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    When Naomi Pickersgill was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, it was a shock.

    Just 35 days earlier, a mammogram scan of her breasts had come back normal.

    It was only after an offhand remark by a specialist prompted her to research on the internet, that Pickersgill found out her mammogram, given as part of the Ontario Breast Screening Program, may not have revealed her cancer due to the density of her breasts.

    The 54-year-old Stratford woman’s breasts were more glandular than fatty, making it difficult for radiologists to spot the tumours.

    Like dense tissue, tumours also appear solid and white on a mammogram.

    Pickersgill, who later had a mastectomy and is undergoing cancer treatment, was never told that her mammogram report indicated she had “close to a high density breast.” No one told her that this put her at an increased risk for developing breast cancer or that alternate screening tests were available, she said.

    “If I had known then maybe I could have been more proactive,” she said. Among her options would have been to seek out an MRI or an ultrasound, two tests that are better at detecting cancer in dense breasts.

    “I wasn’t empowered as a patient.”

    Pickersgill isn’t alone. Her voice joins those of other women who believe their breast cancer may have been missed by mammogram due to the dense tissue. They say that without knowing about this risk factor, they were unable to advocate for themselves.

    Breast “density is one of the strongest risk factors for breast cancer,” according to Cancer Care Ontario, the Ontario government’s principal adviser on cancer and chronic kidney disease care in the province. The problem, the Star found, is that if a woman has a breast density of just under 75 per cent, the patient is usually not told.

    It is widely known, according to several experts the Star spoke with, that women with the densest breasts are twice as likely as women with average density to develop breast cancer. For them, mammography can be less accurate at finding their cancers.

    In Ontario, women between 50 and 75 years old who have mammograms are notified by mail, and provided a fact sheet on breast density, if the tissue in their breasts is 75 per cent or more fibroglandular rather than fatty tissue. The fibrous tissue blocks X-rays more than fat. These women are also recalled for a mammogram every year, as opposed to the screening program’s standard of every two years, and the value of this is also questioned by critics who say that another mammogram a year later may not be the best solution.

    But there is no protocol in the province mandating that women be informed by the breast screening program about density that is below 75 per cent but still high enough to raise a concern.

    Across Canada, standards vary by province. Doctors in some provinces are provided with more information than in other provinces. Some doctors might share the information with their patients. Others may not.

    Dense Breasts Canada, a group of breast cancer survivors and health-care workers dedicated to raising awareness about breast density, is fighting for mandatory notification of breast density across the country, to both patients and their doctors.

    They are also pushing for a breast ultrasound for patients whose breasts are greater than 75 per cent fibroglandular tissue. Currently, this additional test, which is less susceptible to breast density’s masking effects, is not part of the provincial screening program. Instead, patients are sent for another mammogram one year earlier than normal.

    Jennie Dale, Dense Breasts Canada co-founder, said women can be lulled into a “false sense of security” when negative mammogram results arrive in the mail. Failing to inform women about their breast density is like “withholding information that can affect their lives,” she said. “It’s kept a secret. This is about your health. It’s your right to know.”

    Radiologist Paula Gordon, a University of British Columbia clinical professor and medical adviser to Dense Breasts Canada, said it is “patronizing” not to notify women of this risk factor.

    Doctors regularly disclose other risk factors that could lead to further testing, such as measures of cholesterol and blood pressure, she said, adding that breast density is as strong a risk factor for breast cancer as is family history.

    Knowing the level of their breast density may prompt women to take better care of themselves, conduct self-exams more regularly, perhaps watch their weight and exercise, which could mitigate an increased risk of developing breast cancer,” Gordon said. “It’s information women need to know.”

    In terms of additional testing for dense breasts, Gordon said there is ample research showing that a breast ultrasound detects cancers missed by mammograms and that the earlier these cancers are found the greater the options for treatment. And the better the prognosis for the patient.

    In British Columbia, where Gordon practices, breast density, captured by a radiologist under that province’s screening program, is not communicated to the patient or her doctor. A high density score likewise does not trigger a mail-out fact sheet or more frequent screening.

    According to Cancer Care Ontario, radiologists interpreting mammograms as part of Ontario’s breast screening program do not grade each breast for specific levels of density. Rather, they only note whether a breast is over or under 75 per cent fibroglandular tissue, simply ticking off one of two boxes: “Breast density ≥ 75%” or “Breast density < 75 %”

    On mammograms performed outside the confines of the screening program — mammograms used to locate known tumours, or screens requested by women who are not in the screening program — radiologists may score breasts on a four-point scale, according to radiologist Jean Seely, executive member of the breast imaging working group for the Canadian Association of Radiologists and chair of the newly created Canadian Society of Breast Imaging, an organization designed to provide advocacy and standardization across Canada for breast imaging.

    The ratings on that four point scale range from a) “almost entirely fatty” to d), “the breasts are extremely dense, which lowers the sensitivity of mammography.”

    But those scores, including c) “the breasts are heterogeneously dense, which may obscure small masses,” are not routinely communicated to the patient, Seely said.

    In the U.S., 30 states have adopted breast density notification laws, making it mandatory for doctors to discuss the issue with their patients and tell them if they are above 50 per cent breast density, according to U.S. radiologist Debra Monticciolo, chair of the Commission on Breast Imaging for the American College of Radiology.

    Dr. Derek Muradali, head of Breast Imaging at the University of Toronto and radiologist-in-chief for the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), told the Star in an interview that he is “not quite sure of the rationale behind” the U.S. notification laws.

    While he agrees mammograms are “not perfect” and breast cancers can hide in dense tissue, he doesn’t support more or different testing simply because a woman has dense breasts — something he said fluctuates over time (breasts typically become fattier with age, he said).

    He said about 10 per cent of women in the provincial screening program have breasts that are 75 per cent or more glandular tissue.

    Doctors can send patients for different kinds of tests if they are deemed high risk, have the BRCA gene that indicates a family history of breast cancer, or if there’s an aberration on the mammogram that merits further investigation, he said.

    If these high-risk women can’t have an MRI, another test to screen for breast cancer that is not susceptible to the effects of density, for medical reasons (they may not be able to tolerate the dye injection) they can have an ultrasound, Muradali said. “Apart from this, based on the scientific literature, there is no reason to perform a screening breast ultrasound,” he said.

    According to Cancer Care Ontario, there is “insufficient evidence” to recommend a breast ultrasound or MRI for women other than those at high risk for breast cancer.”

    Muradali said his concern is that extra testing could lead to “false positives” and “harm,” such as needless biopsies and worry.

    On informing women of their breast density, he said: “If women are informed of breast density they should be informed of it such that they shouldn’t experience any anxiety because of it.”

    Martin Yaffe, a University of Toronto professor and cancer researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre who has been studying breast density for 25 years and helped develop Ontario’s breast screening guidelines, said the province should take a common-sense approach and develop guidelines for supplementary screening, which include testing with breast ultrasound or MRI.

    He said that since mammograms tend to be less accurate at detecting cancers in women with dense breasts, doing them more frequently — as in, every year as opposed to the screening program’s every two years — is “not the right answer.”

    Yaffe suspects that the cost and availability of supplementary screening may have something to do with the province’s reluctance to make additional testing part of the protocol. Right now, the only way for a patient to have additional screening is for them to “push” for it, he said. “Women have to do their own homework and be their own advocates.”

    In December Just over a month after her mammogram indicated she was in the clear, Pickersgill noticed swollen lymph nodes in her neck. Her cancer, diagnosed as invasive lobular carcinoma, a less common form of breast cancer, had already metastasized, she said. She had a single mastectomy a few months later, and a second mastectomy a year later.

    It wasn’t until she heard the oncologist talk about density briefly, in the winter of this year, that Pickersgill said she marched into her family doctor’s office and demanded to see her file.

    Flipping through the pages, she noticed that in 2012, when a mammogram detected cysts in one breast, a radiologist noted she had some density in both of her breasts. She was sent for a screening ultrasound. She trusted that her doctors were telling her everything she needed to know and were doing all they could.

    While her cancer has spread to her spine, it is under control right now and still treatable. But it could take over and take her life at any time, she said.

    “Find out what your breast density is,” she said. “If you do have dense tissue, you need to be aware of it. We need to be aware of our bodies.”

    Another women’s experience shows the importance of more detailed screening.

    When Jodie Sonnenburg, 49, an elementary school teacher in Ottawa, felt a lump in her right breast in March 2016, she told her doctor, who sent her for a mammogram. The test came back clear. Knowing her mammogram was negative, she didn’t panic when, a few months later, Sonnenburg noticed the lump under her arm was making her skin dimple slightly differently. “Again, I wasn’t worried,” she said. “I had done my due diligence by having my annual mammogram, right?”

    This time, her doctor sent her for an ultrasound. Immediately after performing the ultrasound test, the technician took her over to the mammography machine. Two weeks later, she met with her doctor who shared the results. The ultrasound showed her tumour but the mammogram on the same day did not pick it up. A few weeks after that she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

    Sonnenburg said she always knew she had dense breasts, but she didn’t know what that meant or that it was a risk factor.

    “Knowing that my breasts were so dense, why wasn’t I offered an ultrasound in the first place?” she asks now. “Had I known the correlation, I would have most certainly insisted. It could have been caught so much earlier.”

    Jennifer Young, president-elect for Ontario’s College of Family Physicians, said that physicians are all different when it comes to communicating information to patients, and deciding what information to discuss. Likewise, all patients are different, she said, and have varied desires for information. Young said physicians try their best to establish a relationship with each patient and use that to guide what to talk about.

    “I have not read any studies that convinced me that I need to increase a woman’s anxiety about her breasts if I don’t have to,” she said about discussing the issue of notifying women about moderate breast density. Young said she does believe women should be notified about density over 75 per cent. “There’s enough stuff out there that people can feel anxious about,” she said.

    The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care is slated to release new breast cancer screening guidelines in 2018. The task force is not in a position to comment until the guidelines are completed and released, an email to the Star from the task force, said.

    Why women need to ask about breast density when having a mammogramWhy women need to ask about breast density when having a mammogram

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    MONTREAL—Few Parliament Hill insiders were surprised by Jason Kenney’s decisive Alberta leadership victory. The former federal Conservative immigration minister has long been considered in an organizational class of his own. He was the chief-architect of the federal party’s outreach in Canada’s diverse cultural communities.

    Kenney may have been less popular than his main rival Brian Jean overall but as former MP Patrick Brown’s own victory in the last Ontario Tory campaign demonstrated, the capacity to bring one’s supporters inside a party tent matters more to the outcome of a leadership vote than one’s standing in the outside world. That can of course be less true in a general election.

    Brown entered the Ontario legislature through the door of a solid Tory riding. Kenney likewise will not face much of a challenge in getting elected to the Alberta legislative assembly.

    In both cases the test of their wider electoral appeal is still to come.

    But as opposed to Brown who as a federal backbencher brought a relatively blank slate to his Ontario bid, Kenney needs no introduction to the national scene.

    That could be a blessing for his provincial party but a curse for Stephen Harper’s rookie successor Andrew Scheer.

    In the past, the presence in Alberta of strong Conservative leaders — liable to overshadow the party’s federal leader nationally — has not been a recipe for success for the conservative movement federally.

    Think of Peter Lougheed and Joe Clark or Ralph Klein and Preston Manning.

    Kenney makes both Lougheed and Klein — despite their respective records as staunch defenders of Alberta’s interests — look like pussycats. He just ran on one of the most antagonistic platforms towards Ottawa and some sister provinces outside of a Parti Québécois leadership campaign.

    Over the past few months Kenney turned his guns on Quebec for allegedly biting the equalization hand that feeds it by not supporting the now-defunct Energy East pipeline. For the same reason, British Columbia whose minority NDP government is against the imminent expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is in his bad books. And he is itching for a fight against Justin Trudeau’s Liberals — on Alberta terms.

