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    MONTREAL—A Sunwing Airlines flight bound for Cuba had to return to Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport on Thursday evening under a fighter jet escort due to an “unruly customer.”

    An airline spokeswoman said flight WG604 had departed for Cayo Coco but turned around due to the passenger making “non-specific threats.”

    “The flight arrived back around 7:25 p.m. and the disruptive customer was taken into police custody,” said Rachel Goldrick in an email to The Canadian Press.

    Montreal police said a 39-year-old man was arrested and could face charges of breach of conditions, uttering death threats, assault and endangering the safety of an aircraft.

    He is expected to appear in court Friday morning.

    NORAD spokesman Lt. Commander Joe Nawrocki said a pair of U.S. air force F-15 jets were dispatched from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts and intercepted the aircraft near Albany, N.Y.

    Canadian CF-18s were also reportedly scrambled but did not take part in the operation.

    “Sunwing has provided affected customers with accommodations and meal vouchers and is very apologetic for the inconvenience,” Goldrick said.

    This was the second such incident involving a North American flight on Thursday night.

    Officials say a Delta Airlines flight bound for Beijing returned to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after a passenger assaulted a flight attendant.

    Airport spokesman Perry Cooper says a man in first class assaulted a flight attendant about 45 minutes into the flight and that passengers then helped restrain the man until the plane landed back in Seattle.

    Officials say two people, including the flight attendant, were injured and taken to a hospital.

    With files from The Associated Press

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    News emerged this week that a baby in B.C. was issued what is believed to be the first health card in history without a gender ID. Instead of F or M, the baby’s health card reads U, shorthand, most likely, for unspecified.

    It may not surprise you that the baby’s parent, Kori Doty, a non-binary transgender person who uses the pronoun “they,” wishes to raise their child genderless — for now at least.

    “I do not gender my child,” Doty old reporters this week. “I am not going to foreclose their choices based on an arbitrary assignment of gender at birth based on an inspection of their genitals.”

    What will Doty do? Wait till their baby is old enough to make up his or her or their own mind about how he, she or they would like to identify. (I’m totally on board with this stuff, but you do have to admit it makes for quite a mouthful.)

    And what will we, the people, do? Take sides of course.

    There appears to be two vocal schools of thought when it comes to genderless child rearing. There’s the lefty take: “More power to you! Do whatever is necessary to smash that gender binary!” And then there’s the righty, or you could say the alt-righty take: in the words of Canadian conservative commentator Lauren Southern, on Twitter: “This child’s future is being sacrificed because of its parents’ delusions.” (I knew “they” was in vogue as a pronoun but “it” is a new one.)

    I’m going to go mostly left on this one. I don’t see the problem with allowing kids to explore their gender identities and deciding for themselves whether he, she, they or Beyoncé is how they’d like to identify. Knowing a few kids whose parents allow for this kind of exploration probably helps; to my knowledge they are all perfectly healthy and happy. I suspect that most people who think there is something wrong with gender-variant kids don’t know any. And anyway, I think it’s vastly more important that kids have good manners than that they cleave to gender convention. I can abide a cross-dressing child, but I can’t abide a rude one.

    That said: I’ve become a little bit uncomfortable in recent years with the zeal that some of my lefty brethren have exhibited for this kind of exploration among children. It’s one thing to give kids the reins on their gender journeys — as Doty is giving them to her baby — but it’s another thing altogether to take the reins from them.

    In one of her recent columns, Globe and Mail columnist Leah McLaren writes that she signed her now 4-year-old son up for ballet class because he went through a phase of “rejecting all things ‘girlish.’ ” I’m sure McLaren is a great parent but this attempt to steer a kid toward playing with gender norms by imposing recreational activities on him that he would otherwise avoid, is, I think, a little misguided. So is the suggestion made by British politician Jo Swinson in 2015 that boys should be encouraged to play with dolls so that they may become more nurturing and caring.

    But what takes the cake in misguidedness is the notion that parents should actually intervene in play itself. Here’s the Huffington Post last month, extolling the virtues of “norm-challenging parenting” inspired by the Swedish parenting book Show your Child 100 Possible Ways instead of 2: “Move the toys around in your child’s room and put them in new places. Let the Batman action figures move into the toy kitchen. Spiderman can “play house” and Barbie can be the superhero. When participating in your child’s play, try switching and replacing gender pronouns and see what happens; for example, refer to the teddy bear as she if it’s usually called he.”

    Or here’s a novel idea: don’t micromanage your kid’s play at all. Let them use their toys as they see fit and if they choose to put Ken in Barbie’s dress (a tight squeeze), or Batman in the bassinet then good for them. Smile and act like it’s no big deal because it isn’t. But intruding in your kids’ play and directing them toward a more gender exploratory path is just as backwards as asking a kid to conform to traditional gender norms. Exploration shouldn’t be an imperative. It should be a known option.

    It was for me. I feel very strongly about this not because I have an affinity for traditional gender norms but precisely because I don’t and never did. Like a lot of lesbians, I was a huge tomboy as a kid. I don’t mean I liked to play with my brother’s G.I. Joes. I mean I had my own collection and I didn’t wear girl’s clothes or shop in the girls department until puberty. Until about Grade 3 I was routinely mistaken for a boy — and bullied as a result. But my parents, thank God, were totally accommodating. They didn’t make me play with dolls and they didn’t make me wear dresses. They just let me be.

    If I had been born a boy with typical boyish interests I’d like to think they’d have done the same. Letting kids be themselves doesn’t always mean they’re going to be different. And that’s OK. If you want to let your kid choose their gender, go ahead. But respect that choice — even if it’s conventional.

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    OTTAWA–Canadian foreign affairs officials were contemplating a one-on-one meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Russian President Vladimir Putin, documents obtained by the Star show.

    Warming relations between Ottawa and Moscow had senior public servants envisioning a “leaders’ level encounter” between Trudeau and Putin as recently as August 2016.

    “Re-engaging (with Russia) is a complex undertaking which understandably elicits a range of views on how best to proceed,” the heavily-censored documents read.

    “High-level engagement between our prime minister and his Russian counterpart is an important component of re-engagement.”

    The documents, stamped “secret” and obtained under access to information law, lay out the “action plan for re-engaging Russia” taken by the Liberal government under former foreign affairs minister Stephane Dion.

    They repeatedly stress Canada’s support for Ukraine, and Ottawa opposition to Russia’s “behaviour” and “actions” in that country. Russia continues to lay claim to Ukraine’s Crimea region, an annexation viewed as illegitimate by Canada and its allies.

    Speaking on the condition of anonymity, Canadian officials said no such bilateral meeting is in the works. Even if public servants pushed for such a bilateral meeting, their political masters would not likely approve the move.

    A one-on-one meeting with Putin could make for some difficult optics for Trudeau, politically and diplomatically, given the ongoing probe into allegations of collusion between Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign.

    Although that’s not stopping Trump. The embattled U.S. president is set to meet with the Russian presidentat the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, Friday.

    Still, foreign affairs officials outlined several benefits to Canada resuming diplomatic relations with Moscow.

    “Multilaterally, an informed and engaged Canada can bring insight and can better support a firm and co-ordinated approach among our partners and allies to address challenges posed by Russia, and to encourage Russia to contribute constructively to international peace and security, including in Syria,” the documents suggest.

    It’s not clear if officials were envisioning a formal bilateral meeting, or a conversation on the margins of one of the several international meetings attended by both Trudeau and Putin, such as this week’s G20 summit.

    Trudeau and Putin met shortly after the 2015 election. At the G20 meeting in Turkey in November 2015, Trudeau said he told Putin directly to end Russia’s “interference” in Ukraine according to a CBC report from the event.

    And much has changed over the last year that makes future formal meetings between the two leaders unlikely.

    First, Trudeau replaced Dion with Chrystia Freeland, who has been an outspoken critic of the Putin regime and its annexation of Crimea. In fact, Canada’s new foreign minister is banned from entering Russia.

    In a statement, a spokesperson for Freeland said Canada has re-established channels for direct dialogue with Russia, and those efforts are “guided by Canada’s national interests” including in the Arctic and national security issues. Freeland has also met Putin, as well as Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, at separate international meetings.

    Second, in an interview with the New York Times in Toronto in June, Trudeau himself publicly accused Russia of interfering in Western elections using cyber attacks — something Canada’s spy agencies were reluctant to do only a week before that interview. Canada’s chief of defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, has said Canadian troops on a UN mission in Latvia expected a Russian propaganda campaign to undercut support in that country.

    Seva Gunitsky, a University of Toronto professor and a close observer of Russia, said he sees little room for improving diplomatic or political relations with Russia so long as they remain in Ukraine.

    “It would be extremely difficult, unless they’re thinking something along the lines of a Nixon in China approach that, since we’ve made our position clear (on Ukraine), we won’t be accused of selling out to Russian interests,” Gunitsky said in an interview Tuesday.

    “Given Freeland’s appointment, especially, she’s despised in Russia … so it’s hard for me to see the two countries spearheading any kind of meaningful joint initiative beyond public rhetoric.”

    The documents mention specific areas of focus, including re-engagement on Arctic issues, co-operation on the International Space Station, and bilateral talks on visa and consular issues.

    Potential more significantly, Global Affairs suggests working with the Department of National Defence “to understand how they are affected by the continuing red-line on bilateral military co-operation” with Russia.

    Multiple interview requests to the Prime Minister’s Office and a spokesperson for Freeland were not immediately returned on Tuesday.

