proportion of households living in condominium units is likely to rise," said Michael Wright of Toronto planning.
"The bulk of the city's potential housing supply includes condominium units. For the five-year period ending June 30, 51 per cent of the proposed development projects in the city's pipeline involve at least one condominium application, and these projects represent 85 per cent of the residential units proposed, under construction or recently built," he said in an email.
Although condos can range from single-detached homes, town houses and low-rise apartments, the majority of units in Toronto are high rise and, even in the 905, where municipalities are building population densities around the region's expanded transit system, there's a clear push to the sky.
For Pickles, who is living with her parents until her unit is ready, the move means home ownership near enhanced transit service on GO's busy Lake Shore West line.
She put down 30 per cent on the $307,000 apartment, and figures her payments, including condo fees, will still be less than rent downtown.
"Rent is insane," she said, citing friends whose leasing costs are so prohibitive they struggle to afford the city amenities for which they're paying a premium to be close to.
Condominiums, which provide about a third of the City of Toronto's rental stock, have been an effective response to the problem of affording a starter home in Toronto, particularly for millennials. They're also evidence of Toronto's oft-touted world class status, said Phil Soper, CEO of Royal LePage.
"One third of housing stock we've added since 2011 is condominium. When I was a kid (in 1980) it was 6 per cent. That's a dramatic change. Clearly we're adjusting the product people buy into. It's clear we've joined other global cities in a changing social norm where many people don't expect the white picket fence," he said.
And condos work for millennial consumers — until there's a second child in the family.
"When they have that second child, there's a switch that's thrown in the direction their lives take for home ownership and they will head to the suburbs just like their parents did,” said Soper of the key millennial consumer segment. “What they're not doing is buying their first home in the suburbs."
The potential migration of young home owners to the suburbs could put the city's vibrancy at risk. But it's a risk that can be addressed by governments putting the right incentives in place to encourage the development of bigger condos.
The census provides more ammunition for building the housing that planners call the "missing middle."
Those are the attached town homes and mid-rise apartments that are priced and sized somewhere between the region's glut of high-rise and single-family detached homes, said Marcy Burchfield, executive director of the Neptis Foundation, which has been studying Ontario's anti-sprawl growth plan.
It's housing that accommodates struggling middle- and middle-lower income families, she said. That's key in a region where the census showed 26.7 per cent of home owners and 47 per cent of tenants are spending more than 30 per cent of their household income on housing.
That's a clear indicator of financial stress. Add the cost of commuting to the high cost of housing, and the affordability challenge grows again, she said.
"Moving the needle on changing the composition on the dwelling structure of our region is one way of doing that," said Burchfield.
"That is where we need to focus our efforts. It's got to be around current transit and where we're building all this high capacity, high speed transit around the GO stations. That is really where we're going to start to see movement around this affordability issue," said Burchfield.
Location near a GO station was a key selling point for Pickles because it puts her on a more frequent train service and it's a reprieve from the noise of downtown.
"It would be nice at my age to live downtown but I wasn't fully ready to do that," she said.
At the same time, owning a home of her own was a priority.
"I wanted to get my foot in the door. I wanted to own my piece of property," said Pickles. "I wanted to be building something up myself."
Canada and condos
Proportion of Vancouver households living in condominiums
1.3 million (67.1%)
Condo households in Canada that owned their unit.
Condo households that rent.
Canadians aged 30, who own their own home, compared to 39% of millennials (20 to 35) in the Toronto CMA.
Average Toronto home value, compared to $1,005,920 in Vancouver and $366,974 in Montreal.
Source: 2016 Census
First-time GTA home buyers take to the skies in condos
WASHINGTON—Stephen Harper has come out against his successor’s handling of NAFTA negotiations with the United States, with the former prime minister declaring the negotiations in real peril in a memo titled, “Napping on NAFTA.”
The memo was obtained by The Canadian Press and it criticizes the Trudeau government in several areas: For too quickly rejecting U.S. proposals, for insisting on negotiating alongside Mexico, and for promoting progressive priorities like labour, gender, Aboriginal and environmental issues.
