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    Chester Bennington, the lead singer of rock band Linkin Park, is dead, the Los Angeles County coroner confirmed Thursday.

    TMZ states that Bennington’s body was found just before 9 a.m. at a private residence in Palos Verdes Estates in Los Angeles County. The website says law enforcement stated that the 41-year-old singer had hanged himself.

    Only hours before this news broke, Linkin Park released a single from its seventh studio album, One More Light. The single is called “Talking To Myself”; the band was slated to perform in Toronto on Aug. 8 at the Budweiser Stage.

    Coroner spokesman Brian Elias says they are investigating Bennington’s death as an apparent suicide but no additional details are available. The singer, who sported piercings and tattoos, struggled with drug and alcohol addictions at various times during his life.

    Bennington was married to Talinda Bennington, with whom he had three children. He also had three other children from previous relationships.

    His alternative-metal band became massively popular in 2000 on the strength of its album Hybrid Theory, which was eventually certified diamond — signifying 10 million records sold — by the Recording Industry Association of America. The album explored feelings of frustration and fury, as did its followup, 2003 multiplatinum Meteora, which sold four million copies.

    One More Light was released just this past May 19, following the album’s first single “Heavy,” which came out in February.

    Bennington had recently performed at the funeral for fellow rock singer Chris Cornell of Soundgarden fame, singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Cornell, too, died by suicide.

    Bennington, who sported piercings and tattoos, struggled with drug and alcohol addictions at various times during his life. He was married and is survived by six children.

    The band won Grammys for best hard rock performance in 2001 for “Crawling” and best rap/sung collaboration for “Numb/Encore” in 2005.

    One More Light divided critics and fans alike for its embrace of pop. Although the band had always experimented with different sounds, some claimed the band had sold out, which Bennington denied. It became the band’s fifth No. 1 album debut on the Billboard 200.

    When he got his big break in 1999, Bennington was an assistant at a digital-services firm in Phoenix. A music executive sent him a demo from the band Xero, who needed a lead singer. (He had been recommended by his attorney.) Bennington wrote and recorded new vocals over the band’s playing and sent the results back. He soon got the gig and the band then changed its named to Hybrid Theory, then Linkin Park.

    Showbiz reacts

    Reaction to the death of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington:

    “Chester Bennington was an artist of extraordinary talent and charisma, and a human being with a huge heart and a caring soul. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beautiful family, his band-mates and his many friends.” — Warner Bros. CEO and Chairman Cameron Stang, in a statement

    “Shocked and heartbroken, but it’s true. An official statement will come out as soon as we have one.” — Linkin Park bandmember Mike Shinoda, on Twitter

    “Literally the most impressive talent I’ve ever seen live! Vocal beast! #RIPChester #LinkinPark.” — Rihanna, on Twitter

    “RIP CHESTER BENNINGTON. We can never know someone’s pain. Prayers to his family in this tragedy. If you need help REACH OUT.” — Paul Stanley, on Twitter

    “The first concert I took my oldest son to: @linkinpark. #ChesterBennington was a genius & a gentleman. He inspired both of us.” — Donnie Wahlberg, on Twitter

    “RIP Chester Bennington. This feels like a kick in the chest. My December has pulled me through many times. Depression is a real monster. “ Gabourey Sidibe, on Twitter

    “RIP to a legend (too soon)” — Akon, on Facebook

    “The news about Chester Bennington is devastating. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and @linkinpark. Such a tragic loss” — Ryan Seacrest, on Twitter

    “RIP Chester Bennington, another incredible talent lost to something the world needs to learn more about and understand.” — Conor Maynard, on Twitter

    “PETA will always remember Chester Bennington as a musical powerhouse and a powerful force for animal rights. He bared his skin to help animals keep theirs in PETA’s ‘Ink, Not Mink’ campaign, and he spoke passionately about both the cruelty of the fur industry and the need to adopt homeless dogs and cats.” — PETA Vice-President Colleen O’Brien, in a statement

    “So sorry to hear the news about Chester Bennington. Sending so much luv, strength & light to his family, kids & @linkinpark ohana.” — Dwayne Johnson, on Twitter

    “no words. so heartbroken. RIP Chester Bennington.” — Imagine Dragons, on Twitter

    “RIP Chester. Tragic ending. Condolences his family and friends and Linkin Park.” — Chance the Rapper, on Twitter

    “Gracious, kind & humble. A rare combination in Rock & Roll. Deeply saddened...” — Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, on Twitter

    “Mental health is no joke. We have to destigmatize the conversation around it.” — Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, on Twitter

    “RIP The legend Chester. You were and will continue to be a huge inspiration to us.” — The Chainsmokers, on Twitter

    With files from The Associated Press

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    OTTAWA—The annual pace of inflation slowed once again last month as lower gasoline and electricity prices helped offset higher costs in most other categories, Statistics Canada said Friday.

    Overall, the agency’s latest inflation report found that prices were one per cent higher in June compared to a year earlier.

    The June number followed inflation readings of 1.3 per cent in May and 1.6 per cent in April.

    Last month’s inflation figure matched expectations from a consensus of economists that had predicted a reading of one per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

    Statistics Canada said lower gasoline prices last month were a primary contributor behind inflation’s deceleration as pump prices contracted 1.4 per cent compared to a year earlier.

    Electricity prices dropped 5.3 per cent over the same period, while other energy costs rose, including 10 per cent growth in natural gas and a 7.8 per cent increase in the price of fuel oil and other fuels.

    Upward pressure on prices also came from a 7.1 per cent rise in traveller accommodation, 7 per cent for travel tours and 2.5 per cent for restaurants.

    Food prices were up 0.6 per cent in June — the first increase after eight consecutive months of contractions, the report said.

    The latest inflation numbers show that the headline rate once again slipped further away from the Bank of Canada’s target of 2 per cent.

    Canadian inflation has been dropping since February — the last monthly reading of 2 per cent.

    Some experts had pointed to weak inflation data in recent months as a reason for the central to bank to hold off on hiking its benchmark interest rate, despite signs the economy was building momentum

    Earlier this month, however, the bank raised its trendsetting rate for the first time in nearly seven years.

    The data also showed that two of the Bank of Canada’s three measures for core inflation, which omit volatile consumer items like gas, accelerated slightly last month to 1.6 and 1.4 per cent. The other one was unchanged at 1.2 per cent.

    The inflation-targeting bank also scrutinizes these core measures ahead of its rate decisions.

    The agency also released retail trade figures Friday for May that show total sales increased 0.6 per cent, its third straight month of growth. Total retail trade for May rose above $48.9 billion.

    The expansion in retail trade was propelled in part by stronger auto sales as well as grocery and alcohol purchases, Statistics Canada said.

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    OTTAWA—Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is rejecting assertions that his party’s attacks on the Omar Khadr settlement in U.S. media could hamper upcoming NAFTA negotiations, claiming any negative consequences of the move should fall on Justin Trudeau’s shoulders.

    Scheer was responding Thursday to accusations that partisan bickering south of the border on the controversial Khadr deal — reported to be worth $10.5 million — could impact Canada’s relationship with the U.S. just weeks before talks to change the 23-year-old trade deal with the U.S. and Mexico are set to begin.

    Trudeau himself told reporters in Barrie on Thursday that NAFTA negotiations are “too important to fall into partisanship.” That comes after Gerald Butts, a high-ranking Liberal and advisor to Trudeau, said on Twitter that Conservatives had mounted an “aggressive anti-PM” campaign on the Khadr issue in U.S. media. At least three Tory MPs have appeared in print and on TV in the U.S. in recent days to criticize the payout.

    Scheer argued that the government is simply trying to use NAFTA to deflect attention from their payout to Khadr, which Trudeau has argued was necessary to avoid an even costlier court battle over how the former child soldier’s human rights were violated during his lengthy stay in the notorious American prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    “They can’t just say, ‘Please give us a pass because it’s affecting this other issue.’ I don’t believe that it does, and I don’t believe that it justifies not being critical,” Scheer said.

    “If they were so concerned about the backlash, I would ask: did they give anyone in the U.S. a heads up? Did they let their negotiating team in Washington know that this was coming? … There were other options. The prime minister did not have to do this.”

