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TOPSTORIES

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    An Ontario judge who wore a Donald Trump campaign T-shirt in public won’t be disciplined, according to a letter posted on the Canadian Judicial Council website last month.

    Toni Skarica, an Ontario Superior Court judge who previously served as a Progressive Conservative MPP from 1995 to 2000, was spotted wearing a “Make America Great Again” T-shirt by Dundas resident Lorne Warwick while grocery shopping in June 2016.

    Warwick, a retired teacher, said that he and his wife immediately recognized Skarica, and they were shocked to see what he called a “flagrant display” of support for a politician who had openly discriminated against Muslims and Mexicans during the campaign.

    “I wondered about his ability to independently assess people before the courts,” Warwick said in an interview Monday.

    Warwick wrote to the judicial council with a complaint about Skarica’s choice of attire, claiming that it constituted a breach of impartiality rules for judges.

    The Canadian Superior Courts Judges’ Association website says that judges must appear to be impartial in both their public and private lives.

    When the Star reached out to Skarica, his office said that he declined to comment.

    A letter responding to Warwick’s complaint dated Sept. 2, 2016, was posted on the council’s website late last month. It details Skarica’s defence to the complaint, including that he was wearing the T-shirt as an item of historical memorabilia and that he does not endorse Trump.

    The letter states that Skarica put the T-shirt on to show a friend, and later wore it out shopping, but “he does not intend to wear the T-shirt in public in any meaningful way.”

    The council was satisfied that Skarica had no meaningful connection to the Trump campaign, and concluded that Warwick’s complaint was “unfounded.”

    Skarica is not the only Hamilton-area judge facing scrutiny for sporting Trump-related attire. Justice Bernd Zabel faces a disciplinary hearing set for Aug. 23 for wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap in court the day after the American election.

    Zabel has apologized for the choice, calling it a “misguided” attempt at humour.

    Warwick said that he was “a little disappointed” when he received the letter from the judicial council, although he thinks Zabel’s Trump attire display was “more egregious,” since it took place in court.

    While he was hoping for Skarica to be reprimanded, Warwick is satisfied that his complaint was taken seriously.

    “I was pleased that they did speak to him and he had to defend himself before the association,” he said.

    Johanna Laporte, a spokesperson for the council, said the letter dismissing the complaint had been publicly available before its release on the website in June, since Warwick had published it on his blog, and the correspondence was reported in the media.

    It went up on the website a few weeks ago “for ease of reference,” after a lawyer wishing to cite the letter asked for it to be published.


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    Sen. Murray Sinclair, the respected former chair of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, will lead an investigation into Thunder Bay’s embattled police board.

    The Ontario Civilian Police Commission, a quasi-judicial agency that oversees all police boards in the province, announced Sinclair’s appointment on Monday.

    In a statement, the commission said it has “serious concerns about the state of civilian police oversight and public confidence in the delivery of police services in Thunder Bay.”

    This announcement was welcome news for Indigenous leaders, advocates and Thunder Bay citizens. Thunder Bay has been rocked by a series of crises: both its mayor and police chief are facing charges, and the police service and board are both under investigation.

    Racial tensions in the city are also at a high point after the deaths of two Indigenous teens in May, and the July 4 death of Barbara Kentner, a 34-year-old mother who was hospitalized for months after being hit by a metal trailer hitch in the stomach as she walked down a Thunder Bay street.

    “Those of us who have had the honour and privilege to work with Murray Sinclair, we believe in his ability to do a thorough job and fulfil the mandate given to him by the OCPC,” said Alvin Fiddler, grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization of 49 First Nations in northern Ontario. Fiddler was manager of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s regional and Ontario liaisons. The commission documented the painful 150-year history of Canada’s residential school system, which saw 150,000 Indigenous children taken from their families to attend government-funded, church-run schools. Sinclair was appointed head of the commission in 2009.

    The Ontario Civilian Police Commission — which, along with Sinclair, was not conducting interviews Monday — said in the statement that it has concerns with the police board’s ability to address matters raised by Indigenous leaders relating to “a recent series of deaths of Indigenous youths and the quality of the investigations into these deaths conducted by the Thunder Bay Police Service.”

    The police service is currently under investigation for allegations of “systemic racism” by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) regarding how the force handles Indigenous death and disappearance cases.

    Julian Falconer, NAN’s lawyer during an inquest into the deaths of seven Indigenous students who lost their lives while at school in Thunder Bay from 2000 to 2011, called Sinclair’s appointment an important step. Three of those students were found in rivers and their cause of death was ruled undetermined by a coroner’s jury last summer.

    “It is essential someone of Sinclair’s prominence receive the appointment because it sends a loud and clear message on the level of seriousness of the issues,” Falconer said.

    Sinclair’s investigation will neither interfere with nor duplicate the review being carried out by the OIPRD, or any related police or coroner’s investigations.

    The commission also said it is concerned with police “board representatives stating that the public’s concerns about systemic racism existing within the service and the quality of the service’s investigations are without basis.”

    The commission’s statement noted the recent criminal accusations against Thunder Bay police Chief J.P. Levesque, who was charged with breach of trust and obstruction of justice in May. He is now on leave.

    Sinclair’s investigation will probe the board’s performance in carrying out its responsibilities to ensure “adequate and effective” police services. He will also examine the board’s role in determining “objectives and priorities with respect to police services” in Thunder Bay and its role in establishing policies for the effective management of the police.

    In addition, the probe will examine the board’s role in ensuring that police service in the city complies with the Police Services Act, specifically the importance of “safeguarding the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code.”

    An interim report is to be released on Oct. 31, with a final report expected by March 31, 2018.

    Racial tensions are heightened in the city after the recent deaths of two Indigenous teens. Both Tammy Keeash and Josiah Begg disappeared on the night of May 6.

    Keeash, a 17-year-old high school student from North Caribou Lake First Nation, failed to make her curfew that night and her body was discovered on May 7, lying in shallow waters.

    Begg, a 14-year-old from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, vanished while he was in town for medical appointments. He was found dead in the McIntyre River on May 18 after an intensive community search.

    Ontario’s chief coroner, Dr. Dirk Huyer, announced last month that York Regional Police would be brought in to investigate the deaths of Keeash and Begg.

    Last Friday, Ontario Provincial Police 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.”

    The OPP alleges that Hobbs, 65; his wife, Marisa, 53; 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 told the Star on Friday that his client denies the charges. 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 paid leave.

    The charges have not been proven in court. But they are the latest in a series of criminal and civil allegations that also saw prominent lawyer Sandy Zaitzeff arrested on sexual assault charges late last year.


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    “This is human life.”

    For years the battle-hardened and decorated American veteran wrestled with his conscience, with whether he’d done the right thing in saving the life of Omar Khadr, seen by many as a terrorist who profited from his crimes.

    Now, watching from afar the furor over the Canadian government’s $10.5-million payout to Khadr, Donnie Bumanglag wants to tell his story, offering a perspective born of bitter experience — one he admits may not be popular with many Canadians, or even some of his own former comrades-in-arms.

    Bumanglag, 36, of Lompoc, Calif., has spent years coming to terms with his former life as an elite airborne medic supporting U.S. special forces during three missions to Afghanistan and Iraq. He’s been haunted by flashbacks, frequently thrown back to that time in the summer of 2002, when he spent hours in the back of a helicopter frantically working on Khadr, then 15 years old and at the very edge of death.

    Read more:Everything you need to know about the Omar Khadr saga, but were afraid to ask

    “This is a human life. This is war. This is something that most people can’t fathom, and they want to be real quick to give an opinion just because it makes them feel good about themselves,” Bumanglag says. “(But) there’s more to this story than just talking points.”

    The following account is based on interviews Bumanglag gave to The Canadian Press, as well as on a recent podcast he co-hosts in which he talks about saving Khadr.

    Little guy on a door

    Doc Buma, as the 21-year-old Ranger medic was known, was looking forward to leaving the remote area of Afghanistan in which he had been operating for more than a month and heading to Bagram for a shower and some downtime before redeploying to Kandahar.

    Instead, as they flew toward Bagram that day in July 2002, a distress call came in. The MH-53 helicopter veered toward Khost and an encounter that would stay with him for years.

    Edmund Sealey, then the Rangers platoon sergeant, remembers the call coming in with orders to divert and pick up an “enemy fighter” who had been shot.

    “I was on the aircraft. We picked up that casualty in a firefight,” Sealey, 47, now of Columbus, Ga., said from Afghanistan. where he still works as a contractor. “With Buma being a Ranger medic, he’s going to assist as soon as you get on board. Enemy or friendly, it doesn’t matter.”

    With the chopper gunners providing covering fire, they landed in a field. Sealey led the way, Bumanglag behind him, as they threaded their way through a suspected minefield, down a road, and connected with a group of U.S. special forces soldiers.

    On what appeared to be a wooden door lay the wounded enemy fighter, shot twice by one of the elite Delta forces. The soldiers had found the casualty barely alive in a compound the Americans had pounded to rubble during a massive assault. One of their own, Sgt. Chris Speer, had been killed by a grenade, and another, Layne Morris, blinded in one eye. It was apparent to the incoming medic that the Delta soldiers were in “some pretty severe distress” over the loss of their comrade.

    “There’s a look on somebody’s face when the whole world went to s--- 10 minutes ago and it’s too much to process,” Bumanglag says.

    As he recalls, the soldiers gave him bare-bones biographical data on the casualty: The fighter had killed Speer. He was a Canadian who had been Osama bin Laden’s “houseboy.” They also told him to keep the high-value detainee alive because he would be a vital source of information, and passed him off.