    But what may be a popular scorched-earth federal-provincial approach in Alberta risks becoming a bridge-burning one for Scheer’s federal Conservatives.

    If there is one region where Harper’s successor had no great need for provincial reinforcements it is the Prairies in general and Alberta in particular.

    Just last week, his federal Conservatives won 77 per cent of the byelection vote in Rona Ambrose’s former Edmonton riding. If Scheer had his way he would be happy to transfer some of the surplus Alberta Conservative vote bounty to Quebec where his party finished a distant third in a riding the party had held for a decade under Harper

    To pose a credible threat to Trudeau’s reelection in 2019 the Conservatives may not absolutely need a strong showing in Quebec…as long as they recoup some of the ground lost in B.C. in the last election.

    There as in Quebec, Kenney’s war of words will not be an asset.

    Alberta is not the only source of friendly Conservative fire Scheer will have to worry about between now and the next election.

    In a memo obtained by the Canadian Press last week titled “Napping on NAFTA”, Harper took aim at Canada’s negotiating strategy suggesting — among other things — that its outright rejection of some key American demands was ill-advised.

    Harper’s remarks were circulated among clients (and some would-be ones) of his consulting firm.

    As a former public office holder he is forbidden by law from lobbying the federal government for a period of five years as of the date of his political retirement in 2016. And he does not have much to offer the American lobbies that are natural allies of Canada’s NAFTA’s battle on Capitol Hill.

    From a business standpoint, that leaves the pool of constituencies — mostly in the U.S. — whose interests are not in line with the trade status quo and for whom the renegotiation of NAFTA is an opportunity to wrestle advantageous concessions from Canada.

    From Scheer’s perspective, that makes the optics of an alignment between his federal party and Harper on the NAFTA issue potentially poor ones. Between now and the 2019 campaign, it seems Canada’s leader of the official opposition will have his work cut out for him trying to come across as something more than the puppet of the two strong men of the still-recent Conservative federal era.

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

    Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer will have to figure out how to deal with friendly fire: HébertConservative Leader Andrew Scheer will have to figure out how to deal with friendly fire: Hébert

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    When Kim Jong Un visited the newly renovated Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory in North Korea last week, smiling broadly as he admired the lotions and potions and their fancy packaging, he was accompanied by two women. They were on the sidelines, but they were there.

    One, in a stylish black suit with a floral pattern, a clutch purse under her arm, was Kim’s wife of seven years, Ri Sol Ju. She stood beside her husband as he checked on the production process, according to photos published Sunday.

    The other in the background, dressed in the functional black outfit of a Communist Party apparatchik and carrying a notebook, was his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong.

    Read more:

    U.S. defence secretary says North Korea engages in ‘outlaw’ behaviour

    ‘A nuclear war may break out any moment,’ North Korea says

    North Korea’s Kim Jong Un promotes sister Kim Yo Jong to ruling Workers’ Party bureau

    Each has a job to do in Kim Jong Un’s North Korea— one to be glamorous and aspirational, the other to represent the importance of hard work — and each offers clues about the running of the opaque regime.

    “His wife enables Kim Jong Un to present a softer side of himself. They are a modern, young, virile couple on the go,” said Jung H. Pak, a former Korea analyst at the CIA who is now at the Brookings Institution. “This new generation of North Koreans growing up in a nuclear North Korea now associates being assertive with being glamorous. I think it inspires hope.”

    Kim’s sister, who is about 30, is one of his closest aides. This month, he elevated her to the powerful political bureau of the ruling Workers’ Party, moving her closer to the centre of the leadership.

    “She’s supporting him. You know she’s not a leader in her own right,” Pak said.

    Women’s status in North Korea varies widely. Under communism, women are more integrated into the workforce than in neighbouring South Korea, even serving in the military. And it’s the women who are earning most of the money in North Korea these days.

    While their husbands show up for duty at dilapidated state factories or farms to earn pitiful wages, married women go to the burgeoning markets to sell everything from homemade rice cakes to imported rice cookers, often making many times what their husbands earn.

    But in other ways, the hierarchical Confucian ideals that have endured for centuries on the Korean Peninsula are still very much in place, with women viewed as second-class citizens whose primary purpose is to raise the next generation of soldiers.

    The concept of motherhood is strong in North Korea, with the state often referred to in propaganda as the all-encompassing, caring “motherland.” Kim Jong Il, the second leader of North Korea and father of the current ruler, had a signature song called “No Motherland Without You.”

    Almost all of the women who are elevated to senior positions in North Korea get there through family relations — such as Choe Son Hui, the regime’s top interlocutor with the United States. She’s the daughter of a former prime minister and is thought to have a direct line to Kim.

    The most famous woman in North Korea is Kim Jong Suk, the wife of founding president Kim Il Sung and mother of Kim Jong Il. She is revered as an anti-imperialist fighter.

    Kim Jong Il never appeared in public with any of his five consorts, but since his son became the leader of North Korea in 2011, the regime has started to idolize Ko Yong Hui, Kim Jong Il’s second wife and Kim Jong Un’s mother.

    Kim Jong Il’s sister, Kim Kyong Hui, was also prominent in the Workers’ Party, serving in a raft of influential positions and previously occupying the politburo seat that her niece, Kim Yo Jong, now holds. She and her husband groomed Kim Yo Jong for the role she would play, said Michael Madden, who writes the North Korea Leadership Watch website.

    But she hasn’t been seen in public since Kim Jong Un had her husband — his uncle — executed in 2013 for apparently building up too much of his own power.

    Kim Yo Jong first appeared in public at her father’s funeral, at the end of 2011, and is now clearly in charge of promoting her brother’s image, he said.

    She runs the Workers’ Party propaganda and agitation department — a position that led the U.S. Treasury Department to sanction her by name this year — and has been seen organizing papers and logistics at several marquee events, including a military parade.

    “Kim Yo Jong is always in the background, kind of lurking in behind her brother somewhere. She’s not important in her own right, but she’s part of this dynastic rule,” Brookings’ Pak said.

    In North Korea, blood is definitely thicker than water. The Kim family has retained power for more than seven decades by relying on the loyalty of an inner circle and claiming a kind of heaven-ordained blood right.

    Kim’s wife comes from this inner circle of loyal cadres.

    Ri, who is thought to be a few years younger than her 33-year-old husband, is from an elite family that has helped keep the Kims in power. Ri Pyong Chol, a former top air force general who is always at Kim’s side during missile launches, is either her grandfather or great-uncle, said Madden.

    She is reported to have been a singer with the Unhasu Orchestra, part of the regime’s propaganda efforts, and to have travelled to South Korea in 2005 as a member of a cheering team at an athletic competition.

    Kim and Ri Sol Ju are thought to have been set up by Kim’s aunt and now-executed uncle, and to have married in 2009 or 2010 with Kim Jong Il’s blessing. They are thought to have two or three children, although only one birth has been confirmed — by basketball player Dennis Rodman.

    The former Chicago Bull held the baby, a girl called Ju Ae, during a visit to North Korea in 2013. “I held their baby Ju Ae and spoke with Ms. Ri, as well. He’s a good dad and has a beautiful family,” Rodman told reporters after the visit.

    When Ri is seen in public, playing the role of devoted wife, she is often wearing chic Chanel-type suits and was once spotted with a Christian Dior purse — or at least a knock-off.

    In today’s North Korea, the Kim family is supposed to represent a new kind of socialist ideal: that theirs is a modern country that has style and nuclear weapons.

    But this ideal could pose problems for the regime.

    “It raises expectations,” said Pak. “If you’re an ordinary North Korean and you’re constantly toiling but your expectations are not met, you can’t live this consumerist dream.”

    Kim Jong Un’s wife and sister offer clues to how the North Korean regime worksKim Jong Un’s wife and sister offer clues to how the North Korean regime works

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    In an attempt to respond to court delays and the staggering number of legally innocent individuals kept in jail pending their trials, the Ontario government has announced a new policy for Crown attorneys to make the bail system “faster and fairer.”

    A major point of the new policy is an emphasis that Crown attorneys should only be demanding as a last resort that a person have a surety in order to be released. A surety is a person who can help ensure that the accused complies with the conditions of their bail, and who promises money to the court that they can end up losing if they fail in their surety duties.

    Criminal defence lawyers have long complained of an overreliance by Crown attorneys on the use of sureties, which can make it difficult for persons of certain socioeconomic backgrounds to secure their release.

    “The prosecutor should consider the least restrictive form of release and should not request a release with a surety (the most onerous form) unless each lesser form of release has been considered and rejected as inappropriate,” says the new policy, made public Monday.

    “As noted by the Supreme Court of Canada, the default position is the unconditional release of the accused. Any conditions that are requested should be necessary and required in the interests of the accused and the safety and security of the victim or public and related to the commission of the offence.”

    The policy goes on to make clear that if the prosecutor believes the release would “jeopardize the safety or security of the victim or the public,” and that a release with conditions could not mitigate that risk, then the prosecutor must seek detention. Ultimately, the decision to release an accused on bail is left in the hands of the court, almost always a justice of the peace.

    The new policy is the result of a review conducted since last December by three bail experts, led by Brian Lennox, the former chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice. The review was part of a provincial government announcement last year to respond to the Supreme Court's R v. Jordan ruling, which set strict timelines to bring criminal cases to trial.

    According to a government news release, the group “consulted widely with the legal community,” analyzed reports and Supreme Court decisions and travelled to northern Ontario “to hear about the distinct concerns facing northern and Indigenous communities.”

    The new nine-page policy stands in contrast to the current bail directive, a document from 2005 that is little more than a page long. The current directive states that Crowns must weigh conflicting interests, including protection of the community and liberty interests of the accused.

    “While all the factors listed above must be accorded serious consideration, given the potential for tragedy at the bail hearing stage of the process, protection of the public including victims must be the primary concern in any bail decision made by Crown counsel,” says the current directive.

    It also says that while “speed is essential” for an efficient court system, Crowns must “exercise particular care in conducting bail hearings.”

    The new policy no longer explicitly states that protection of the public is the primary concern, but rather one interest that must be balanced against others, including the liberty interests of the accused. It also urges Crowns to try to complete the bail hearing on the accused's first appearance in bail court.

    “This directive levels the playing field for those who are disproportionately impacted at the bail stage while ensuring the safety of victims and communities,” Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said in a statement. “The new bail policy will help to break the cycle of reoffending, reduce barriers faced by racialized and Indigenous communities, and speed up our criminal justice system to ultimately make our communities safer.”

    The directive was praised by the John Howard Society of Ontario.

    “(The society) has long been recommending an approach to bail that places greater emphasis on the presumption of release and the presumption of innocence, and moves away from the reliance on sureties as a condition for release,” said Michelle Keast, the society's director of the centre of research, policy and program development, in a statement.

    A person who is arrested can either be released by police, or held for a bail hearing, where the Crown can consent to their release or show why they should remain detained. In the case of some offences, the onus to show why the accused should be released falls on the accused person themselves.

    The new policy also tells prosecutors that they must consider the unique circumstances of Indigenous persons at the bail stage.

    “The prosecutor should also consider the distance and remoteness of many Indigenous communities and the barriers that this creates for access to bail hearings and forms of release,” the policy says. “A significant disadvantage is created since the accused is unlikely to have established connections or supports in the community in which the bail hearing is taking place.

    “In these circumstances, seeking the detention of an Indigenous accused should remain an exceptional measure unless the release of the accused would jeopardize the safety and security of the victim and the public.”

    The policy also instructs prosecutors to consider the circumstances of vulnerable and disadvantaged accused persons, including racialized individuals, the homeless and those with mental health and addictions issues.

    “Pretrial detention should never be used as a substitute for mental health or other social measures,” the policy says.