    Khadr was a teenager fighting in Afghanistan when he was captured by U.S. forces in 2002. He confessed to killing an army medic as part of a plea deal in 2010.

    Khadr was later repatriated to Canada to serve out his prison sentence and recanted his confession.

    The Conservative leader, who was elected by party members in May, made the comments during a press conference to unveil his new House of Commons leadership team, whose faces were displayed on trading cards handed out to reporters.

    Lisa Raitt, the Milton MP who ran against Scheer in the leadership race, will be his deputy leader. Alain Rayes is Scheer’s “Quebec political lieutenant,” while B.C. MP Mark Strahl is the new party whip, Manitoba’s Candice Bergen remains house leader and Alberta MP Chris Warkentin is deputy house leader.

    But talk quickly turned to NAFTA, just days after the U.S. published its list of priorities for the renegotiation of the deal, which was long promised by President Donald Trump. The Americans have also announced that talks are slated to begin in Washington Aug. 16.

    The U.S. wants to shrink its trade deficit, improve market access for American companies and dismantle the dispute panel that has ruled in Canada’s favour in arguments over softwood lumber and other products.

    Some MPs in Ottawa are calling on the government to share its objectives for the renegotiation. NDP trade critic Tracey Ramsey plans to push the House of Commons trade committee to invite Trudeau, foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland and Canada’s lead NAFTA negotiator to come answer questions when they meet on Friday.

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    MCLEAN, VA.—Organizers of an international robotics competition in the U.S. capital believe the disappearance of six teens from Burundi may have been “self-initiated.”

    As the competition was wrapping up Tuesday, their chaperone discovered his kids were missing. He looked in the college dorms where the six teens — ages 16 to 18 — had been staying. Their bags were packed and gone. Officers swept through DAR Constitution Hall. They were nowhere to be found.

    Police now say that two of the six were seen crossing into Canada, and they don’t suspect foul play with any of them.

    Read more:Two Burundi teens reported missing from robotics competition seen crossing into Canada

    The team’s coach, Canesius Bindaba, told The Washington Post that he had heard rumours the teens might be planning to stay in the United States. Speaking over WhatsApp from Kenya, a stop on his trip home, Bindaba said he hoped the rumours weren’t true.

    “I just tried to build some kind of trust, hoping they were just rumours,” he said. “I feel cheated and disappointed by those who planned this behind my back.”

    Police in D.C. posted missing-person fliers Wednesday asking for help finding the teens, who had last been seen at the FIRST Global Challenge around the time of Tuesday’s final matches.

    Don Ingabire, 16, and Audrey Mwamikazi, 17, were later seen crossing into Canada, Metropolitan Police spokesperson Aquita Brown said Thursday.

    Marilu Cabrera, a spokesperson for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services, which receives asylum applications, said the agency does not comment on whether specific individuals have sought asylum. Canadian immigration authorities also declined to comment.

    The competition, designed to encourage youths to pursue careers in math and science, attracted teams of teenagers from more than 150 nations. It had been in the national spotlight already, thanks to a team of girls from Afghanistan who were allowed to attend after President Donald Trump intervened on their behalf. Twice, their visas had been rejected — an Afghan official said the Americans feared they wouldn’t go home.

    Competition organizers learned Tuesday night that the Burundi chaperone couldn’t find his team. FIRST Global President Joe Sestak, a former congressman from Pennsylvania, made the initial call to the police, according to a FIRST Global statement.

    “There were indications that the students’ absence may have been self-initiated, including leaving all their keys in their mentor/chaperone’s bag and the removal of students’ clothes from their rooms,” FIRST Global said in a subsequent statement.

    The students had been staying in dorms at Trinity Washington University, and had been expected to return to Burundi together on Thursday.

    Benjamin Manirakiza, first counsellor at the Burundian embassy, told The Associated Press on Thursday that officials were not aware of the team’s presence in Washington until the chaperone alerted the embassy Wednesday. He said he had no comment on their disappearance.

    According to police reports, the teens were travelling on U.S. visas good for one year. The reports say police tried to contact one missing teen’s uncle, but got no response.

    The competition’s webpage on Team Burundi says team members were selected from schools in Bujumbura, the capital city. The team’s slogan in Kirundi is “Ugushaka Nugushobora,” which translates roughly to “where there is a will, there is a way.”

    In addition to Ingabire and Mwamikazi, the missing teens are Nice Munezero, 17; Richard Irakoze and Aristide Irambona, both 18; and Kevin Sabumukiza, 17.

    Hassan Ahmad, an immigration lawyer in northern Virginia not involved in the situation, said that if the teens apply for asylum in the U.S., Immigration and Customs Enforcement could seek to detain them pending removal proceedings. The teens could then seek release on bond and stay in the country while they await their hearing. That can take years. If ICE declines to seek detention, it still can take several years before a formal interview to determine whether an applicant is eligible for asylum.

    Oscar Niyiragira, chairman of the United Burundian-American Community Association Inc., said many in the community feel Canada offers better odds for asylum, particularly now that the Trump administration has taken a harsh stance on immigration.

    He called the teens’ departure disappointing and said economic impoverishment, rather than political persecution, drives most decisions to seek asylum from Burundi. He said it unfairly tarnishes Burundi’s reputation when people flee and exaggerate fears of political violence.

    “Now I’m not saying the government does not commit some crimes. They do,” said Niyiragira, who lives in Louisville, Kentucky. But the situation in Burundi is not nearly as bad as it was in waves of violence in the ‘70s and the ‘90s, he said.

    Burundi has been plagued by deadly political violence since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza’s ultimately successful decision to seek a third term led to street protests. Critics called his move unconstitutional.

    More than 500 people have been killed in Burundi, an East African nation of about 10 million people, according to the United Nations. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country.

    In January, Human Rights Watch reported that members of a pro-government youth militia had “brutally killed, tortured, and severely beaten scores of people across the country in recent months.” Abuses included driving a knife into the eye of one victim and beating a 15-year-old boy to death, the rights group said, accusing Burundi’s government of being unwilling to restrain youth militia members.

    Burundi’s government often dismisses the allegations, saying they are based on false information supplied by the regime’s opponents.

    Associated Press reporters Sarah Brumfield in Washington and Eloge Willy Kaneza in Bujumbura, Burundi, contributed to this report.

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    Ten current and former TTC employees are facing criminal charges in connection with an alleged multi-million-dollar insurance scam.

    The police and the TTC announced the charges Thursday afternoon, as part of an ongoing probe into false health benefit claims at the transit agency.

    According to the TTC, to date 150 employees have either been fired, or retired or resigned in order to avoid dismissal as a result of the investigation, which began in 2014 when the transit agency received a tip through its integrity line.

    These are the first charges against transit employees to result from the probe. Of the 10 people charged, nine have already left the TTC. One is still employed at the agency but is on medical leave. The suspects range in age from 32 to 58, and each face one count of fraud over $5,000.

    “It’s incredibly serious,” said TTC spokesperson Brad Ross. “This is public money and people will be held to account. We want to bring an end to this.”

    Ross said it will be up to the police whether more TTC employees are charged, but he expects the transit agency will fire more workers as the investigation continues.

    A police spokesperson said at this point the force doesn’t anticipate laying any more charges.

    The allegations centre around Healthy Fit, a local orthotics store. Police allege that the owner and an employee at the company “counselled and conspired” with TTC workers who submitted more than $5 million in claims to Manulife, the TTC’s insurance provider. Healthy Fit allegedly “provided some or no products that were invoiced” and shared the insurance payments with the TTC workers.

    The police allege that Healthy Fit ran a similar scam with city of Toronto employees, involving claims worth about $96,000.

    Adam Smith, 46, the owner of Healthy Fit, and Savatah Nget, 32, the store employee, are both facing charges of fraud over $5,000 and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence. Smith is also charged with laundering the proceeds of a crime.

    The TTC believes that the alleged benefits scheme dates back to at least 2012 and continued for years. Healthy Fit was delisted as a health provider in 2015 when its owner was first charged.