    Bumanglag was now charged with saving Khadr, son of a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda. He didn’t know Khadr was 15 years old, but his youth struck him.

    “I don’t know if I can call him a little kid but he sure looked little to me. He’s 80 pounds or something. He’s a little guy who’s on a door, basically,” Bumanglag says.

    They moved the patient up the ramp and the chopper took off. The medic immediately began working to save the boy, who was covered in blood and sand.

    “Omar, with gunshot wounds and flex cuffs like an animal had been shot, didn’t look human,” Bumanglag recalls. “But moving in closer and working on him as a patient and seeing the facial features and seeing the skin pigmentation, those images always stuck with me.”

    Khadr, it turned out, bore a striking resemblance to one of Bumanglag’s cousins, which bothered the young medic then, and for years after.

    “All I seen was a kid that looks like a kid that I knew.”

    ‘Everybody is jihad’

    As the chopper bobbed and weaved toward Bagram, Doc Buma worked to stabilize his disoriented, barely conscious patient, who was writhing and moaning in pain. At the other soldiers’ insistence, Khadr’s hands remained handcuffed behind his back out of concern he might turn violent.

    Bumanglag’s main task was to deal with Khadr’s two gaping bullet exit wounds on his chest. His mind raced with thoughts about whether he should save the life of this “terrorist,” and whether he’d have enough medical supplies for his own guys should something happen. He even pondered pushing the enemy fighter out the chopper and being done with it.

    “He’s rocking his body around everywhere,” he says. “I took it as aggression. You get this idea that everybody is jihad and they’re going to fight to the death.”

    Then there was his ego, he admits: the notion that saving this captive would earn him praise, would show he had what it took. So he kept working, trying to staunch the bleeding.

    “My mission, my job was just to save him, keep him alive. There was no politics in it then. I was a young Ranger and this was my chance,” Bumanglag says. “I worked on him for over two hours in the back of a helicopter as the sun went down. At the end, I’m working under finger light.”

    He kept working, and Khadr kept living, not saying anything, just making noises.

    “His body indicated that he was a pretty brave guy. He fought for his life just as much as we fought to save him,” Bumanglag says. “Some people have a will to live and some people don’t. He definitely did.”

    They finally touched down at Bagram.

    “We plugged all the holes and we tried to keep things viable,” he says. “I pass him off and I don’t know whether he’s going to live or die.”

    What he did know was that Khadr hadn’t died on his watch and it was therefore mission accomplished — one for which he would later be commended by his superiors. It would take another year or so before Bumanglag learned that Khadr had survived.

    After the battle

    Omar Khadr, born in September 1986 in Toronto, spent several months recovering from his wounds at Bagram, where, from the moment he was conscious and able to speak, he underwent what were, by most accounts, some of the harshest interrogations the Americans had devised in the War on Terror.

    A few months later, in October 2002, he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He had just turned 16.

    It was in his early days at the infamous U.S. military prison in Cuba that Canadian intelligence officers went down to interrogate him. The Americans made the interviews conditional on having the information he provided passed on to them. The Canadians also knew the teen had been subjected to the “frequent flyer program,” a brutal process of sleep deprivation designed to soften him up.

    Video would surface years later of a weeping teen, now realizing the Canadian agents weren’t there to help him, whimpering for his mother.

    Khadr ultimately pleaded guilty to five war crimes in 2010 before a widely discredited military commission. He later disavowed his confession to having killed Speer, saying it was the only way the Americans would return him to Canada, which happened in 2012.

    The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government had violated Khadr’s rights. The ruling underpinned the recent settlement of his lawsuit in which Ottawa apologized to him and, sources said, paid him $10.5 million.

    “If you say you’d go through what he went through for $10 million, you’re out of your mind, and that’s the truth,” Bumanglag says.

    Khadr has said he no longer remembers the firefight and would not comment on Bumanglag’s account.

    ‘I’m glad I saved his life’

    Doc Buma returned to his native California and left the military in 2003. He became a police officer, working anti-narcotics, for almost 10 years. Ultimately, the flashbacks and the post-traumatic stress bested him and he retired as a cop about five years ago. He studied educational psychology, he said, as part of trying to sort himself out.

    He took up co-hosting a podcast, Sick Call, in which he and a fellow vet talk about a variety of issues, including topics related to the military and law enforcement. In one recent episode, he talks about Khadr. It’s all part educating others, part therapy for himself, he says.

    The years since his time in the military, when he was ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and heed the call of duty wherever it took him, he says, have afforded him time to grow up, to gain some perspective on war, on his life as a soldier, on demonizing people he has never met or with whom he has no personal quarrel.

    “I’ve been on the worst combat missions. I bought into the ideology. Now it’s time for reflection,” he says.

    Time and again, he is careful to make clear he intends no disrespect to Speer’s relatives or to Morris and empathizes with what they have lost.

    “Omar lost his eye, too. I don’t know how much more symbolic that can be.”

    At the same time, he is clear that Speer and Morris were grown men who had signed on the line to become elite professional soldiers, knowing the risks of their jobs.

    On the other hand, Bumanglag also makes it clear he empathizes with the young Canadian who was taken by his father to another country and thrown into an ideologically motivated war over which he had no control.

    As a married father of four, Bumanglag says it’s naive to believe Khadr could somehow have just walked away from the compound his father had sent him to. More to the point, he says, had he found himself where Khadr did that fateful day in July — under heavy bombardment, with the fighting men dead and the enemy closing in for the kill, he likely would not have hesitated to throw a grenade.

    “What happens if the shoe is on the other foot? This is the scenario that I’ve played in my head,” Bumanglag says, his mind turning to those who are furious at the Canadian government’s settlement with Khadr.

    “They can be upset but the reality is that they don’t understand the full story. I don’t think any of us do.”

    Doc Buma says he no longer frets that he should have let Khadr die.

    “Everybody may hate him but I’m glad I saved his life,” he says. “It just wasn’t his time then.”


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    The family of a 26-year-old cyclist, who was killed in a hit-and-run by a 19-year-old driver who wove around stopped traffic to speed through an amber light, were devastated to learn the man will be able to drive again in 10 years.

    Mitchell Irwin, now 21, was sentenced to four years in prison and a six-year driving ban on Monday after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Adam Excell, as well as failing to remain at the scene and breaching his bail conditions.

    “It doesn’t seem like justice was served today,” said Excell’s cousin Ashley Ferguson, wearing a handmade bicycle pendant gifted to her in Excell’s memory. “If you take someone’s life while driving, I don’t think you should be able to drive. You shouldn’t have that privilege.”

    More than 20 of Excell’s family members and friends filled the courtroom, dressed as if at a funeral, to hear the sentencing. Many left in tears.

    According to the agreed statement of facts, Irwin was driving north on Avenue Rd. at 11:20 p.m. on June 13, 2015, with two friends. Excell had been going south on Avenue and waited for oncoming traffic to stop before making a left turn onto Davenport Rd. Irwin approached the intersection speeding, suddenly changed lanes to get around a stopped car and entered the intersection, striking Excell. He was going 87 kilometres an hour in a 50 km/h zone. Though his windshield was smashed, Irwin didn’t stop. Instead, he drove to a nearby school, dumped out a case of beer, and made the hour-long drive home to Keswick.

    He surrendered to police the next day and was released on bail. However, he breached his bail conditions multiple times, according to the agreed statement of facts. Photos posted to social media showed Irwin associating with the two friends who were in his car that night, as well as holding alcohol. He was also found intoxicated on another occasion, though he was prohibited from drinking.

    Prosecutor Neville Golwalla and Irwin’s defence lawyer, Leo Kinahan, both agreed a four-year prison sentence would be appropriate given that Irwin pleaded guilty, showed remorse and is a young man with no criminal record. However they disagreed on how long the driving prohibition should be. The Crown sought a 10-year ban, the defence a five-year ban.

    Superior Court Justice Maureen Forestell sentenced Irwin to four years in prison and imposed a six-year driving ban after that. While that sentence would once have been considered high, she noted during submissions, sentences have been steadily climbing for dangerous and impaired driving offences.

    Forestell said she accepts that Irwin’s remorse is genuine and that he has taken responsibility for his actions.

    But she also noted Irwin had only a G2 licence at the time of the crash, that he stopped after the crash to take a case of beer out of his car and that he left the scene to avoid being caught.

    There was no evidence as to whether Irwin had been drinking at the time of the crash. Irwin told police he was the designated driver for his friends.

    “Mr. Irwin did not intend to kill anyone or indeed to hurt anyone,” Forestell said. “He did, however , intend to drive in a manner that put the public at risk. He intended to drive in a way that cost Adam Excell his life. Mr. Irwin intended to leave the scene, leaving Mr. Excell injured and dying.”

    Irwin was handcuffed and taken into custody as his own family and friends sobbed.

    After the guilty plea Friday, Excell’s mother, Brenda, urged drivers to be more cautious and slow down. She questioned whether driver education programs are doing enough to tackle careless and risky driving.

    “I’m afraid every time I drive,” she said in her lengthy victim impact statement. “All I see is bad drivers and dangerous situations. Noticing close calls is now the new normal. Crazy stupid things people do with no idea the effect their stupidity will have on their loved ones or on their victim’s loved ones.”

    Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, says it is crucial that road violence be taken seriously.

    “Every single death on our roads is preventable,” he said. “There is an immense amount of power that comes with driving a motor vehicle … (Drivers) need to slow down, need to put their phones down, need to pay attention and drive sober. It is huge responsibility and a privilege to be driving.”