The former prime minister says he was worried by what he heard during a recent trip to Washington, where he discussed NAFTA at an event but did not publicly share his misgivings about the Trudeau government.
“I came back alarmed,” said the Oct. 25 letter signed by Harper, and sent to clients of his firm Harper & Associates.
“I fear that the NAFTA renegotiation is going very badly. I also believe that President (Donald) Trump’s threat to terminate NAFTA is not a bluff ... I believe this threat is real. Therefore, Canada’s government needs to get its head around this reality: it does not matter whether current American proposals are worse than what we have now. What matters in evaluating them is whether it is worth having a trade agreement with the Americans or not.”
The current government was not pleased by the letter.
Officials in Ottawa accused the former prime minister of essentially negotiating in public — against the government of Canada. They called the release of the two-page note ill-timed and perplexing.
“This is a gift to the Americans,” said one current Canadian official.
“There’s nothing Wilbur Ross and Robert Lighthizer (from the trump administration) want to see more than prominent Canadians standing up to suggest making concessions to the Americans. Make no mistake: Wilbur Ross and Robert Lighthizer will be very happy with this letter.”
The memo accuses the Canadian government of stubbornness on several fronts.
First, it suggests Canada has been too quick in rejecting American proposals as a “red line,” or “poison pill.” He said such knee-jerk refusals are only a viable strategy if you truly believe Trump cannot cancel NAFTA — an assessment Harper does not share.
Second, he suggests the government made a tactical error by co-operating too closely with Mexico. He says Trump campaigned on constant complaints about Mexico, not Canada, and Harper appears to suggest it was unwise of the Liberals to insist upon renegotiating a trilateral NAFTA: “How did we get ourselves in this position? ... The elephant is Mexico ... In fact, the U.S. is both irked and mystified by the Liberals’ unwavering devotion to Mexico.”
Third, he criticizes the Liberals for pursuing their progressive trade policies in these talks: “Did anyone really think that the Liberals could somehow force the Trump administration into enacting their agenda — union power, climate change, Aboriginal claims, gender issues? But while the Canadian government was doing that, the Americans have been laying down their real demands.”
Finally, he accuses the Liberals of bungling other disputes over lumber and airplanes. Harper says the Liberals passed up on a chance to renew the softwood lumber agreement in exchange for supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and he says their subsidies to Bombardier set the stage for huge tariffs today.
The Liberals say that last point about softwood lumber is based on a falsehood.
They say there was never a softwood settlement on the table, and that claims to the contrary are wrong. As for the progressive trade agenda, they point to recent polls showing that improved labour and environmental standards in NAFTA are exceptionally popular in the U.S., and they say some of these provisions could help win crucial ratification votes from Democrats to actually get an eventual deal through the U.S. Congress.
“It is a bit sad,” said a second Canadian official, requesting anonymity.
“He’s basically saying we need to make more concessions to the Americans, turn our backs on workers, turn our backs on softwood workers ... put thousands of aerospace workers out of work.”
Stephen Harper slams Trudeau government over NAFTA talks
The leaves are still turning colour — rather late this year — but in a matter of weeks, we will be turning to the weather gurus asking, “Will it be a white Christmas?”
Whether those who celebrate Christmas — the world’s most celebrated festival — do so for religious or spiritual reasons, or cultural ones, there is a common thread that weaves through them all, and that is the spirit of giving. Giving of love, giving of themselves and, yes, giving of things, too. It’s with children that the motivation to give is at its purest — we give with expectation of nothing in return.
In many parts of the world, including this one, there is one giver-in-chief: Santa Claus.
Is he real, my kids pester me throughout the year. Santa exists if you believe he does, he doesn’t if you believe he doesn’t — that’s the line I use with them, and I’m sticking to it.
How quickly they’ve gone from strewing carrots and sparkles on the lawn for Rudolph, to checking if the stones by the fireplace were displaced Christmas Day, to asking, “Is Santa’s workshop in Costco?” Thank goodness for NORAD’s online Santa tracker — visuals still carry weight.
Santa has one job, it’s true, but it’s a big one and, sometimes, he needs a bit of help.
For more than a century, Father Christmas’s deliveries to millions of children in Toronto have borne the watermark of your generosity.