    Vasily Kultyshev, the second secretary at the Russian Federation’s Ottawa embassy, refused to comment on any plans for future bilateral meetings between Trudeau and Putin.

    “We appreciate your interest in Russia-Canada relations, but unfortunately we have no comment on the specific case you mentioned,” wrote Kultyshev in an email in June.

    “P.S.: Happy Canada Day!”

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    The next step of installing the pedestrian bridge that connects the Eaton Centre and the Hudson’s Bay Company building takes place this weekend.

    The bridge connects the south-facing side of the mall to the north-facing Bay store on Queen St. W.

    The bridge was assembled on James St. and will be hoisted into place by Sunday, said Janine Ramparas, Cadillac Fairview spokesperson.

    “This installation is a key milestone in the project.”

    She said the bridge is currently a bare structure and final design details will be added leading up to the opening in the fall.

    The construction will begin Friday night at 11:30 p.m. and Queen St. W. will be closed between Yonge and Bay streets until Monday at 5 a.m. There also won’t be access to James St.

    Pedestrians will be able to use those streets but the construction may briefly stop people from crossing, said a news release from the city of Toronto.

    TTC westbound Queen St. buses will divert via Yonge, Richmond, and Bay streets. Eastbound Queen St. buses will divert via Bay, Adelaide and Yonge streets during the bridge’s installation.

    In May, the 40-year-old bridge was removed. The new model was designed by British architectural firm WilkinsonEyre.

    “CF Toronto Eaton Centre is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and with approximately two million people using the bridge annually, it was time to enhance both its aesthetics and functionality for our shoppers and the public by creating a sculptural urban feature, as well as a unique identifier for the city,” said Wayne Barwise, spokesperson CF Toronto Eaton Centre in a April news release

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    HAMBURG—At long last face to face, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced confidence Friday that their historic first meeting would pave the way for a positive trajectory for their two countries. If thornier issues like election meddling came up in their two-hours-plus meeting, they discussed them only in private.

    In characteristically confident fashion, Trump said he and the Russian leader were holding “very, very good talks” as journalists were briefly allowed in to witness part of their meeting in Germany. Seated with an American flag behind him, Trump appeared informal and relaxed and said it was “an honour” to be with Putin.

    “We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States and for everybody concerned,” Trump said.

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

    The White House said in advance that 35 minutes had been allotted for the meeting. But it extended well beyond that, clocking in at 2 hours and 16 minutes, the State Department said.

    Trump offered no details about what issues he and the Russian leader had discussed, describing them only as “various things.” Putin was similarly vague, telling reporters through a translator that they were discussing international problems and bilateral issues.

    Still, Putin described the fact that they were meeting as a positive sign in itself, and he said he hoped the meeting would “yield positive results.”

    “Phone conversations are never enough definitely,” Putin said. “If you want to have a positive outcome in bilaterals and be able to resolve most international policy issues, that will really need personal meetings.”

    Then the leaders shook hands firmly but briefly before reporters were escorted out of the room. Trump did not respond to shouted questions about whether they would discuss Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election — a topic lawmakers in Washington have been demanding that Trump raise directly.

    Both kept their composure amid the commotion of cameras clicking and journalists lobbying questions as anxious aides moved about nearby. The U.S. leader’s son, Donald Trump Jr., took to Twitter to say the noise from the cameras made it difficult to even hear the two leaders’ words.

    “How many pictures do you need of the same scene?” he said.

    The heavily anticipated meeting is being closely scrutinized for signs of how friendly a rapport Trump and Putin will have. Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, had notoriously strained ties to Putin, and Trump has expressed an interest in a better U.S.-Russia relationship.

    But deep skepticism about Russia in the U.S. and ongoing investigations into whether Trump’s campaign co-ordinated with Moscow during last year’s election have made a U.S.-Russia detente politically risky for Trump.

    The White House said that 35 minutes had been allotted for the meeting, which also included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Putin, slightly hunched in his chair, rubbed his fingers together as he listened to Trump address reporters during the public portion of their meeting.

    In a prelude to their formal sit-down, Trump and Putin shook hands and exchanged broad grins earlier Friday in a brief exchange caught on video as a leaders’ retreat got under way in Hamburg. A brief video clip showed Trump outstretching his hand to Putin as officials gathered around a table, then patting Putin’s elbow as both men smiled. In another clip, Trump casually patted Putin on the back as they stood side by side.

    Video of the brief exchange was posted to Facebook by the German Cabinet. It was the first known in-person interaction between the two men.

    Trump alluded to the campaign controversy as he started the day with a jab at his vanquished Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. He wrote on Twitter that “everyone here is talking” about her campaign chairman’s “disgraceful” response after the FBI discovered Democratic Party computers were hacked — a breach later blamed on Russia.

    Outside the summit site, antiglobalization protesters were causing problems for first lady Melania Trump, who was kept from joining other leaders’ spouses for their own program of events. Mrs. Trump’s office said local police hadn’t cleared her to leave the government guest house where she and Trump were staying because of the protests, in which demonstrators set dozens of cars ablaze.

    In the lead-up to the meeting, Trump used a speech in Warsaw on Thursday to voice a list of grievances about Russia. He urged Putin’s government to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes — including Syria and Iran — and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defence of civilization itself.”

    Read more:

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    Trump calls on West to preserve ‘our civilization’ in dark, nationalist Poland speech

    Police in Hamburg use water cannons, pepper spray on protesters ahead of G20 summit

    But much of the focus — both in Washington and Moscow — will be on whether Trump broaches the issue of Russia’s meddling in the election. Putin, a former Russian intelligence agent, is known to come to high-profile meetings like this well-prepared.

    In a news conference before he flew to Germany, Trump again refused to unequivocally accept the conclusion by multiple U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered to try to help Trump win last November. Trump said it could have been Russia, but that other countries could have meddled, too.

    “Nobody really knows for sure,” Trump said.

    The list of issues facing the two countries ranges from Syria to Iran to Ukraine, and now North Korea, following Pyongyang’s test this week of a missile capable of striking the U.S.

    Russia wants the U.S. to return two compounds in New York and Maryland that were shuttered by the Obama administration as punishment for election meddling. It also wants the U.S. to ease Ukraine-related sanctions. The U.S. seeks a resumption of adoptions of Russian children by American parents, an end to harassment of U.S. diplomats and other measures.

    In Washington, Trump has been under intense pressure from both parties to confront Putin over the election interference. Several senior Democratic U.S. senators served notice in a letter Thursday that Trump would be in “severe dereliction” of his presidential duty if he fails to make clear that Russia’s interference in U.S. democracy will not be tolerated.

    “The upcoming elections cannot be a playground for President Putin,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and others, including the top Democrats on the Intelligence, Armed Services, and Foreign Relations Committees.

    And Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican and House Foreign Affairs Committee member, said this week that he will “raise holy hell” if Trump goes soft on Putin.

    The Putin tete-a-tete was Trump’s highest-profile meeting while at his first G-20 summit, but not the only with a nation whose relationship with his administration has been rocky.

    Pena Nieto of Mexico had been scheduled to visit the White House shortly after Trump took office, but scrapped the trip at the last minute to protest Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for the border wall he has vowed to build to deter illegal immigration. Pena Nieto insists Mexico won’t pay.

    Asked by a reporter as their meeting started whether he still wanted Mexico to pay, Trump said: “Absolutely.”

    The Putin meeting came midway through a hectic, four-day European visit for Trump, who addressed thousands of Poles in an outdoor speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday. He met in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the summit host, and had dinner with two Asian allies — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in — to discuss North Korea’s aggression.

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    NEW YORK—A leading academic medical centre in New York City has offered to treat Charlie Gard, an 11-month-old infant in Britain who was born with a rare and fatal genetic disease.

    European courts have ruled that he should be taken off life support, as there are no effective treatments for his condition. His parents were denied permission to bring him to the United States for experimental therapy.

    The court decisions captured the attention of Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump, who tweeted Monday that if the United States could help, “we would be delighted to do so.”

    Read more:

    Donald Trump offers help to terminally ill British baby

    Despite big offer from Donald Trump, little has changed for critically ill British baby

    In a statement issued Thursday by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, officials agreed to admit Charlie as an in-patient as long as he could be transferred safely and there were no legal or regulatory barriers to treating him with an experimental medication.

    Alternately, officials said they would be willing to ship an experimental drug to the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where the baby is being treated, if the Food and Drug Administration approves.

    U.S. physicians would “advise their medical staff on administering it if they are willing to do so,” the statement said.

    Charlie was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of a disease called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, believed to affect just over a dozen children worldwide. The syndrome prevents cells from producing the energy needed to sustain organs.

    The baby was taken to the London hospital Oct. 11, when his parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, both in their 30s, noticed he was not growing and could not lift his head. He has been there since, breathing with the help of a ventilator and fed through a tube.

    He is deaf and suffers from persistent seizures, and appears to have suffered brain damage.

    Researchers at Columbia University have provided an experimental treatment to a child in Baltimore, Art Estopian Jr., suffering from a similar but less severe form of the syndrome.

    The child’s father, Art Estopinan, said that he had been contacted by Yates and Chris Gard and in turn had asked the researchers at Columbia University if they could help Charlie as well.

    Art Jr. was 18 months old in 2012 when doctors diagnosed a form of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome and said he had less than two months to live.

    “Everyone told me the same thing: There is no medication, there is no cure,” Estopinan said.