    At least 16 pedestrians and two cyclists have been killed in traffic collisions in Toronto this year. Unlike in Mitchell’s case, which involved criminal charges, many cases are dealt with through Highway Traffic Act charges that carry much lower penalties.

    Advocates are calling for a “vulnerable road user” law to stiffen penalties for drivers who kill or injure cyclists or pedestrians.

    Outside the courthouse, Excell’s friend Leyah Cynamon told reporters Excell’s legacy lives on through all the lives he touched.

    “He was a huge human being. He lived big, he lived well and he loved a lot of people,” she said of the artist, outdoorsman and cyclist. “He continues to be a huge inspiration to all of us, even in his death. We hope that we can honour him, create meaning and find adventure.”

    With files from Ben Spurr


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    Coming off a dismal road trip and with next Monday’s trade deadline looming, the chatter during this seven-game Blue Jays homestand will be as much about the goings-on off the field as what is happening on it.

    But there is still baseball to be played as the clock ticks down, and the Oakland Athletics arrived for the opener of a four-game series with the same record as the home side at 44-54.

    The Jays struck first with a 4-2 win, holding the A’s to two hits while Russell Martin launched his 10th home run of the season.

    Francisco Liriano, the soon-to-be free agent whose name has been batted around as one of those on the trading block, hadn’t lasted more than two innings in his last two starts, but delivered five frames of two-hit ball on Monday night.

    “I just try not to pay attention to that,” Liriano said of the trade speculation. “Try to concentrate on what I can control, and stuff like that I cannot control. I just came today and tried to concentrate on my outing and it worked out.”

    Liriano struck out five, the most he’d had since June 14, and left with the Jays up 3-2. Joe Biagini, Ryan Tepera and closer Roberto Osuna, with his 25th save, nailed down the victory with four hitless innings.

    Liriano was shaky out of the gate, though, needing 30 of his 86 pitches to get out of the first inning. But he allowed just one run, when Marcus Semien scored on Steve Pearce’s error in left field after a Ryon Healy single.

    Martin got that back in the bottom half of the first with his homer off Oakland’s Chris Smith.

    The Jays took the lead in the fourth after a double by Josh Donaldson and walks to Justin Smoak and Troy Tulowitzki loaded the bases. Singles by Ezequiel Carrera and Ryan Goins — who is 9-for-12 with the bases loaded this season — scored two.

    Matt Chapman pulled one back for the visitors with a solo dinger in the fifth off Liriano, but that’s as close as they’d get. The Jays rounded out the scoring in the seventh, on Smoak’s bases-loaded walk, cashing in Jose Bautista.

    The game provided the Blue Jays with a few hours’ respite from the off-field speculation. Manager John Gibbons said filtering out the talk is easier said than done.

    “I’m sure they give it some thought if they’ve heard their name,” Gibbons said of the team. “It’s never easy to move on somewhere else, especially if you’re comfortable. You like it in a certain place.”

    A homestand against two middling teams — Mike Trout and the 49-51 Los Angeles Angels are in town starting Friday — could prove a boost, though Gibbons warned records don’t always tell the story.

    “Major-league teams are major-league teams. They all have good players,” said Gibbons. “You see what they’re doing (in Oakland). They’re rebuilding, but they’ve got some good young players, powerful players — typical Oakland-type team. It doesn’t matter. It’s still the big leagues.”


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    SAN ANTONIO—The tractor-trailer was pitch-black inside, crammed with maybe 90 immigrants or more, and already hot when it left the Texas border town of Laredo for the 150-mile trip north to San Antonio.

    It wasn't long before the passengers, sweating profusely in the rising ovenlike heat, started crying and pleading for water. Children whimpered. People took turns breathing through a single hole in the wall. They pounded on the sides of the truck and yelled to try to get the driver's attention. Then they began passing out.

    By the time police showed up at a Walmart in San Antonio around 12:30 a.m. Sunday and looked in the back of the truck, eight passengers were dead and two more would soon die in an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone tragically awry.

    Read more:Immigrants die in sweltering truck during smuggling attempt in Texas

    The details of the journey were recounted Monday by a survivor who spoke to The Associated Press and in a federal criminal complaint against the driver, James Matthew Bradley, who could face the death penalty over the 10 lives lost.

    "After an hour I heard ... people crying and asking for water. I, too, was sweating and people were despairing. That's when I lost consciousness," Adan Lara Vega, 27, told the AP from his hospital bed. By the time he came to, he was in the hospital, where his ID bracelet identified him by the last name Lalravega. Mexican consulate and U.S. officials later told AP the correct spelling was Lara Vega.

    Bradley, 60, of Clearwater, Florida, appeared in federal court on charges of illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death. He was ordered held for another hearing on Thursday.

    He did not enter a plea or say anything about what happened. But in court papers, he told authorities he didn't realize anyone was inside his 18-wheeler until he parked and got out to relieve himself.

    In addition to the dead, nearly 20 others rescued from the rig were hospitalized in dire condition, many suffering from extreme dehydration and heatstroke.

    Mexico's foreign ministry released a statement Monday night that said "according to preliminary information," 25 of the migrants inside the rig were Mexican.

    Four of those who died and 21 of those hospitalized are Mexican, the statement said. Some of the others inside the truck were from Guatemala.

    Many of the immigrants had hired smugglers who brought them across the U.S. border, hid them in safe houses and then put them aboard the tractor-trailer for the ride northward, according to accounts given to investigators.

    "Even though they have the driver in custody, I can guarantee you there's going to be many more people we're looking for to prosecute," said Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    Bradley told investigators that the trailer had been sold and he was transporting it for his boss from Iowa to Brownsville, Texas. After hearing banging and shaking, he opened the door and was "surprised when he was run over by 'Spanish' people and knocked to the ground," according to the criminal complaint.

    He said he did not call 911, even though he knew at least one passenger was dead.

    Bradley told authorities that he knew the trailer refrigeration system didn't work and that the four ventilation holes were probably clogged.

    The truck was registered to Pyle Transportation Inc. of Schaller, Iowa. President Brian Pyle said that he had sold the truck to someone in Mexico and that Bradley was supposed to deliver it to a pickup point in Brownsville.

    "I'm absolutely sorry it happened. I really am. It's shocking. I'm sorry my name was on it," Pyle said, referring to the truck. He said he had no idea why Bradley took the roundabout route he described to investigators.

    Bradley told authorities that he had stopped in Laredo — which would have been out of his way if he were travelling directly to Brownsville — to get the truck washed and detailed before heading back 240 kilometres north to San Antonio. From there, he would have had to drive 440 kilometres south again to get to Brownsville.

    "I just can't believe it. I'm stunned, shocked. He is too good a person to do anything like this," said Bradley's fiancée, Darnisha Rose of Louisville, Kentucky. "He helps people, he doesn't hurt people."

    One passenger described a perilous journey that began in Mexico, telling investigators he and others crossed into the U.S. by raft, paying smugglers 12,500 Mexican pesos (about $700 U.S.), an amount that also bought protection offered by the Zeta drug cartel.

    They then walked until the next day and rode in a pickup truck to Laredo, where they were put aboard the tractor-trailer to be taken to San Antonio, according to the complaint. The passenger said he was supposed to pay the smugglers $5,500 once he got there.

    Another passenger told authorities that he was in a group of 24 people who had been in a "stash house" in Laredo for 11 days before being taken to the tractor-trailer.

    Lara Vega told the AP that he was told by smugglers who hid him and six friends in a safe house in Laredo that they would be riding in an air-conditioned space.

    The Mexican labourer from the state of Aguascalientes said that when they boarded the truck on a Laredo street Saturday night for the two-hour trip to San Antonio, it was already full of people but so dark he couldn't tell how many.

    He said he was never offered water and never saw the driver. Lara Vega said that when people are being smuggled, they are told not to look at the faces of their handlers — and it's a good idea to obey.

    Bradley told authorities that when he arrived in San Antonio, nobody met the tractor-trailer. But one passenger said six black SUVs were waiting to pick up the immigrants and were full in a matter of minutes. And San Antonio police said store surveillance video showed vehicles picking up some of the immigrants.

    Lara Vega said he was deported from the U.S. three years ago but decided to take another chance because the economy is depressed where he lives with his wife, 4-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

    "A person makes decisions without thinking through the consequences," he said, "but, well, thanks to God, here we are."


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    The first thing Blake Talbot saw when he arrived at the scene of his mother’s accident was the blood.

    Just minutes earlier, he had received a call at his job at a nearby rec centre from a woman who said she was with his mother, who had just crashed her bicycle.

    Talbot arrived to find his mom, Stacey Talbot, 56, inside an ambulance, “covered in blood and still bleeding,” with “her upper lip and nose (swelled to) more than double their size.”

    Read more: Cyclist’s death renews calls for stricter penalties for drivers

    That’s when she told him the full story: she was knocked off her bike after a vehicle turned in front of her, and she felt lucky to be alive.

    “I didn’t even see it coming,” she told the Star.

    Shortly after the accident, Blake, 26, shared a photo of his mother, bloodied shirt and all, in a Facebook post, calling for justice for what he and his mother believe was a hit and run.

    Halton Regional Police confirmed that they are investigating, and are doing “extensive canvassing” to try to find out more about the alleged incident.

    The online engagement has snowballed since Blake uploaded the picture Friday. The original post had more than 1,200 likes, 750 comments and 5,300 shares on Facebook as of early Monday evening, with countless strangers and friends expressing their outrage and sadness at the incident.