    Bail has been targeted by the Ministry of the Attorney General as one area for improvement in order to speed up the justice system post-Jordan.

    Naqvi announced last year that the province would launch a program of having “embedded” Crown attorneys in police stations to quickly provide bail information upon request, and also to help find alternatives to criminal charges for low-risk, vulnerable offenders. The first embedded Crowns were to be placed in Toronto police's 51 division.

    Naqvi also announced last year plans to expand the bail verification and supervision program across the province. It allows for low-risk offenders who may be impoverished or have no social ties to still be released into the community under supervision, rather than be detained in jail.

    In a separate move, the Ontario Court of Justice, which deals with the bulk of the province's bail hearings, recently announced that judges would replace justices of the peace at all bail hearings in Ottawa and at Toronto's College Park courthouse, as part of a pilot project to explore “whether the introduction of judges' criminal trial experience at the earliest stage of the criminal court process could reduce time to final disposition.”

    Ontario vows new bail policy will be ‘faster and fairer’Ontario vows new bail policy will be ‘faster and fairer’

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    Ontario’s Opposition is calling on the government to halt a deal with a gaming company that is facing money laundering allegations in British Columbia.

    The B.C. government has launched an independent expert’s review of the province’s policies in the gambling industry after concerns were raised about the possibility of money laundering at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, B.C.

    That casino is run by Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. selected in August — along with Brookfield Business Partners LP — to run facilities at Woodbine, slots at Ajax Downs and the Great Blue Heron Casino in the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

    Read more:

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    Woodbine’s ‘city-within-a-city’ casino expansion expected to generate 2,500 jobs

    Ontario Progressive Conservative Vic Fedeli said Monday the province should halt the deal while it gathers all the facts about the situation in B.C.

    “I think our main impetus is to ensure integrity in the industry,” he said. “We’re asking them — halt right now while we gather the facts. I think that’s the prudent thing to be doing.”

    Premier Kathleen Wynne said OLG has strict anti-money laundering provisions, but Ontario is watching developments in B.C.

    “I think it raises questions, which is why the minister has spoken with OLG and we will be paying very close attention to it,” she said.

    Great Canadian Gaming said it has ensured that regulatory compliance procedures are strictly followed, and it is committed to preventing illegal activities at all of its locations.

    “Contrary to suggestions otherwise, to our knowledge our company is not under investigation in any jurisdiction,” chief operating officer Terrance Doyle said in a statement. “Our employees followed all procedures required of them by BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC), none of our employees are facing charges, nor we do not believe our company’s actions would give cause to initiate any investigation.”

    OLG noted that Great Canadian Gaming is not under a criminal or regulatory investigation in either province and is satisfied the company will operate the Greater Toronto Area facilities responsibly.

    Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said it would be “totally inappropriate” for a minister such as himself to get involved and expressed confidence in OLG’s procurement process.

    “The Opposition are inferring criminality but that is not the case,” he said. “It’s a stretch to start to suggest that somehow the province of Ontario should retract from a legitimate operation and a legitimate contract because of some inference that happened two or three years ago that is being reviewed under due process.”

    B.C.’s attorney general has said he launched the probe after reading a report about the casino accepting $13.5 million in $20 bills in July 2015 that police said could be proceeds of crime involving Asian VIP clients.

    A July 2016 report commissioned by the province’s previous Liberal government said single cash buy-ins in excess of $500,000 with no known source of funds were accepted at River Rock. Law enforcement intelligence indicated the money may have been “direct proceeds of crime,” the report said.

    The head of Great Canadian Gaming said it initially detected suspicious activity at the casino in 2012 and that its ongoing monitoring and reporting to the B.C. Lottery Corp. was crucial to identifying the individuals allegedly involved.

    In Ontario, Great Canadian Gaming and Brookfield won the exclusive right to operate the Toronto-area facilities for a minimum of 22 years. OLG said in its procurement process that it was looking for up to 5,000 electronic games and up to 400 gaming tables for the Woodbine facility in northwest Toronto, and the city of Toronto has granted conditional approval for such a casino.

    The Woodbine, Ajax Downs and Great Blue Heron locations have a total of more than 4,000 slot machines, 60 table games and employ more than 2,200 people. Great Canadian Gaming would operate the facilities and hold a 49 per cent stake in the partnership.

    The company has 22 gaming properties including 14 casinos, four racetrack casinos, three community gaming centres, one commercial bingo hall and resort hotels in Richmond, B.C., and in Moncton, N.B.

    Ontario must halt Toronto casino deal amid B.C. money laundering probe, Tories sayOntario must halt Toronto casino deal amid B.C. money laundering probe, Tories say

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    This week, as we count down to the Star’s 125th anniversary, we revisit stories that have inspired readers and changed lives.

    WELLAND, Ont.—The first thing you notice about Jason Jones are his teeth. They radiate.

    “I keep hearing, ‘You’ve got a gorgeous smile.’ Well, thank you, it’s totally fake, but thank you,” he says with a mischievous grin. “They’re all fake. All of them. Every single one.”

    The admission, says Jones, almost always leads to the inevitable question for a 36-year-old with fake choppers.

    What happened?

    “Have you got 10 minutes? This will take a while.”

    Toronto Star readers first met Jones in 2007 as part of a Star series that examined the issues surrounding poverty and possible reforms.

    In a photo that dominated a Saturday front page, a smiling Jones stared out at the world, a bright-eyed, handsome man brimming with hope, except for one glaring, arresting detail.

    He had no teeth.

    Well, actually there were two decaying ones that stuck out hauntingly from his lower gums like a broken picket fence. He had the mouth of an old man. It was impossible not to stare back.

    Accompanying the image, under the headline “He’s 25, Gregarious, Driven, Disciplined. So why is he out of work?” reporter Moira Welsh told the story of how Jones’s teeth had rotted down to the jawbone, largely because he was poor and could never afford to correct dental issues that plagued him since childhood.

    The pain forced Jones to have his teeth removed, draining his wife’s $600 life savings. The oral surgeon left two bottom teeth as an eventual anchor for dentures but Jones was still in incredible agony — the remaining fragments felt like shards of glass poking through his gums.

    He needed another $2,150 to pay for the final two extractions, tooth posts and dentures, the price quoted to him at a low-cost clinic. Jones was hoping to get a job and save for the dental work, but even when an employer would ignore his toothless smile and hire him, the pain would eventually force him back into unemployment.

    Jones was trapped by his own poverty, subsisting by eating soft foods such as peanut butter sandwiches that he could “gum to death” or by “chewing” firmer items such as chicken with his fingers before putting it in his mouth.

    While Jones’s story was heart rending unto itself, it exemplified a vital issue for the working poor. They didn’t — and still don’t — have access to affordable dental care. There is no public dental insurance in the same way that there is universal health care.

    But on an individual level, Jones’s story remains a remarkable tale of how one man turned his life around once he was offered some help.

    Star readers were so moved by Jones’s plight, they reacted with an outpouring of job offers, financial assistance — even a hand-knit baby blanket. Jones’s wife, Candice, was expecting their first child at the time.

    Jones received more than a dozen job opportunities; offers to provide him with dentures numbered about four times that. More than 200 calls and emails came into the newsroom on the first day alone; caring Star readers just wanting to toss the young man a lifeline.

    “I still don’t understand. I am still trying to comprehend this,” Jones says now. “I don’t understand why people just wanted to reach out and help me. I’m just little old me.

    “People got angry, I guess, and said, ‘This is wrong, we need to help this guy.’ My reaction is why me? There are so many people (with similar issues.).”

    That generosity caused Jones’s life to “flip-flop,” he says.

    The one child on the way was eventually joined by four siblings. The “army” of blue-eyed, blond children now ranges from 6 months to 10 years old and the family lives in a house — they own both sides of a duplex — here in Niagara Region. Jones went from being chronically unemployed to having a unionized job and two cars in the driveway. He earns enough that Candice, who once worked in child care, can stay at home looking after their own gang.

    For Jones the changes began almost immediately after the story appeared.

    He combed through the offers of assistance and settled on Markham dentist Dr. Raj Singh, who volunteered his services for free, to further repair his mouth and fit him with dentures and implants to hold them in place. It was ultimately a $10,500 job.

    As for work, he found an apprenticeship offer from the Boilermakers Association of Ontario the most enticing — Jones always enjoyed working with his hands — and signed on. He was eventually certified and still works in the trade.

    It was Ed Frerotte, apprenticeship and training co-ordinator for the Boilermakers at the time, who reached out to Jones. He recalls being moved by the photo, taken by Star photographer Tony Bock, and how it put a face on poverty.

    “He seemed to be smiling anyway, even though he was down and out,” says Frerotte now. “He just seemed like someone we could help and someone who would appreciate it. This is the best story of the time I spent (heading the apprenticeship program), by far.”

    Looking back, Jones believes he “probably would be dead” if he didn’t get assistance. His family doctor had pointed to that as a possibility; poor dental health has the potential to damage much more than the mouth. Candice says she once had to take her husband to the hospital “because he was so sick and so dehydrated from not being able to eat or drink anything.

    “He was unconscious and on IV for hours and that was just from an infection in his mouth.”

    As for the bigger picture and the long-term impact of Jones baring his soul and toothless smile to the world, Ontario’s working poor are still waiting for affordable dental care a decade later.

    Jacquie Maund of the Association of Ontario Health Centres says Jones’s story did raise public and political awareness of the how a person’s life can be affected by declining oral health.

    That led to Healthy Smiles Ontario, a free dental care program for children younger than 18 from low-income families.

    But for impoverished adults, unless a person is on social assistance, “they have to rely on charity” just as Jones did, says Maund.

    “There are many, many desperate cases of people who, through no fault of their own, do not have access to any kind of oral health service,” she says. “That, unfortunately, has not improved since (the Star) did the story 10 years ago.”

    The College of Dental Hygienists estimates that between two and three million Ontarians did not see a dentist in the last year, mainly due to the cost. OHIP does not cover teeth and gums.

    “I think (Jones’s) story was really the impetus for the Liberal government to take more seriously the issue of access to oral health,” says Maund.

    She did anti-poverty advocacy work at the time and says the coverage played “a pivotal role” in the government initially committing $45 million to an oral health program for low-income people.

    “They subsequently realized that wasn’t enough for a full program to deal with both children and adults so they basically decided to focus on children because their poverty reduction strategy was focusing on children,” she said.

    Even that wasn’t perfect. Research by Maund in 2013 found many of the children who should have benefitted from the program did not because of the strict qualifying criteria. Some unspent money was then siphoned off to other initiatives, such as sport development and antismoking campaigns. Funding for the dental program dropped from the promised $45 million to $33 million.

    A streamlined Healthy Smiles was expanded and relaunched last year as a $100-million program offering free dental checkups, cleanings, fillings, X-rays and urgent oral health care for about 460,000 children in low-income families.

    In the 2014 budget, the Ontario government pledged to extend dental care to low-income adults by 2025.

    In mid-October, community health leaders gathered at Queen’s Park. Along with NDP health critic France Gélinas, they called on Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals to act more quickly.

    “People today with a toothache or mouth pain are forced to go to the emergency room . . . and all they’ll get is painkillers,” said Gélinas. “Those emergency room visits are not free. They cost Ontario $30 million a year but don’t address the problem.

    “Why is this premier refusing to provide dental care to every vulnerable Ontarian who needs it now?”

    Health Minister Eric Hoskins said it’s “a costly exercise” but one the ministry is working with its partners on. He said the government is “absolutely committed” to the 2025 target.

    Maund said advocates pushing for health equity will try to make accessible dental care an issue in next year’s provincial election.