    The treatment, called nucleoside therapy, is not approved by the FDA but can be requested under exceptions for compassionate use.

    Estopinan said that, with treatment, his son had slowly but steadily become stronger. Now 6, Art Jr. can’t walk, but he can move his hands and feet.

    He breathes with the help of a ventilator, is fed through a tube and needs round-the-clock care.

    Estopinan said he was speaking out because “my wife and I believe that little Charlie Gard should be given a chance, because we believe there is hope.”

    Yates and Gard have raised about $2.2 million to pay for the experimental treatment and to travel to the United States for care.

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    HAMBURG—The United States and Russia have reached agreement on a ceasefire in southwest Syria, three U.S. officials said Friday as President Donald Trump held his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    The deal marks a new level of involvement for the U.S. in trying to resolve Syria’s civil war. Although details about the agreement and how it will be implemented weren’t immediately available, the ceasefire is set to take effect Sunday at noon Damascus time, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the ceasefire publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Jordan and Israel also are part of the agreement, one of the officials said. The two U.S. allies both share a border with the southern part of Syria and have been concerned about violence from Syria’s civil war spilling over the border.

    The deal is separate from “de-escalation zones” that were to be created under a deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran earlier this year. The U.S. was not a part of that deal. Followup talks this week in Kazakhstan to finalize a ceasefire in those zones failed to reach agreement.

    The U.S. and Russia have been backing opposing sides in Syria’s war, with Moscow supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and Washington supporting rebels who have been fighting Assad. Both the U.S. and Russia oppose Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL, in Syria.

    The U.S. has been wary of letting Iran gain influence in Syria — a concern shared by Israel and Jordan, neither of which wants Iranian-aligned troops amassing near their territories. A U.S.-brokered deal could help the Trump administration retain more of a say over who fills the power vacuum left behind as Daesh is routed from additional territory in Syria.

    Though U.S. and Russian officials had been discussing a potential deal for some time, it didn’t reach fruition until the run-up to Trump’s meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit in Germany, officials said.

    Before Trump’s meeting with Putin — his first with the Russian leader — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signalled that Syria’s civil war would be high on the agenda. Tillerson said in a statement before departing for Germany for the meeting that the U.S. remained open to co-operating with Russia through “joint mechanisms” to lower violence in Syria, potentially including no-fly zones.

    “If our two countries work together to establish stability on the ground, it will lay a foundation for progress on the settlement of Syria’s political future,” Tillerson said on Wednesday.

    Moscow reacted angrily when the U.S. downed a Syrian jet last week after it dropped bombs near the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces conducting operations against Daesh. Russia warned its military would track aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition as potential targets over Syria and suspended a hotline intended to avoid mid-air incidents.

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    The duck conquered Toronto. It conquered the cynics, the snarkers and the skinflints. The duck sailed into our harbour and stole the hearts and Instagram accounts of a city.

    Well, almost the whole city. In the run-up to the giant inflatable “rubber” duck’s appearance on Toronto’s waterfront throughout Canada Day weekend, many pundits were already deflating the event. Or at least trying to.

    Some complained the duck was an import from the States, or it had nothing thematically to do with Ontario 150 or even Canada 150. The cost was an issue too. Others just snarked at the very idea of an inflatable duck. Perhaps it’s just a Twitter thing, where snark is part of the everyday vocabulary, but that noise was so at odds with the public reception of the duck: Toronto fell quickly in love with it.

    The duck was part of the Redpath Waterfront Festival, an annual event that gets people down to the water’s edge. Organizers say they surpassed half a million people on the first day alone, beating their weekend record in one day. And they estimate upwards of 750,000 people visited altogether. That’s about the entire population of Winnipeg.

    They also say the event will likely exceed the $4.2 million in spinoff economic benefits previous festivals had on the waterfront neighbourhood. It puts the $121,325 Ontario tourism grant the organization got into perspective: this is what it’s for, to generate greater amounts of cash flow into local businesses.

    That $121K figure was widely quoted as the cost of the duck alone, but much of it went to line items such as marketing, fencing and security, costs all festivals have, with just $21,000 (U.S.) going to the duck rental.

    The result was a packed waterfront. After years, no, decades, of Toronto worry and complaints about an “empty” post-industrial waterfront, there were now complaints about how crowded it was. It was like Toronto was embodying the aphorism “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded,” attributed to baseballer Yogi Berra. That sentiment seems very Toronto, though, a city still getting used to being a big city.

    The duck was a bit of whimsy, a public happiness machine that brought people together, if temporarily, as if one of our sports teams won something big and created a spontaneous coming together. It was also a reason to go down to the waterfront, a reminder that it exists, it’s nice and it’s open for our enjoyment. Toronto is also getting used to having a nice waterfront and has relied on a litany of lazy excuses to deny that for too long.

    To this day there are not a few people in this city who think it’s a wasteland despite thousands of new residents and a revamped public realm that includes new parks such as Sugar Beach and HTO, wooden “wave decks” and a redesigned Queens Quay that reopened in 2015.

    That it was a bit forlorn for decades, with exceptions such as Harbourfront Centre that date back to the 1970s, and that revitalization efforts were slow to start, may explain why so many minds have been slow to change about the waterfront.

    Yogi Berra might have had something to say about the Gardiner, thought by some to be a “barrier” to the waterfront, though it takes less than half a minute to walk under and is now surrounded by buildings. It no longer dominates the waterfront: people and the buildings they work and live in do.

    Another perpetual Torontoism is that “ugly” condos somehow block the waterfront. Perhaps a few of the early ones are ugly and ill-thought out, but the claim that they block the waterfront evaporates when you go there and find it’s indeed possible to walk along most of the water’s edge in pleasant or even beautiful surroundings. The evidence of a blocked waterfront just isn’t there, unless one doesn’t like the very presence of residential buildings, a sentiment that, like so much anti-apartment feeling in this city, seems suspiciously misanthropic.

    There are kilometres of people-free parkland along the water to the east and west of downtown, if that’s your bag, but all those people who live along Queens Quay have made this part of the waterfront an urban destination with life there nearly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. As the East Bayfront is developed, and George Brown’s waterfront campus and Corus Quay building get new neighbours, all of this will continue.

    It will be interesting to watch how the wonderful new Trillium Park that has revitalized the eastern edge of Ontario Place is embraced in the long run. A bike ride at dusk there earlier this week saw many dozens of people out for a stroll or jog, and some just sitting by the lake watching planes take off from the island airport a few hundred metres away. The gates to the yet-to-be revitalized parts of Ontario Place were open, and we cycled by the 1970s modernist buildings and the marina filled with boats.

    It felt, for a moment, like a Toronto version of Amsterdam. But Amsterdam has people next to most of its celebrated canals who breathe life into them in summer but also their gloomy winter. Since public outcry during the Ontario Place planning stages a few years ago was resoundingly anti-residential, this part of the waterfront will rely on visitors to populate it. I hope the public still come to see this great place, even in winter, as they would if there were full-time residents there.

    That duck, though, it drew crowds of people who’d not yet seen what’s been going on down at the waterfront. The truism “if you build it they will come” is in fact not completely true in Toronto. People need a reason to get out of their neighbourhoods, and the duck was a good one it seems. Programming public spaces with art and culture makes sure our public investment in these shared spaces is capitalized on.

    Perhaps the duck wasn’t high art, but it proves people crave some kind of spectacle and will come out when it’s provided. Let’s program more performance and experiential pieces of public art here and elsewhere, ephemeral versions of the sculptures and statues found around town.

    Long live the duck. It’s gone on to visit other Ontario cities, but it sure inflated some love along Toronto’s water’s edge.

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

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    WASHINGTON—Seeking influence with U.S. leaders who are not President Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau will be the first Canadian prime minister to deliver a speech to a major conference of American state governors.

    Trudeau will give the keynote address at the National Governors Association meeting in Providence, Rhode Island next Friday, just over a month before the expected launch of North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation talks.

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

    Trudeau’s address will focus on trade, his government said in a news release, and he “will also emphasize the importance of the Canada-U.S. partnership in cross-border security and the potential for common solutions on climate change.”

    The address is part of Trudeau’s effort to build relationships with U.S. leaders outside of Trump’s administration. On the whole, state governors are far more pro-NAFTA than Trump, who calls the deal a “catastrophe.”

    Former diplomat Colin Robertson called the speech a “smart tactic” that can only help Canada in NAFTA talks. Canada is the top export market for most of the states Trump won, he noted, and governors are “very conscious about trade and jobs generated by trade.”

    “We are seeing governors talking about the importance of Canada-U.S. trade to their states,” Robertson said.

    While Canadian federal governments have long pursued ties with U.S. state governments, Trudeau, confronted with a president skeptical of multilateral pacts and the international order more generally, has made sub-presidential connections a greater priority than his predecessors.

    Canadian premiers and federal legislators regularly attend National Governors Association meetings, but no Canadian prime minister has spoken there since its founding in 1908, according to U.S. State Department records.

    “Not in modern times have we had a sitting Canadian Prime Minister deliver a keynote address at either our Winter or Summer Meeting,” said association spokesperson Elena Waskey.

    Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence have also been invited, Waskey said. They have not publicly said if they will attend.

    Trudeau signalled his intention to work with states on climate change in his June statement responding to Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. He said then that “Canada will continue to work with the U.S. at the state level, and with other U.S. stakeholders, to address climate change and promote clean growth.”