    “We would love to catch the dirt bag who thinks it’s OK to leave a bleeding woman they just hit on the street,” Talbot’s post reads, describing his mother as “the most peaceful person.”

    Stacey Talbot told the Star she had been riding home from work around 2:30 p.m. on Friday on Nottinghill Gate in Oakville when a car crossed into her lane while attempting to make a turn in front of her, causing her to crash into the vehicle.

    “When I first looked up (after the collision), I thought that the car had pulled over onto the side of the road. Then I went down again,” Talbot said. “And then there was a lady there who was helping me and I assumed she was the driver (until) I said something about the car, and (she) said there was no car there, it left.”

    That woman was the one who called her son, and has since given her account of events to police, Blake Talbot said.

    Incidents like this are relatively rare in the Halton region, said Sgt. Ryan Snow.

    “(We) only get about 100 collisions (per year) in our region involving cyclists,” he said.

    Since 2010 Halton Regional Police have only recorded six deaths in collisions between cyclists and vehicles. In 2016, there was one death and 83 non-fatal injuries. Unfortunately, Sgt. Snow said that solving hit and runs can be difficult, especially since drivers sometimes don’t realize they’ve struck someone.

    “Without a licence plate number . . . the ability of the police to locate the offending vehicle and driver becomes greatly diminished,” Snow said.

    Halton Traffic Services told the Star police believe they are looking for a “white car,” but the division said that they have not yet been able to get more detailed suspect information.

    Stacey Talbot has been in hospital since the accident Friday, when a CT scan revealed bleeding in her brain. An MRI was performed Monday, but as of early evening they had yet to receive the results.

    She said her son’s impassioned defence of her is one reason why they received such a “crazy” response online. “I think that really touched people.”

    She needs new glasses, and her teeth are so numb that she can’t “chew or bite with them at all,” but despite that, she is willing to forgive the driver.

    That’s not good enough for Blake. The fact that his mother said the car continued on despite hitting her is “inexcusable” to him.

    “We are Canadian,” he said. “We are known for being caring, giving people. At least we used to be.”

    Thankfully his mother was wearing her helmet at the time of the accident. He believes that “if she wasn’t wearing her bike helmet, it would have killed her.”

    Sgt. Snow said that “a helmet is not the be all and end all of walking away from a collision,” but that at the end of the day “anyone riding a bicycle” should have one on.

    “I’ve always been kind of hit and miss with wearing my helmet and fortunately I had my helmet on when that happened,” Stacey Talbot said. “I will never ride without a helmet again.”

    With files from Emily Fearon


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    Ontario’s legal regulator has been stymied for months in trying to investigate high-profile personal injury lawyer Jeremy Diamond, the Law Society Tribunal has been told.

    Documents filed as part of a disciplinary hearing for Diamond on Monday reveal that since October, the lawyer has been under investigation by the Law Society of Upper Canada for allegedly “failing to adequately inform clients” about referral fees, “charging unreasonable referral fees,” “engaging in improper/misleading advertising” and “failing to properly supervise” his staff.

    But for months, Diamond failed to hand over documents showing the amounts of referral fees coming into his firm, in addition to numerous other financial documents requested by the law society, according to affidavits filed by a society investigator and forensic auditor.

    Lawyers are self-regulated in Ontario and must turn over financial details about their practices to the law society when requested.

    That brought Diamond to a hearing Monday at the tribunal on University Ave. to face allegations that he didn’t co-operate with a law society investigation that began in October and is ongoing.

    In May, the law society said that in addition to not co-operating with its investigation, Diamond failed to maintain required financial records — an allegation that was withdrawn after the lawyer provided the requested information.

    The law society alleges that it took 10 months and considerable effort — including four separate letters — to compel Diamond to provide it with documents detailing his referral fee operation since October 2013, including a complete listing of all referral fees received and paid, dates of payments and where the money was coming from.

    A Star investigation published in December found that the Diamond & Diamond firm had for many years been attracting thousands of would-be clients and then referring cases out to other lawyers in return for sometimes hefty fees. The Star found that clients were often unaware of the referrals and associated fees. Diamond & Diamond has told the Star that it has a growing roster of lawyers who handle cases in house.

    Diamond & Diamond’s marketing, which has included women in tight T-shirts and ads above urinals at the Air Canada Centre, has raised the ire of the law society, clients and some lawyers.

    At Monday’s hearing, law society lawyer Nisha Dhanoa argued that the society’s October 2016 request for information was “abundantly clear” and if any confusion existed, it was resolved by early 2017 when the society explained in more detail the records it required. She told the hearing that it wasn’t until June, after the law society alleged professional misconduct, that Diamond handed over financial information that got to the “heart” of what the society wanted.

    “It was no mystery what the law society was looking for,” Dhanoa said.

    She told the hearing that Diamond initially told the law society he did not keep the kinds of records it was seeking. However, she said that changed in the spring when Diamond said he kept a form of the required information. She said that Diamond’s “contradiction” in answers demonstrates that he wasn’t “acting in good faith.”

    Dhanoa also pointed out that Diamond had a professional obligation to keep books and records in a format dictated by the law society and should have been able to provide them when asked.

    Diamond’s lawyers, Robert Centa and Kris Borg-Olivier, told the hearing their client didn’t try to hide anything, and didn’t fully understand what the law society was asking for until early April. Once Diamond understood, he complied with the law society’s request and turned over the requested information and documents, the lawyers argued.

    His lawyers said the investigation was “complex,” “unique” and interconnected with other investigations into two other lawyers at the firm — Jeremy Diamond’s wife, Sandra Zisckind, and her brother, Isaac Zisckind. (The law society is keeping details of these investigations confidential.) The lawyers argued that the investigation into Diamond was constantly evolving, as were the demands of the law society.

    “There may have been a failure to communicate. There was not a failure to co-operate,” Centa told the hearing. “This was a complicated investigation and it may have taken more time than the law society wanted.”

    “There was no attempt to hide anything. All of the information was put forward,” he said.

    At the conclusion of Monday’s hearing, Law Society Tribunal adjudicator Raj Anand said “you’ve given me lots to think about” and reserved his decision. The law society could not say when a decision would be made.


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    WASHINGTON—On Monday morning, the president of the United States urged his attorney general to investigate his election opponent.

    It was a remarkable breach of democratic norms. It barely made news.

    Donald Trump has spent so long attacking the institutions and traditions underpinning America’s political system that some of his new attacks no longer receive widespread attention. But they are increasing in frequency and gravity, renewing concerns about what scholars call democratic backsliding.

    Read more:Jared Kushner says he ‘did not collude’ with Russia after closed-door interview

    Trump’s tweeted advice Monday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions — “So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys [sic] crimes & Russia relations?” — was only the latest part of a wide-ranging recent effort to undermine the people and entities he perceives as threats.

    Sessions. Special counsel Robert Mueller. The Congressional Budget Office. The electoral system. The news media. All have been disparaged by the president over the past seven days.

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

    Trump’s critics warn of a pressing threat to the rule of law. Matthew Miller, chief spokesman for the Department of Justice during the Obama administration, said he sees a worrisome public complacency about Trump acts that he believes are reminiscent of a “banana republic” strongman.

    “The president has done so many things that crossed the red line with respect to the rule of law that people just get kind of used to it,” Miller said, invoking the tale of the frog who does not notice he is being boiled to death in gradually warming water.

    “Firing the FBI director (James Comey), attacking the AG because he recused himself as he was required to do by the rules, openly speculating about prosecuting your political opponent — these are all the types of things that are dangerous warning signs,” Miller said.

    Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University professor who studies authoritarianism, said Trump is operating from an “authoritarian playbook.” She said she fears he will pay even less heed to democratic traditions if he faces a deeper crisis.

    “It’s very alarming, because he’s escalating all of the things he’s been doing,” she said. “And what unites all these manoeuvres is his back is increasingly against the wall.”

    Perhaps Trump’s most serious threat in the past week was to Mueller, who is probing any links between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.

    In a New York Times interview last week, Trump alleged that Mueller was compromised by “conflicts,” and he warned the respected former FBI director not to probe the Trump family’s financial dealings unrelated to Russia. Trump also complained that Sessions had recused himself from the Russia probe, thus allowing the deputy attorney general to hire the special counsel.

    The pair of remarks led to a new round of speculation that Trump would find a way to fire Mueller. Such a move would trigger a Washington “cataclysm,” Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer told ABC, and represent a severe breach of the rule of law.

    Sources told the Associated Press on Monday that Trump had spoken to advisers about terminating Sessions, which would make it easier for him to terminate Mueller.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan defended Mueller on Monday, saying the former George W. Bush appointee is “a Republican who was appointed by a Republican.” Other Republicans have warned Trump against a firing, with homeland security committee chairman Michael McCaul promising a “tremendous backlash.”

    On Saturday, Trump floated the possibility of another way to avoid accountability: issuing pre-emptive pardons of himself and his aides. He tweeted: “While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS.”

    There is not, in fact, a consensus that the president has the power to pardon himself.

    Trump made at least four other mentions of “fake news” over the course of the week. The media, though, was not the only independent source of information to draw his ire. His administration continued assailing the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, saying in a White House tweet Thursday that its conclusions on health care “simply can’t be trusted.”

    The day prior, Trump stopped by a meeting of a voter fraud commission launched as a result of his false claim that millions of people voted illegally in 2016. Once again, he claimed, baselessly, that the election was compromised — saying people “saw” irregularities “having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states.”

    “What he’s doing with the media gets the most attention, but it’s a larger strategy,” Ben-Ghiat said. “This is at the core of this authoritarian playbook, where you sow the seeds of uncertainty around everything to build the idea that you can’t know the truth.”