As we kick off the 2017 Santa Claus Fund, let’s think of the children in Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Pickering and Ajax, habituated to making do, used to going without, who will wonder if Santa will remember them this year. Hopefully, thousands will find he did, and that, too, will be thanks to you.
“It is a sad fact that in 2017 child poverty remains a serious problem in the Greater Toronto Area,” said John Boynton, president of Torstar and publisher of the Star. “The need to help bring a bit of joy to these children is as great as ever. I urge our readers and residents across the GTA, who have been extremely generous in the past, to help. It’s a great way to be part of a community, part of a neighbourhood, and to see that no child goes wanting at Christmas.”
In this city, Canada’s child poverty capital, about one in three kids live in a state of impoverishment.
Perhaps Santa is on your own naughty list, if you think what he represents is not Christmas but the commercialization of it. Sure. That’s an excellent reason to not spend more money on people who have everything, but to share with those who have little.
Perhaps the old man isn’t really part of your culture. I get that. He wasn’t part of mine, either, while I was growing up. But poverty hurts children of all faiths, and giving doesn’t discriminate: the children receiving the gifts come from a variety of backgrounds. As a Nigerian proverb goes, “It is the heart that does the giving; the fingers only let go.”
Back in 1906, the Star’s original publisher, Joseph E. Atkinson, himself no stranger to childhood poverty, launched the Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund, appealing to readers, “. . . whatever contributions made may be expended in bringing pleasure to little hearts where pleasure is most seldom felt.” Readers raised $150 and more than 300 children received warm woollen stockings, candies, nuts — believe it or not, this was once OK — raisins, biscuits, oranges, crackers, toys, games, dolls and squeaking animals.
This year, the goal is to raise $1.7 million and buy presents for 45,000 children. Their gift boxes will combine practical stuff with fun: a sweatshirt, socks, toque and warm gloves, a book, a toothbrushing kit, cookies and a toy. It could be a snakes and ladders game or a crystal growing kit, depending on the age of the recipient. (The gifts are not separated by gender.) Every single dollar raised goes toward the cost of the gifts.
In 1906, the gifts were packed at Little Trinity Anglican Church and delivered by horse-drawn sleighs to missions across the city. Nowadays, it’s an army of hundreds of volunteers who pack the gifts in a warehouse and drop them off on foot, by car, by bus, by train.
That the Santa Claus Fund, now in its 112th year, has weathered world wars, major depressions, recessions and turmoil is a testament to the mettle of Star readers who give and keep on giving.
Time and again, the extended Toronto Star family has used this noble tradition to demonstrate that we are in this together.
Let’s do it again. Let’s help everybody feel they belong.
45,000 children relying on Star readers’ goodwill this Christmas45,000 children relying on Star readers’ goodwill this Christmas
HOUSTON—Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel is facing possible punishment after making a racist gesture during the World Series.
Gurriel said he didn’t intend to offend Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish when he pulled on the corners of his eyes after homering against him during Houston’s 5-3 win in Game 3 on Friday night.
“I didn’t try to offend nobody,” Gurriel said in Spanish through a translator. “I was commenting to my family that I didn’t have any luck against Japanese pitchers here in the United States.”
Gurriel, a 33-year-old from Cuba, made the gesture shortly after homering to start Houston’s four-run second inning. While sitting in the dugout, Gurriel put his fingers to the side of his eyes and said “chinito” — a derogatory Spanish term that translates literally to “little Chinese.”
Darvish was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Iranian father.
A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press the league intends to speak with Gurriel. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league had not publicly addressed the matter. Gurriel may be punished, including a possible suspension during the World Series.
The league has recently suspended players caught using slurs. Toronto’s Kevin Pillar and Oakland’s Matt Joyce were each banned for two games this season after making homophobic comments.
Gurriel said the derogatory term is used commonly in Cuba to refer to Asian people. He said he knows the Japanese are offended by it because he played in Japan in 2014.
“In the moment, I didn’t want to offend him or nobody in Japan because I have a lot of respect for them and I played in Japan,” he said, adding that, “I didn’t mean to do it.”
