Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

TOPSTORIES

older | 1 | .... | 987 | 988 | (Page 989) | 990 | 991 | .... | 1060 | newer

    0 0


    A Toronto-based member of the Canadian military has been charged with seven counts of voyeurism.

    Master Warrant Officer Mardie Reyes of the 7th Toronto Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery was charged Friday by his commanding officer after allegedly recording video of Canadian armed forces members between May 2012 and June 2016.

    He faces criminal charges and will be tried under Canada’s military justice system.

    “Any form of inappropriate sexual behaviour is a threat to the morale and operational readiness of the CAF and is inconsistent with the values of the profession of arms,” Commanding Officer of 7th Toronto Regiment Ryan Smid said of the charges in a press release Friday.

    “Eliminating harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour within our ranks remains a top priority.”

    At the time that Reyes’s video camera was discovered in June 2016 he was a full-time reservist with the 4th Canadian Division Headquarters.

    Reyes was arrested in October 2016 following a military police investigation, and his full-time contract was terminated in February 2017.

    Capt. Cameron Hillier, a spokesperson for 7th Toronto Regiment, said that Reyes is currently a ‘Class A’ reservist who is only paid when he is ordered to report to Moss Park Armoury or Denison Armoury.

    He has been barred from service since February 2017.

    Hillier said that, while the charges against Reyes do not fall under Operation Honour, an ongoing military-wide initiative to eliminate sexual misconduct in the Canadian ranks, the division’s response to the incident stems from that operation.

    Reyes has served in the military for 26 years. He deployed to Afghanistan twice, and once to the Philippines as part of the Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team following super typhoon Haiyan.


    0 0


    Durham Police Chief Paul Martin has ordered an internal review of his officers’ actions surrounding the 2016 beating of Black teen Dafonte Miller, in which an off-duty Toronto police constable was charged.

    But a former head of Ontario’s police watchdog says a probe of Durham officers by Durham officers will not be a “true” investigation.

    The internal review, led by Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal, will examine whether Durham police acted correctly in arresting Miller on the day of his assault, and in failing to report the incident to the Special Investigations Unit, which investigates deaths, serious injuries or alleged sexual assaults involving police, Martin said.

    “There’s obviously some information out there about things we did or didn’t do, and I want to make sure that I’m satisfied in my mind that, based on the information we had that night, we did everything we should have done,” Martin told the Star.

    The Durham chief could not say for certain whether the findings of the internal review would be made public.

    Internal police reviews are not effective, and the public is unlikely to believe otherwise, “because the police are investigating themselves,” said former SIU Director Howard Morton, who now works as a defence lawyer.

    “I don’t think this will be a true investigation and even if it is, the public’s perception will be that it is not,” Morton said.

    “Public interest and perception about a cover-up in Durham requires them to be completely transparent with the entire results of their internal review,” he said.

    All findings of the review should be made public, Morton said, except for information that might prejudice the trial of Toronto police Const. Michael Theriault and his brother Christian Theriault, the men charged in Miller’s beating.

    The Theriaults’ lawyers were in a Durham court Thursday, attempting to have the conditions of the brothers’ bail changed. Michael and Christian Theriault face charges of aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and public mischief.

    On Dec. 28, 2016, Miller was punched, kicked and hit repeatedly in the face with a metal pipe, said his lawyer, Julian Falconer. One of Miller’s eyes will have to be surgically removed, Falconer added. When Durham Police arrived on scene, it was Miller who was arrested, and charged with assault, weapons and drug offences. His charges were later dropped without a trial.

    Durham officers interviewed multiple people, collected evidence and took photographs during their investigation of the Dec. 28 incident, Martin said in a news release Friday.

    “As a result of our investigation, we charged ... Dafonte Miller, with several offences,” he added.

    Neither Durham nor Toronto police disclosed Miller’s injuries or Michael Theriault’s involvement to the SIU. The watchdog was only informed when Falconer contacted them in April.

    Under Ontario’s Police Services Act, which regulates law enforcement, a chief of police must “notify the SIU immediately of an incident involving one or more of his or her police officers that may reasonably be considered to fall within the investigative mandate of the SIU.”

    The responsibility to contact the SIU should lie with whichever police force is first notified of an incident, Morton told the Star.

    Martin told the Star he “appreciated” Morton’s opinion, but that the responsibility to inform the SIU lay with Toronto police.

    “There’s nothing to say we can’t do things over and above the legislation, so we’re going to take a look at our procedures and policies on that,” Martin said. “But the legislation is not ambiguous that we notify the (other) service and it is the service or the chief that employs that officer that informs the SIU.”

    Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has repeatedly defended his service’s decision not to contact the SIU. Members of his professional standards unit decided, based on the information they had at the time, that the Theriault case did not meet the threshold to report to the police watchdog, Saunders told reporters.