    Trump raised eyebrows again on Saturday with an unusual public suggestion that Republican lawmakers owe him fealty.

    “It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President,” he wrote on Twitter.

    “He sees ‘loyalty’ as a personal matter — not to American institutions, rule of law, the Constitution and traditions,” Robert Zoellick, the former World Bank chief and senior official in both Bush administrations, told CNBC.

    Trump did announce that he was giving up one particular attempt to convince people to question the truth.

    For the entirety of his campaign, Trump called the low U.S. unemployment rate a hoax. He said Wednesday that he has changed his mind.

    “I said for a long time, they don’t matter. But now I accept those numbers very proudly,” he said. “I say they do matter.”


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    Ground crew for 30 airlines at Pearson International Airport could be walking a picket line Thursday, potentially delaying flights.

    The union representing 700 Swissport workers at Pearson filed a 72-hour strike notice on Monday and will ask its members to shoot down the company's final offer.

    "We are suggesting that our members reject this offer," said Christopher Monette, a spokesman for Teamsters Local 419.

    Read more:

    Region and travellers best served if airport a public asset: Opinion

    Expect a longer wait at Pearson Airport as enhanced security begins for U.S.-bound flights

    If this happens, the workers — including baggage and cargo handlers and cabin cleaners — will be able to walk off the job on Thursday night.

    The Greater Toronto Airports Authority said Tuesday it has an contingency plan in place in the event of a strike or labour disruption by the Swissport workers, who service 30 of the 74 airlines using the airport.

    Monette didn't give specifics on why the union wants its members to reject Swissport's final offer, because the union hadn't yet presented it to its membership.

    But the Teamsters recently raised issues with the company's decision to hire 250 temporary workers last May.

    A statement issued by the Teamsters last week claimed the temporary workers only receive three to four days of training, rather than the three to four weeks afforded to their union counterparts.

    "We don't think Swissport can basically do their jobs with workers that have no experience and poor training," Monette said, adding that the temp. workers themselves aren't to blame.

    "It's not their fault. They're being placed in an impossible situation," he said.

    Swissport said that its workers all receive a minimum of 10 days of classroom training, as well as on-the-job instruction.

    The union also claims that Swissport hired the 250 workers as a way of putting leverage on workers during the current round of contract talks.

    "We're concerned that Swissport is willing to sacrifice airport safety to gain an upper hand at the bargaining table," Harjinder Badial, vice-president of Teamsters Local 419, said in a statement issued last week.

    Swissport responded that it hired the temporary workers to help handle the summer travel rush, which it said it is allowed to do under the collective agreement.

    "We are confident that protocols are being followed," Pierre Payette, Swissport Canada's vice-president of operation, said in a statement.

    The Teamsters have filed aformal complaint with the Canadian Industrial Relations Board over the matter.

    Among its claims are that there hasn't been a significant change in their members' workload and that Swissport gave the union a day's warning before it began hiring the 250 temporary workers.

    Swissport said it wouldn't comment on the specifics of the union's allegations, citing the upcoming CIRB case.

    Payette has said Swissport "categorically denies" the union's allegations.

    "Swissport is fully confident, however, that the CIRB will dismiss these allegations as unsubstantiated and without merit," he said.

    Swissport called its final offer to the union fair and competitive, and expressed disappointment that the union may strike.

    "Regardless of this outcome, we remain open to ongoing negotiations and optimistic that an agreement will be reached with the union," the company said.

    Monette says the union's members don't want to strike.

    "Our members are hardworking folks — they want to keep working," Monette said. "But they're not going to allow themselves to be bullied by Swissport."


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    WASHINGTON—Prodded by President Donald Trump, a bitterly divided Senate voted at last Tuesday to move forward with the Republicans’ long-promised legislation to repeal and replace “Obamacare.” There was high drama as Sen. John McCain returned to the Capitol for the first time after being diagnosed with brain cancer to cast a decisive “yes” vote.

    The final tally was 51-50, with Vice-President Mike Pence breaking the tie after two Republicans joined all 48 Democrats in voting “no.”

    With all senators in their seats and protesters agitating outside and briefly inside the chamber, the vote was held open at length before McCain, 80, entered the chamber. Greeted by cheers, he smiled and dispensed hugs — but with the scars from recent surgery starkly visible on the left side of his face.

    Despite voting “aye,” he took a lecturing tone afterward and hardly saw success assured for the legislation after weeks of misfires, even after Tuesday’s victory for Trump and Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

    Read more: Trump pushes his fellow Republicans to support health-care overhaul

    “If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then let’s return to regular order,” McCain said as he chided Republican leaders for devising the legislation in secret along with the administration and “springing it on skeptical members.”

    “Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio, TV and internet. To hell with them!” McCain said, raising his voice as he urged senators to reach for the comity of earlier times.

    At the White House, though, Trump wasted no time in declaring a win and slamming the Democrats anew.

    “I’m very happy to announce that, with zero of the Democrats’ votes, the motion to proceed on health care has just passed. And now we move forward toward truly great health care for the American people,” Trump said. “This was a big step. I want to thank Senator John McCain — very brave man.”

    Trump continued to celebrate the vote at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio that doubled as a victory lap.

    “We’re now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare and delivering great health care for the American people,” he said.

    At its most basic, the Republican legislation is aimed at undoing Obamacare’s unpopular mandates for most people to carry insurance and businesses to offer it. The GOP would repeal Obamacare taxes and unwind an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor, the disabled and nursing home residents The result would be 20 million to 30 million people losing insurance over a decade, depending on the version of the bill.

    The GOP legislation has polled abysmally, while former president Barack Obama’s health care law itself has grown steadily more popular. Yet most Republicans argue that failing to deliver on their promises to pass repeal-and-replace legislation would be worse than passing an unpopular bill, because it would expose the GOP as unable to govern despite controlling majorities in the House, Senate and White House.

    Tuesday’s vote amounted to a procedural hurdle for legislation whose final form is impossible to predict under the Senate’s Byzantine amendment process, which will unfold over the next several days.

    Indeed senators had no clear idea of what they would ultimately be voting on, and in an indication of the uncertainty ahead, McConnell said the Senate will “let the voting take us where it will.” The expectation is that he will bring up a series of amendments, including a straight-up repeal and fuller replacement legislation, to see where consensus may lie.

    Yet after seven years of empty promises, and weeks of hand-wringing and false starts on Capitol Hill, it was the Senate’s first concrete step toward delivering on innumerable pledges to undo the Obama-era law. It came after several near-death experiences for earlier versions of the legislation, and only after Trump summoned senators to the White House last week to order them to try again after McConnell had essentially conceded defeat.

    “The people who sent us here expect us to begin this debate, to have the courage to tackle the tough issues,” McConnell said ahead of the vote.

    Read more: Trump lashes out at GOP, says party does ‘very little to protect their President’

    Democrats stood implacably opposed, and in an unusual manoeuvr they sat in their seats refusing to vote until it was clear Republicans would be able to reach the 50-vote margin needed to get them over the top with Pence’s help.

    “Turn back,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York implored his GOP colleagues before the vote. “Turn back now, before it’s too late and millions and millions and millions of Americans are hurt so badly.”

    Schumer’s pleas fell on deaf ears, as several GOP senators who’d announced they would oppose moving forward with the legislation reversed themselves to vote “aye.” Among them were Dean Heller of Nevada, the most vulnerable Republican senator in next year’s midterm elections, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

    Johnson has recently accused McConnell of operating in bad faith on the bill and stood in intense conversation with him on the Senate floor before finally becoming the 50th Republican senator to vote affirmatively, immediately following McCain.

    Democratic campaign groups immediately announced they would be targeting Heller and others with ads. The two Republicans voting “no” were Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

    The vote drew protesters to the Senate visitors’ gallery who chanted “Kill the bill, don’t kill us.” Capitol Police said 31 of them were charged with disrupting Congress, and 64 others were charged with illegally demonstrating in a nearby Senate office building.


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    YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO—Straight off a slim but symbolic health care win in Washington, President Donald Trump arrived in Ohio for a victory lap on Tuesday night with the very voters who helped put him in office.

    “We’re now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare and delivering great health care for the American people,” Trump told a crowd of several thousand in Youngstown, Ohio, hours after the Senate took one small step toward Republicans’ years-long promise to repeal and replace former president Obama’s health care law.

    “You think that’s easy? That’s not easy,” he declared.

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

    Tuesday’s trip to Youngstown, a staunchly working-class, union-heavy enclave that has long helped anchor Democrats in Ohio, served as a welcome distraction from Washington for a president who loves to relive his once-unlikely Election Day win.

    In a room filled with supporters, Trump talked up his first six months in office, claiming that no other president had done “anywhere near” what he’d done in his first six months.

    “Not even close,” he said.

    In Trump’s telling, citizens have been applauding his administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration. He described people screaming from the windows, “Thank you, thank you!” to border control agents.

    “We’re liberating our towns and we’re liberating our cities. Can you believe we have to do that?” he asked, adding that law enforcement agents were going after gang members — and “not doing it in a politically correct fashion.”

    “Our guys are rougher than their guys,” he bragged.

    Read more:

    U.S. Senate passes motion to revive health care repeal, with the details to be decided

    Trump publicly calls Jeff Sessions’ position ‘weak,’ privately asks about firing him

    Trump drags scouts down to his level: Keenan

    Ahead of the rally, Trump stopped by a veterans’ event as part of the White House’s weeklong celebration of servicemen and women. Following brief remarks by several of his Cabinet members, Trump entered a small room of veterans, several of them over 80 years old, and praised them for their commitment and sacrifice for the country.