    Ross said ideally the agency would have detected the alleged offences sooner but he said the TTC has been “very open and transparent with the public on this and we will continue to be.”

    The TTC has insurance to protect it from fraud but Ross said the agency will still seek “restitution” from any employee who made a false claim.

    In an email sent to TTC employees Thursday afternoon, agency CEO Andy Byford said he would “not allow a few to ruin our collective, well-earned reputation.”

    “The vast majority of you, I know, would never dream of defrauding our benefits plan, putting it at risk for the rest of us. Hold your heads high as we root out the bad apples.”

    The 10 TTC employees appeared at Old City Hall Court last week.

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    Toronto’s women and recent immigrants will see big benefits from the proposed minimum-wage hike to $15 an hour, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

    The numbers provided to Metro, part of the left-wing think-tank’s Ontario Needs a Raise report, are based on the last six months of Statistics Canada’s labour survey.

    Of the 633,000 people who would receive raises in Toronto, 368,000 (58 per cent) are women and 113,000 (17 per cent) are recent immigrants.

    Province-wide, 42 per cent of the recent immigrants who would benefit are women.

    Read more: Ontario plans big boost to minimum wage, update of labour laws: Cohn

    Minimum wage hike will force some restaurants to close

    Ontario Liberals embed 2019 minimum wage hike in new law

    David Macdonald, author of the report and a senior economist with the centre, said the minimum-wage hike is needed to reduce the income gap that persists despite the strength of Ontario’s economy.

    “It’s not everyone who benefits from that — just the top one per cent,” he said.

    He added that the richest one per cent of Torontonians saw a raise in the last year worth twice what a minimum-wage earner would make annually, even after the hike to $15 an hour.

    The numbers come as the Ontario government gathers input on the proposed hike in public committee hearings across the province. The new workplace legislation also includes more vacation entitlements, expanded personal emergency leave and equal pay for part-time workers.

    Not everyone agrees with the minimum-wage hike. In a letter to Premiere Kathleen Wynne, Janet De Silva expressed concern on behalf of the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

    “The board has conducted its own research on the proposal to increase minimum wage and we find it difficult to understand why now is the time for this drastic change,” wrote the president and CEO of that organization

    Macdonald gave his answer: “increased income inequality.”

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    Criminal lawyers and advocates for survivors are disappointed by a Superior Court judge’s decision to overturn the conviction in a sexual assault trial, saying such guilty verdicts are a rare occurrence.

    Mustafa Ururyar, accused of sexually assaulting fellow student Mandi Gray, had appealed his July 2016 conviction, alleging that now-retired Ontario Court Justice Marvin Zuker, who oversaw his trial, was biased against him and gave an “illogical” analysis of the evidence.

    “When a conviction is overturned because the trial judge was found to have made errors in his reasons, the burden falls on the survivor to engage with the (trial) process again,” said Deepa Mattoo, legal director at the Barbra Schlifer Clinic.

    “It’s the system that is failing,” said Mattoo. “This is an indication that judicial education is needed in sexual assault cases.”

    Read more: Judge overturns ‘incomprehensible’ conviction of Mustafa Uruyar for alleged sex assault of Mandi Gray

    Original trial that convicted Mustafa Ururyar of sexual assault was a baffling spectacle: DiManno

    The original 179-page explanation of the conviction was deemed “incomprehensible,” with unclear citations and a heavy use of third-party source materials.

    The Star spoke to four lawyers who all stressed the importance of a meaningful verdict, especially as it applies to sexual assault cases, which are challenging to corroborate.

    “The explanation of why someone is found guilty or not guilty is important . . . to maintain confidence in the administration of justice,” said Toronto-based criminal lawyer Daniel Brown. “Cases like this are an important reminder to judges about the role they play.”

    Anytime there’s an overturned guilty verdict, it creates a detrimental impact on all parties involved, said Pam Hrick, a counsel for the Barbra Schlifer Clinic. “Enduring a cross-examination on a sexual assault . . . and agreeing to participate in a lengthy criminal trial is a financially and emotionally difficult process.”

    Mattoo calls the process “agonizing,” commenting that if the courts were survivor-centric they would consider the impact the trial process has on the survivor.

    “It will have an impact on women’s willingness to report sexual assault to the police, which we already know is already dismal,” said Angela Chaisson, a Toronto activist lawyer. “In the rare cases where we actually get a conviction on sexual assault and we see those being overturned on appeal, that can be discouraging.”

    Farrah Khan, Sexual Violence Support and Education co-ordinator at Ryerson University, said people have been watching Gray talk about going to the police, getting a rape kit, and going through the trial.

    “When we see a survivor go through that and get a positive conviction and the see it overturned, it’s gutting,” she said. “People feel that they can’t trust that the criminal justice system is a space to get justice”

    Chaisson said the decision is indicative of how courts are struggling with the new legal landscape that it trying to put a greater emphasis on the rights of victims and complainants.

    “We are witnessing very interesting times,” said Mattoo, “because we’re seeing a lot of legal reforms, which are coming from the federal and provincial level, and discourse on these issues. And in the mix of all that we see a decision like this.”

    While Mattoo is disheartened to see a conviction overturned, she agrees with Chaisson that there is opportunity to learn and make progress.

    Says Hrick, “I think a lesson to be drawn from this is that where judges see and want to confront rape myths or stereotyping in sexual assault trials they need to do so in a way that doesn’t distract from the ultimate purpose of a trial.”

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    One step back for two steps forward — the homemade stairs constructed by 73-year-old local resident Adi Astl in Tom Riley Park are being taken down, but will be replaced by official, City-made stairs.

    The DIY staircase was built to solve a problem it seemed the city wouldn’t. The Etobicoke park had a steep incline that Astl had noticed senior citizens and children struggling on, but when the city said that building the stairs would cost between $65,000 and $150,000 to construct, Astl took matters into his own hands.

    His makeshift staircase, built last month, cost only $550 to make, but city inspectors roped it off as unsafe.

    This morning, the issue of what to do with them and the problem they sought to fix is being addressed with the takedown of the stairs and the beginning of work on new ones.

    Mayor John Tory said he wants “to thank Mr. Astl for taking a stand on this issue,” and that “his homemade steps have sent a message that I know City staff have heard loud and clear.”

    “The original cost estimate for the City of Toronto to build stairs in Tom Riley Park was absolutely ridiculous and out of whack with reality,” he said. “I’m not happy that these kinds of outrageous project cost estimates are even possible. I’ll be working to identify what changes we can put in place to make sure this doesn’t continue to happen.”

    Work on the new steps begins today, and the new staircase should be ready within a matter of days.

    “The new stairs will be safe, durable and reasonably priced,” Tory said.

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    The Special Investigations Unit has charged a second man after a black man was beat with a metal pipe in Whitby in December 2016.

    In a news release Friday, the SIU revealed that they had laid additional charges against Const. Michael Theriault and also charged a civilian, Christian Theriault, who they say assisted in the assault.

    “The allegation in this case is that Const. Michael Theriault and Christian Theriault acted together and were parties to the same assault upon the 19-year-old man on December 28, 2016,” Tony Loparco said, the Director of the SIU.

    The incident in December resulted in “serious injuries” that took an emotional toll on Dafonte Miller. The SIU did not name the victim, but Leisa Lewis has told the Star that the young man is her son.

    It was the family’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, who contacted the SIU about the assault.

    Falconer said Michael Theriault identified himself as a police officer and questioned a group of young men that included Miller after he saw them walking on the street in Whitby. He allegedly chased them down when they didn’t respond, and attacked Miller. When Durham police arrived, Miller was charged with assault, the charges were eventually dropped.

    Falconer said Miller suffered a broken nose, broken orbital bone, fractured right wrist and an eye so badly damaged that it will have to be removed.

    “Dafonte wasn’t doing anything wrong,” said Falconer. “There was no basis for this individual to be in any way confronted by the off-duty officer.”

    Christian Theriault was arrested Friday by the SIU and will appear before court on August 10. He and Michael Theriault have been charged jointly with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and individually with public mischief.

    With files from Peter Goffin

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    A golden retriever named Sonic is recovering after he possibly ate marijuana at an off-leash dog park, and the owner is facing a $1,500 bill.