    Saunders announced Thursday that Waterloo police had been called in to conduct a third-party investigation into the circumstances of Miller’s beating.

    “At this stage of the game I don’t have any plans for (an external investigation),” Martin told the Star. “But that doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind at some point.”


    0 0


    Think of it as Reefer Awareness, not Reefer Madness, an over-the-top 1936 film preaching the evils of marijuana.

    With less than a year until the federal government legalizes recreational marijuana, Ontario is starting work on a public education campaign to highlight health and other dangers of pot – particularly to young adults.

    Health Minister Eric Hoskins wants the effort to hit the airwaves, newspapers and social media well before the new pot law kicks in next July 1 with 19 the likely age of majority in this province.

    “There’s strong evidence that the brain continues to develop up until roughly the age of 25 and evidence that cannabis use can negatively impact that,” he says.

    That means possible memory problems, struggling with math and reading, general learning difficulties and a higher likelihood of becoming addicted to marijuana the younger someone starts, depending on usage levels, research suggests.

    “The key to all of this is very strong public education so that parents and kids understand what the risks are, like with alcohol,” adds Hoskins, a physician himself.

    “It’s about informed decision-making.”

    The Canadian Medical Association and other health-care groups have been ramping up warnings about the use of cannabis by people under 25 as policies are being developed in Ottawa and provincial capitals.

    “Children and youth are especially at risk for marijuana-related harms, given their brain is undergoing rapid, extensive development,” the association wrote in its latest brief to the federal government.

    “Our understanding of the health effects of marijuana continues to evolve. Marijuana use is linked to several adverse health outcomes, including addiction, cardiovascular and pulmonary effects (e.g., chronic bronchitis), mental illness, and other problems, including cognitive impairment and reduced educational attainment. There seems to be an increased risk of chronic psychosis disorders, including schizophrenia, in persons with a predisposition to such disorders. The use of high potency products, higher frequency of use and early initiation are predictors of worse health outcomes.”

    Pot use in the 15 to 24 age group is double that of the general population, the CMA noted in an earlier submission to the House of Commons, warning “awareness of Canadians to the harms of marijuana is generally low.”

    Hoskins promised “a substantial public education campaign” to point out the dangers of pot, and is taking a leaf from policy makers in Colorado, where marijuana is already legal.

    “One of the things that they have pointed out is that they wish, in retrospect, they had moved on the public education significantly before it became legal. They didn’t and so I’m taking that principle to heart. We can’t wait until July 1,” he adds.

    “It doesn’t necessarily need to be hard-hitting. It needs to be memorable but, again, it’s what is the best way to get information across?”

    Colorado’s Department of Public Health & Environment’s campaign includes online tip sheets with advice for youth, parents, pregnant women and on health impacts in general.

    In many cases, the warnings are blunt: “Brain development is not complete until age 25. For the best chance to reach their full potential, youth should not use marijuana.”

    The tip sheet for parents says “do not allow smoking in your home or around children. Marijuana smoke is not healthy. It has many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco smoke.”

    Pregnant women and new mothers are cautioned about pot use, given that marijuana can pass into the womb and make it harder for the child to pay attention and learn. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, can also get into breast milk.

    Colorado also debunks some myths in its campaign, such as arguments like “since it’s legal, it must be safe” and “since it’s natural, it must be safe.”

    While Hoskins has heard the push from some quarters to make the age of majority for marijuana higher than 19 for health reasons, he says that risks leaving a larger black market the federal legislation is intended to quash.

    “If it’s too high…that age group is going to continue to find it in the illicit market.”


    0 0


    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump advised police officers Friday to stop protecting the heads of arrested suspects they are putting in their cars.

    “When you see these towns, and you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see ‘em thrown in, rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,’” Trump told a group of federal, state and local officers in Brentwood, N.Y., address focused on the MS-13 gang.

    “Like when you guys put somebody in the car, and you’re protecting their head — the way you put the hand over — like, don’t hit their head, and they’ve just killed somebody, don’t hit their head? I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’”

    His remarks were greeted with a brief moment of silence, then laughter and applause.

    Read More:Trump’s attacks on Sessions, Mueller raise concerns about ‘authoritarian’ tactics

    Trump made “law and order” a centrepiece of his campaign, and he has long called for a merciless approach to crime that dispenses with “political correctness.” But he had never before as president given his blessing to the casual injuring of criminal suspects.

    Seven minutes after that remark, he declared, “Under the Trump administration, America is once more a nation of laws.”

    Trump was immediately condemned by human rights groups and civil liberties advocates.

    “Police cannot treat every community like an invading army, and encouraging violence by police is irresponsible and reprehensible,” said Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA.