    “It’s not about having a nice smile, it’s about having a healthy mouth,” says Maund. “If you have an infection in your mouth because you have gum disease or you have rotting or decaying teeth, that affects your whole body, it affects your overall health. It puts you at higher risk for diabetes, for oral cancers, and it obviously makes it very hard to eat. Why is it that if I break my arm, I can go to the hospital and get it fixed but if I crack my tooth or I have an abscess on my tooth and I can’t afford to go to the dentist, there’s no help for me?”

    Jones recalls that, for him, the agony was so bad he once gripped one of his rotting teeth with pliers and thought about ripping it out.

    And exposed nerves caused searing pain in his mouth, he recalls. It was debilitating, and he “felt totally useless.”

    Then at the urging of his physician, the late Dr. Peter Charlebois, he went public.

    Candice says her normally outgoing husband was becoming a miserable person, “but since everything happened, he’s always had a huge confident smile on his face.” If he didn’t get help “I definitely don’t think that we would be anywhere close to where we are today, nor have the family that we have.”

    Jones said he still contacted by media to comment on oral health issues, and he hopes his story continues to serve as an example of what can happen when a person in need gets help.

    “Maybe it’ll persuade (people) to pressure their government a little more. Why don’t you help more people? Actually help them,” he says. “I was given the ability to better myself by one simple thing — fixing the problem.”

    Read more on the Star’s 125th anniversary in Saturday’s special Insight section and at

    A decade later, Jason Jones still smiling thanks to generosity of Star readersA decade later, Jason Jones still smiling thanks to generosity of Star readers

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    WASHINGTON—A former campaign adviser to President Donald Trump has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians, special counsel Robert Mueller said Monday, while Trump’s former campaign manager and that official’s business partner pleaded not guilty to felony charges of conspiracy against the United States and other counts.

    The guilty plea by former adviser George Papadopoulos marked the first criminal case that cites interactions between Trump campaign associates and Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential campaign. The developments ushered Mueller’s sprawling investigation into a new phase with felony charges and possible prison sentences for key members of the Trump team.

    Read more:

    ‘NO COLLUSION,’ Trump tweets in response to charges against his former aides

    Here’s what’s in the indictment of Trump aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

    Former Trump adviser Papadopoulos pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russians

    Court papers also revealed that Papadopoulos was told about the Russians possessing “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” on April 26, 2016, well before it became public that the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails had been hacked.

    Papadopoulos has been co-operating with investigators, according to court papers, a potentially ominous sign for others in the Trump orbit who might be implicated by his statements.

    The separate charges against Manafort and Rick Gates contend the men acted as unregistered foreign agents for Ukrainian interests. The indictments also include other financial counts involving tens of millions of dollars routed through offshore accounts.

    Manafort’s indictment doesn’t reference the Trump campaign or make any allegations about co-ordination between the Kremlin and the president’s aides to influence the outcome of the election in Trump’s favour. The indictment does allege a criminal conspiracy was continuing through February of this year, after Trump had taken office.

    The indictment filed in federal court in Washington accuses both Manafort and Gates of funneling payments through foreign companies and bank accounts as part of their political work in Ukraine. The two men surrendered to federal authorities Monday, and were expected in court later in the day to face the charges brought by Mueller’s team.

    The indictment lays out 12 counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, making false statements and several charges related to failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts. The indictment alleges the men moved money through hidden bank accounts in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Seychelles.

    In total, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts, according to the indictment. Manafort is accused of laundering more than $18 million.

    A spokesman for Manafort did not immediately return calls or text messages requesting comment. Manafort and Gates have previously denied any wrongdoing.

    During the daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders downplayed Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign, saying it was “extremely limited.”

    “He was not paid by the campaign,” Sanders said, adding later: “Any actions that he took would have been on his own.”

    She said the White House has had “indications” that Mueller’s investigation would conclude “soon.”

    The president quickly tweeted about the allegations against Manafort, saying the alleged crimes were “years ago,” and insisting there was “NO COLLUSION” between his campaign and Russia.

    He added, as he has a number of times recently, “Why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????”

    Manafort and Gates appeared in federal court in Washington and pleaded not guilty to all charges.

    Papadopoulos’ plea occurred on Oct. 5 and was unsealed Monday. In court papers, he admitted lying to FBI agents about the nature of his interactions with “foreign nationals” who he thought had close connections to senior Russian government officials. Those interactions included speaking with Russian intermediaries who were attempting to line up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and offering “dirt” on Clinton.

    The court filings don’t provide details on the emails or whom Papadopoulos may have told about the Russian government effort.

    The FBI interviewed Papadopoulos about his Russian connections on Jan. 27, a week after Trump’s inauguration. The interview predates Mueller’s appointment but was part of the FBI probe into Russian election interference that he has taken over.

    Papadopoulos was arrested over the summer at Dulles International Airport and has since met with the government “on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.”

    Manafort, 68, was fired as Trump’s campaign chairman in August 2016 after word surfaced that he had orchestrated a covert lobbying operation on behalf of pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. The indictment against Manafort and Gates was largely based on activities disclosed in August 2016 by The Associated Press, which reported that the pair had orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling political party.

    Citing internal emails, the AP noted that Gates personally directed the work of two prominent Washington lobbying firms, Mercury LLC and the Podesta Group. The indictment doesn’t refer to the companies by name.

    Specifically, the indictment accuses Manafort of using “his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income.” That included using offshore accounts to purchase multimillion-dollar properties in the U.S., some of which the government is seeking to seize.

    Mueller was appointed as special counsel in May to lead the Justice Department’s investigation into whether the Kremlin worked with associates of the Trump campaign to tip the presidential election.

    The appointment came one week after the firing of James Comey, who as FBI director led the investigation, and also followed the recusal months earlier of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the probe.

    Manafort joined Trump’s campaign in March 2016 and oversaw the Republican National Convention delegate strategy. Trump pushed him out in August amid a stream of negative headlines about Manafort’s foreign consulting work.

    Trump’s middle son, Eric Trump, said in an interview at the time that his father was concerned that questions about Manafort’s past were taking attention away from the billionaire’s presidential bid.

    Manafort has been a subject of a long-standing FBI investigation into his dealings in Ukraine and work for the country’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych. That investigation was incorporated into Mueller’s broader probe. In July, his investigators raided one of Manafort’s homes in Virginia, searching for tax and international banking records.

    Previously, he denied any wrongdoing related to his Ukrainian work, saying through a spokesman that it “was totally open and appropriate.”

    Manafort also recently registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for parts of Ukrainian work that occurred in Washington. The filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act came retroactively, a tacit acknowledgment that he operated in Washington in violation of the federal transparency law. The indictment Monday accuses Manafort and Gates of making several false and misleading statements in that FARA filing.

    Mueller’s investigation has also reached into the White House, as he examines the circumstances of Comey’s firing. Investigators have requested extensive documents and have interviewed multiple current and former officials.

    Mueller’s grand jury has also heard testimony about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York attended by a Russian lawyer as well as Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

    In Gates, Mueller brings in not just Manafort’s chief deputy, but a key player from Trump’s campaign who survived Manafort’s ouster last summer. As of two weeks ago, Gates was still working for Tom Barrack, a Trump confidant, helping with the closeout of the inauguration committee’s campaign account.

    Manafort and Gates plead not guilty on Trump-Russia probe charges. Third aide pleads guilty to lying to FBIManafort and Gates plead not guilty on Trump-Russia probe charges. Third aide pleads guilty to lying to FBI

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    Canada’s mushroom growers are urging Ottawa to grant permanent residency to 870 migrant farmworkers to help the $1 billion industry fill current job vacancies and sustain growth.

    Without a stable, skilled labour pool of migrant workers, the sector, which employs 4,330 people, could be in jeopardy, warned a report released Monday by Mushrooms Canada.

    “Mushroom farms provide permanent, year-round jobs with a quality living wage in rural Canada and would like to welcome these skilled workers to Canada, so they have the option of staying and buying homes and building a life here as well,” said George Graham, president of Mushrooms Canada, whose members produce 134 tons of mushrooms a year.

    “These workers are interested in working on farms and staying on farms. This is their dream job and we are fulfilling these workers’ dreams. They are our valued employees and part of the community, and we support and help them integrate in the local rural communities.”

    The mushroom industry’s plea follows a recent Toronto Star series, The Hands that Pick Your Food, which found that Canada has been increasing its reliance on migrant workers in the agri-food sector and that the lack of access to permanent residency can expose workers to abusive and exploitative working conditions.

    According to the Mushrooms Canada report, the sector, with 194 farms across the country, has a job vacancy rate of close to 9.7 per cent and migrant workers account for more than a quarter of the workforce. The report is based on research by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council, a national group that addresses labour challenges of the sector.

    Half of Canada’s mushroom production is based in Ontario, concentrated in Moose Creek, Stoney Creek, Hamilton, Burlington, Osgoode, Ashburn, Leamington, Kingsville and Wellington.

    The United States and Japan are Canadian mushroom growers’ two top export markets. Last year alone, Canadian mushroom exports to the U.S. were valued at $194 million.

    Migrant workers’ access to permanent residence is extremely limited because Canada’s immigration program selects prospective immigrants based on university education and professional designations — qualifications farmworkers lack.

    A report by Statistics Canada this year found the rate of transition to permanent residence for seasonal agricultural workers was a dismal 3 per cent, compared to the average 21 per cent conversion rate among migrant workers overall.

    Mushrooms Canada said the sector is uniquely situated in its use of foreign workers because mushroom farms run throughout the year and must harvest daily to avoid spoilage, making the demand for full-time workers constant.

    The industry said mushroom farm jobs require highly developed skills including dexterity, speed and judgment regarding quality that are acquired through on-the-job training.

    “There is no technology available to replace the human hand in mushroom harvesting,” said the 48-page report. “It takes three to 12 months to train an entry level harvester to become proficient in this role. Once a harvester achieves an experienced skill level, these employees are very valuable, a human capital asset to the farm and very difficult to replace.”

    However, under the current revolving-door migrant farmworker program, employers must apply to Service Canada for labour market impact assessments for their foreign workers once every two years to renew their work status.

    Each time, employers must advertise the jobs and file an application. Under the contract obligations of the migrant farmworker program, they must also subsidize housing, insurance, airfare and other transportation costs for the workers in most circumstances.

    The report estimated it costs employers $8,470 to hire one migrant farmworker under the temporary foreign worker program and said easier access to permanent residency for workers would benefit the sector, migrants and rural communities.

    Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has said he fears migrant farmworkers would not continue working in the agricultural sector after they became permanent residents.

    According to the report, the industry has hired new immigrants to Canada, who stayed on the farms for an average of 11 years. When mushroom farmworkers had opportunities to immigrate in the 1980s, it added, those immigrant workers remained on their jobs for 20 years or longer.

    Some 870 migrant workers would need their labour market impact assessment renewed in 2017 and 2018 unless a successful immigration pathway is found for them, noted the report.

    “Both the workers and the growers are united in finding a successful and clear ‘pathway to permanency’ for immigration for these valued employees with skills and experience these farms need,” it concluded.

    Canadian mushroom growers push for permanent residency for migrant workersCanadian mushroom growers push for permanent residency for migrant workers

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    HAMILTON—Family members of two men who took their own lives while allegedly under supervision at a Hamilton hospital are suing the facility’s parent organization.

    The families of Brandon Taylor and Joel Verge have each filed $8.5-million negligence suits against St. Joseph’s Health System.

    The lawyer representing the Taylor and Verge families alleges the hospital was aware both men were at risk of trying to take their own lives and had instructed that they be supervised.

    Michael Smitiuch says Taylor, who was 29, was admitted to hospital after a drug and alcohol overdose, and was supposed to be checked on every 15 minutes because he was deemed to be at risk of self-harm.

    He says Verge, 42, was supposed to be under constant supervision following a previous attempt to take his own life.

    But Smitiuch alleges that the supervision plans failed, and both men killed themselves while left alone with items they were allowed to have in their rooms.