    Satoshi Takano said he took his six-year-old dog to the Colonel Samuel Smith Park on Tuesday. Takano said he was at the park for about 45 minutes until he was alerted by another dog owner that Sonic was acting strange.

    “My dog still acts like a puppy so he’s really playful and energetic but then he started lying down, which he never does,” Takano said. “He also looked weak.

    “As we were leaving the park I could just tell he was not himself.”

    Takano took Sonic to an after-hours pet hospital. By the time they arrived, the dog had trouble walking and standing up.

    Sonic received blood and urine tests, an X-ray and an ultrasound at the Veterinary Emergency Hospital of West Toronto that evening.

    Dawn Paterson, a registered veterinary technician at the hospital, said Sonic “appeared drunk” and was wobbly when walking.

    She said his tests came back negative but that is not uncommon, and she still suspects Sonic ate marijuana.

    “This is really quite common, we see dogs come in that have eaten marijuana and even other prescribed medications at least three to four times a month.”

    Paterson said even a small amount can significantly affect the dog’s behaviour.

    Takano also took his dog to his regular clinic and a pet neurologist on Thursday, and his bill has reached around $1,500.

    “I care more about my dog’s health, but this really is an inconvenience and I don’t want this to happen again to Sonic or any other dog.”

    Paterson’s advice to dog owners is to keep an eye on your pets, but that really isn’t much they can do.

    “Especially at an off-leash park there isn’t much you can do. Some dogs just eat anything in their path. This can happen to anyone at any time.”

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    Robust protections for vulnerable workers are critical to modernizing Ontario’s economy, advocates told government Friday at a packed committee hearing on its sweeping proposals for labour reform.

    If passed, the legislation introduced in May will be the most far reaching set of updates to existing laws in two decades — boosting the minimum wage from $11.40 to $15 an hour by 2019, and prohibiting pay discrimination against part-time and temporary employees doing the same work as their full time counterparts.

    But at the last in a set of province-wide public deputations, economists, labour activists and business leaders clashed over Bill 148’s implications.

    “(This reform) has the potential to bring labour legislation into the 21st century, and to improve the lives of millions of Ontarians,” said Sheila Block, an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

    “The weight of economic evidence is behind the drafters and the supporters of this legislation.”

    Conversely, Ontario Chamber of Commerce policy director Ashley Challinor called discussions on the rise of precarious work “overstated” and warned the proposed reforms would be burdensome for businesses who create jobs and stimulate growth.

    “The pending legislation will create winners and losers; job loss, increased costs of consumer goods, and economic hardship. This does not demonstrate fairness,” she said.

    In addition to wage hikes, the new laws would introduce two paid emergency days for all workers in Ontario, penalties for employers who change workers’ schedules at the last minute, and increase holiday entitlement from two weeks to three.

    Chris Buckley, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, lauded those moves but said government needed to go further — including measures to make it easier for all workers to unionize and to increase the number of paid emergency days to seven.

    “This is a chance to get it right and improve conditions for workers across Ontario whether they are unionized workers or not,” he said.

    As previously highlighted by the Star, workers’ rights advocates have expressed concern that the bill does not go far enough to regulate temporary help agencies, which statistics show have increased by 20 per cent across the province over the past decade.

    Buckley said the proposed bill should also include just cause protection for non-unionized workers, and extend full coverage to so-called dependent contractors: self-employed people who are economically reliant on one company for work. Critics say that measure is crucial to protecting the growing number of people working in the gig economy.

    “There is a real concern with the ongoing bifurcation of good jobs and not-so-good jobs,” said Pedro Barata of United Way Toronto.

    “This is an issue that really impacts all of us and does not belong to one community alone.”

    The bill is expected to go to second reading in September. Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Premier Kathleen Wynne said the committee hearings would help fine-tune the legislation so it’s better for employees and employers.

    “We’ll be looking to those delegations and the information that was gathered to find good ideas to support small businesses. I am committed to helping business and I am committed to making sure that people are treated fairly,” the premier said.

    “Those things should not be in conflict with one another. In a country and a province as rich as we are we should be able to make sure that people can live, they can feed their families, they can look after themselves, and that they can find a decent job,” said Wynne.

    “We have said quite clearly that we are going to work with businesses — particularly small businesses — to make sure that we do everything we can to help with the phase-in. Exactly what those mechanisms will be, I can’t tell you at this point,” she added.

    Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers vice-president Gary Sands said small business already struggled to compete with corporate giants who, by virtue of their size and power, are able to cut costs by extracting concessions from suppliers.

    “Small- and medium-sized businesses do not have the clout of a Walmart,” he said.

    Research from the CCPA shows the overwhelming majority of minimum wage employers are larger businesses. According to a study by the United Way, around half of all jobs in the GTA are now precarious in some way.

    That, according to two medical professionals who testified at the hearings, is causing a distinct strain on the health care system.

    “Lower income is associated with a significant higher burden of disease and higher mortality,” said Hasan Sheikh, an emergency room doctor at St. Michael’s hospital in Toronto.

    Psychiatrist Michaela Beder called the legislation a “bold move to improve the health of Ontarians.”

    “What’s critical in terms of our research is that precarious employment is increasingly about all of us,” Barata said.

    “Increasingly we’re seeing that the face of precarious employment is the face of Ontario.”

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    The Ontario Provincial Police has charged Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, a former police officer, with extortion and obstruction of justice in connection with an investigation into “allegations of criminal wrongdoing that include a municipal official and local resident.”

    Hobbs’ wife Marisa, 53, was also charged with extortion and obstructing justice.

    The OPP alleges that Hobbs, 65, his wife, and a third person, Mary Voss, 46, attempted to induce a prominent local lawyer “to purchase a house (for Voss), by threats, accusations, or menaces of disclosing criminal allegations to the police, thereby committing extortion,” court documents show.

    Hobbs’ lawyer Brian Greenspan said his client denies the charges. Mayor Hobbs told the Star in an email that he felt “Confident! Calm! We’ve had hundreds of well-wishers call, text and e-mail us today. Those that really know us believe in us.”

    The Star could not reach Voss for comment.

    Mayor Hobbs and his wife’s obstruction charges are both related to their alleged attempt to interfere with an investigation into an allegation of extortion reported to the RCMP, court documents show. Hobbs is now on a paid, indefinite leave, a city official said at a press conference. He has not been asked to resign.

    The charges, which have not been proven in court, are the latest in a breakneck series of criminal and civil allegations that not only saw the prominent lawyer, Sandy Zaitzeff, arrested on sexual assault charges late last year but have also drawn in the police chief.

    Zaitzeff is a well-known class-action litigator who built a reputation as a confident winner — the man who took on the RCMP. He has had a dramatic and public fall from prominence, including a YouTube video rant — that has increased scrutiny on a city already under pressure from a series of unrelated investigations.

    Only slivers of information about the cases have been made publicly available. The strange YouTube video has offered locals one of the only clues about the ongoing scandal.

    In the video, an emotional Zaitzeff, with his collection of clown dolls as a backdrop, pulls off his T-shirt, parades his bruised torso, alleges unnamed assailants tried to steal his fortune, expresses anguish over his dead son, then gets on his knees to propose marriage. Mayor Hobbs is seen in the video watching the rambling, cryptic monologue.

    After the video was posted to YouTube, Mayor Hobbs sued Zaitzeff for defamation, claiming the video somehow harmed his reputation and chances for re-election, and on the same day as that lawsuit Zaitzeff’s former law partner issued his own statement of claim which alleged Zaitzeff took his clients and threatened his life. That statement of claim has not yet been served on Mr. Zaitzeff, according to the former law partner, Chris Watkins, who told the Star he is “strongly considering never serving that claim.”

    Then, Thunder Bay police Chief J.P. Levesque was charged with breach of trust and obstruction of justice for allegedly disclosing confidential information about the mayor. Exactly what information was disclosed and to whom is not publicly known.

    An OPP spokesperson said the charges laid against Hobbs, his wife, and Voss stem from the same investigation into Levesque, but did not provide details. The officer who charged Levesque is the same officer who charged Hobbs.