Darvish played professionally in Japan from 2005-11 before joining the Texas Rangers in 2012. He was traded to the Dodgers at this year’s July 31 trade deadline. He was angry about what happened.
“Acting like that, you just disrespect all the people around the world,” he said in Japanese through a translator.
Gurriel hopes to speak with Darvish about what happened.
“Yes, of course. I want to talk to him because I have nothing against him,” he said. “I think he’s one of the best pitchers in Japan, and I never had success against him. ... If he felt offended, I want to apologize to him.”
Gurriel spent 15 years in the Cuban professional league and played in Japan for a year before signing with the Astros last season. Gurriel homered and doubled in Game 3 and is batting .346 in the post-season.
“I know he’s remorseful,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.
Some of Darvish’s former teammates with the Rangers called out Gurriel for his actions on Twitter. Pitcher Jake Diekman used an emoji to call the gesture trash, and outfielder Ryan Rua said “really hope that gesture from Gurriel wasn't directed toward Yu ... no place for that.”
Darvish hopes the incident can be a learning experience.
“Nobody’s perfect and everybody is different and then ... we just ... have to learn from it,” he said. “And then he made a mistake and then we’re just going to learn from it. We are all human beings. That’s what I’m saying, so just learn from it and we’ve got to go forward, move forward.”
Astros’ Yuli Gurriel may be punished for racist gesture made toward LA’s Yu Darvish
WASHINGTON—Halloween came a little early at the White House as U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed the children of White House reporters into the Oval Office Friday for some early Halloween treats.
More than a dozen costumed kids, including little witches and Princess Leias, a pint-sized Darth Vader, and a purple-haired unicorn gathered around the Resolute Desk, where the president handed out little boxes of White House Hershey’s Kisses.
The president also dispensed plenty of compliments, congratulating the kids’ parents for doing a good job — at least of raising children, if not their coverage of the Trump White House.
“I cannot believe the media produced such beautiful kids. How the media did this, I don’t know,” he said as he welcomed the kids to join him around his desk.
Trump also joked with the kids about their parents’ professions. “You going to grow up to be like your parents?” he asked. “Don’t answer. That can only get me in trouble, that question,” he joked.
Soon after, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered a box full of candy, and the president started handing out the treats.
“You have no weight problems, that’s the good news, right?” he said at one point. “So you take out whatever you need, OK? If you want some for your friends, take ‘em. We have plenty.”
He also asked one little girl how the press treated her. “I’ll bet you get treated better by the press than anybody in the world, right?” he joked.
The president will also be welcoming ghost and goblins to the South Lawn for trick-or-treating on the eve of Halloween on Monday.
Families of school children from 20 schools in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia have been invited to the festivities, along with military families and community organizations.
The president and first lady Melania Trump will be handing out presidential M&M’s and treats from the White House pastry kitchen, and the South Portico will be decorated in spider webs, according to the White House.
Fog will fill the air and trick-or-treaters will see bats and pumpkins decorated with the profiles of presidents past.
Federal agencies including NASA, the Secret Service and the National Park Service also will be handing out giveaways.
Trump greets reporters’ kids for Halloween treats, comments on their looks, weight
COBOURG—An elderly married couple is dead following a shooting at the Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH) emergency department late Friday evening.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) confirmed the couple died following a police involved shooting inside the emergency room in the Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg.
The incident began after the married couple in their 70s were admitted to the emergency department for unknown aliments, said Jon Ansell, the lead SIU investigator on the incident. The couple were side by side on gurneys alone in what Ansell describes as a triage room.
“Just after 11 o’clock p.m. a shot was heard from the triage room,” said Ansell.
The nurses entered the room and found a 76-year-old woman had sustained a head wound, said Ansell.
Cobourg police responded very quickly encountered the 70-year-old man. Two police officers discharged their firearms and the man was pronounced dead on scene.
The woman succumbed to her injuries despite efforts from hospital staff to revive her, said Ansell.
The incident was confined to one room, said Ansell. The man did not fire his weapon in any other areas of the hospital, he said. Aside from the couple, no other staff, patients or visitors were affected physically by the shooting.