    The allegations have not been proven in court and St. Joseph’s has not yet filed a statement of defence.

    But David Higgins, president of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said in a written statement that the hospital has already implemented many recommendations made in an external review of suicides at the hospital, and it is committed to completing the rest.

    He did not specify which recommendations had been implemented, nor did he comment on any of the allegations against the hospital.

    Smitiuch alleges the men are among 11 who took their own lives over the past two years while being treated as inpatients, outpatients and while on day passes at St. Joseph’s Health System.

    The external review, conducted after the men’s deaths, found that nine people had died by suicide in 2016, and Smitiuch says two more have since killed themselves.

    According to that review, there is no way to know whether that number is in line with what happens at other hospitals.

    Families launch lawsuit after two men die by suicide at Hamilton hospitalFamilies launch lawsuit after two men die by suicide at Hamilton hospital

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    A Toronto police prosecutor has asked for a veteran cop from the guns and gangs unit to be demoted after the officer was caught bringing a small amount of cocaine into a Scarborough courthouse.

    Const. Kirk Blake has undoubtedly damaged the reputation of the Toronto Police Service with his “serious misconduct,” but the 17-year veteran has an otherwise unblemished career, Insp. Domenic Sinopoli told the tribunal.

    “There are very good prospects for rehabilitation,” Sinopoli said. “This officer deserves an opportunity to do better.”

    Sinopoli asked for Blake to be demoted from first- to second-class constable for one year and be subject to a number of conditions, including random drug testing.

    The demotion would send the message that Toronto police take Blake’s conduct seriously, while giving him the chance to return to “who he was before this event took place,” Sinopoli said.

    Blake pleaded guilty to professional misconduct after he was found to have brought a minimal amount of cocaine into a Scarborough courthouse in September 2016.

    The discovery of the drug came about after Blake left his wallet behind in the courthouse, where he had been doing some computer work in his capacity as a police officer.

    A Toronto police sergeant found the wallet and, when looking through to find identification, found a small clear plastic baggie containing a white powdery substance later determined to be cocaine.

    Toronto police’s Professional Standards launched an investigation and later charged Blake with possession of cocaine.

    According an agreed statement of facts read out at the hearing Monday, Blake was initially suspended by Toronto police but has since been reinstated in an administrative role.

    In June, the officer pleaded guilty in court to the criminal charge and was granted an absolute discharge. At that court appearance, Blake’s lawyer Gary Clewley told Ontario Court Justice Melvyn Green that Blake had developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from a traumatic guns and gangs operation.

    Zoltan Hyacinth, 23, accidentally killed himself during a confrontation with Toronto police in 2013. Police had been attempting to arrest Hyacinth at a Burger King drive-through when he reached for his gun and fired three bullets, shooting himself in the head.

    It was a near fatal incident for Blake, too, Clewley told the court. When a mandatory coroner’s inquest was held two years later, Blake was made to “relive the event and, shortly after, PTSD took over,” the lawyer said.

    Green called Blake’s behaviour an “abuse of a professional trust.” The event was “frankly . . . shameful and one for which you feel considerable self admonishment — and rightly so,” Green said at the June court appearance.

    But the judge noted the very minimal amount of cocaine and acknowledged a 17-year career with no previous problems, as well as the “trauma that you’ve suffered through your work.”

    “The sense I have is that it was out of character,” Green said, granting the absolute discharge.

    At the tribunal Monday, Clewley stressed Blake’s “spectacular career” and agreed that a one-year demotion was the appropriate sentence.

    “He’s been a terrific cop and he will be again,” Clewley said.

    The police hearing officer, Insp. Richard Hegedus, reserved his decision on Blake’s sentence to later this year.

    Wendy Gillis can be reached at

    Toronto cop who brought cocaine to courthouse guilty of professional misconductToronto cop who brought cocaine to courthouse guilty of professional misconduct

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    DETROIT—Bobby Hines stepped forward, smiling as he embraced the sister of the man he was convicted of killing.

    Locked up for 28 years, he’d long wanted to meet Valencia Warren-Gibbs, to talk with her about that night in 1989 when her older brother, James, was shot after Hines and two others confronted him in a feud over drugs.

    At 15, Hines had been condemned to life in prison without parole. Now he was out, a 43-year-old man navigating life in a city he left behind as an eighth-grader. Slowly, he was checking off things he needed to do: He’d already found work, enjoyed a meal in an actual restaurant and learned how to take photos with his new cellphone.

    And on this Sunday, 20 days into his freedom, he’d come to sit down with his victim’s sister and take responsibility for his role in Warren’s death.

    “You know why?” he told her, tapping a forefinger on a table for emphasis. “I’m never going to forget what I did.”

    He would not forget but he could make amends, move on and do his best to make the most of his extraordinary second chance. After nearly three decades behind bars, he was learning what it meant to be Bobby Hines again — older, hopefully wiser, and a stranger to the world of 2017.

    Day 1

    “We made it,” Hines declared, almost inaudibly, as if he’d just crossed an imaginary finish line.

    He walked out of prison at 9 a.m. promptly one September morning, arm-in-arm with his sister, Myra, who beamed, laughed and rested her head on her brother’s shoulder as they approached an SUV waiting to whisk him away.

    More than 10,000 days had passed behind bars, but to hear him tell it, Hines had refused to believe he’d die on the inside.

    “God ain’t going to let that happen,” he’d say, ever confident that one day he would find his way to freedom.

    His release came after the U.S. Supreme Court last year extended a ban on mandatory life without parole for juvenile offenders to those already in prison, ushering in a wave of new sentences and the release of dozens of inmates in states from Michigan to Pennsylvania, Arkansas and beyond.

    Other former teen offenders still are waiting for a chance at resentencing in states and counties that have been slow to address the court ruling, an earlier Associated Press investigation found. In Michigan, prosecutors are seeking new no-parole sentences for nearly two-thirds of 363 juvenile lifers. Those cases are on hold until the Michigan Supreme Court, which heard arguments this month, determines whether judges or juries should decide the fate of those inmates.

    Hines, one of at least 99 Michigan lifers already resentenced, wasn’t the gunman. But prosecutors branded him the ringleader in the shooting of James Warren, arguing he’d provoked two other teens, saying something like, “Pop him” or “Let him have it,” when the trio confronted him.

    When Hines left prison on Sept. 12, he faced the same hurdles as other released lifers: He had no money, no job history and no experience as an adult in society — a world he was told he’d never inhabit again. For some, walking out after 30, 40, even 50 years feels a bit like time travel.

    On Day 1, Hines insisted that wasn’t true for him.

    “I’m not overwhelmed,” he said repeatedly to his sister, lawyer and anyone else within earshot. “It’s not as hard as I thought it would be. ... I did 28 years, but I don’t even feel like I’ve been in an institution.”

    He was a small kid, just five-foot-three, when he suddenly found himself trading a middle school ID for an inmate number. Prison was such a brutal environment, he said, he called it the Serengeti, after the African plains teeming with wildlife where survival of the fittest is the rule. In his first decade he got in several fights. Then older inmates became surrogate fathers, teaching him how to behave and keep his cell clean.

    “After awhile,” he said, “you start to adapt ... to depend on incarceration more and more.”

    Eventually, he earned his high school equivalency diploma, took a preparatory business college course and completed a slew of self-help and training programs.

    In June, after he became parole-eligible, Hines was transferred to the Macomb Correctional Facility north of Detroit to join other juvenile lifers who have new sentences and will eventually be released. Prison officials assembled these inmates in one place as they expand existing programs to help them learn about finances, technology and other aspects of daily life. Those with parole dates have access to educational and job training programs that were previously unavailable to them.

    “We’re trying to do a little more because this is such a unique situation,” said Chris Gautz, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections. These inmates had expected to die in prison, he said. “We want to set them up in a way they’re not likely to come back.”

    Most of the juvenile lifers released so far across the U.S. have been out of prison a year or less. Corrections officials in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Louisiana, which together had nearly 1,200 of these inmates, said that, to date, none has violated parole or committed another crime.

    Last winter, Hines began meeting with a volunteer from Project Reentry, a program within the state appellate defender’s office in which graduate social work students help juvenile lifers gear up for release. One student met with Hines, visited his sister to plan his living arrangements and took photos of Myra’s home as part of a comprehensive post-release plan presented to the resentencing judge.

    Hines also had candid conversations with his lawyer, Valerie Newman, a state appellate defender who has secured the release of about a half-dozen juvenile lifers in Michigan in the last year. Her advice to Hines, as it has been with others: Take it slowly.

    “You have to think of yourself as a small child,” she said. “You’re learning to walk; you have to take baby steps. Everything has to be done in small increments, and you have to be good to yourself. There’s a big tendency to get very frustrated. There’s a huge learning curve.”

    Newman expects Hines will do well because of his sister’s support, his willingness to learn new things and his appreciation of his freedom.

    “He carries so much guilt for what happened and what he did,” she said. “A lot of clients feel enormous remorse for what they did, but they learn to come to terms with it. They just want to give back.”

    ‘Detroit used to be so beautiful’

    As he stared out of the SUV window on a busy highway, Hines was surprised by the many small cars and couldn’t help but think of prison.

    “I’m used to living in institutions. You ride in big vans and buses. ... I’ll get used to it,” he vowed to himself. “I get used to everything.”

    When his sister pointed to a shuttered train station that she speculated could be renovated to its former Beaux Arts splendour, Hines teased: “You know, Myra, when you do 28 years in prison, any building is nice.”

    But when he saw parts of 7 Mile Rd. pocked with boarded-up stores and weed-filled lots, he lamented the decline of neighbourhoods he remembered from more prosperous days. “Detroit used to be so beautiful,” he said, his voice trailing off.

    “This neighbourhood has been gone for 25 years, Bob,” his sister replied quietly. She’s her brother’s main support system. Their mother, who’d lobbied for reforms in sentencing laws, didn’t live to see this day, nor did their father. Hines’ twin half-siblings grew into their late 20s without ever meeting him.

    Clutching a dog-eared, pocket-sized red address book bound by a rubber band, Hines pointed out childhood landmarks cemented in his brain: The church he attended with his grandmother. The field where his father, a firefighter, played in a baseball league. The park where he fell off the monkey bars as a toddler, ending with a dash to the emergency room.

    Every place he stopped, there was a new first to experience.

    His first meeting with his parole officer, who established the rules: He must visit every first and third Friday, pay $240 a year for parole supervision and $1,033 in restitution — for the funeral of his victim.

    His first meal, at Royal Barbecue, where he pored over a five-page menu, thrilled he didn’t have to gobble his food down in 10 minutes. He settled on fried chicken, baked beans and coleslaw.

    The restaurant owner greeted Hines. “Welcome back,” he said, shaking his hand. He later slipped Hines an envelope containing $100.

    As he left, Hines rose, bowed his head and pointed a finger toward the sky. “Thank God,” he muttered.

    Getting out, he said, is like being born again. “If you were to die and you were to go to hell and see all of the destruction and fighting and killing down there and God were to breathe life back into you and you were given a second chance — that’s what this is.”

    The last stop for the day was his sister’s tidy green frame home in northwest Detroit at the end of a quiet, almost rural-looking street with a thicket of woods bordering her backyard. Across the street are community gardens where the locals, including Myra, grow vegetables sold in open-air markets.

    Hines carried his life’s belongings — one box and a plastic bag of records and documents — into her house, where he was nuzzled by his sister’s blind Pekingese, Sasha. He then retreated to a picnic table in the yard with his most cherished possessions: the poems and essays he wrote in prison to keep himself sane.

    He thumbed through the stack of paper until he spotted a title, “100 Tools for the Thoughtful Thinker,” Hines’ musings about life, including his role in Warren’s death. According to court records, Warren, 21, took the jacket of a young man who owed him money for drugs. That man then enlisted Hines and others to confront Warren. Hines, who rejected a 20- to 40-year plea, was the last of the three involved in the shooting to be freed.