    Zaitzeff’s lawyer Scott Hutchison has said he denies the allegations against him. Chief Levesque has told the Star he cannot comment on his case.

    Meanwhile, Mayor Hobbs and his wife have hired Greenspan and Naomi Lutes as their lawyers.

    “The Truth will get us through this,” Mayor Hobbs told the Star. “We have the best lawyer in Canada looking after us.‎ We will be cleared of these charges.”

    A statement from Greenspan’s office said the charges were “unjustified and will be vigorously defended.”

    Hobbs was arrested Thursday afternoon after he arrived at an OPP detachment with a lawyer, according to the OPP.

    He was released on a “promise to appear” in court and conditions that include no communication with a number of people and that he remain in Ontario, according to OPP Det. Supt. Dave Truax, who was the major case manager on both the Levesque and Hobbs cases.

    The three accused are scheduled to appear in court in Thunder Bay on Sept. 26.

    On Thursday night, councillors were hastily called to Thunder Bay City Hall for an emergency meeting. The charges against Hobbs were made public Friday morning, followed by a news conference.

    A city official said that a member of council can be away up to three months under city policy. After that, it will be in “council’s hands” to determine next steps, said Karen Lewis, spokesperson for the Thunder Bay City Council. “Council could extend the leave, the vacancy policy could kick in and then council has options around how to proceed around the vacancy policy,” she said, adding they could declare the seat vacant.

    Councillor Trevor Giertuga will serve as acting mayor for July and Linda Rydholm will take over for August, Lewis said.

    In a statement, Giertuga said council will work together to cover the mayor’s duties while he works through “this personal matter.”

    “We’re going to remain positive, we’re going to work to confront any problems or issues that come forward and just look forward to the future,” he told the Star after the news conference.

    Hobbs was first elected mayor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.

    Before municipal politics, he worked with the Thunder Bay Police for 34 years.

    Thunder Bay has been in crisis, with racial tensions running high since the deaths of several Indigenous youth in the spring. They were from remote reserves and were in the city to either go to high school or access mental health services.

    Among them was Tammy Keeash, a 17-year-old high school student from North Caribou Lake First Nation, who on May 6 of this year, failed to make curfew at her group home.

    That same night, Josiah Begg, a 14-year-old from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation vanished. He was in town with his father for Josiah’s medical appointments. Both teens were found dead in Thunder Bay waterways within two weeks of their disappearance.

    For years, many Indigenous people have complained about the level of racism they face daily in the city.

    During a recent eight-month long inquest into the deaths of seven other Indigenous high school students, who died between 2000 and 2011, many youth complained they were subjected to racial taunts, unprovoked assaults and had garbage thrown at them from passing cars.

    Of the seven students whose deaths were investigated during the inquest, five were found in the rivers and of those, three of the deaths were ruled undetermined by the coroner’s jury.

    Indigenous leaders have said they no longer trust the local police force, and they held a Queen’s Park news conference asking for the RCMP to be brought in to investigate the deaths of Keeash, Begg and the unexplained death of 41-year-old Stacy DeBungee, an Indigenous man found in the lake in October, 2015. Ontario’s chief coroner has announced that York Region police would be brought in to investigate Begg’s and Keeash’s deaths.

    The Thunder Bay Police have been under investigation for alleged systemic racism in how they handle all Indigenous death and disappearance cases since last November by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director — a civilian oversight body. Also under investigation is the Thunder Bay Police Services Board by their provincial oversight body.

    Most recently, Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit said it is investigating the death of an Indigenous man who died in Thunder Bay police custody Wednesday evening.

    Meanwhile, Zaitzeff has hired Marie Henein’s law firm, which represented former radio star Jian Ghomeshi, to deal with his considerable and lurid list of charges.

    Zaitzeff, 68, is a self-proclaimed millionaire who has worked on some major class-action cases. He gained national attention as one of the main architects of a successful class action lawsuit filed by women against the RCMP, alleging workplace harassment. The Mounties established a $100-million fund to settle claims.

    Since Zaitzeff’s on-camera outbursts, he has been arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, including allegedly inviting a minor to touch his penis. In all, there are five complainants. Most of the assaults allegedly happened last fall, before and after the video was reportedly recorded.

    Zaitzeff faces four counts of assault; eight counts of sexual assault; and one count each of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, mischief under $5,000 for allegedly damaging a door, breach of recognizance, unauthorized possession of a firearm and improper storage of a firearm, according to court documents.

    His licence to practise law has been suspended. Zaitzeff did not tell the Law Society of Upper Canada about his charges, the regulator said.

    As a condition of his bail, Zaitzeff had to give up his passport, cannot drink or buy liquor, and was ordered to attend the Bellwood addiction treatment centre in Toronto.

    “Sandy Zaitzeff has consistently asked the people of Thunder Bay to reserve judgment until all the evidence surrounding his case can be aired before the courts,” Hutchison, Zaitzeff’s lawyer, told the Star in an email. “Today is an important step towards that day.”

    Hutchison has previously said his client is “a respected lawyer, has battled the loss of his beloved son, addiction issues and health issues.”

    In June 2014, Zaitzeff’s son Sandy Zaitzeff Jr., then 33 years old, was on crutches, hobbled by a broken ankle, when he slipped and fell while getting a snack from the fridge, suffered a severe head injury and died instantly, an obituary said.

    Fourteen years earlier Zaitzeff’s wife, Marilyn, then 50, went missing, last seen reportedly leaving the family cottage and getting on her Sea-Doo around 9 p.m.

    Marilyn Zaitzeff was a physical fitness enthusiast who often rode her Sea-Doo, sometimes at night and sometimes without a life-jacket or wetsuit, according to the OPP.

    The next morning the Sea-Doo was found a kilometre away, overturned in the water not far from shore. The Sea-Doo was “undamaged, inspected to be mechanically sound and had a third of a tank of gas,” according to the OPP.

    While Marilyn is presumed drowned, OPP Det. Supt. Dave Truax told the Star: “This is an open missing person investigation where the individual has not been located.”

    With files from Julien Gignac

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    An operator of unlicensed group homes in Scarborough has again been found in violation of fire safety rules, putting vulnerable residents at risk, city officials say.

    A threat to life notice was issued at a Rouge River Dr. home over fire safety concerns about the number of people living in the basement where there is only one exit. One person from that address and two others were relocated after city bylaw, fire inspectors and police officers descended on several suspected unlicensed group homes on Thursday.

    The operators of Comfort Residential Group Homes and Drew’s Residential Services were charged with several fire code violations, property standards violations and zoning infractions, the city said Friday.

    Violations include insufficient smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, cockroach and bed bug infestations and illegally operating as a rooming house.

    This is the second time a threat to life notice has been issued at the Rouge River home in less than two months.

    On June 2, fire officials found eight people living at the two-storey detached home where Comfort Residential operator Winston Manning also lives. A notice concerning the basement occupants was issued at that time.

    When officials returned Thursday, the number of residents had climbed to 13, a city source said.

    “Our focus is to make sure that all residents are living in homes that are properly maintained and in which personal safety is never compromised,” Fire Chief Matthew Pegg is quoted as saying in a city statement Friday.

    The crackdown comes after the Star reported on an OPP investigation into the “deplorable” conditions in the homes that provincial health ministry officials ignored because there is nowhere else for the occupants to go.

    The city’s municipal licensing and standards boss Tracey Cook noted in the city release the “significant amount of effort” needed to take the kind of action seen Thursday.

    Manning, who rents homes and collects disability, pension and other income sources from residents who are elderly or have mental health issues, faces a growing number of charges for fire and property violations.

    “I’ve been under siege for over 10 hours,” Manning told the Star by phone Friday. He said his computer and other documents were seized and said he thinks officials are looking for “something deeper.”

    Manning said only eight people live at the Rouge River address, and several others had just arrived temporarily with “no place to go.”

    “I feel bad about everything,” he said. “I don’t know why they’re on me like this every day. I guess because I’m breaking the fire code rules.”

    Convictions under the Ontario Fire Code can result in fines of up to $100,000 or up to a year in prison. Planning Act charges can lead to a maximum of $50,000 in fines.