“It was a terrifying situation for the emergency staff...two occasions having shots fired right in your work area. In that regard it would have been a very traumatic thing for anybody in that area at the time,” said Ansell.
A man in the emergency department at the time of the incident told the Northumberland News he heard a shot and then five or six shots. He heard people screaming and then the man hid under a table.
Ansell said he could not confirm how many shots were fired.
“We have an awful lot of ballistic work to do yet to determine how many shots were fired,” he said.
The couple are from within an hour the Cobourg area, Ansell said. The names will not be released until the next of kin are notified.
The OPP will be handling the investigation into the death of the woman and the SIU the investigation into the death of the man.
The SIU is urging anyone who may have information about this investigation to contact the lead investigator at 1-800-787-8529. The Unit is also urging anyone who may have any video evidence related to this incident to upload that video through the SIU website.
The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.
Due to the incident, and the related police investigation, patients to the NHH Emergency Department were re-directed to other area hospitals.
“Our staff and physicians are trained to deal with weapon-related situations,” said Linda Davis, President and CEO. “While we hope that we never need to use this training, it proved very beneficial tonight. I want to thank our staff and our local police services for their fast and professional response. NHH’s Employee Assistance Provider is on site providing support to staff. Due to the ongoing investigation we are unable to comment on the specifics of what occurred in our Emergency Department last night. What I can tell you is that the scene is secure and all current patients, caregivers, staff and police personnel are safe.”
Around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28 the emergency department resumed regular service.
“We were able to go off ambulance re-direct, we did that about 15 minutes ago,” she said shortly after 9 a.m. “Which means we will be able to resume our normal service throughout our (emergency department).”
Davis said staff and physicians working during the incident have had a chance to receive counselling and support.
“We have staff who have been trained and are aware of these situations,” she said. “It’s always difficult when it occurs, so we have certainly been able to provide support for our staff.”
The hospital’s employee assistance program was brought in overnight to counsel staff, she said.
“It’s counsellors who are used to dealing with critical incidents and helping staff verbalize concerns and feelings post-incident,” she said. “That was provided to all staff and physicians who were in through the night.”
She added counsellors will return later tonight for further support.
— With files from Todd McEwen
Police shoot man after 70-year-old kills wife inside Cobourg hospital ERPolice shoot man after 70-year-old kills wife inside Cobourg hospital ER
A husband and wife enslave a homeless couple, routinely subjecting them to beatings and verbal abuse. They take their newborn baby and claim him as their own. The woman manages to leave after four years, abandoning her son, but her former partner remains captive for more than two decades, sleeping in a dirty basement, eating dog food, his teeth rotting.
These are just some of the allegations made over the last several weeks in an extraordinary trial playing out in a downtown Toronto courtroom.
The sordid tale began in the late 1980s, after the couple found a man scrounging for food in a dumpster. They befriended him and his common-law wife, helping them find a home. That friendship, the prosecution alleges, turned to something much darker as the husband and his wife took advantage of the vulnerable couple, stealing their government disability cheques. They then allegedly took the couple’s first-born son, lying on hospital records so he would appear to be theirs.
For more than two decades, the boy’s biological dad lived in the basement like a prisoner, where he was often beaten, sometimes so badly he recalls filling the toilet bowl with blood that poured from his nose, according to his testimony in court.
“They threatened me to be there,” the man told court.
“They said, if you ever try to leave, that we’d put you in a mental institution. And I didn’t want that so I didn’t leave.”
He finally did leave, though, in 2012, when he was told to get into a waiting car and convinced to leave by the boy who at the time knew him as Tim, the man who lived in his basement.
It was not until a recent paternity test that the boy, now 28 years old, learned there is a 90-per-cent chance that Tim is his biological father.
The alleged captors, Gary Willett Sr. and his wife, Maria, are facing multiple charges. Willett Sr. is charged with forcible confinement and assault of the man to whom he allegedly didn’t provide the necessaries of life for nearly 25 years, as well as theft over $5,000 and abduction of a child under the age of 14.
Willett Sr.’s case is ongoing. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges he is facing and lawyers for the prosecution and defence will be submitting their closing statements in the coming weeks.