    “A truly grateful nation salutes you,” Trump told the group in Sutherland, Ohio.

    But he quickly shifted gears to recall his unexpected election win in Ohio, praising Youngstown and towns like it for helping him secure the electoral votes that put him over the top.

    “It was incredible time we had. You saw the numbers,” he said. “Democrats, they win in Youngstown — but not this time.”

    Trump has mainly sought to relitigate his 2016 victory in friendly territory, escaping Washington to recharge with boisterous crowds that embrace his jabs at “fake news” media, Democrats and even those Republicans whom Trump once vowed to defeat as part of his effort to “drain the swamp.”


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    New construction home sales, especially condos, are rising even as the re-sale property market continues to slump in the Toronto region.

    The gains in the newly-built home market are almost entirely due to apartments and stacked townhouses, which accounted for 91 per cent of the 6,046 homes sold in June, according to the latest numbers from the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) on Tuesday.

    New condo sales were up 89 per cent year over year, compared to a 72 per cent year-over-year drop in the sale of single family homes.

    The strong condo performance was due in part to the large number of new projects that hit the market in May and June, said Patricia Arsenault, of Altus Group, which tracks new home statistics.

    But their more affordable entry-point prices appealed to many consumers, who might have otherwise preferred a ground-level home and to investors who have noted the escalating price of condos, she said.

    "With condo prices continuing to escalate, this segment of the market is becoming out of reach for many consumers," warned BILD CEO Bryan Tuckey in a press release.

    The price of new apartments rose $22,000 to $627,000 in June, compared to May — a 34 per cent year-over-year increase.

    The price per square foot, considered one of the most accurate gauges to compare condos, rose to $742, compared to $587 a year ago.

    The cost of a newly built single-family home, including detached, semi-detached and traditional town houses, has risen 40 per cent in the last year to $1.25 million from $887,543.

    A new detached home averaged $1.72 million last month, up 9 per cent since May.

    But the supply of new-build homes is an ongoing problem, said Tuckey, who appealed to the government to help builders make more new homes, particularly low-rise housing, available.

    BILD statistics show there were only about 11,000 new homes on the market in June, compared to about 18,000 in the same month last year. Ten years ago, about half of the 30,300 new homes available were single-family dwellings.

    "The challenges builders face, including the lack of serviced and permit-ready developable land and out of date zoning bylaws continue to impact the supply of housing," said Tuckey in a press release.

    As new home sales surged in June, the number of re-sale transactions declined 37 per cent year-over-year, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

    Although it reported a 6.3 per cent year-over-year increase in the average re-sale home price that month, the cost of a re-sale home actually dropped about 8 per cent or $70,000 between May and June this year as listings increased for the third month.


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    Premier Kathleen Wynne will waive parliamentary privilege and testify in the Sudbury byelection bribery trial that begins in six weeks.

    Wynne’s former deputy chief of staff Patricia Sorbara and Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed are on trial for alleged Elections Act violations stemming from a February 2015 byelection.

    In a stunning development that breaks with precedent, the premier said Tuesday that she has been asked to testify and will do so.

    “I could (claim parliamentary privilege), but I’m not. I will testify and I will go along with the process and do what I can to clarify as I have in the legislature many, many times,” Wynne told reporters in Toronto.

    “I’ve been very clear that I was going to work with the process and I’ve done that and I will continue to do that,” she said.

    The premier will be called by Crown prosecutor Vern Brewer, who declined comment.

    Wynne insisted that she did not believe anything untoward happened in the run-up to the Sudbury byelection and emphasized that Sorbara would be welcomed back into the Liberal fold if she is exonerated.

    “I have the deepest of respect for Pat Sorbara and I look forward to the opportunity to work with her again,” the premier said.

    Sorbara and Lougheed are accused of offering a defeated former Liberal candidate, Andrew Olivier, jobs or political appointments to drop out of the party’s nomination race to make way for Wynne’s preferred candidate, Glenn Thibeault.

    Thibeault, a former New Democrat MP, won the byelection for the provincial Liberals and has been energy minister for the last 13 months in Wynne’s cabinet. Olivier, who ran as an independent, finished third.

    The Sudbury mortgage broker recorded conversations with both Sorbara and Lougheed and made them public on Facebook. A quadriplegic, Olivier tapes important calls for note-taking purposes. But a call with Wynne was not recorded because he was in an elevator at the time.

    The case will be heard starting Sept. 7 in Sudbury, four days before a separate criminal trial for two other Liberals involving allegations of deleted documents in the gas-plants scandal. Both proceedings are slated to continue into October.

    Wynne’s press secretary, Jennifer Beaudry, noted all MPPs are eligible to claim parliamentary privilege, which “exempts a member from the normal obligation to attend court if summoned as a witness from 40 days before a session of the House begins until 40 days after it ends.

    “The premier has said, all along, that she would be open and transparent throughout this process and that is exactly what she will continue to do,” said Beaudry.

    Wynne’s decision to testify for the Crown did not come as a surprise to the defence.

    “We had already been advised by the Crown they anticipated parliamentary immunity would be waived,” said Sorbara lawyer Brian Greenspan of Toronto.

    No date has been set for Wynne’s testimony. Lawyers for Sorbara and Lougheed, a prominent Sudbury funeral home owner, are awaiting a final witness list.

    “We look forward to all of the facts fully and completely coming to the trial,” said Greenspan.

    “We believe the facts will dictate that Pat Sorbara was not involved in any misconduct.”

    Sorbara was a key architect of Wynne’s 2014 majority election victory and one of her most trusted advisors.

    Toronto lawyer Michael Lacy, who is representing Lougheed, has also insisted his client has done nothing wrong.

    Elections Act charges fall within a lower, non-criminal category of violations, known as provincial offences. Penalties include fines of up to $25,000 and maximum jail sentences of two years less a day.

    Last year, prosecutors withdrew more serious Criminal Code charges against Lougheed. Sorbara was never charged criminally.

    She stepped down as chief executive and director of the 2018 Liberal re-election campaign when the Elections Act charges were laid last fall.

    Progressive Conservative Deputy Leader Steve Clark, who has been calling for Wynne to take the stand, said “this is a sad day for Ontario.”

    “Ontarians are tired of Liberal scandals and a premier who only acts in her own self-interest,” said Clark.

    “After 14 years of scandals, Ontarians deserve a government that doesn’t only answer questions on their day in court.”

    NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said Ontarians are “frustrated that the Wynne government’s time and energy is being spent defending its actions in court.

    “People need a government that’s focused on what matter to us: our hydro bills, hospitals and seniors care homes and our children’s classrooms. Instead, the Liberal government is mired in scandal and self-defense, focused on its party and its friends.”


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    Canada Post vehicles will stop parking in Toronto bike lanes, the Crown corporation announced after a Star story highlighted cyclist safety concerns.

    Canada Post understands the concerns raised regarding safety and bike lanes in Toronto,” the postal service said in a statement Tuesday.

    “As a result, we are instructing our employees to not park in bike lanes in the City of Toronto. For pickups or deliveries, they are expected to find a safe location to park their vehicle. If a safe parking location is not available, our employees are expected to avoid the stop, continue on their route and return any undelivered items to the depot.”

    Canada Post drivers are told to report any problem areas to a supervisor so a safety assessment can be done to find the best alternative to serve the area.

    “We are also asking the city to work with Canada Post and others to find long-term solutions to address this issue,” concludes the statement sent by Jon Hamilton, a senior Canada Post spokesman based in Ottawa.

    That is a different message than last week, when Hamilton told the Star that drivers are expected to follow the law and Canada Post is working on changes but “it’s a balance, and there are a lot of people who depend on Canada Post and the work we do so we can’t just make instant changes that have a huge impact on the small businesses that rely on us or the people that have ordered stuff,” online.

    The Star on Monday published a story in which Toronto parking enforcement officer Kyle Ashley, who has garnered praise for his work ticketing bike lane invaders and preaching safety on social media, singled out Canada Post as a repeat offender.

    “Of all the ones who are still holding out from engaging in the positive behaviours that we’ve started seeing from Beck Taxi, Mister Produce and others, the one that I’m still seeing the most infractions coming from would be Canada Post,” Ashley said in an interview last week.

    “The flagrant disregard for the bike lanes is strongest from them. I don’t know if they think they have impunity because the trucks say Canada Post, or if they just don’t care about the public image or the public safety.”

    Also last week, Mayor John Tory said a senior Toronto-based Canada Post manager told him that, as a result of Star inquiries, drivers had been reminded to park legally while doing drop-offs. Ashley said he noticed better behaviour for a day or two, but by week’s end Canada Post vehicles were routinely blocking bike lanes and forcing cyclists into traffic.

    Other couriers including Purolator and FedEx also block bike lanes, he said, but those companies seem willing to talk to him about alternatives including briefly blocking a lane of vehicle traffic, rather than a bike lane, if vehicles can safely go around it in another lane.

    Tory, after an announcement Tuesday about a planned accessible baseball diamond, said he had that morning again called the Canada Post manager in charge of Toronto to request that the postal service “do more.”

    “I indicated this is conduct — recognizing they have their job to do — that it is not acceptable to the City of Toronto, and to us as people who are trying to live together and to learn how to share the roads,” Tory told reporters.

    “When we create bike lanes it is not with the intention that any vehicles will park there ... It isn’t just a matter of disrespect for the law, it’s a public safety issue because when a cyclist then goes around a truck into traffic and then goes back into the bike lane that is a moment of great vulnerability for the cyclist in particular but also for a (driver) who might not be expecting this.”