    The last foreign leader to address the governors meeting was Colombian President Andres Pastrana in 2001, according to State Department records.

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    An attempt by the widow of a U.S. soldier and another soldier wounded in battle to freeze the government’s compensation to Omar Khadr began in an Ontario Superior Court Friday morning, despite the fact that the $10.5 million settlement has already been paid.

    Toronto lawyer David Winer, who represents U.S. Delta Force soldier Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer’s family and retired Sgt. Layne Morris, who was wounded in the July 2002 firefight where Khadr was shot and captured, appeared briefly to ask for an “urgent hearing” into the matter.

    A date was set for Thursday.

    Justice Thomas McEwen asked Winer if the “thrust of the suit” in the original application he filed was lost if the money had already been paid to Khadr and his lawyers. Winer said he would file updated material in the case by Monday.

    The government paid Khadr and his lawyers this week.

    The application is asking the court to enforce a $134-million wrongful death claim that was awarded by default to Speer and Morris two years ago in Utah. In the interim, they want his funds frozen.

    But if the money is no longer in an account in Khadr’s name, any attempts to freeze the funds may be meaningless. Khadr’s lawyers would not comment on the details of the settlement that was finalized behind closed doors with lawyers from the Department of Justice on June 22.

    It took the government two weeks after the deal was reached in June to provide Khadr and his lawyers with the money — after news had leaked about the settlement, sparking controversy and debate across the country in the case that has divided Canadians for nearly 15 years.

    Edmonton-based lawyer Nathan Whitling, who was not in court Friday but will represent Khadr in the matter, said he believes the Utah ruling is not valid in Canada since Khadr’s guilt in based on a Guantanamo conviction.

    “The Supreme Court of Canada has already found that Guantanamo is contrary to our values and principles,” he said in a telephone interview Friday morning.

    Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould will hold a press conference at 11:45 Friday, where it is expected they will apologize to Khadr on behalf of the government and confirm the settlement.

    Read more:

    Omar Khadr receives $10.5-million settlement, formal apology from Ottawa

    Omar Khadr and an exercise in changing minds: Delacourt

    Omar Khadr settlement a recognition that Canada went overboard in war on terror: Walkom

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    Toronto tenants are facing a tighter squeeze at the first of the month and a tougher hunt for apartments in the wake of Ontario's new Fair Housing plan, which expands rent controls.

    The average rent on apartments listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in the second quarter of the year, rose 11 per cent year-over-year, past the $2,000-a-month mark, according to a report from condo research company Urbanation.

    President Shaun Hildebrand links the increase to the government's new housing policies announced April 20. Those include extending rent controls to buildings occupied after 1991 and a foreign buyers’ tax that is believed to be a key psychological factor in the subsequent cooling of the housing market.

    The number of re-sale home transactions dropped 37 per cent in June. The Toronto Real Estate Board has said many first-time buyers are delaying a purchase, looking at more listings and waiting to see what happens with prices that are still rising year-over-year but declined month-to-month in May and June.

    "The decline in housing sales has been pretty swift. As fewer people enter the ownership market — all other factors remaining equal, population growth continues, the job market is very strong — you're going to see that demand filter in somewhere. If they're not buying, they're renting," said Hildebrand.

    The number of units that rented on MLS rose 12 per cent year over year in the same period. The 8,328 units that were leased in that quarter surpassed the previous high in the second quarter of 2015 of 8,202.

    The number of active listings fell 13 per cent from a year ago to 1,125 apartments. That's equal to only two weeks’ supply, according to Urbanation, which has been tracking rents since 2011 but doesn't measure rentals let through online listings sites such as Kijiji or other means.

    "For the first time since we've been tracking that market the rents are starting to jump. Usually they grew at sort of a modest pace and that 11 per cent growth we saw was really out of the ordinary," said Hildebrand.

    Landlords are also pushing rents higher in an effort to offset what they perceive as lost future rent growth, he said.

    "One of the unintended consequences of the rent control extension is the fact that the rents in new buildings that are coming up for occupancy, which aren't rent controlled because they are on the open market, are going to come up at increasingly higher rates," he said.

    Because the vacancy rate is so low — under 1 per cent — tenants are going to face fierce competition to rent those places, said Hildebrand.

    "The overall cost of renting, if you're (looking) to move or coming into the rental market for the first time, is only going to continue to increase much higher than the rent controlled guidelines," he said.

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    More than 27,000 people in Toronto were arrested for possessing marijuana from 2003 to 2013, a Star analysis reveals. Nearly one-quarter of them were aged 12 to 18.

    The data obtained by the Star also indicates that possession arrests and charges rose wherethe “carding” of residents by police was widespread. And just as this police practice of stopping, questioning and documenting impacted Black people disproportionately, so did marijuana charges.

    About one in five people arrested were released unconditionally with no charges going to court, but their names and noted offences remain in a police database.

    All of the offences — 40,634 for possession and possession for the purpose of trafficking, over the decade covered by the data — are documented in the Toronto Police Service arrest and charge database, regardless of whether a charge was tested in court.

    Read more:

    Toronto marijuana arrests reveal ‘startling’ racial divide

    Canada's crime rate is falling — but drug charges are rising

    Of those charges, 34 per cent of them were against Black people. During that period, Toronto’s Black population was around 8 per cent.

    Police note that in about half of the cases, an arrested individual was facing another criminal charge or charges, not related to marijuana possession. Outcomes of court cases are not part of the data released to the Star in a freedom-of-information request.

    This rare, race-based glimpse at those most impacted by marijuana arrests and charges confirms anecdotal evidence of systemic bias, and highlights a challenge faced by the federal Liberal government. As it moves to legalize marijuana by July 2018, what should it do for citizens with possession records? Pardons are an expensive and bureaucratic process, so some have suggested a widespread amnesty.

    There are calls for the government to tackle the almost century-long legacy of marijuana laws, and their disproportionate impact on poor and non-white communities, particularly Black and Indigenous peoples.

    A poll in May by Nanos Research and the Globe and Mail indicated 62 per cent of Canadians support or somewhat support a pardon — now known as a record suspension — for people with a criminal record for marijuana possession. Of the respondents, 35 per cent were opposed or somewhat opposed to a pardon.

    The C.D. Howe Institute in a 2016 report also called on the federal government to pardon people whose only Criminal Code charge or conviction is for marijuana possession.

    “Such individuals would benefit in terms of not experiencing possible travel restrictions and being able to access more labor market opportunities, resulting in economic benefits to governments as well,” said the report, written by Anindya Sen, an economics professor at the University of Waterloo.

    A criminal record for marijuana further marginalizes already “targeted and over-policed” black people by making them ineligible for many good-paying jobs, says Kofi Hope, executive director of the CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals.

    Faced with high unemployment, some Black youths turned to selling marijuana to make ends meet, says Hope, whose centre provides skills training and career development programs for young Black people.

    “It doesn’t require a resumé, it doesn’t require a job interview, sometimes it doesn’t even require start-up capital — someone will just give you something on consignment,” he says. Besides, Black people are constantly confronted with the expectation of being dealers: “You walk down Yonge St. and people come up to you all the time, ‘Hey man, you got weed?’”

    Selling, at least in some forms, will soon become legal. But when it comes to the legalized marijuana industry, marijuana convictions will likely exclude people from jobs. Meanwhile, everyone from the Tragically Hip to Shoppers Drug Mart is poised to cash in on the new economy.

    Hope says this further injustice isn’t lost on the Black community. “You often hear people say, ‘People in the community have had their lives ruined by consuming this substance or being involved in distributing it. And now, folks from outside of the community are going to be making hundreds of millions of dollars off of this. This is messed up.’”

    He wants the federal government to give people with marijuana records a chance to work in the new economy through programs similar to Smart Serve Ontario, which trains and certifies people for work in businesses that serve alcohol.

    In Toronto, a first arrest for simple possession often results in an unconditional release or “diversion” — a donation to charity, for example. The accused walks away without a criminal record, but the arrest remains in police databases and can haunt, particularly during carding stops.

    (Aggregate data from 2014 to 2016 sent to the Star by Toronto police shows a sharp decline in the use of unconditional releases for marijuana possession charges. Police were not immediately able to explain the reasons for the decrease.)

    Those with influence and the money to afford good lawyers are especially assured of diversion, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made clear earlier this year. He told the story of how his father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, had the resources to make sure marijuana charges against Justin’s late brother Michel did not lead to a criminal record “for life.”

    “He reached out to his friends in the legal community, got the best possible lawyer and was very confident that he was going to be able to make those charges go away,” said Trudeau, who has also admitted to smoking pot.

    “People from minority communities, marginalized communities, without economic resources, are not going to have that kind of option to go through and clear their name in the justice system,” he said, adding that a “fundamental unfairness of this current system is that it affects different communities in a different way.”

    What will Trudeau do for those without his family’s privilege and wealth?

    The government has hinted that some sort of plan to address criminal records would be rolled out once marijuana is legal. Caitlyn Kasper, a lawyer with Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto, says there hasn’t been serious thought about what that should look like.

    “It just seems like that discussion hasn’t been happening at all and it really feels like they’re riding this wave of legalization, and how great it’s going to be with the Cannabis Act, and how this is putting us forward into the future — and they’re not taking a look at what it’s done in the past at all,” says Kasper. “And that is seriously concerning.”