His wife, Maria Willett, is facing similar charges, as well as being accused of the assault of some children in her care. (The Willetts had as many as eight children living with them at points during the last two decades.)
She is not being tried alongside her husband. According to her lawyer, Daniel Kayfetz, she is currently being examined by a court-appointed specialist to determine if she is medically fit to stand trial. “Anything that’s said about her has not been tested by cross-examination or by presentation of defence evidence,” Kayfetz said when reached by the Star.
Testifying in court earlier this month, Willett Sr. said he could not control the once-homeless man he had only ever tried to help. That man, he said, was an independent adult who made his own decisions and willingly gave up his son.
While defending his client, Willett Sr.’s lawyer, Sam Goldstein, gave examples of his client taking the children to specialist appointments and providing them with healthy meals. The allegations, Goldstein argued, are retaliation from the children for perceived childhood wrongs.
The story came to a dramatic climax just three years ago, when a 24-year-old woman got a 4 a.m. phone call.
The Star has reviewed weeks of court testimony in the trial of Gary Willett Sr. and the following chronology is based on witness accounts as well as evidence filed with the courts and additional interviews with six family members.
The name of the man the Willetts allegedly abused for years is Tim Goldrick. The name of the woman, his ex-partner, is Barbara Bennett. Both are now 56. They both have unspecified intellectual disabilities. Bennett told the Star she is a “slow learner” and was in a special education program as a child. Goldrick agreed on the stand that he’s had “intellectual issues” in his life.
Both testified at the trial.
The Willetts’ alleged crimes against Goldrick and Bennett began in the late ’80s and migrated from basement apartments in downtown Toronto and East York, to a delivery room at Toronto East General Hospital, to crowded homes in Etobicoke.
The first time Goldrick met the Willetts, he was searching in the garbage for food behind their apartment building in downtown Toronto, where Willett Sr. worked as a superintendent.
The Willetts offered him and Bennett food, he said. Then, a place to stay.
At the time, Goldrick and Bennett were romantic partners and homeless. The couple, who both grew up in Oakville, received monthly cheques from Ontario’s Disability Support Program.
The Willetts had been married for about one year. Willett Sr., now 50, told court he was held back in school because of reading and spelling difficulties and dropped out in Grade 8.
He met his wife, Maria, who has a Grade 3 education, when he was 16. She is 11 years his senior and already had two children from previous relationships. The Willetts, too, received monthly disability cheques, Willett Sr. testified.
The Willetts found Goldrick and Bennett a basement apartment in their building, Goldrick said on the stand.
Testifying in his defence, Willett Sr. said he helped Bennett and Goldrick in those early months of their relationship. Goldrick continued to pick through dumpsters, and his clothes would “really smell bad.” They were threatened by their landlord with eviction. When he and Maria moved to a building in the city’s east end, Willett Sr. said he found a unit there for the couple.
That year, Bennett got pregnant with Goldrick’s baby. And on Sept. 2, 1989, she went to Toronto East General Hospital to deliver.
There, Maria Willett filled out all the relevant paperwork. She gave her own health card to Bennett and told her to use it, according to Bennett’s testimony. Willett Sr. testified that his wife was never at the hospital.
The baby’s birth certificate lists Gary Willett Sr. and Maria Willett as his parents. The couple named him Gary Willett Jr. — and today he is known as Junior.
Bennett told the prosecutor in the case that she felt “not very good” about using Maria Willett’s health card but that she didn’t tell the Willetts that.
“I figured if I didn’t (use Maria’s card) I’d probably get hit,” she said, adding, “At that time, I didn’t know if it was wrong or not.”
At one point during her testimony, her voice barely audible at points, Bennett suggested that going home with her baby while Maria took over as his parent wasn’t a terrible arrangement.
“We were all living together . . . It’s not like I was away at a totally different address that they’d be going to. I’d still be there,” she said.
Willett Sr. testified Goldrick and Bennett came up to his apartment and asked him and his wife to take the baby.
The Willetts were familiar with how adoption worked — they’d adopted two other children around the same time. But when it came to Willett Jr. they presented the child as theirs.