    Hines doesn’t excuse his past.

    “As a young man, I knew that I had hit rock bottom when I chose to be involved in the taking of another man’s life,” he wrote. “I had the mindset of ... destroying myself and my community. ... I’ve learned that when you take a person’s life ... there is no real true way for you to make that death right with their family members. They will forever be scarred.”

    He then read from a poem he wrote about time, a topic that fascinates him after so many years away.

    “Time,” he said, “is losing 27 of your damndest years. Time is prison. Time is patience. Time is concrete and steel. ... Time is fire and wrath. Time is Mr. James Warren that I killed on a block.”

    He sat back to absorb his words, then explained that over time, he’d grown more aware of the pain he’d caused.

    “The biggest thing in prison ... is to be able to face what you did,” he said. “Once you’re able to face your fears of what you did, then and only then you can move on and be a better person.” It took him 10 years, he said, to realize his error. “I’m angry at myself for allowing my ignorance to lead me down that road.”

    Hines said he was touched by Warren’s sister, Valencia, and their father, Henry, who spoke in support of his release at his March resentencing hearing, saying he’d been punished enough. The judge imposed a 27- to 60-year sentence, paving the way for Hines to win parole.

    Warren-Gibbs was aware of Hines’ release date, and on that day she thought of her brother, James. She was jealous that Hines would be going home to his sister. “I wish it was my brother that I could see,” she said. “I felt guilty. I felt selfish to feel that way.”

    But she was happy, too, and eager to see Hines have an opportunity to rebuild his life. “To me,” she said, “forgiveness is up there with oxygen.”

    Hines understands the family’s loss left a hole in their hearts.

    “If they need me anytime, I’ll be there for them 100 per cent, you know, because they lost a loved one and I’m free,” he said.

    “Let me take that spot. Let me give back.”

    ‘If you need a brother, you got me.’

    Nearly three weeks later, Hines and Warren-Gibbs sat at a table, sowing the seeds of a most unusual friendship.

    Over about three hours at Hines’ lawyer’s office, the two talked about their families, Hines’ reunion with a childhood girlfriend and his new job at an industrial waste company where his sister works. They laughed at times, but spoke, too, of the tragedy that had landed him in prison.

    “Everything you do in this world, you’ve got to pay for,” Hines told her. “You can’t get away with putting things in the universe and not thinking they’re not going to come back and get you.”

    Hines maintained he never urged anyone to shoot Warren, but said he regrets his inaction. “Had I been wise enough ... I could have stopped it.”

    Warren-Gibbs told Hines she’d written him several letters over the years, but never felt comfortable enough to send them. Occasionally, she looked online at his inmate profile, hoping one day his face wouldn’t appear, signalling his release.

    “I wish I could have done more to help,” she said. “I only want the best for you.”

    As the talk turned to the future, Warren-Gibbs spoke of a new bond — “We’re connected,” she proclaimed with a smile — and told Hines she’d like it if he became something of a surrogate brother.

    “If you need a brother, you got me,” he replied. “Anytime you need me, call me.”

    The two exchanged phone numbers, posed for photos they immediately emailed to one another and promised to stay in touch.

    Then they said their goodbyes, hugging tightly. Warren-Gibbs whispered, “Welcome home,” as a tear rolled down her cheek.

    EPILOGUE: Warren-Gibbs recently told the AP she and Hines talk or text every day. He even sent her a photo of his first paycheque, and she plans to have him over for a family dinner. “It really feels,” she said, “like brother and sister.”

    He got life without parole at 15. He just left prison at 43He got life without parole at 15. He just left prison at 43

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    In a rare move, a Toronto man will face a third trial for the same murder.

    “The Crown is intending to proceed with this prosecution,” Crown attorney Julie Battersby told a Superior Court judge Wednesday, in the case of Warren Nigel Abbey, who was sitting in the prisoner's box.

    Abbey is accused of first-degree murder in the execution-style shooting death of Simeon Peter, 19, in Scarborough in 2004. His lawyer declined to comment to the Star on Wednesday.

    Abbey was acquitted at his first trial in 2007, but after the Crown appealed, he was tried a second time in 2011, at which point he was found guilty. Then Abbey appealed, and last summer, the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered that he should face a new trial.

    The decision to proceed to a third trial was ultimately at the discretion of the Crown, which could have chosen to withdraw the charge. The new trial may prove to be an uphill battle for prosecutors, who find themselves without a key part of their evidence against Abbey following the Court of Appeal ruling in August.

    The Crown had alleged at Abbey's second trial that he was an associate of the Malvern Crew gang who shot and killed Peter, mistakenly believing he was a member of the rival Galloway Boys, and that Abbey had a teardrop tattooed under his right eye about four months later.

    Testifying for the Crown, sociologist Mark Totten said a teardrop tattoo meant one of three things: the individual had lost a loved one or fellow gang member, had spent time in prison or had killed a rival gang member.

    But Ontario's top court came down hard on Totten in their ruling overturning Abbey's conviction. After the defence raised “fresh evidence” — issues surrounding Totten's research and testimony — the court found Totten's testimony contained “inaccuracies” and even “falsehoods.”

    A three-judge panel found his evidence “unreliable,” that he “misrepresented” the sample size of gang members in some of his studies, and that statistics he provided on the stand about gang members with teardrop tattoos are nowhere to be found in his studies.

    “I have concluded that the fresh evidence shows Totten's opinion evidence on the meaning of a teardrop tattoo to be too unreliable to be heard by a jury. If the trial judge had known about the fresh evidence he would have ruled Totten's evidence inadmissible,” Court of Appeal Justice John Laskin wrote for the panel.

    “And the absence of Totten's evidence would reasonably be expected to have affected the jury's verdict. I would admit the fresh evidence, allow Abbey's appeal, overturn his conviction and order a new trial.”

    Indeed, at Abbey's first trial, the Crown was barred by the judge from having Totten give evidence, and the jury ended up acquitting Abbey.

    There is other Crown evidence, but Laskin noted in his ruling that the rest of the Crown's case “was not overly strong,” and included poor eyewitness testimony and “problematic” evidence from three Malvern Crew members whose testimony implicated Abbey. Two of them testified in exchange for being granted immunity on a number of serious offences, while the third member refused to testify at the second trial.

    It was ironic that the Court of Appeal ordered a third trial due to Totten's evidence, given the fact that it was the Court of Appeal — albeit a different panel of judges — that allowed the Crown's appeal and ordered a second trial in 2009, finding that Totten should have been allowed to give evidence on teardrop tattoos. (The issues about Totten's evidence that were before the top court this year were not before it in 2009.)

    Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel in 2009, Justice David Doherty said that viewed cumulatively, Totten's evidence along with the evidence of Malvern Crew members about the meaning of teardrop tattoos “could reasonably present a compelling picture for the Crown.”

    “I do not suggest that a jury would necessarily take that view of the excluded evidence,” he wrote. “I say only that a reasonable jury could take that view. If it did, the verdict could very well be different.”

    And it was. Abbey was convicted of first-degree murder by a jury at his second trial in 2011, and sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole for 25 years.

    A date for his third trial will be set Dec. 5.

    Ten years after he was acquitted, this Toronto man faces a third trial for the same murderTen years after he was acquitted, this Toronto man faces a third trial for the same murderTen years after he was acquitted, this Toronto man faces a third trial for the same murderTen years after he was acquitted, this Toronto man faces a third trial for the same murder

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    When allegations of plagiarism exploded in early 2013, Chris Spence lost his sterling reputation and his job leading Canada’s largest school board.

    Last year, he was stripped of his teaching licence, and in June, a University of Toronto tribunal recommended his PhD be revoked.

    But Spence, disgraced former director of the Toronto District School Board, continues to fight back.

    On Thursday, his lawyers will appeal the June decision by an independent tribunal at U of T, which found him guilty of plagiarism in his dissertation, and recommended he lose his PhD and be expelled.

    That ruling was made after the tribunal was presented with 67 examples of passages in Spence’s paper that were not properly credited to others or cited as sources.

    But Spence’s notice of appeal argues the tribunal erred by failing to grant an adjournment when he was unable to attend the proceedings for medical reasons. As a result, Spence was “denied the opportunity to present a full defence,” says the notice.

    It alleges potential bias on the part of the tribunal chair, a conflict of interest by the university’s law firm and concludes the penalty recommended “was excessive” and didn’t properly consider Spence’s circumstances or less severe options.

    Spence, currently living in Chicago, is not required or expected to attend the Thursday appeal, his lawyer Darryl Singer said in an email.

    The U of T hearing in June came after years of procedural delays by Spence’s previous lawyers. When Spence did not appear, his lawyer at the time, Carol Shirtliff-Hinds, requested yet another postponement, arguing she was concerned for his mental state and was unable to get clear instructions from him about his defence. That request was denied.

    Spence also cited medical reasons last year when he didn’t appear in front of the Ontario College of Teachers disciplinary committee, which later imposed its harshest penalty by revoking his teaching licence.

    Spence has filed an appeal of that decision through Ontario divisional court.

    The fallout has been going on for almost five years since the first allegations in January 2013 that Spence had lifted passages of other writers’ work without crediting them in newspaper articles, including in the Star, as well as blogs and books.

    Spence has had some loyal supporters who cite his dedication to students, particularly at-risk youth, and argue the penalty imposed by the college was too harsh.

    However, a crowdfunding website launched last spring as part of what was dubbed “the Spence Defence” to help cover legal costs fell far short of its goal.

    “I’m not involved any more,” said Bruce Davis, a former TDSB chair who conducted an interview posted online last May as part of the “Let Spence Teach” campaign.

    “I still believe the (Ontario College of Teachers) punishment was disproportionate. Really, Chris has got to take the lead to defend his reputation.”

    Chris Spence fights to keep his PhD amid plagiarism findingsChris Spence fights to keep his PhD amid plagiarism findings

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    Experts reacted with surprise on Wednesday to news that the Competition Bureau is investigating possible price-fixing of bread products by suppliers and retailers in Canada’s grocery industry.

    “I think it’s unlikely that it’s a widespread or very senior scheme,” said Mark Satov, strategy adviser and founder, Satov Consultants Inc.

    Satov was reacting to the news that Competition Bureau investigators, accompanied by RCMP and local police forces, on Tuesday raided offices in Toronto, Montreal and Stellarton, N.S., where Sobey’s Inc. headquarters are located.

    Read more:Are Canada’s grocers fixing bread prices?

    “They arrived in our Stellarton and Ontario offices (Tuesday),” said Sobey’s spokesperson Jacquelin Corrado. “We are co-operating to support the investigation and have advised employees internally of the process underway.”

    Loblaw and Metro have also confirmed the investigation, which is looking at activity as far back as 2001.

    The idea that upper management was aware of the activity seems remote, said Satov, given the potential downside, which includes criminal charges and fines. But information can flow through many different channels in the grocery industry.

    Recent trends in the price of bread don’t seem to support a case for price-fixing, said food market analyst Kevin Grier, who tracks food prices using Statistics Canada data.

    “We’ve been in deflationary mode since June 2016 on bread and rolls. Between May 2016 and September 2017, the Consumer Price Index for bread and buns has dropped nearly six per cent,” said Grier.

    Engaging in price-fixing would break the public’s trust in grocers, he added.

    “We trust that our grocers are giving us safe food and we trust that they are pricing the food competitively. We trust that we’re getting value. If they break the trust — if this is true — then that trust is broken and it will take a long time to fix.”

    Gary Sands, senior vice-president, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG), said that while his organization has been aware of concerns around bread pricing, his association did not file a complaint with the Bureau.

    “We will await the results of this process, like everyone else,” said Sands.