    Tory added that he will this fall invite representatives of Canada Post and the private courier companies to meet in his office and reinforce the need to keep out of bike lanes but also what else the city can do, such as more designated courier parking spots, to help them.

    After Canada Post announced hours later that it will stay out of bike lanes, the mayor praised the postal agency’s decision.

    “When I took office, Canada Post was one of the first organizations to demonstrate its commitment to help keep this city moving,” Tory said.

    “By adjusting deliveries and drop-off locations, Canada Post showed the impact that an effective partnership can make when it comes to fighting congestion. Once again, today, Canada Post has shown it is prepared to do the right thing.”


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    Let’s cast back a few years, to a long-forgotten episode in the life of the last Stephen Harper government.

    Tom Mulcair, then the country’s Opposition leader, landed in Washington for meetings, and in the course of his visit he outlined the NDP view of the Keystone XL pipeline.

    He told an American audience that his priority for Canadian energy was an east-west pipeline, that Keystone would export Canadian jobs and the NDP would do a better job than Harper in building support for pipelines.

    The Conservative government of the day reacted as if Mulcair should be shipped back north of the border in leg irons and shackles.

    A senior minister of the day, John Baird, accused Mulcair of “trash talking” and “badmouthing” Canada. Another former minister, Joe Oliver, marched to the microphones in the Commons foyer to denounce Mulcair for not leaving politics at the border. He also took to the keyboard for the Globe and Mail to tell the country “a responsible politician would not travel to a foreign capital to score cheap political points.”

    Baird and Oliver are gone, but Michelle Rempel and Peter Kent were part of that government. It appears they missed Oliver’s op-ed.

    The Conservatives under Andrew Scheer are certainly entitled to oppose the Justin Trudeau government’s $10.5 million payout to Omar Khadr.

    The party believes it has a wedge issue here, something that will bring lasting damage to the Trudeau government. Much of their outrage is probably real.

    So they will milk it for everything it is worth. That’s how politics is played.

    But Rempel didn’t need to fly to the U.S. to tell Tucker Carlson on Fox that Canadians were outraged. Kent didn’t need to write an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal to be, as he said, “honest” with our allies and inform them.

    Yes, this is the same Kent who, as Harper’s environment minister, attacked two NDP MPs, Megan Leslie and Claude Gravelle, for speaking about Keystone in Washington — yes, that issue again.

    According to Kent, they were taking “the treacherous course of leaving the domestic debate and heading abroad to attack a legitimate Canadian resource which is being responsibly developed and regulated.”

    Maybe the duo was just trying to be “honest” with our allies and trying to inform them.

    Both Kent and Rempel have ignored an old, time-honoured dictum which has now been repeatedly discredited — you stash your partisan politics on this side of the border.

    For years, Canadian prime ministers did not take partisan shots at opponents back home while travelling abroad because they were representing Canada, not the Liberals or the Conservatives.

    This is even more cherished in the U.S., where presidents do not travel abroad as Republicans or Democrats, but as representatives of the United States of America.

    It was Harper who most aggressively moved away from this tradition.

    As leader of the Canadian Alliance, he and Stockwell Day took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal in 2003 to assure Americans Jean Chrétien had made a mistake in staying out of George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” invading Iraq, and to tell them Canadians stood with them. (They didn’t.)

    When he represented Canada at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, Harper couldn’t wait until his plane landed in Canada to take a poke at Trudeau over the then squeaky new Liberal leader’s comments about “root causes” of terrorism in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

    No one in the press pack asked him about Trudeau’s comments. Harper raised them unsolicited.

    In 2009, Harper had to apologize to then Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff after he went after him at a G8 wrap-up press conference in Italy. He misquoted his adversary.

    The fact of the matter is the Trudeau government gave a heads-up on the Khadr payout to the relevant departments in the Donald Trump government, and Trump never raised the matter with Trudeau at the G20.

    Rempel and Kent got a temporary spike in U.S. attention, particularly in the conservative media, after their interventions. But they sure got a lot of publicity at home over the past week, and that may have been a large part of their calculation.

    One can disagree with the Conservative message on Khadr, but they certainly have the right to express it. At home.

    Much more troubling than the message is the hypocrisy of a party which, while in government, all but accused opponents of high treason for doing just what they did last week.

    Tim Harper writes on national affairs. tjharper77@gmail.com , Twitter: @nutgraf1


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    WASHINGTON—At the end of a Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday morning, Republican Chairman Susan Collins didn’t switch off her microphone. Apparently speaking to Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat of the committee, Collins discussed the federal budget — and U.S. President Donald Trump’s lack of familiarity with the details of governing.

    After Reed praises Collins’ handling of the hearing, held by the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, she laments the administration’s handling of spending.

    “I swear, (the Office of Management and Budget) just went through and whenever there was ‘grant,’ they just X it out,” Collins says. “With no measurement, no thinking about it, no metrics, no nothing. It’s just incredibly irresponsible.”

    “Yes,” Reed replies. “I think — I think he’s crazy,” apparently referring to the president. “I mean, I don’t say that lightly and as a kind of a goofy guy.”

    “I’m worried,” Collins replies.

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

    “Oof,” Reed continues. “You know, this thing — if we don’t get a budget deal, we’re going to be paralyzed.”

    “I know,” Collins replies.

    “(Department of Defense) is going to be paralyzed, everybody is going to be paralyzed,” Reed says.

    “I don’t think he knows there is a (Budget Control Act) or anything,” Collins says, referring to a 2011 law that defines the budget process.

    “He was down at the Ford commissioning,” Reed says, referring to President Trump’s weekend event launching a new aircraft carrier, “saying, ‘I want them to pass my budget.’ OK, so we give him $54 billion (U.S.) and then we take it away across the board which would cause chaos.”

    “Right,” Collins replies.

    “It’s just — and he hasn’t — not one word about the budget. Not one word about the debt ceiling,” Reed says.

    “Good point,” Collins replies.

    “You’ve got (Budget Director Mick) Mulvaney saying we’re going to put in all sorts of stuff like a border wall. Then you’ve got (Treasury Secretary Steve) Mnuchin saying it’s got to be clean,” Reed continues. “We’re going to be back in September, and, you know, you’re going to have crazy people in the House.”

    In a more salacious part of what was recorded, Collins then addressed a radio interview in which Rep. Blake Farenthold suggested that if Collins were a man, he’d have challenged her to a duel for opposing the Senate Republicans’ Obamacare overhaul bill.

    “Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?” Collins asks.

    “I know,” Reed replies. “Trust me. Do you know why he challenged you to a duel? ‘Cause you could beat the s--- out of him.”

    “Well, he’s huge,” Collins replies. “And he — I don’t mean to be unkind, but he’s so unattractive it’s unbelievable.”

    “Did you see the picture of him in his pyjamas next to this Playboy bunny?” she continues, referring to an infamous photo of Farenthold.

    At that point, the mic went dead.


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    Steven Sokolowski has paid back $400,000 he took from a charity that raises funds for children with cancer, but the entrepreneur was visibly shaken Wednesday when a judge sentenced him to 14 months in jail, rather than the house arrest he hoped for.

    “It is not just (the charity) that has suffered from Mr. Sokolowski’s crime but every child that might otherwise have been the beneficiary of the large sum of money diverted,” said Ontario Court Justice Katrina Mulligan in her sentencing decision.

    The impact on charitable donors who will now be even more wary is also significant, she said.

    “Every charity loses because of his actions,” Mulligan said, adding that this was a well-planned deception that relied on Sokolowski’s inside knowledge and position of trust in the charity, she said.

    Sokolowski, 67, pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 in January.

    He was one of the founders of Coast to Coast Against Cancer in 2002, a registered Toronto foundation that has raised tens of millions of dollars to support childhood cancer charities and hosts several cycling and other activities every year. The fraud began when he took on additional responsibilities for day-to-day operations as a director of the foundation.

    Between January 2012 and August 2014, he took $400,000 from the charity by filing fraudulent invoices for services never provided or expenses for personal matters, Mulligan found. The fraud was uncovered through a routine audit.

    In a separate, civil case before Superior Court Justice James Diamond in 2015, Sokolowski was ordered to repay about $700,000 to Coast to Coast. The judge in that case — which has no bearing on the criminal matter — found Sokolowski spent the money on girlfriends, expensive wine, and hosting a gathering at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, among other expenses.

    One of those girlfriends was Philippa “Pip” Herrington. Diamond made no findings against her.

    Herrington was charged criminally with fraud along with Sokolowski. Her charges were withdrawn once Sokolowski was sentenced.

    Diamond also ordered Sokolowski to pay a further $50,000 in punitive damages, and $150,000 in court costs.

    As part of the criminal sentencing hearing, a lawyer for Coast to Coast filed a letter outlining Sokolowski’s “tremendous co-operation” so far in the collection of the civil judgment and his apparent recognition of the harm he has caused to the charity.

    Mulligan said the $400,000 that was part of the criminal proceeding has been repaid following the sale of Sokolowski’s matrimonial home. His expensive wine collection was also auctioned off, court heard during a previous court appearance.

    Crown attorney Michael Lockner sought a sentence of two years less a day in jail.

    “I trusted him implicitly,” said foundation chair Jeff Rushton in a victim impact statement read by Lockner. “I never questioned his ethics or moral compass.”

    Rushton said the foundation spent well over $400,000 in legal and accounting costs related to the fraud and recouping the funds, meaning there was less money available to be shared with charities.

    “This is the perverse and sickening reality of what Sokolowski’s actions have meant to the brand and reputation of Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation,” Rushton said.