    On Thursday, police stood guard outside a Fawcett Trail home, where several violations were found after officials interviewed occupants, seized records and scoured the property.

    Fourteen people were living inside the tiny beige brick bungalow, a different city source said.

    Michael Wyatt, 61, moved into the home near Morningside and Sheppard Aves. five months ago after he had a stroke. He pays $941 from his monthly disability cheque to the operators. For that he says he gets lousy food and shares a room in the basement with another man.

    “There’s a bed, and a dresser and TV. We get cable. There was talk of us getting the internet,” Wyatt said outside the house having a smoke as rain began to fall. There is a full-time support worker who lives on-site, and the medication Wyatt requires is administered daily, he added.

    “I don’t want to whine to you,” he said. “Let’s say it’s been a challenging few months.”

    The OPP investigation focused on Manning’s operations but concluded there is a systemic problem throughout the province of people turning regular residences into homes for vulnerable occupants. The situation has arisen “as a result of the housing shortage in the GTA.”

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    Metrolinx has decided not to appeal a judge’s ruling that blocked the agency from terminating its troubled $770-million vehicle contract with Bombardier.

    The provincial transit agency filed a notice in May that reserved its right to appeal the decision, which Judge Glenn Hainey of the Superior Court of Justice delivered the month before.

    Friday wasthe deadline to move ahead with the case, and a spokesperson for the agency confirmed that Metrolinx has decided not to proceed.

    Instead, the agency is continuing to pursue a dispute resolution process with the Quebec-based rail manufacturer.

    “Metrolinx is concentrating on the dispute resolution with Bombardier . . . . We have decided to not continue with the appeal process,” wrote Anne Marie Aikins.

    She declined to provide an update on the dispute process, and it’s not clear when it will conclude.

    In an interview, a spokesperson for Bombardier said it was a “wise decision” for Metrolinx to abandon the appeal.

    “Our focus has always been to resolve the issues we may have . . . so we can come to a win-win outcome for all parties involved,” said Eric Prud-Homme.

    Metrolinx signed the deal for 182 light rail vehicles (LRVs) in 2010, with the intention of running the cars on the $5.3-billion Eglinton Crosstown and other Toronto-area LRT lines.

    Last October,Metrolinx attempted to terminate the contract, claiming Bombardier was in default. The first two prototype vehicles were supposed to be delivered in 2015, but Metrolinx still hasn’t received them, and the agency said Bombardier’s production woes risked delaying the opening of the Crosstown.

    The legal case was sparked in February when Bombardier filed an application for an injunction against the termination. The company argued that Metrolinx couldn’t unilaterally cancel the deal, and that, whether the company was in default should be decided through the dispute-resolution process written into the contract.

    The judge agreed.

    Bombardier maintains that it has not defaulted on the order.

    In May, the provincial transportation minister announced that Metrolinx had agreed to buy 61 LRVs from French-based company Alstom as a backup for the Bombardier order.

    If the dispute-resolution process determines that Bombardier is in default, Metrolinx will deploy 44 of the Alstom vehicles on the Crosstown. The other 17 are slated for the Finch West LRT.

    Both lines are scheduled for completion in 2021.

    The Alstom deal cost $528 million, and was issued on a sole-source basis, which the minister said was necessary because of the tight timelines for opening the Crosstown.

    Siemens, a German-based rail manufacturer, has complained that the province violated its own procurement policies by not opening up the contract to a competitive bid.

    In a separate development that signals bad news for Bombardier, Metrolinx announced, on Friday, it was issuing a request for qualifications for a private entity to review the agency’s current commuter rail operations and eventually take them over. The decision comes as Metrolinx is drastically expanding its GO Transit service under its regional express rail program.

    Bombardier is under contract to operate and maintain GO Transit until 2023, under a deal worth $927 million to the company.

    A Metrolinx spokesperson said Bombardier would not be allowed to independently bid on the new contract because it would be a conflict to review its own work.

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    “With hindsight being 20/20, yes, there probably could have been a better way to resolve it.”

    And, with that, in response to a question from a juror, Const. Brian Taylor concluded his testimony Friday at the coroner’s inquest into the death of Michael MacIsaac.

    Taylor, who has been with Durham regional police since 1999, shot and killed the 47-year-old naked man on an Ajax street Dec. 2, 2013, saying MacIsaac was advancing on him with a table leg.

    He was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit.

    During cross-examination Friday, Taylor’s lawyer, Bill MacKenzie, attempted to poke holes in the MacIsaac family’s belief that Taylor did not shout commands at MasIsaac before shooting him.

    A 911 call placed by a civilian, Ron Nino, at the scene when Taylor arrived does not capture Taylor shouting commands or MacIsaac saying “Come on, come on,” as Taylor said he did.

    The officer, testifying for the second and final day, reiterated his speculation that the call dropped and did not capture everything that was said.

    “I’m suggesting 911 called back and interfered with the call,” MacKenzie said to Taylor while on the stand. “The jury is left to speculate on Mr. Nino’s evidence.”

    The suggestion angered Michael’s family, sitting in the front row. They had the call analyzed by a forensic scientist who indicated in a report that “there are no definite signs of alterations or breaks found on this recording.”

    Nino , himself, did not say on the stand Wednesday that there were any issues with his call to 911. What he did say is that 911 kept calling back, after the shooting, when Nino was attempting to record video of the officers handcuffing MacIsaac.

    The SIU has never said if it listened to the call, or even obtained it.

    “I can understand why he’s desperate to go back to that, absolutely,” Michael MacIsaac’s sister, Joanne, told the Star about the questions around the 911 call. “But it is more ridiculous than it is desperate.”

    Earlier Friday, Taylor was questioned on his use of the term “excited delirium” as part of a broader range of questions on dealing with individuals in crisis.

    He had testified that he believed this may have been MacIsaac’s condition as he was heading to the scene and heard over the radio that the person may have mental health issues and was aggressive toward police.

    MacIsaac’s family said he did not have mental health issues, but they believe he was in crisis after suffering an epileptic seizure.

    The lawyer for the Empowerment Council, an advocacy group for people with “lived” experience of mental health and addiction issues, listed what are typically described as common characteristics of excited delirium: violent behaviour; imperviousness to pain, and superhuman strength.

    “But, do you know ‘excited delirium’ is extremely controversial, over whether it’s even a condition at all?” Empowerment Council lawyer Anita Szigeti asked Taylor. He replied, “yes.”

    Szigeti pointed out that organizations such as the World Health Organization and American Medical Association don’t even recognize it as a condition. She said those who believe it is a condition are basically just the “maker of Tasers” and law enforcement.

    She was “puzzled,” she said to Taylor, because, while he used the term “excited delirium” at the inquest, it does not appear anywhere in his notes of the shooting, nor in his interviews with the SIU or the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

    “I’m going to suggest to you that you never thought about ‘excited delirium’ at all until long after the events when you shot Mr. MacIsaac,” she said.

    Taylor disagreed.

    As the officer, his lawyer and officials with the police union left the courtroom after his testimony, Joanne MacIsaac, sitting in the front row, glared at the man who killed her brother.

    “I was glad that he finally had to answer to someone, and he looked like he was sweating up on the stand. That made me happy,” she said. “I wanted to glare at him, because I was hoping he would look me in the eyes because I wanted him to know that this is not done yet.”

    The inquest continues Monday.

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    Premier Kathleen Wynne is defending Hydro One’s takeover of an American utility that owns a coal plant after years of Liberal boasting that Ontario has banned the plants to cut pollution and greenhouse gases.

    She suggested the $6.7-billion purchase of Avista, based in Washington state, heralds the spread of Ontario’s clean-energy push beyond the province’s borders.

    “As you all know, Ontario has shut down all of the coal-fired generation in the province. Hydro One has made a business decision to acquire a . . . company that has a small minority share in a coal plant,” Wynne said Friday in Ottawa.

    “Let me just say this: you won’t find another jurisdiction — pretty much around the world — that has gone as far in terms of renewable clean energy as Ontario so I see this as a real validation of our opportunity to take that influence elsewhere.”