Maria’s sister-in-law had questions about the sudden appearance of the Willetts’ newborn. In court she recalled a conversation she had with her husband at the time:
“I said, OK, this does not make sense. Because where is Barb’s baby? Where is Barb’s baby? She was the one pregnant,” she remembers saying.
But she didn’t press the issue, worried that it would be rude to ask.
Shortly after Gary Willett Jr.’s birth, the Willetts moved twice with Goldrick and Bennett to two different houses in North York.
According to the prosecution’s opening statement, some physical abuse began prior to moving into the second North York home. But the brunt of the emotional, physical and verbal abuse began there.
During her time on the stand, Bennett recalled being slapped and hit, particularly if she didn’t clean the house properly or if the kids made a mess.
“I would get hit and get told to do it again. Clean it up. Clean up the mess,” she said, adding, “I would get slapped. In the face . . . Three or four (slaps) depending on how mad she was.”
Maria Willett’s sister-in-law said Bennett was treated like “a slave.” Willett Jr. later added that Goldrick was treated like a “slave-type maid” during his many years with the family.
Bennett became pregnant again in 1993. This time, a brother of Willett Sr.’s was the father, according to a family tree filed as an exhibit in court.
She gave birth to a baby girl. The baby girl was named Billie-Jean and she kept her as her own.
When Billie-Jean was only a few months old, Bennett decided she had to leave the house.
When asked by the prosecution why she left, Bennett said it was because she was getting hit all the time and that the Willetts were smoking hash.
“(Billie-Jean) was a baby and I didn’t want her around it,” she said, adding that she was able to leave the situation with the help of her own mother.
Bennett left with Billie-Jean, leaving Willett Jr., her toddler son, behind. She would not see or speak to him again for more than 20 years.
Until they met again in the parking lot of a Toronto police station.
Following the departure of Bennett and Billie-Jean, the Willetts moved again, to a bungalow in Etobicoke.
At this house, Gary Willett Sr. put up seven cameras outside and inside. One captured the fridge.
During the trial, Willett Sr. admitted that he would watch the camera footage from a basement office.
For the next 12 years, Goldrick lived in a tiny space in the basement of the home: a hallway between rooms with a single box spring mattress. A police officer testifying at the trial described the entire house as “very cluttered and dirty.”
The prosecutor in the case said Goldrick was allowed to leave the home only to complete tasks like buying groceries or shovelling the snow in the winter. He had to give them all of the roughly $900 he received a month.
Sometimes he was kicked, hit and punched in the ribs, chest and head for reasons he did not understand.
“Sometimes, while I was sleeping, Gary (Sr.) would come in and hit me for no reason, and I’d wake up and I wondered why he did this. But I never found out why,” Goldrick said on the stand, adding that he would also be beaten for taking food without permission.
He testified that he wasn’t allowed to go into the fridge to get food, and ate dog food “quite a few times” because of it. When he was living with the Willetts, he said, he weighed 106 pounds. He currently weighs 230 pounds. He is six foot two.
When the beatings happened, they could last up to 10 minutes, said Goldrick, recalling being hunched over a toilet while it filled with blood that poured from his nose.
Gary Willett Jr. recalled an incident growing up when he saw Goldrick coughing up blood but Goldrick told him not to tell anyone. Willett Jr. also testified that Willett Sr. hit him.
During his testimony, Willett Sr. again said the facts were more complicated. He testified that he used Goldrick’s disability cheque to pay rent and provide food. And that he left Goldrick with some extra money.
He said that when Goldrick ate dog food he told him it was “unhealthy” and added “he was a grown adult.” He admitted to calling him “stupid,” “dumb” and “retard,” but said that Goldrick would curse back. He said he never hit or confined him.
After Goldrick left the home in 2012, he went to the dentist. He was missing teeth in his top and bottom arches, with others broken, riddled with cavities and infections. He had severe bone loss, exposing more than 50 per cent of his teeth’s roots, according to the dentist’s testimony.
On the stand, Gary Jr. also recounted his own memories for those years. The many hurdles and challenges that he faced growing up were also addressed in court.
He saw multiple doctors, who prescribed him Ritalin and other drugs. He attended a centre for behavioural issues and was assessed by the Toronto District School Board for whether he should be placed in special education programs.