    Sokolowski, who represented himself in the criminal matter, asked the court for a conditional sentence.

    “I have to say, I feel like I’m fighting for my life here. This was a very difficult time for me,” Sokolowski said, at times getting emotional. “I was under financial distress, borrowing money from the foundation, putting it back. Then it crossed the line. At one point I wanted to be caught. I felt guilty.”

    Sokolowski described the criminal charges as “a bit of a blessing,” because he stopped drinking and started making other improvements in his life.

    “It is a period of my life that I don’t even recognize myself,” he said. “I really, really want to make good.”

    On the issue of deterrence, he said he and his partner Herrington, “have been in a prison already,” given their bail conditions and the level of harassment he said they’ve faced since newspaper reports of the civil case involving Coast to Coast were published in 2015.

    “That then sparked all the crazies coming out, all the stalkers,” he said. “Websites have gone up with crazy accusations, there have been threats, harassment, physical violence.”

    A person allegedly involved with the harassment is now before the courts, Mulligan said.

    Mulligan said Sokolowski’s remorse was genuine and applauded him liquidating his own assets to repay the funds.

    She also noted that at the time the fraud took place Sokolowski said he was reeling from the deaths of his stepfather and his mother, the breakdown of his marriage, depression and chronic pain caused by sciatica resulting in self-medication through alcohol and prescription drugs.

    “Unfortunately the death of parents, the breakup of a relationship and chronic pain are facts of life in almost every citizen’s existence at some point or another,” she said. “It appears he had the resources to . . . manage and cope with the stress.”

    In addition to his jail sentence, Sokolowski faces 16 months of probation and was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.


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    Mayor John Tory says a secret report to the police services board on the beating of Dafonte Miller, in which an off-duty police officer and his brother are charged, is cause for concern and called the incident “deeply troubling.”

    “I am concerned at some of what I’ve read,” Tory told reporters Tuesday of a report provided to members of the police services board. “There are a number of unanswered questions which remain with respect to the process that was or was not followed here in terms of the notification of the SIU.”

    The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), a police oversight agency, has charged Michael Theriault, a Toronto police officer, and his brother Christian Theriault in the assault of the 19-year-old man with a metal pipe in December.

    Read more: Alleged victim’s family speaks out after Toronto cop charged with assault

    Miller’s injuries are so severe his eye will need to be surgically removed, his family’s lawyer Julian Falconer said earlier.

    Michael Theriault was off duty when the assault occurred in Whitby.

    Durham Region Police, who responded to the scene in the early morning hours of Dec. 28, charged Miller with weapon and drug charges. Court officials earlier told the Star the alleged weapon was a “pole.”

    It was Falconer, not Durham or Toronto police, who alerted the SIU to Miller’s injuries in April. All charges against Miller were dropped in May.

    Following an SIU investigation, both Theriaults have been charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and public mischief. The allegations have not yet been tested in court.

    Their father, John Theriault, is a detective who has served more than 30 years with Toronto Police and currently works in the professional standards unit, which deals with officer misconduct, Falconer told the Star.

    The provincial Police Services Act dictates that a police service must notify the SIU immediately of any incident that falls under their mandate, including cases of serious injuries involving officers.

    Tory told reporters there is a “short” report before the police board outlining what has occurred to date. The board meets Thursday, when Tory said the report is expected to be discussed behind closed doors.

    There is no mention of the case on the public agenda, and it is unclear if it will be addressed during the public session of the meeting.

    Falconer told the Star he can understand why the service has to be able to debrief its board in private.

    “But then one hopes that that process becomes less opaque and that they understand the importance of answering serious questions,” he said. “At its heart, the board has a responsibility to do proper oversight . . . This is a policy question: Is this a police service run amok when one of their own — a son of one of their own, two sons of one of their own — does wrong or is this a situation where they’re going to be accountable?”

    Much of the information concerning SIU investigations is kept secret.

    But reporting by the Star’s Wendy Gillis found a dozen recent cases where the SIU director says the Toronto Police appear to have failed to co-operate with investigators, including delays in reporting serious injuries to the watchdog.

    Following a Star campaign for transparency and public pressure, some internal reports, though at times heavily redacted, were released in the high-profile police shooting death of Toronto man Andrew Loku in which no one was charged.

    That included a report required by law from the police chief to the police board on matters arising from an SIU investigation. The board promised to consider releasing future internal reports.

    The contents and author of the report before the board Thursday are unknown.

    Toronto Police spokesperson Mark Pugash said he couldn’t discuss confidential board matters. The question remains if Chief Mark Saunders will address Miller’s case publicly at the board. Pugash said, if asked to do so by the board, “I dare say he will.”

    Acting police board chair Councillor Chin Lee told the Star that because it concerns a “personnel” issue, he couldn’t discuss the report or provide any details about it. Lee said he was “kind of surprised” the mayor mentioned it at all.

    Tory said he couldn’t speak to specifics of the case as it now makes its way through the legal system.

    “Toronto police officers, all of them, are expected — as most of them do all of the time — to adhere to a very high standard of conduct. Whether they’re on duty or off duty, they’re representatives of Toronto and of the Toronto Police Service.”

    He said he remains concerned about anti-Black racism in the city, adding the facts of the assault on Miller are still unclear.

    “I don’t really understand how any of this cannot be labelled as anti-Blackness. I don’t know if the mayor is paying attention,” said Black Lives Matter co-founder Pascale Diverlus. “This is the person that was attacked, obviously attacked, right? And they are the person that is charged.”

    How the assault on Miller was reported, Diverlus said, shows promises made about greater accountability surrounding police-involved incidents have not resulted in meaningful change.

    “What other incidents have been brushed aside?” she asked. “How many more people do we not know about?”


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    Canada’s practice of indefinitely jailing immigration detainees does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a Federal Court judge ruled Tuesday.

    “The question of when detention for immigration purposes is no longer reasonable does not have a single, simple answer,” Justice Simon Fothergill wrote in his 58-page judgment. “It depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.”

    Lawyers representing former immigration detainee Alvin Brown — who spent five years in a maximum-security jail before the government was able to deport him to Jamaica last September — had argued that Canada’s entire immigration detention regime was unfair and unconstitutional. They called upon the court to set a maximum length of time the government could detain non-citizens while trying to deport them, as is the case in some other countries.

    Fothergill dismissed their application, writing that the system’s “shortcomings” were due to the misapplication of the law, not the law itself. When “properly interpreted and applied,” he wrote, existing regulations comply with the charter.

    Jared Will, Brown’s lawyer, said the fact the law can be misapplied and does not protect detainees against its misapplication is the problem. Existing laws put “too much confidence and too much power” in the hands of immigration officials, he said. “What we’re looking for is a resolution that will provide the adequate, necessary protection.”

    Will said he intends to appeal the judgment, and a key part of the court ruling allows that to proceed, as Fothergill certified a question specifically about establishing a time limit on immigration detention.

    “The Federal Court of Appeal and maybe one day the Supreme Court will hear and decide these issues,” Will said.

    In addition to Brown’s case, the court also heard evidence from five other former immigration detainees and their families. Their stories were shared by the End Immigration Detention Network, which was granted third-party standing in the case.

    Every year, Canada’s border police detain thousands of people who have been deemed inadmissible to the country and classified as a danger to the public — usually because of past criminal charges or convictions — or unlikely to show up for their deportation. The average length of detention is about three weeks, but many cases drag on for months or years.

    Although the detainees have not been charged with a crime, many are sent to maximum-security provincial jails, where they are treated the same as those serving criminal sentences or awaiting trial.

    A Star investigation earlier this year into immigration detention in Canada found a system in which hundreds of unwanted immigrants were languishing indefinitely in conditions meant for a criminal population. The Star found that detainees are also poorly served by the quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board, which reviews their detentions every 30 days.

    The relative fairness of the detention reviews was a key part of the Federal Court case, with Will and lawyers representing the End Immigration Detention Network arguing that the hearings were inherently unfair.

    Citing many of the same complaints that more than a dozen immigration lawyers raised in interviews with the Star, Will argued that the detention reviews are stacked against detainees because, among other reasons, the government’s submissions are taken as fact, disclosure is not provided to detainees and there is, practically speaking, a “reverse onus” on the detainee to justify release rather than on the government to justify continued detention.

    But Fothergill found these problems do not mean the system itself is broken.

    “If the (Immigration and Refugee Board) does not respect these standards in practice, this is a problem of maladministration, not an indication that the statutory scheme is itself unconstitutional,” he wrote.

    Unlike some other countries, Canada has no maximum length of immigration detention, an aspect of the system that has been widely criticized. Two years ago, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called on Canada to set a “reasonable” time limit for such detention.

    In the European Union, most countries have set an 18-month limit on immigration detention, while several countries have set even lower thresholds.

    Courts in the U.S., meanwhile, have ruled that if after six months deportation is not likely in the “reasonably foreseeable future,” the detainee should be released.

    Will had asked the court to declare immigration detention unconstitutional when it extended beyond six months, and that detainees be immediately released after 18 months. Lawyers for the End Immigration Detention Network sought a 90-day limit.

    Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for the federal Public Safety Ministry, which oversees immigration detention, said the government is currently reviewing Fothergill’s decision. He reiterated the government’s previous commitment to create a “better” and “fairer” immigration detention system by expanding alternatives to detention, improving conditions at federal immigration detention facilities and reducing the use of provincial jails.

    Bardsley pointed out that under the Liberals the number of immigration detentions has decreased and that the government “continues to work on real improvements to our system.”


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