    Defence lawyers and academics call marijuana possession a “gateway charge,” because it often leads to more serious charges and convictions when bail conditions are broken, particularly for whose who can’t afford lawyers. Automatic jail time often results.

    A growing number of voices are calling for amnesty, a way of wiping possession records clean and giving people a fresh start, particularly in the job market.

    “Amnesty is an economic and social imperative,” says Hope. “But first and foremost it’s a moral imperative.

    “There should be an amnesty because the application of the (marijuana) law was unjust and biased,” he says, adding it was “arbitrarily enforced along race lines.”

    Untangling criminal records for pot offences from other offences is going to be difficult and expensive.

    Without an amnesty, the only route to clearing a record would be applying for a pardon, or record suspension— an expensive and onerous option that costs hundreds of dollars and require legal help. The application processing fee alone costs $631. The poor and racially marginalized would again lose out.

    “It’s the same story all the time in the justice system,” says Kasper. “Those who can pay for and afford justice will get it.

    “If they were serious about this, why are they not engaging with more groups who are directly legally representing the people who have been most affected by these laws?”

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    Veteran city councillor and social justice advocate Pam McConnell has died. She was 71.

    McConnell, who represented Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale, was first elected to city council in 1994, after serving for 12 years as a school trustee. She was also one of the city’s deputy mayors.

    She died July 7 after suffering from a continuing problem with her lungs.

    “Throughout her 35 years of public service she moved mountains — in her Ward with Regent Park, the Distillery District and Corktown Common and across the city as deputy mayor working on poverty reduction,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher, a longtime friend and colleague.

    “She was well respected by all councillors and always took the time to be kind even in the heat of argument in city council.”

    Councillor Jaye Robinson, who sat near McConnell in the council chamber for the past six years, said “She was a very feisty individual, very passionate about her work at city hall.”

    “She was a fighter,” Robinson said. “She invested the time that needed to be invested to move her issues through council, which is not always easy when you’re dealing with 44 people.”

    It was a commitment to public service matched only by the passion she felt for her family: her husband, two children and four grandchildren.

    “She lit up, just lit up, when she spoke about her grandchildren,” said Robinson, who added that McConnell always had new photos of them to share.

    Throughout her political career, McConnell was a passionate advocate for social justice, and led the way, in her seventh and final term, for the city’s poverty-reduction strategy.

    “Poverty is everybody’s business,” McConnell told the Star in 2015 after the strategy was released.

    “The survival and prosperity of Toronto demands that we pay attention to moving as many Torontonians as possible down the road from poverty to prosperity,” she said.

    McConnell’s fight for a reduction in poverty lasted decades. In her days as a school trustee, she helped found Parents for Better Beginnings in Regent Park, an early childhood learning program that continues to serve families today.

    In more recent years, she worked tirelessly to revitalize the entire neighbourhood.

    “Pam was an exceptional advocate for her constituents and for those less well off city wide,” said former mayor David Miller, in a statement.

    “Her passion to make a meaningful positive difference in people’s lives will be sorely missed at city hall.”

    In Regent Park, McConnell championed an approach to community building that emphasized a social development plan and “revitalization without relocation,” said Tim Jones, the CEO of Artscape, a not-for-profit urban development organization.

    “The model that evolved . . . had her fingerprints all over it, and it’s one of the reasons that the revitalization has the support it has in the community.”

    She was also an ardent champion of the arts.

    “As a city builder, she really understood the role that the arts can play in bringing people together, in building community, fostering social cohesion,” he said.

    A long time member of the NDP, McConnell didn’t let political leanings affect her work. She was known for her ability to bring people together, regardless of their political affiliation or their particular views on an issue.

    It’s an approach she took to her work as a member of the Toronto Police Services Board, where she served from late 2003 to 2010. There, McConnell fought to address racial profiling and bring community policing back to Toronto’s neighbourhoods.

    Early in her tenure, McConnell served as vice-chair of the board under the chairmanship of Toronto lawyer Alan Heisey. Politically it was a tumultuous time as both the municipal and provincial governments had recently changed.

    “We sort of went through a crucible of fire together,” said Heisey, who was also a constituent of the long-time councillor.

    Despite finding themselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum — he was a Conservative — Heisey said he was a “big fan” of McConnell.

    “Pam’s great gift was that although you knew she was a lefty, she never let it get in the way of consensus,” he said.

    “Some people make politics a career, and, for her I think it was a vocation.”

    She “really did care about people,” Heisey said.

    As McConnell resigned from her own stint as chair of the board in 2005, Star columnist Royson James, wrote that she was “tough, resolute, pointed and opinionated, intractable on matters of principle and single-minded in pursuing an agenda.”

    “McConnell is never an easy one to like. She talks too much, seems too stubborn and sets political masters like Miller on pins and needles when she gets cranked up,” he continued.

    “But she did the impossible; she helped turn around the board’s image in a year and has set it on a course towards respectability.”

    Over the years, McConnell’s service has extended beyond the borders of Toronto. She represented the city at the Board of Directors of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities from 1999 onward, founding its standing committee on increasing women’s participation in municipal government during that time.

    Twice, she was awarded for her service to the community — once from the Duke of Edinburgh for her work with inner city youth in 1997, and, in 2013, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal, for her decades of public service.

    The news of McConnell’s death follows a difficult term for Toronto’s city council, which has already faced the loss of two councillors: Former mayor Rob Ford died after treatment for a rare form of cancer in March 2016, and long-time Ward 44 councillor Ron Moeser died in April after being diagnosed with lymphoma the year before.

    With files from Laurie Monsebraaten and the Toronto Star

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    The endless rip-off in car insurance rates is a never-ending tale of Ontario the good versus Ontario the bad.

    We are among the best drivers on the continent, with the lowest accident rates and injury statistics. That’s the good news for nearly 10 million passengers and drivers on our roads.

    And yet we have the worst premiums in the country — $1,458, on average, in 2015. That’s double the cost in Quebec, and 55 per cent higher than the national average.

    How is such highway robbery — billions of dollars in excess premiums — still possible, year after year?

    Our politicians love to blame crooked tow truck firms for driving up costs every time they drive our vehicles to corrupt garages, which pay kickbacks for every battered car body and greedy health clinics that maximize billings from bodily injuries.

    Yes, the system is plagued by criminality and venality. But that’s only part of the story.

    What’s bleeding the system of billions of dollars isn’t just the criminal element but the legal element. The problem isn’t a lack of legality but an excess of litigation.

    That means too many lawyers siphoning money from the system, lining their own pockets from a shrinking pool of accident victims. But don’t blame lawyers for being lawyers — it’s the enablers who bear the blame.

    And all of us who pay the price.

    Remember that auto insurance is not a discretionary expenditure — it is mandated by law and then outsourced by our elected government to the private sector. The result is legalized anarchy — profit-focused insurers who lawyer up against accident-chasing law firms that bank on big contingency fees from desperate clients.

    An adversarial system that subverts natural justice.

    An investigation earlier this year by my Toronto Star colleagues Michele Henry and Kenyon Wallace found unscrupulous tactics by lawyers whose clients seek their help navigating a legal maze of insurance payouts.

    No less damning is a report produced for Queen’s Park this spring by an outside expert, David Marshall, who documented the abuses that have resisted all previous efforts at reform. Released quietly amid the fanfare of the spring budget, it delivered a depressing verdict on a system at cross-purposes with itself.

    No surprise that the governing Liberals tried to bury the report.

    Four budgets ago, under pressure from the NDP during the 2011-14 minority government, they targeted a 15-per-cent reduction in average rates. The Liberals only managed an 8 per cent drop before losing traction.

    Marshall doesn’t mince words about the corrosive effect of cash on all players in the system: “About one third of benefit costs, some $1.4 billion . . . is being paid for competing expert opinions, lawyers’ fees and insurer costs to defend claims — instead of going to treatment of injured parties,” he writes. “Lawyers need to be held accountable for much more transparency in how they advertise and how they charge their fees.”

    Ontario’s army of accident lawyers protest that they are just helping people, poor people, who couldn’t otherwise afford to pay to play when going up against insurers who hold the strongest cards. But high stakes litigation is a self-perpetuating problem, not the solution.

    Accident victims are fodder in a system where cash is king. Lawyers and insurance companies fight to the death over money, rather than focusing on quality of life.

    Litigation versus rehabilitation.

    The report calls for more definitive health reports from independent assessors, rather than duelling experts, a simpler framework that reduces the need for high-priced legal help and an emphasis on medical “care not cash” — improving outcomes instead of pushing up payments.

    Echoing much of the Star’s investigative work, however, Marshall keeps returning to the problem of how accident victims are victimized by for-profit insurers and re-victimized by lawyers taking their outsized cut. In one case, the Star documented a victim who received only 25 per cent of her insurance settlement.

    Marshall calls for restrictions on how lawyers advertise, what they pay each other for referring clients and those outsized fees. He wants any settlement cheques made jointly payable to both client and lawyer — forcing a clear accounting by law firms before they get their hands on the cash. And he urges claimants be informed in writing, when the cheque arrives, that they can appeal their legal fees — a wise suggestion that too few people know about.

    Lawyers needn’t be demonized for doing what they do if the law is dumb enough to allow it, but they’d better disclose it. Politicians from all parties, however, have run out of excuses for our substandard insurance regime — and should be held to account in next year’s election campaign.

    “No one government bears the responsibility for the current state of automobile insurance in Ontario,” Marshall concludes. He’s right — they all do.