    Avista owns a 15-per-cent-stake in two of the four units at the Colstrip plant in Montana — a major coal-mining state — and plans to use them for electricity production until 2035, said a spokesperson for the company that also operates hydroelectric dams, natural gas and biomass generating plants and wind turbines.

    Colstrip is one of the top carbon-producing plants in the U.S. and has become a target of environmentalists and lawmakers in the fight against climate change.

    The Associated Press reported in January that two older units at the plant, dating to the 1970s and not owned by Avista, will be closed by 2022 under an agreement with environmental groups.

    Hydro One said in a statement Friday it will be “reviewing” Avista’s assets when the purchase, slated to close in mid-2018, is complete.

    But critics said Ontario, which sold a majority of shares in Hydro One to raise money for transportation infrastructure and now owns a 49 per cent stake, is taking a step backward with the deal.

    New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns blamed the Wynne government’s “fire sale” of Hydro One, which he said now operates on a profit motive to please shareholders.

    “No one should be surprised they’re doing stuff contrary to what Ontario has been doing,” said Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth).

    “It wouldn’t even be legal in Ontario,” he said of the Avista plant.

    Colstrip supplies about 9 per cent of the electricity to Avista customers. The company, headquartered in Spokane, Wash., serves Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

    Ontario “is in the coal business again,” said Progressive Conservative MPP Todd Smith (Prince Edward-Hastings).

    The Green Party said the deal undermines the government’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    “This is a bad move for Ontario and for our planet . . . keep in mind Montana borders British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, and air doesn’t respect national boundaries,” said Jose Etcheverry, the Green candidate in Markham-Stouffville for next June’s provincial election.

    “Hydro One has slapped us in the face by going shopping for a utility that owns one of the largest polluters in the U.S. northwest,” added Angela Bishoff of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance.

    Wynne told reporters she talked with Hydro One chief executive Mayo Schmidt about the deal on Thursday, raising her concerns.

    “I said: ‘You know, what about this?’ The fact is we have a coal-free electricity grid here in Ontario and . . . I expect that value system could be shared.”

    “I know that Hydro One will be reviewing all of the operations once the transaction is completed. But we are leading the way in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” she added.

    An article in Scientific American last year titled “Inside a Western Town That Refuses to Quit Coal” said the plant emits nearly 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, earning a spot among the top 20 carbon-producing power plants in the country.

    The power plant is one of the largest employers in Colstrip and is located near a coal mine, which supplies it with fuel.

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    A man who was found guilty of second-degree murder in a daytime shooting at the Eaton Centre was granted a new trial Friday after a judge found the jury that convicted him was improperly selected.

    The Court of Appeal for Ontario overturned Christopher Husbands’ convictions, saying the trial judge made an irreparable mistake by overruling a defence request regarding the method of jury selection.

    As a result, the three-member appeal panel said, the jury was improperly constituted and the verdict cannot stand.

    “In accordance with the current state of the law . . . what occurred here cannot be salvaged,” Justice David Watt wrote on behalf of the panel.

    The June 2012 shooting at the Eaton Centre’s crowded food court sparked mayhem in the mall and sent hordes of panicked shoppers running for the exits.

    Husbands was acquitted more than two years ago of first-degree murder but was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Nixon Nirmalendran, 22, and Ahmed Hassan, 24.

    He was also found guilty of five counts of aggravated assault and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

    Husbands, whose lawyers had put forward a defence of not criminally responsible due to post-traumatic stress disorder, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 30 years.

    Husbands’ appeal focused largely on the manner in which jurors were chosen.

    As part of the selection process, prospective jurors may be questioned as to whether they believe they can remain impartial. Two people from the jury pool take on the role of “triers,” meaning they weigh the answer and determine whether there is sign of bias.

    Lawyers for both the Crown and the defence then decide whether to allow the person on the jury.

    Each newly appointed juror replaces one of the two triers so that the responsibility is shared, a process called “rotating triers.”

    At the request of the accused, the court can appoint two people who will assess all the prospective juror responses. These are called “static triers” and do not get to serve on the jury.

    Watt said Husbands’ lawyers made it clear they wanted rotating triers but the judge, Superior Court Justice Eugene Ewaschuk, imposed static triers.

    “Expressly and repeatedly, counsel wanted rotating triers. Yet the trial judge forged ahead, despite the entreaties of defence counsel, without any inquiries of the trial Crown about her position and seemingly oblivious to the confining language of the enabling legislation,” Watt wrote.

    At least one other case presided by Ewaschuk has seen its verdict overturned on appeal over the same issue.

    Lawyer Dirk Derstine, who represents Husbands, said Friday’s decision was not surprising.

    “There’s been a lot of cases which dealt with similar situations involving this judge which came to the same conclusion,” Derstine said. “He had a very real belief that what he was doing was legal and proper and the Court of Appeal has found on a number of occasions that it was not correct.”

    It could take more than a year before a new trial for Husbands gets underway, he said, noting that his client is “looking forward to getting a fair trial this time.”

    Since the first-degree murder acquittal was not challenged, Husbands’ new trial will be on charges of second-degree murder, as well as aggravated assault and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

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    WASHINGTON—Laughably dishonest, relentlessly combative and impossible to not watch, Sean Spicer was the perfect spokesperson for Donald Trump.

    And now he’s taking his props and going home.

    Six months and one day into his tenure as the president’s chief public propagandist, the White House press secretary famously skewered on Saturday Night Live resigned Friday after a long string of self-inflicted and Trump-inflicted humiliations.

    Spicer had become an improbable celebrity, an afternoon sensation whose televised briefings produced almost no useful information but drew more viewers than General Hospital. Trump, a television obsessive who often watched The Spicer Show himself, bragged about Spicer’s ratings as if they were evidence of his own popularity.

    They were not.

    Viewers were tuning in for the political equivalent of the four-alarm-fire coverage on the local newscast, and other aides knew the briefings were going badly even if the president didn’t. When new communications director Anthony Scaramucci and new press secretary Sarah Sanders took the podium after Spicer’s resignation, it was the first on-camera briefing in three weeks.

    In truth, Spicer was always an odd hire for Trump: stammering for a president who cherishes smooth; rumpled where the president prefers suave; a loyal party man for an outsider president suspicious of his party.

    What he did have was a willingness to lie. All the time. About virtually everything.

    Read more:Donald Trump said 414 false things in his first six months. Here’s what we’ve learned

    Spicer’s first post-inauguration briefing set the tone for the rest. Slamming the news media for alleged unfairness, he declared that Trump’s inauguration had drawn the largest crowd of all time, “period.” It was not even close.

    The performance was aimed, as many of Spicer’s future deceitful performances were, at an audience of one. Spicer often appeared to be striving to please Trump rather than serve any particular strategic goal.

    Spicer could be helpful and charming to reporters in private. Republicans who know him sympathized with his plight: trying to explain and defend the words and acts of a president prone to the inexplicable and incomprehensible.

    Hs attempts at spin were regularly undermined by Trump himself. After Spicer insisted that Trump’s policy on travellers from seven (later six) Muslim countries was “not a travel ban,” Trump tweeted: “I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!”

    Spicer frequently appeared out of the decision-making loop, time and again telling questioners that he would have to get back to them. At times, he attempted to subtly indicate that he did not personally share Trump’s inaccurate views.

    “He has been, was, and will be again well-respected in this town. He took on a role that redefines impossible. In the dictionary, ‘impossible’: the definition’s going to be ‘spokesman for Donald Trump,’ ” Rich Galen, former press secretary for prominent Republican legislators Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich, said in an interview.

    But nobody was forcing Spicer to stick around to do Trump’s dissembling.

    “Being Donald Trump’s press secretary is probably an impossible job but Sean’s willingness to lie and debase himself and the office was particularly noteworthy,” Dan Pfeiffer, who was Obama’s White House communications director, said in a message to the Star. “He chose to lie and undermine the traditional role of the media, so he has no one to blame but himself.”

    Press secretaries have always sparred with reporters. Under Spicer, the usual chiding gave way to an all-out assault. Spicer depicted obvious questions as bias, reporting of verifiable facts as “shameful.”