    Canada Bread Company Limited confirmed it is included in the industry-wide investigation by the Competition Bureau into pricing conduct dating back to 2001.

    Canada Bread describes itself as the leading producer and distributor of packaged fresh bread and bakery products, including grocery store staples like Dempster’s, Villaggio and Vachon. It was purchased by Grupo Bimbo, headquartered in Mexico City, in early 2014.

    Grupo Bimbo is the world’s largest baking company, with operations in 22 countries.

    Canada Bread employs 4,175 people across Canada.

    “Canada Bread operates with the highest ethical standards and complies with all legal and regulatory standards. The company has not been charged with any offences,” according to a statement from the company.

    George Weston Limited, which operates one of Canada’s largest bakeries, has also indicated it is aware of the investigation, as has Walmart Canada Corp.

    With files from the Canadian Press

    Competition Bureau’s bread price-fixing probe leaves experts surprisedCompetition Bureau’s bread price-fixing probe leaves experts surprised

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    A publicly funded building that opened two years ago is inaccessible to people with disabilities and is another example of how weak provincial regulations are failing to ensure new buildings can be used by everyone, says a Toronto lawyer.

    Ryerson University’s $112-million Student Learning Centre poses safety risks for people with disabilities, advocate David Lepofsky says.

    Lepofsky released a video showing how Ryerson’s building poses what he says are risks for people with blindness, low vision, mobility disabilities, dyslexia and balance issues.

    The video follows Lepofsky walking with his white cane trying to navigate the centre’s steep staircases and student socializing areas. Several times in the video, he walks into pillars, including one that stands in the middle of the staircase in the path of a handrail.

    Two other pillars lean in an angled position, one in front of an elevator and next to a ramp so it’s difficult for a walking stick to detect.

    “Ryerson tried to do the right thing, they wanted to make the building accessible,” said Lepofsky, head of a grassroots alliance that monitors progress on the province’s landmark Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

    “But the problem is twofold — one: Ontario’s building laws are weak and don’t require buildings to meet the needs of those with disabilities and two: architects are not properly trained in accessibility and nor do they give it priority.”

    The eight-storey structure, which opened in February 2015 at the corner of Yonge and Gould Sts., provides space on campus for students to socialize and work. The building won an award from the Canadian Architect Magazine for its proposed design in 2012.

    It was designed by the architectural team of Zeidler and Snøhetta. Zeidler Partnership Architects could not be reached for comment, while a spokesperson for Snøhetta directed all questions to Ryerson.

    Andreas Kyprianou, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Accessibility, said the province is well on its way to remove barriers so that people with disabilities can participate in all aspects of daily life but recognizes that there is more to do.

    “Accessibility in buildings, including accessible washrooms, wheelchair ramps, and elevators, are regulated by Ontario’s Building Code and is administered by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs,” Kyprianou said in an email. “It is the responsibility of municipalities to enforce the Building Code, including reviewing building plans, issuing permits, and conducting construction inspections.”

    A spokesperson for Ryerson said the university has been taking immediate measures to make the Student Learning Centre more accessible.

    “The SLC held an open, community wide charrette to hear concerns and share ideas on how to improve accessibility at the SLC,” said spokesperson Johanna VanderMaas. “Ryerson University is committed to providing an accessible learning and employment environment for students, employees and members of the Ryerson community.”

    It’s the second time that Lepofsky has used a video to show his concerns regarding accessibility laws and new buildings in Ontario. Lepofsky made a video last year showing accessibility issues at Centennial College’s Culinary Arts Centre shortly after it opened.

    In his video released Sunday, Lepofsky highlights how the Ryerson building poses risks for people with blindness, low vision, mobility disabilities, dyslexia and balance issues.

    Lepofsky argues that many of the accessibility issues could have been easily avoided but that architects and designers gave priority to the building’s aesthetic look instead of focusing on whether it can be used by everyone.

    The video shows Lepofsky walking with his white cane trying to navigate the centre’s steep staircases and student socializing areas. Several times in the video, he walks into pillars. There’s one problematic pillar standing in the middle of the staircase, while two others lean in an angled position in front of an elevator and next to a ramp.

    In the video, he also shows how the award-winning building has angled railings that make it very difficult to climb stairs for people who are blind or have balance issues and how labels written in Braille in the elevators are mislabelled.

    “People generally assume that new buildings are more accessible than old buildings because we improved the laws and it’s not something we have to worry about anymore,” Lepofsky said. “That’s not true, here you see a very new building with significant accessibility problems.”

    In a letter dated Oct. 23 to the Ontario Ministry of Accessibility, Lepofsky asked the government to launch a new strategy to address the recurring disability accessibility barriers in the province.

    The student centre, Lepofsky said, would not have been built with these issues if the Ontario Building Code and Ontario’s Disabilities Act had more strict regulations and standards. The government and other institutions need to also focus on training architects on accessibility, he added.

    “If we don’t change the laws and if architects are not being trained sufficiently about accessibility, then we are creating more generations of problems and paying for it,” he said. “Someone shouldn’t be getting a licence to be an architect or a design professional without being really trained to design a building that everyone could use.”

    Is Ryerson’s student centre accessible for students with disabilities? Watch hereIs Ryerson’s student centre accessible for students with disabilities? Watch here

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    The Toronto Real Estate Board says area home sales were up 12 per cent from September to October, pointing to a stronger fall market.

    It adds that while sales jump between September and October every year, the increase this year was more pronounced than usual.

    The group representing Toronto area real estate agents says 7,118 homes were sold in October, down 27 per cent from the same month last year.

    The average selling price in October was $780,104, up 2.3 per cent compared with October 2016.

    Sales in the first 10 months of the year slipped to 80,198, down 19 per cent from the same period in 2016.

    A spike in Toronto-area home prices earlier this year resulted in the provincial government’s imposition of a number of measures to cool the market after a shortage of detached home listings helped push up prices.

    Read more:

    How Toronto’s housing costs are hampering the city’s ability to attract talent

    Toronto home sales up 12% in October: TREBToronto home sales up 12% in October: TREB

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    This week, as we count down to the Star’s 125th anniversary, we revisit stories that have inspired readers and changed lives.

    For Phillipa Lue, the death of her 6-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, was not in vain.

    Nearly three decades have passed since the plight of the terminally ill Toronto girl, in need of a bone marrow donor, spurred strangers in this city to come forward and assist in extraordinary ways.

    In March 1990, a frantic four-month campaign was launched to try to save Elizabeth. The brave girl with long hair and short bangs suffered from aplastic anemia, a very rare disorder caused by the failure of her bone marrow to make blood cells.

    Elizabeth required marrow from a stranger, so her normally shy mother put her HR job on hold and reached out for help to launch a massive drive in search of a matching donor.

    As the Save Elizabeth Lue campaign began, the Star was the first news outlet to write about it, and did dozens more stories, as other media joined in. Her face was all over the news.

    But no match was found. Elizabeth died that August.

    Her mother, and those who were close to the campaign at the time, say her legacy lives on. As a result of the campaign, Canada’s registry of potential bone marrow and stem cell donors was bolstered by thousands of new names, particularly those from the Chinese community and other Asian communities.

    In memory of her daughter, Phillipa Lue is encouraging more visible minorities to sign up as potential donors, to improve the chances of survival for people from diverse communities who need bone marrow and stem cell transplants. Lives have been saved.

    Just over $1 million was donated by the public to help pay for the testing needed in the search for a matching donor for Elizabeth. And remaining money in the foundation set up in her name has since been used to support bone marrow and stem cell drives for more than a dozen other people.

    The effort to find a match for Elizabeth also brought forward Torontonians, Canadians and people around the world — not just of Chinese descent.

    “I underestimated the passion and generosity of Canadians,” said Dr. Joseph Wong, a family physician and one of the key organizers of the Elizabeth Lue drive 27 years ago.

    The campaign began after Phillipa and her husband, Gary, got the news from doctors Dec. 29, 1989, that Elizabeth was terminally ill with aplastic anemia.

    “Then you watch her just waste away in front of your eyes and you’re not able to help her to bear the pain and suffering she’s going through,” Phillipa, who lives in Markham, said in a recent interview.

    Neither Phillipa nor Gary nor Elizabeth’s brother Michael were suitable matches for a bone marrow donation. Nor were there matches on the Canadian Red Cross registry (now Canadian Blood Services). To get on the registry at that time, you had to be a blood donor.

    One possible solution emerged: mount a campaign to find a stranger to donate marrow.

    The chances of finding a suitable match for Elizabeth in the Chinese community were better at 1 in 4,000 — due to genetic similarities. But that meant people had to put their names on the bone marrow registry. They had to have blood drawn and consent to donate marrow if their blood test revealed a match.

    Marrow is in our bones and produces oxygen-carrying red cells, white cells used to ward off infection and platelets that clot blood and stop bleeding. Aplastic anemia halts production of these cells. To treat it, damaged bone marrow is destroyed, then replaced by a donor’s healthy marrow.

    Matching donors provide marrow through a process in which doctors stick a needle into the donor’s pelvic bone to draw the jellylike bone marrow out.

    But there were challenges in trying to rescue Elizabeth. For one thing doctors gave her only a few months to live after the diagnosis. There were the logistics of rallying volunteers to help launch the drive. And there would be costs to test people who came to the drive — $75 (U.S.) a person.

    What’s more, in parts of the Chinese community, giving blood was not something done readily. According to cultural beliefs held by some, bones, blood, human tissue and organs are considered sacred because they are passed down from one’s parents.

    Phillipa called Dr. Wong, a leader in Toronto’s Chinese community, for help to find a donor.

    Busy with his medical practice and other commitments, he was reluctant. He knew that about 120 volunteers would be needed to launch the search. And where would the money come from for the testing?

    “I agreed after agonizing consideration that I could not bear to see a 6-year-old girl die due to the excuse I’m too busy,” Wong, 69, said in a recent interview.

    He assembled a team including Lue’s parents and some of their relatives. There were also volunteers such as Pauline Tong, who was active in the Chinese community; Dr. Marshall Deltoff, a Toronto chiropractor; and Helen Cox, a lab company executive who helped organize IV nurses, lab technicians and people experienced in taking blood.

    Dr. Wong contacted Star reporter Tony Wong (no relation) to get some exposure. Tony met Elizabeth at the Hospital for Sick Children.

    “I saw Elizabeth and my heart broke,” Tony Wong, now a television critic for the Star, said recently. “I knew we (the Star) had to do something.”

    The Star carried its first story March 16, 1990, with the headline “Right donor could save life of 6-year-old with anemia.”

    Clinics were set up in Scarborough, Toronto, Markham and other locations for potential donors to give blood. Dr. Wong arrived at the Toronto clinic in Grange Park at 8:30 a.m. on April 1 to get ready for the 10 a.m. opening, and was shocked by what he saw: 100 people already in line.

    A total of 1,800 people showed up at the clinics that first day. And financial donations from across the country would soon pour in through banks.

    “Donations from places I’d never heard of in Canada — the response was so amazing, not just from the Chinese community,” Dr. Wong recalled.

    Added Pauline Tong, 68, a key volunteer: “I think a lot of people really identified” with Elizabeth.

    Helped by some friends, Dr. Wong secured a $150,000 line of credit — money needed to send the blood collected to a U.S. lab for testing, to get marrow data.

    Potential donors were tested for human leukocyte antigens, which are immune system recognition signals. Six antigens needed to be identical to the recipient.

    By early June 1990, more than 5,300 people had been tested in clinics, costing nearly $450,000. No match was found.

    As interest in the story spread, the registry grew and the search expanded overseas. In June two potential donors were found in Taiwan. But they were soon deemed not close enough a match for Elizabeth.

    Elizabeth’s tissue type was sent to Singapore, and officials in China and Hong Kong — along with Jamaica, where Elizabeth’s family comes from — were contacted, with no success.