    All major parties have perpetuated a system that pits insurers against their policyholders, with lawyers profiting from the confusion and conflict. Liberals and Tories profited from regular campaign donations by the insurance industry — now banned.

    And we are all paying the price — victims, drivers and passengers.

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

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    Toronto’s deputy mayor wants the TTC to seek out other potential suppliers for the agency’s next streetcar purchase, following repeated production delays to the current order from Bombardier.

    In a motion going before the TTC board on Wednesday, Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who is also a TTC commissioner, requests that the agency “conduct a market sounding and prequalification process” to determine whether there are other companies interested in bidding on future contracts for light rail vehicles.

    The current $1-billion order from Bombardier is for 204 streetcars, with an option to purchase an additional 60 vehicles.

    The option is estimated to cost $361 million, and is currently not funded in the TTC’s budget. Under the terms of the Bombardier deal the option is supposed to be exercised by the time the 60th car of the order is delivered, which will happen in November if the Quebec-based company sticks to its latest revised production schedule.

    “We may or may not exercise that option. But our current provider, Bombardier, has a less than outstanding record of delivery,” said Minnan-Wong in an interview.

    He said seeking out other potential suppliers now “gives us the opportunity to make an informed, educated choice.” He warned that if the TTC doesn’t test the market early, “we could be in a situation where the commission might say, we don’t have time to go out to the marketplace to see if there are other companies out there.”

    TTC CEO Andy Byford said he supports Minnan-Wong’s motion. “I think it makes sense to keep our options open,” he said.

    Byford said that despite cooling ridership growth, the agency still expects it will need the extra cars to cope with future transit demand. The additional 60 vehicles would increase the capacity of the TTC’s streetcar network by 70 per cent compared to the old vehicle fleet.

    The CEO said that the TTC won’t be rushed into any decisions, however, and it’s the agency’s position that it shouldn’t necessarily be bound to exercising the option by the 60th car. He said the option date should be negotiable.

    “I don’t think it’s in Bombardier’s interest to be rigid on one element of the deal when they have clearly failed on another element of it,” he said.

    Under the terms of the original contract with Bombardier, the company was supposed to have delivered roughly 130 of the new cars by now. Instead the TTC has just 39.

    The cars the agency does have are also not yet meeting reliability targets, but the TTC is confident that their performance will improve by the time the order is complete.

    Bombardier maintains that it has overcome its production problems, and will meet the original target of delivering all 204 cars by 2019.

    “A year ago Bombardier implemented an important turnaround plan of its operations and has since met every quarterly delivery commitment ‎to the TTC,” said spokesperson Marc-Andre Lefebvre in an email.

    He said that “Bombardier has an established manufacturing and supplier base geared toward meeting the needs of the TTC” and would “be able to meet any future order from our customer,” including the 60-car option.

    According to Byford, there would be some drawbacks to running a mixed fleet made up of vehicles from two different companies, but they would be relatively minor. Operators and mechanics would have to familiarize themselves with two different vehicle types, for instance, and the vehicles would require two sets of spare parts.

    Once the favoured supplier of light rail vehicles for the Toronto area, Bombardier signed major contracts with the TTC and Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, at the turn of the decade.

    But recently the company has seen its competitors gain ground as its production woes mounted.

    In May, Metrolinx announced it had signed a $528-million deal with French-based Alstom for 61 light rail vehicles. The province described the order as a backup to a troubled, $770-million order from Bombardier for 182 cars, which has also been delayed.

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    A Halifax ferry, at one time posted for sale on Kijiji, has found a new home on Toronto’s docks.

    The Dartmouth III ferry will head to Toronto with its freshly tuned engine and a shiny coat of paint later this month if all goes according to plan, said new owner Bill Beasley.

    Beasley is president of the company that runs Centreville Amusement Park. He bought the boat for $100,000 from the Halifax Regional Municipality on, an auction website for government agencies, and had to spend almost $500,000 to refurbish it.

    “The price point that it came down to was pretty comparable for purchasing new for something that wasn’t nearly as substantial, or as good-looking a boat as that one,” Beasley said.

    The Halifax Regional Municipality is awaiting the delivery of two new ferries for the city. And that means that two others, similar to the Dartmouth III, could become available for Toronto, Beasley said.

    In 2013, he proposed a tender service by his company, the Toronto Island Transit Service, in addition to the city’s ferries to help with transporting the rising number of visitors each year.

    “There’s always been more demand than there has capacity to get people over to the island (as) the city grows and Harbourfront becomes more and more visited,” he said.

    The new boat can carry 390 passengers per trip, and has a larger, 20-ft. loading deck on the side compared to the city ferries which are about 6 ft. to 8 ft. wide.

    Unlike Toronto’s ferries, the new boat does not have a propeller, Beasley said. It runs on a drive system that enables it to switch directions smoothly.

    The 1978 Dartmouth III is much newer than other ferries, said Kendall McCulloch, a maintenance worker at the Toronto Island Transit Service. The engine and generators were removed and taken apart for the retrofitting, and, with all the repair work he is overseeing to re-fit the boat, it won’t look its age.

    “When it pulls into Toronto, it will look like a new ferry,” he said.

    But whether or not the boat will get a chance to rev. its new engine with Torontonians on board this summer remains to be seen.

    Access to the islands has been restricted until further notice this season due to flooding, which has placed and business owners into limbo.

    “I’m sure they were anticipating the island being in full swing as it has been for many, many years. This is just another, unusual kind of occurrence with the weather,” McCulloch said.

    Weather could affect the boat’s slow, steady progress to Toronto, as heavy currents in the St. Lawrence River may provide a potential rough spot, McCulloch said.

    Beasely hasn’t confirmed whether he will opt for the more costly option of having the boat towed by a tugboat or brought over via barge.

    It could simply sail over from Halifax. Reaching a top speed of 13 km/h, the boat could take from two weeks to a month to make the journey with at least five crew members on board.

    They would first travel 10 miles out to sea, then head up the coast of Nova Scotia, through the Strait of Canso and the Northumberland Strait before entering the St. Lawrence River and working their way through the lock system into Lake Ontario.

    The vessel will have to undergo sea trials before it makes the trip, and Beasley hopes to have it parked in Toronto’s docks before the end of the season.

    “We’re going to use this one to promote families coming to Centreville in a happy and comfortable way,” he said.

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    A six-year-old boy has died after being struck by a vehicle in Richmond Hill on Friday afternoon while riding his bike.

    York Region police said the boy died on scene after colliding with a moving truck around 12:10 p.m. at Taylor Mills Dr. and Newkirk Rd.

    The intersection is closed for investigation. The driver of the vehicle remained on scene and York Region paramedics said he was taken to hospital with minor injuries at 12:50 p.m.

    This is the second time this week a child has died in a car accident in York Region.

    On Wednesday, a four-year-old girl died and two other children were taken to hospital in critical condition after a two-vehicle collision in East Gwillimbury.

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    Jeremiah Perry came to Canada in search of a bright future. The 15-year-old’s parents wanted their beloved son to have a high-powered career, one that would offer money and stability. He, however, dreamed of being a comedian.

    Now the Grade 9 student’s family will never know what he could have become. Jeremiah drowned Tuesday night while on a school canoe trip in Algonquin Provincial Park, leaving behind a devastated family and questions about whether the Toronto District School Board followed proper safety procedures.

    “The truth will come out,” said Jeremiah’s father, Joshua Anderson, in an interview with the Star, saying he hoped his son’s death could spark change.

    “I don’t want any other parent to bring their child home in a body bag.”

    Read more:

    Body of missing Toronto teen found in Algonquin Park

    As community mourns teen’s drowning death, questions swirl

    Anderson saw Jeremiah for the last time Sunday morning, when the teen came to say goodbye before leaving for the trip. It was early, and Anderson said he went right back to sleep without wrapping up his son in a huge hug — something Anderson said he deeply regrets now.

    “Why me? Why my son?” said Anderson. “It doesn’t make sense.”

    Anderson said he still can’t help but laugh whenever he mentions Jeremiah, who’d offer to pay people to listen to his side-splitting jokes. Sometimes they’d get annoyed and ask him to stop, but a few minutes later, he’d always be back at it, leaving those around him in stitches.

    Jeremiah was an athlete, spending much of his spare time riding his mountain bike, Anderson said.

    “He was the life of this house,” Anderson said.

    “He just loved life. He liked being around people. He liked making people laugh.”

    Now, Anderson said he can’t so much as hear the word “Algonquin” without a rush of painful memories.

    Jeremiah’s body was found in a lake deep in the backcountry of the park Wednesday, after the Grade 9 student went underwater the night before and didn’t resurface. His older brother, Marion, was also on the trip.

    Jeremiah’s father has told the media his son did not know how to swim.

    In a statement issued Friday, Toronto District School Board said it was still in the early stages of its investigation into Jeremiah’s drowning and wouldn’t comment in detail.

    However, director John Malloy said students were required to pass swim and canoe skills tests to participate. Students who were unable to pass the tests weren’t allowed to go, he said.

    In general, it’s TDSB practice to follow safety guidelines as set by the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, he added. Those requirements include a minute of treading water and being able to swim 50 metres.

    Malloy said the Office of the Chief Coroner and Ontario Provincial Police are investigating and have formally requested information surrounding the trip, including swimming test information for Jeremiah.

    “Jeremiah’s parents, the school board, and the greater TDSB community deserve to know what happened and we will be co-operating fully with any investigation into this matter as we believe this information is in the public interest,” Malloy said in the statement.