    Much of Trump’s base appeared to delight in the lambasting. But Spicer’s words alarmed democratic watchdogs who worried about the consequences of such broad disparagement of the press. His diatribes were so outlandish that he became SNL gold for Melissa McCarthy, who played him as a raging, puppet-wielding imbecile.

    Trump, Politico reported, was bothered — less that his spokesperson was being depicted as an inept liar than that his spokesman was being played by a woman.

    Even as he professed continued support in public, Trump was reportedly cruel to Spicer in private. Spicer, a Catholic, let it be known that he badly wanted to meet the Pope during Trump’s May visit to the Vatican. Trump left Spicer off the list.

    Spicer suffered through, though he moved to a less visible role in June. His final straw, according to the New York Times, was Trump’s Friday decision to hire Scaramucci, a well-coiffed, well-dressed financier with almost no political experience, as communications director.

    Scaramucci, a regular guest on Fox News, delivered a hyperbolic first performance on Friday in which he declared his “love” for Trump and hailed the president’s “karma.”

    At one point, Scaramucci was asked whether he believed Trump’s lie that three million people voted illegally in the 2016 election.

    “If the president says it,” Scaramucci said, “there’s probably some level of truth to that.”

    “Let me do more homework on that, and I’ll get back to you,” he added, and it was like Sean Spicer never left.

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    Toronto Star readers have helped a female genital mutilation survivor raise the funds she needs to have reconstructive surgery in the United States.

    Last week, the Star published the story of Yasmin Mumed— a 23-year-old University of Guelph student who was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) at the age of 6 in her village in Ethiopia. Since, dozens of people have helped her reach her fundraising goal of $6,650 through her GoFundMe page.

    The surgery itself is free, covered by a Las Vegas based organization, Clitoraid. The funds raised will be used to pay for transportation for Mumed and a support person. As well as prescription drugs and a hotel while she is recovering from the surgery.

    Mumed said this week she was touched by donations made by people she knew but had lost touch with, including an elementary school classmate who wrote on the GoFundMe page that she remembered Mumed’s “beautiful smile” and a high school drama teacher who Mumed said always “made me feel smart.”

    “You are even more amazing than I thought way back when you were in my class,” wrote her former teacher, Fiona McPhaden, on the page.

    Mumed added she was surprised by the many strangers who donated. “People were giving so much for someone they only knew through a story,” she said.

    Alongside a donation of $25, Megan Radford de Barrientos wrote: “I hope this surgery brings you hope and that your story encourages the government and the medical community in Canada to reassess their services to women who have gone through this, or girls who are at risk. Your courage is inspiring.”

    Female genital mutilation — also known as female genital cutting — varies from partial removal of the clitoris to its most severe form, a procedure known as infibulation, in which the clitoris and labia are excised and the vulva stitched together, leaving only a small opening.

    It has no health benefits for girls and women and can cause severe bleeding, problems with urination, and later cysts, infections, complications in childbirth and an increased risk of death for newborns, according to the World Health Organization. It can also deny women sexual pleasure.

    FGM affects more than 200 million women worldwide, according to UNICEF.

    Read more: ‘I just remember screaming’: Toronto FGM survivor recalls the day she was cut

    Mumed, who immigrated to Canada when she was 9 and grew up in Scarborough, is currently on a waitlist to have surgery with Dr. Marci Bowers, a California-based gynecologist who has performed more than 250 operations on women who have had FGM. The surgery removes the scar tissue from the clitoris and cuts ligaments around it, allowing it to descend, in the hopes of giving the woman back some sensation.

    Mumed’s clitoris and part of her labia was cut with a razor blade in a darkened room when she was just a child. She remembers a group of women holding down her arms and legs. The piercing pain. And then the blood.

    Having pushed the cutting out of her mind for many years, she didn’t remember what had happened to her until she became sexually active in her teens. She recently looked for support services in the Toronto area to help her live with the anxiety and confusion she was feeling because of the cutting, and to help her navigate day-to-day life, including dating. That’s when she found Dr. Bowers.

    The surgery has given Mumed hope. And, more importantly, she says, it has given her choice.

    “It’s something that was taken away from me without my consent,” she said of her cutting, adding that she is pursuing the surgery to have “that power back.”

    “I’ve made a decision over my body and I’m choosing to do it.”

    In addition to the donations, Mumed said she has been getting support from her friends and community, including women who, after reading her story, told her that they are now having conversations with their mothers, who have been cut, about FGM. Young men have called her to say that they are now thinking about the harmful effects FGM has on women, she said.

    She is happy to hear this, she says, because she did not make the difficult decision to speak publicly about such a sensitive topic because she wanted people to feel sorry for her. “I’m a warrior,” she says, smiling.

    She wanted to help empower young women like her, particularly Black Muslim women like her, to address FGM.

    “We can actually start talking to our moms, our grandparents, our cousins,” says Mumed. “This is how we stop it.”

    FGM is practised in 29 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East, India and other parts of Asia. It is seen by some as a rite of passage into womanhood or a condition of marriage. It occurs in both Islamic and Christian communities, but is largely a cultural tradition that dates back hundreds of years. In many areas, there is huge social pressure on families to have their daughters cut.

    An ongoing Star investigation has previously revealed that the federal government knows Canadian girls are being sent abroad to be subjected to FGM and is lagging far behind other developed countries in its efforts to prevent it. Experts say there is also a lack of support services in Canada available for women living with the physical and psychological effects of FGM, regardless of when and where it happened to them.

    In Ontario, some women have asked their doctors to reverse the most severe type of FGM. According to provincial records, in the past seven years Ontario has performed 308 “repairs of infibulations,” a surgery that creates a vaginal opening where it has been sewn mostly shut. There are currently no known procedures in Canada that replace tissue.

    Jayme Poisson can be reached at or (416) 814-2725

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    PETERBOROUGH—A driver has been charged after a dramatic video showed a 74-year-old cyclist viciously attacked on the side of the road with a club.

    Peterborough police said that just after 11 a.m. Tuesday, the cyclist was riding in the area of Erskine Ave. when an argument broke out between him and a truck driver.

    The driver climbed out of his truck and attacked the cyclist with a small club, police said.

    The video shows the cyclist on the ground with his attacker on top of him, striking him over and over in the head and torso. It shows the attacker stopping when witnesses approached and intervened.

    A truck sits beside them, with a bicycle crumpled on the street in front of the vehicle. The victim was seen bleeding profusely as he walked away.

    “I’m filming all of this,” the woman, who recorded the video, says as the driver gets back up and flicks blood off of his hands.

    The driver’s only defence was an adamant, and repeated, “I tried to walk away.”

    The driver then fled the scene in his truck.

    “Where am I bleeding?” the cyclist asks the woman recording.

    “Everywhere,” she replys.

    The woman asked for her name to be withheld when later contacted by Peterborough This Week.

    “The sound of the club hitting him was sickening,” the woman told the newspaper. “Blood was flying off it.”

    She said she didn’t witness what led to the encounter.

    “They were flailing their arms around and the guy walked back to his truck,” she said.

    She grabbed her phone to take a photo of the truck because she thought the cyclist might have been hit. Little did she know what the driver would do next.

    “He became enraged and you could see him snap in the truck,” she said.

    She continued recording and ran towards the men while yelling for the attacker to get off the bloodied man.

    When the woman and a handful of motorists came to the aid of the cyclist, the driver stopped, put the bloody club in his pocket and wiped blood from his own face.

    The woman helped the cyclist up from the ground and tried to stop the bleeding until paramedics arrived.

    “I didn’t know how bad it was because there was so much blood,” she said. “It was pouring down his face and he couldn’t see out of his eyes.”

    Additional witnesses tried to keep the driver in the area until police arrived but he drove off in his truck. The woman is afraid of what would have happened to the man if no one was around.

    “He attacked a senior man and drove away,” she said.

    The witness said she’s getting tired of people doing horrible things and getting away with them.

    “It is getting harder and harder to see that every day,” she said. “They have zero repercussions”

    Police made an arrest about an hour later. The cyclist was treated and released from Peterborough Regional Hospital. Police said the two men did not know each other.

    David Fox, 65, has been charged with aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. He was released from custody and scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 24.

    With files from Alexandra Jones

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