    By early July 1990, 10,000 people had been tested in Canada, their names added to the registry. The number of Asians on registries in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan had also increased.

    But by late July the search for a donor for Elizabeth was abandoned. Her condition had worsened to the point she wouldn’t survive a transplant. On Aug. 31 she died in her mother’s arms.

    For Phillipa and the family, anniversaries of her death, birthdays and holidays are painful. But she knows some good also came from the tragedy.

    Among the people helped by the bolstered registry was a New Jersey woman named Cammy Lee.

    Lee, 44, is alive thanks to a bone marrow transplant from Virginia Lau of Richmond Hill in 1992. That operation was performed to treat Lee’s leukemia. Shortly afterward, Lee received four life-saving doses of Lau’s fresh T cells from her blood, a procedure used to treat Lee’s lymphoma. Lee has been cancer-free ever since.

    Lee met Lau in Toronto in 1994 — along with Elizabeth’s parents, who came face to face with a woman saved by the campaign for Elizabeth.

    On the phone from New Jersey, Lee said “Virginia saved my life.” She is also grateful to Elizabeth.

    Lee would become a recruiter for the National Marrow Donor Program in the U.S. She sought out Asian Americans, and encouraged them to become marrow and stem cell donors.

    Stem cell transplants are now the more common method because donors only lose the stem cells in their peripheral blood — a tiny fraction of one’s whole blood.

    According to a recent statement from Canadian Blood Services, almost 420,000 volunteer donors are registered with the service’s OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network to help any patient in need. OneMatch is also part of an international network of 75 registries and 53 (umbilical) cord blood banks that are part of a global database.

    Currently 32 per cent of the OneMatch registry is non-Caucasian, Canadian Blood Services says. When Elizabeth was seeking a donor it was 2 per cent.

    Elizabeth Lue’s mother wants to see further increases.

    “If you’re a patient and you’re a racial minority, your chances (of finding a bone marrow/stem cell donor) are slim. Most of the banks in the world are Caucasian and our bank in Canada is about (70 per cent) Caucasian,” said Lue.

    Looking back, Lue says her daughter “really didn’t stand a chance” during the 1990 donor drive because the pool was just too small.

    “Time ran out . . . it’s a numbers game. That’s just the way it is.”

    Read more on the Star’s 125th anniversary in Saturday’s special Insight section and at

    Little Elizabeth Lue left a legacy that has helped save livesLittle Elizabeth Lue left a legacy that has helped save lives

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    A woman has been reunited with the father she never knew following an anguishing, 30 year separation thanks to the kindness of a Toronto man.

    Abelino Corrales met the love of his life – a Polish woman named Danuta Tarnawa – at a textile factory in communist—ruled former Czechoslovakia around 1985, while the Cuban native was there on a four-year work contract.

    A year after they met, Tarnawa gave birth to their daughter, who they called Karolina.

    When the girl was only two-years-old, Corrales, a mechanic, was forced to return home as the work contract between the two countries then under communist rule, had expired.

    Heartbroken, Corrales returned to Cuba and Tarnawa took Karolina back to Poland, greeted coldly by her family, who did not approve of a child out of wedlock.

    Still, the couple remained deeply in love and communicated through secret letters transmitted by a friend. But after 14 years of communication, the letters to Corrales abruptly stopped.

    Last November, about thirty years after the couple’s separation, a Toronto man struck up a conversation with a waiter at the bar of a secluded resort in Santiago de Cuba.

    The waiter, Orlando Corrales, poured into his brother Abelino’s story after hearing three things: that the Toronto man is Polish, and coincidentally, his wife’s name is also Danuta and his daughter’s name is Anna-Karolina.

    “He said my brother, who is 56 right now, never married. Over 30 years, he is looking through the [embassy], Red Cross organization, whatever (else),” said Andrzej Rozbicki, a Polish-Canadian orchestra director and retired Toronto music teacher.

    “He wakes up in the night just thinking that somewhere in the world, I have a daughter.”

    Hearing this, Rozbicki, a doctor of musical arts and founder of Toronto-based Celebrity Symphony Orchestra, decided he could use his strong ties to the Polish community here and abroad to help Corrales find out what happened to his family.

    Though the 69-year-old Rozbicki gives credit to his intense detective work – he dedicated about five hours per day for six weeks to the quest – he said it was really a string of fortuitous events that led him to Karolina.

    A handwritten note from Corrales, containing scant and partially incorrect information, was all he had to search for two women in Poland’s population of over 38 million.

    There were about 30 villages named Poremba, where Danuta Tarnawa lived, and it took Rozbicki endless hours on Google maps street view to find the right house number.

    Rozbicki then tracked down the local priest late on Christmas Day to find out if he knew the family.

    “Another coincidence…(The priest) started to listen to me because he said, ‘Oh, my sister was at the concert,’” that Rozbicki conducted in Poland a few months earlier.

    Just after the 2017 New Year, the priest got back in touch and gave Rozbicki the phone number of Tarnawa’s sister, who now lives in Germany. She just happened to be in Poland for three days over Christmas, picked up Rozbicki’s call, and passed along Karolina’s phone number.

    Rozbicki waited about an hour before calling Karolina, hoping her aunt would prepare her for the call.

    But she hadn’t. So when Karolina picked up the phone while working at the supermarket in her town, she was shocked.

    “I was completely convinced that he’s not looking for me anymore, that history has finished, that he went back to Cuba,” Karolina told the Star through translators in a meeting at the Consulate General of Poland this week.

    “I was convinced that he had a family down there, that he’d gone on with his life and he had forgotten all about me,” the 32-year-old said.

    Rozbicki facilitated Karolina’s trip to Toronto – the first time she had ever crossed the Atlantic – ahead of their journey to Cuba on Wednesday.

    After speaking to Karolina for the first time, he immediately told Corrales he had found his daughter. “I promised him I’m going to find his daughter. I’m happy because I’m going to keep my promise,” he said.

    But Rozbicki had to report something tragic to Corrales as well: Karolina’s mother, Danuta Tarnawa, had died of cancer 14 years after the separation, which was the reason the letters stopped.

    Like him, she never married.

    Several attempts by the Star to reach the Corrales brothers in Cuba were unsuccessful.

    Though the whole village knew her father was Cuban, Karolina’s mother never spoke of Corrales because it was taboo, she said, and her youth was a difficult one after her mother’s death.

    “Imagine, in a small village, a young woman having a child without any church blessing, without the official marriage,” Rozbicki said.

    Karolina said she occupied herself with school, and had no support from her mother’s family.

    “My second life started a year ago. It was a small miracle. It opened the borders of my mind. I never had a father, and all of a sudden, I found out that I have a father, that somebody needs me,” she said.

    The father and daughter connected over Skype early this week through Rozbicki, and she said both cried for most of the conversation.

    Corrales stopped crying long enough to say, “I’m your father, Karolinka,” a special nickname that only her family members knew.

    Rozbicki, his wife, and Karolina departed for Cuba on Wednesday morning, and Rozbicki expects they will be greeted in the afternoon by a large party from all the locals who heard of Karolina’s story.

    “I’m learning how to have a father, and it’s a beautiful feeling,” she said.

    He went to Cuba on vacation. He came back with a mission: reunite a father and daughter separated for 30 years.He went to Cuba on vacation. He came back with a mission: reunite a father and daughter separated for 30 years.He went to Cuba on vacation. He came back with a mission: reunite a father and daughter separated for 30 years.He went to Cuba on vacation. He came back with a mission: reunite a father and daughter separated for 30 years.

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    VANCOUVER—Ballet Victoria has cut ties with a choreographer after renewed media attention to allegations that he took nude photographs of underage dancers in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Bruce Monk was fired by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 2015 after Maclean’s reported that several women were co-operating with a Winnipeg police investigation into photos he took of them as teenage dancers.

    The investigation concluded without charges and Monk declined comment on the allegations this week through his lawyer.

    He is facing two lawsuits, one filed by a woman in Winnipeg alleging he took nude photos of her when she was 16, and a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in Toronto.

    In a statement of defence in response to the Winnipeg suit, Monk denies taking any photographs of the woman when she was a minor and calls her allegations “false and meritless.”

    CBC reported on Monday that Monk has been doing volunteer and contract work with Ballet Victoria. Artistic director Paul Destrooper is quoted in the article as saying he believes Monk is innocent and nude photographs are not unusual in ballet.

    On Wednesday, Ballet Victoria issued a statement saying Monk would no longer work with the company.

    “Ballet Victoria cares for the physical and emotional health of all artists, staff and volunteers with great care and diligence,” it says. “To (ensure) the integrity of the company Bruce Monk will no longer be involved with Ballet Victoria.”

    The statement says Destrooper worked with Monk at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for 11 years from 1990 until 2001 and was never aware of any inappropriate behaviour or allegations.

    It says Monk came to the company as a guest choreographer in 2008. When criminal allegations were made, the working relationship was suspended, but it resumed when no charges were laid.

    In late 2016, he began working on small contracts as a lighting and production designer and volunteered his services in the office and as a driver, the statement says.

    Sarah Doucet, who filed the proposed class-action suit in Toronto, said she first became aware Monk was involved with Ballet Victoria in September 2015 when she saw a photo of him rehearsing with a woman on the company’s Facebook page. She said she contacted the company’s board.

    When the company severed ties with Monk on Wednesday, Doucet said she felt relief.

    “It’s unfortunate that it took public pressure for Ballet Victoria to finally do the right thing,” said Doucet.

    Doucet alleges in her statement of claim that she was a student at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s dance school, aged about 16 or 17, when she approached Monk to take photos for her portfolio, as it was common knowledge that the instructor would take headshots of students.

    She says he complained the straps of her bodysuit were ruining her neckline and alleges that he coerced her into removing the top half of the bodysuit, so her torso was naked. She was humiliated and overwhelmed by a deep sense of personal violation, the lawsuit alleges.

    None of the allegations has been proven in court and the class action has not been certified. The Canadian Press was not able to determine if a statement of defence has been filed in the case.

    Doucet’s lawyer, Margaret Waddell, said a court date is scheduled for the end of November to set a timetable for proceeding with the certification motion and she hopes to have it heard early in 2018.

    Ballet Victoria cuts ties with choreographer after allegations he took nude photos of underage dancersBallet Victoria cuts ties with choreographer after allegations he took nude photos of underage dancers

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    The northbound and southbound lanes of Highway 400 near Bradford have reopened following a fatal collision that left three people dead.

    The highway was closed for more than 24 hours after the explosion and fire caused by tanker trucks consumed the roadways and took almost 3 hours to tame.

    Ontario Provincial Police said the multi-vehicle collision late Tuesday night involved at least 14 vehicles, including two fuel tankers and three transport trucks. A small, initial collision that stalled the highway traffic just up the road may have led to the chain reaction of the “massive” collision, police said.

    “It is absolutely a devastating scene. It is something I’ve never seen in my career,” said Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, adding that there was twisted metal and unrecognizable debris scattered across the highway.

    Schmidt said several people were taken to hospital. Their injuries are considered non-life threatening.

    Premier Kathleen Wynne expressed her condolences to the victims’ families, calling the accident “a horrible, horrible tragedy.”

    “We will in the aftermath of this collision, obviously we will look at what happened, we will be advised on whether there’s more that could have been done to prevent such a crash,” she said.

    The force said it has responded to more than 5,000 collisions this year, with 67 people killed. In the two previous years, OPP tracked 13,668 crashes involving commercial transport trucks that killed a total of 155 people.

    The official cause of the crash is still being investigated by police.

    With files from Rob Ferguson, Robert Benzie and Canadian Press.

    Highway 400 near Bradford completely reopens after fatal crashHighway 400 near Bradford completely reopens after fatal crash

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