    Speaking to the Star Friday, Monday Gala, principal of C.W. Jeffreys Collegiate, the school Jeremiah attended, said answers will come.

    “The public has the right to know some of these things, but there is a time and place for that,” said Gala, citing a wish not to interfere with the police investigation.

    The last group of students arrived back from Algonquin on a bus Thursday evening. Gala said he was moved by students who came back to the school to greet their peers.

    One boy took off his sweatshirt to wipe the face of a crying student, he said.

    “It was something to see . . . that in the face of this tragedy, that these kids can still find the strength to support one another like that,” he said.

    Students continued to seek support from counselors and peers at the school throughout Friday, officials said. Gala said counselors will be at the school for as long as needed, but that they’re also working on a long-term support plan for students.

    Safety requirements on school-run trips vary from school board to school board.

    In Dufferin-Peel Catholic, students taken on outdoor leadership excursions adhere to the Ontario Physical Education Safety Guidelines, listed on the site as the “minimum standard” for risk management in Ontario schools.

    Dufferin-Peel spokesman Bruce Campbell wrote via email that he’s “not aware of any water-related issues” on past trips. “Definitely no fatalities.”

    Any excursion had to be approved by the board’s risk management and insurance department.

    Under the Ontario guidelines for secondary students, swimming areas must be clearly defined, free from hazards and of “suitable water temperature.” At campsites, a lifeguard must set boundaries for swimming and check the area for underwater hazards, among other provisions.

    While Toronto Catholic and Hamilton District boards technically use the same guidelines, they’re shying away from many water activities.

    The Toronto Catholic board avoids water altogether with elementary students, spokesman John Yan said, and it doesn’t offer any outdoor education trips as part of the secondary school curriculum.

    Hamilton has a list of activities, which cannot be approved. These include canoeing in anything but “calm water,” and diving, kayaking, snorkeling, or swimming in hotel or residential pools.

    Karen Johnston, who identified herself as Jeremiah’s aunt, set up a GoFundMe page Friday to create a memorial fund. The money will be used to help the family in a time of need, it says.

    Most of Jeremiah’s family lives in Guyana and plans to unite in Toronto. Any additional funds will be used to honour Jeremiah’s memory, read the page.

    Jeremiah’s family members, meanwhile, will do their best to go on without him.

    “He was the life of this house,” said Anderson.

    “We’ll never be the same without Jerry.”

    With files from Victoria Gibson

    0 0

    A wall of pictures and cryptic messages that the mayor of Whitchurch-Stouffville posted on the wall of his office washroom has been revealed, but dozens of those whose faces are on display — local residents, former employees and politicians — say they are disturbed, “creeped out” and, in some cases, concerned for their safety.

    It also has left them wondering what it all means.

    “It’s absolutely creepy,” said Samantha Farrow, a longtime resident. “I was horrified when I saw my picture. I couldn’t believe my picture was on the bathroom wall in the mayor’s office,” said Farrow, who said she runs her family business in town and has no personal dealings with the mayor.

    “The fact that he put so much effort into finding my picture on Facebook, printing it out and putting it on the wall is really unsettling.”

    The collection of photos, which covers three walls of Mayor Justin Altmann’s washroom, sparked a probe by an integrity commissioner after a town employee came across the wall in March. The probe is still underway.

    The pictures on the washroom wall are believed to have been posted there as early as January. At that time, Metroland Media-York Region reporter Ali Raza saw the walls and shot pictures of the display. The posted photos include current and former councillors, town employees, business people and even a Toronto Star reporter, who has sometimes covered Whitchurch-Stouffville.

    Many of the photos are connected by hand-drawn arrows and interspersed with signs reading “hired” or “you’re fired.” Some people, such as former CAO Marc Pourvahidi, who was dismissed last fall with a sizable payout, appear multiple times.

    Altmann did not respond to numerous requests for comment, from multiple Star reporters over many days. He has, however, told the Star’s sister publication, Metroland Media-York Region, that the wall is a “mind map” or “timeline.”

    In an interview with Metroland Media-York Region reporter Simon Martin, Altmann said having others discover the walls of photos is the best thing that could have happened.

    “I broke down crying,” he told Martin. “I am so happy that I get to tell my story now. I am so happy the integrity commissioner will get to investigate me because I have had no means to tell my story.”

    “There is nothing criminal on the wall.

    “The wall is normal . . . . There’s nothing vexatious. There’s nothing nasty. There’s nothing mean.”

    But those who found their faces plastered on the wall don’t agree that it is normal.

    “I’m highly disturbed by this,” said Darlene Shaw, who runs a project management company and has lived in the town of 45,000 her entire life. “This is not a mind map. This is not innocent. This is strategic and meticulous.

    “As a woman, to have your photograph in the bathroom, is so demeaning,” said Shaw, a volunteer in town and on several committees.

    “How do I deal with this man now? I’m a fairly independent woman, but now I feel like I have to be more cautious.”

    York Region Chair and CEO Wayne Emmerson, who preceded Altmann as mayor of Whitchurch-Stouffville, said he was shocked to see his photo included on the wall.

    The pair ran against each other in the 2010 mayoral election, which saw “some heated discussion” before Altmann was defeated, Emmerson said. But since the end of his term in 2014, Emmerson has moved out of Stouffville and does not involve himself in town politics except to take calls from current councillors asking about past projects, he said. The two do interact at York Regional council, where Altmann also holds a seat as mayor of his town.

    “I never did anything to disrespect Mayor Altmann. I did not campaign against him. I left that all up to the citizens,” Emmerson said.

    Alec Cloke, owner and operator of the local business, United Soils, whose dispute over a fill pit sparked an ongoing controversy in the town last year, had a fair share of the wall dedicated to him.

    “The existence of the mural is beyond creepy,” he said, adding that he has gone to the police on behalf of Shaw and Farrow, who work with him and his local charity, Tiny Seedlings. The picture of his lawyer, Toronto-based William Chalmers, appears six times.

    The York Regional Police did not respond to questions about if the wall has led to complaints or an investigation.

    Ian Hilton, a local resident whose photo is on the wall, along with a photo of his wife, former town councillor Sue Hilton, described the photo walls as “horrifying.”

    “Some people have described the (recent staff exodus) as the implementation of a hit list against staff,” said Hilton. “This photograph business is, in my mind, simply an extension of that — the enemies list.”

    In his interview with Martin, Altmann said the photo walls were meant to help him determine why so many town officials have been resigning and who may have released in-camera council documents.

    The mayor said his “mind map” showed back-stabbing and other bad behaviour within the town hall. “I have been lied to. I have been manipulated. I have had harassment against me since Day 1 in this office,” he said.

    On Thursday, Altmann took out a full-page advertisement in the Stouffville Sun-Tribune newspaper, which referenced, but did not comment on, the Star’s July 3 story about his walls of photos.

    “We have seen politicians who let their egos consume them. They appear to think the role is all about themselves and forget about the importance of the residents,” Altmann wrote in the ad.

    “I am the sum of past generations, and the future investment for our town. I believe we need to walk the path to the future together,” he wrote in another part of the ad.

    Photos of all six councillors appear on Altmann’s walls. Councillor Iain Lovatt said he “immediately” asked Altmann about the photos when he heard about them.

    “He told me it was a mind map of his thoughts for varying situations he’s been dealing with since taking office. I took him at his word.”

    Despite the disturbing display of photos, several residents have voiced their continued support for Altmann on social media.

    “I believe this flow chart and ‘Mind Map’ is exactly that . . . a clear chart to help the mayor remain focused on those who, every day, are trying to stab him in the back, and those he can rely on to help him look after the interests of the town and the people of Stouffville,” wrote Mike Burns in a July 5 Facebook post.

    “Keep the faith Mr. Mayor. Most of the folks around these parts are on your side.”

    But Daniel Lublin, a partner in the law firm Whitten & Lublin, said the wall could become a legal headache for the town.

    “This could be considered a form of harassment,” said Lublin. “I think current employees could view it as the mayor is out to get them or is prejudiced against them,” he said, adding “they may have grounds for legal action.”

    Lublin said if a similar wall was found in a corporate setting, it “would be a cause for dismissal.”

    Shaw says she loves the town, but doesn’t know how she, and the town, will move forward from this.

    “I don’t think this can be fixed,” she said. “Unless he comes out and apologizes, but that hasn’t happened.”

    “I just want to know how I fit in to this mind map.”

    With files from Fatima Syed

    0 0

    The post-interview question — friendly parting banter it seemed — was innocuous enough.

    “What are you doing for the weekend?” Dr. Andrew Boozary asked his inquisitor, whom he’d first met 90 minutes earlier on a recent Friday afternoon.

    Told the reporter was moving furniture, Boozary’s reply was unexpected.

    “Would you like a hand?” he said, with a sincerity that is apparently familiar to those who know him.

    “That doesn’t surprise me in the least,” laughs Dr. Danielle Martin, one of the nation’s most prominent health-care activists and a key mentor to the young St. Michael’s Hospital resident.

    “In fact, I’ve made him move heavy furniture in my house many times,” says Martin, who has semi-adopted Boozary into her extended family.

    Boozary, who as a boy aspired to be a tennis star at a Pete Sampras level, has the slender waist and broad-backed frame of an accomplished player.

    Yet he’s shouldered far weightier matter than tournament trophies and couches during a medical career that’s still in the training phase.