Gary Jr. was suspended multiple times and attended substance abuse counselling. He did not graduate from high school.
For a few years after leaving school, Willett Jr. lived away from the Willett home, mostly in Sudbury.
When he came back in 2012, he lasted only a few weeks.
There was a fight and he left for good, he said. After that, he began to reach out to family members, who told him they suspected that Goldrick could be his father.
“(The Willetts) denied it, and handed me a baby book, and said I was theirs,” Willett Jr. said on the stand.
Over the course of the next year, Gary Jr. grappled with the possibility that his life was a lie.
Then one day, while driving with a childhood friend, he spotted Goldrick walking on the sidewalk. Aware of the horrible conditions that Goldrick was returning to, they stopped the car.
“And we said, ‘Listen, Tim, if you want out and you want a better life, then you come with us now,’” Willett Jr. said on the stand.
Goldrick was scared. He started shaking. He didn’t know what to do.
“I just told him, ‘Tim, this is the time,’” the friend testified.
“And I told him, like, ‘I need to go. I’m in the middle of Islington Road with my four-ways on. It’s either now or never.’ And he got in the car.”
It was 4 in the morning on a Wednesday in 2014 when Billie-Jean Bennett heard the phone ring.
A man on the other end of the line introduced himself as one of Maria Willett’s biological sons. He told her about the brother she never knew existed.
Billie-Jean recounted the moment to the Star in an interview.
It had been two years since Goldrick left the Willetts and in that time Maria’s son had pieced together what happened.
He wanted Billie-Jean’s mother, Barbara Bennett, after more than two decades, to come forward with what happened.
Billie-Jean was shocked. She knew nothing about what her mother went through. She didn’t know who her biological father was, let alone that she had a big brother.
“When I first heard it at four in the morning, I didn’t quite believe it. I had to hear it out of my mom’s mouth,” she said.
Billie-Jean, now 24, has a strong bond with her mother. She spoke about her kindness, her devotion and her famous chicken melts — made with English muffins, chicken, peas and tomatoes.
“My mom was always there for me,” she said.
Mere weeks after receiving the early-morning phone call, Billie-Jean graduated from college. Around that time she and her mother met Gary Willett Jr. in a Toronto police parking lot, after more than two decades apart. Barbara Bennett was there to give a statement to police.
The revelations have been shocking for Billie-Jean, but she says ultimately she is glad she knows the truth.
As for Willett Jr., the news has been devastating.
“This has wrecked my life,” he said in an interview with the Star, adding Willett Sr. was never a father figure and Maria was never a loving mother.
“They said ‘I love you’ every night, but if you hit me, if you continuously slap me, I don’t believe it,” Willett Jr. said.
Willett Sr. denied hitting the children.
“I don’t know if I will be able to reconcile with my kids over this, and that’s the saddest part of it all.”
Today, Gary Jr. lives with Goldrick, his biological dad, in an Etobicoke apartment. Weightlifting equipment sits in the dining room and a corn snake was curled up in a tank in the living room near a leather sectional. He works in demolition.
Despite the DNA test on Goldrick, Willett Jr. says he hasn’t come to terms with his parentage. He no longer speaks to his biological mother, Bennett, he said, because he wants answers and she isn’t giving them.
“I think about why it happened, why is my life like this?” he said. “How is someone stolen as a child and everything is OK? Not once did my real mother go looking for me.”
Goldrick, meanwhile, says he’s happy to have clean clothes and a few nice possessions, such as his stereo and a red mountain bike.
“I can go out now and make money. I’ve got a newspaper job that I do. I deliver the flyers. I can do that and it makes me feel good to know I can do stuff like this.”
But a quarter-century of alleged abuse has taken its toll.
“I take pills for the shakes and nighttime pills for sleep,” Goldrick said.
“I have nightmares because of this.”
With files from Jayme Poisson, Alanna Rizza, Bryann Aguilar, Ainslie Cruickshank, Annie Arnone, Fakiha Baig, Jenna Moon and Emma McIntosh
He named the baby Gary, after himself. He allegedly kept the biological father enslaved in the basement