    Since graduating from the University of Ottawa medical school in 2013, the 31-year-old Boozary has:

    • Launched a new review journal on public health at Harvard University, where he earned a Master’s of Science degree.

    • Enlisted a Republican and a Democratic Party senator to help him write a commentary for the top U.S. medical journal on an ultra-partisan aspect of American health-care reform.

    • Served as a special adviser on health-care performance and evaluation for Ontario’s health ministry.

    • Helped to found and lead the group Open Pharma — a collection of heavy-hitting medical players in Canada that is pushing to make financial ties between the medical profession and pharmaceutical companies in this country more transparent.

    Boozary — who is doing a residency in family medicine at St. Mike’s Sherbourne St. clinic — also took a year off his Ottawa training to earn a Master of Public Policy degree, at the top of his class, from Princeton University.

    “He’s a superstar, I really think he is,” says Martin, a vice-president at Women’s College Hospital and a founder and past chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

    Martin says Boozary “has a rare combination” of strong humanitarian values, commitment to clinical excellence and expertise in both health-care policy and scientific research.

    “That kind of quadruple threat means that he’s destined to do great work over the course of his career.”

    Not a bad prognosis for the son of an Iranian refugee, who grew up in Toronto’s gritty St. James Town neighbourhood and had no medical aspirations, or even an interest in science, until he was approaching his 20s.

    “I was lucky to have great mentors,” Boozary says, naming Martin and Dr. Jeff Turnbull, chief of staff at The Ottawa Hospital, among others.

    And for his part, Turnbull says he was just as fortunate to have Boozary as a student — and to watch his talents mature.

    His foundational work with Open Pharma, for example, reveals leadership skills rarely seen in a freshman physician, says Turnbull.

    “He is just exceptionally bright and thoughtful — and bright in a good way in terms of being able to see the important issues,” says Turnbull, who was also department chair of medicine at the University of Ottawa from 2001 to 2008.

    “And he combines that brightness with very good values, so it’s a very powerful combination.”

    The Open Pharma group is seeking federal legislation that would force pharmaceutical companies to disclose any money or gifts they give to doctors, research centres, hospitals, clinics or medical schools.

    This “sunshine list” would include such things as speaking fees, trips, meals and drinks, research funding or concert and sporting event tickets paid for out of deep industry pockets.

    Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced last month that he will begin consultations this summer on whether pharmaceutical companies should reveal such payments, the Star’s David Bruser and Jesse McLean reported.

    The announcement came after 10 major drug companies voluntarily released data showing they paid nearly $50 million to Canadian health-care professionals and organizations last year.

    Boozary said at the time that the disclosure by just 10 companies did little to inform the public about the financial relationships their doctors may have with drug firms — and the potential conflicts that come with them.

    Along with Martin, Open Pharma’s potent lineup includes Dr. Andreas Laupacis, executive director of St. Mike’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, and the University of Toronto’s Adalsteinn Brown, who serves as director of the school’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, and its Dalla Lana Chair in Public Health Policy.

    Toronto doctors David Juurlink and Nav Persaud and University of Toronto professor Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi also sit on the advisory board.

    Yet Boozary has certainly been a leader among these luminaries, Turnbull says. But true to the young physician’s modest inclinations, he says, Boozary would certainly downplay his role.

    And he does.

    “I wouldn’t say in any way I am leading them,” Boozary says, pushing his upturned palms out for emphasis.

    “There has been terrific leadership on this issue for decades across the country.”

    The issue, Boozary says, is one that obviously leaves Canada’s medical profession open to suspicions of industry chicanery – even if none exists.

    And it’s also one that’s so obviously solvable that almost every other country with advanced medical systems has done so, Boozary says.

    Even in the U.S., where the industry funds vast lobbying efforts, transparency was codified during negotiations for President Barack Obama’s now beleaguered Affordable Care Act, Boozary says.

    “If they can do it down there … with a huge pharma lobby breathing down their necks, how are we not?” he says.

    That the issue has not been properly addressed here may well be a symptom of the complacency that Canadians have come to feel about their health-care system — especially in light of a push in the U.S. Congress to cut coverage.

    “There’s a huge amount of trust and belief in our health-care system,” he says.

    “For a long time, maybe we’ve given the benefit of the doubt to industry players and maybe felt that as long as there were no scandals and issues that folks could see” that things were fine.

    Yet Boozary stresses that his group is not set on exposing any scandals at all.

    “I’m not trying to say that by doing this that we’re going to reveal this huge amount of nefarious activity and all this dirt under the rug,” he says.

    “I just think that the issue is (that) people would like to see standards about how we’re doing things … to bolster the trust in the system.”

    Still, Boozary has a veteran’s grasp of Open Pharma’s prospects, even in his youthful enthusiasm about its merits and growing support.

    “You start to realize (that) in almost all of your (health system) research or public advocacy, things don’t really change all that fast or maybe ever,” he says.

    “But you know, you just try to see what you can try to do.”

    Boozary says his move into public advocacy had many sources, including Martin’s mentorship. (As a medical student, Boozary became a board member of her pro-medicare group.)

    But none may be more important than his own childhood circumstances and the family history that arranged them.

    The Sherbourne St. clinic where he now trains is a milling medical hive and many of his patients would come there from the highrise warrens that line nearby Rose Ave. and Charles St. It’s the part of town where he spent his first decade.

    His father, Majeed, was an Iranian-trained doctor who fled his homeland after being imprisoned and abused during the revolution that brought the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power in the late 1970s.

    Like so many professionals who land in this country as refugees, however, the elder Boozary found his credentials were not recognized here, and he was forced to take jobs painting houses and driving cabs for more than a decade.

    But the family’s working class status shifted to comfortable middle class – almost instantaneously — when the elder Boozary was finally able to upgrade his medical credentials during at stint at Toronto’s old Wellesley Hospital when his son was 9 or 10. Andrew has a younger sister, Tanya.

    Rather than bemoan the relative privation the country’s strict licensing requirements first forced on his family, Boozary was grateful for the opportunities that Canada eventually offered them.

    “Social justice was a very early concept for us … from my parents’ background — from my family’s issues of what they’ve had to do to prevail and be here and the opportunities that Canada gave us,” he says.

    “My family would not have had the privileges and opportunities that they’ve had if (they) had not been fortunate enough to raise a family in Canada.”

    That good fortune — Boozary would decide — obliged him to give back in the social justice currency that had fostered it.

    “There was always a lot of appreciation of that from the beginning and an understanding that (it) can come with social responsibility,” he says.

    As much as his father’s career and financial resuscitation sparked a sense of social justice for Boozary, it was his mother’s thinking that nurtured it most.

    Sholeh Boozary trained in human rights law in her native Iran, before immigrating to Canada during the revolution.

    She met and married Majeed in Montreal, but she did not pursue a law career here — devoting her attentions to raising Andrew and Tanya. (Tanya is also pursuing a medical degree in Ottawa.)

    “But she (his mother) really pushed me on these things, thinking about social justice and human rights,” her son says.

    “She also wanted (us) to follow whatever dreams we had of trying to make the world a better place … to do what we can to improve the social condition.”

    (And his mother still plays a big part in his daily life. Told recently his cellphone voicemail was full, Boozary said that would almost certainly be his mother’s doing.)

    Whatever the sources of his social advocacy ambitions, however, Boozary never intended to pursue them in the medical field.

    Despite its being his father’s career — he still has a family practice in Richmond Hill — Boozary had no interest in medicine when he entered the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) as an undergraduate in economics with law school aspirations.

    “I was into economics and law because I felt you could make the case for human rights having the science of economics and making the case from the legal perspective,” he says.

    “But I dropped out after first semester and a lot of friends probably thought I’d went off and smoked a lot,” he says.

    What he did instead was go back and upgrade the science courses he’d ignored or fluffed off through high school. Boozary says he had decided that he could accomplish more within Canada’s universal health-care system to better the lives of the less fortunate.

    When he returned to Western the following year, he enrolled as a medical science student.

    Boozary, who is single, and his colleagues at the Sherbourne St. facility work “brutal” hours, but he still takes time for his beloved sports.

    Aside from playing tennis, Boozary is also an avid football and baseball fan, though he picked up an unfortunate affinity for Boston franchises during his time at Harvard, where he went after med school.

    He also has an ability to memorize sports statistics — and can rhyme off every baseball player who’s combined 40 homers with 40 steals in a single season, for example.

    He denies claims of some friends, however, that he has a photographic memory.

    “I think I’ve been fortunate to be able to remember certain details about certain things,” he says.

    “But I’ll say (the people who attribute the memory wizardry) are wrong. I struggled (through school) in certain subjects like everybody else.”

    Still, the range of Boozary’s interests, work and capabilities often leaves Turnbull agog.

    “By now you’re sort of saying ‘well, what doesn’t this guy do well?’ ” he says.

    “Which is kind of the thing I ask … it makes the rest of us mere mortals look like slouches.”

    Though he longs to travel, and will doubtless attract Ivy League employment offers, Boozary is adamant that he’ll pursue a family medicine career in Canada — with an emphasis on pain management, addiction and refugee health issues.

    “The only place I’ve ever wanted to practise medicine and do my training was in Canada where we don’t have to look at these issues of forms and bills and clerks about whether a patient is a Medicaid patient or a Medicare patient or a private insurance patient,” he says.

    “And there’s just a social responsibility I feel being here. That’s my real dream, to have that happen.”

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