    “Causing intentional injury to a handcuffed suspect is not only against police procedure, but is a federal crime for which police officers have been sent to prison,” said Jonathan Blanks, managing editor of the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project at the libertarian Cato Institute. In the name of law and order, Blanks said, “the president made a mockery of the rule of law.”

    Trump also praised the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan, for appearing “rough.” Just as he wanted a rich man as his commerce secretary, he said, he wanted a rough man as the head of the agency responsible for deporting illegal immigrants.

    Trump has regularly criticized Chicago’s leaders for the city’s homicide problem, claiming it could be solved if officers there were allowed to be “much tougher.” On Friday, he told a story about an unnamed officer who supposedly declared the problem could be eradicated in “a couple days.”

    Trump has followed his words with actions. His administration, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has moved to reduce federal scrutiny of rights-abusing local police forces the Obama administration investigated and sought to reform.

    Trump vowed to destroy MS-13, a multinational gang founded in Los Angeles, and to deport the members who are in the country illegally. He continued to describe MS-13 members as “animals,” discussing their murders in graphic terms: “They like to knife ’em and cut ’em and let ’em die slowly,” he said. He added: “Burned to death. Beaten to death. Just the worst kind of death. Stuffed in barrels.”

    The speech was light on substance, and Trump repeatedly meandered into other subjects. Addressing Republicans’ failure early Friday morning to pass a Senate plan to replace Obamacare, he said, “They should’ve approved health-care last night, but you can’t have everything. Boy, oh boy.”

    In another remarkable declaration, Trump said he now wants to “let Obamacare implode,” a move that would hurt the health-care of tens of millions of people.


    0 0


    Premier Kathleen Wynne is hinting at something appetizing for restaurateurs anxious about looming changes to Ontario’s labour laws.

    With the government raising the $11.40-an-hour minimum wage to $14 on Jan. 1, and $15 in 2019, and improving employees’ rights on scheduling, Wynne has been trying to allay the fears of restaurant operators.

    “We want to be fair to businesses and, as well, to employees,” the premier said Friday at St. Clair College in Windsor.

    “Restaurant owners, in particular, have talked to me about other fees that they pay . . . other things that come off their off their payroll cheques; some of the fees that they pay to some of the . . . , you know, to the LCBO, for example,” said Wynne, referring to the province’s liquor monopoly.

    “We don’t know exactly what those will be, but there are a number of suggestions that are coming forward. We’re looking at everything, because, as I say, I want us to find this balance.”

    As part of the proposed wage changes, liquor servers, who make most of their money from tips, will see their minimum hourly wage jump from $9.90 now to $12.20 on Jan. 1, and $13.05, the year after that.

    James Rilett, a vice-president of Restaurants Canada, which represents 30,000 businesses across the country, said the industry is watching Wynne’s moves closely.

    Rilett, who is meeting with Small Business Minister Jeff Leal next week and will be talking soon with Finance Minister Charles Sousa, said there is much the government can do to offset the impact of the reforms on business.

    “I think they’re realizing that the economics of this aren’t as straightforward as they one thought.”

    Asked if he is sensing flexibility on the part of the Liberal government, he said: “I hope so. I still don’t know.”

    “I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. I hope they intended to give us some assistance, and we’ll continue to work with them and see how it pans out,” he said.

    Last week, Restaurants Canada released a survey of its members that found 95 per cent of restaurateurs believe the wage hike will hurt them. The poll found 98 per cent will raise menu prices; 97 per cent will reduce labour hours; 81 per cent will lay off staff; 74 per cent will embrace more automation, and 26 per cent would close one or more locations.

    The restaurant industry is a major part of Ontario’s economy; it generates $32 billion a year and employs more than 470,000 people in the province.

    Rilett noted some restaurateurs are already slowly raising prices to lessen the chance of sticker shock for consumers in next year.

    Wynne said she appreciates the concerns of business, but stressed that people “can’t live on $11.40 an hour” and they deserve a raise.

    “By increasing the minimum wage, we’re actually creating a situation where businesses, I suggest, will be able to retain their workers because the playing field will be more level,” the premier said, conceding she is trying to strike a delicate balance.

    “We have to be careful that we don’t come up with unintended consequences.”


    0 0


    New White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci’s wife has filed for divorce, according to the New York Post.

    The paper, citing multiple sources, reported Friday that Deirdre Ball, 38, is giving the Mooch — with whom she has two children — the axe after three years of marriage. Apparently, Ball is not quite as sold on the Washington political lifestyle as Scaramucci, 53.

    “She liked the nice Wall Street life and their home on Long Island, not the insane world of D.C.,” an unnamed source told the tabloid.

    Another anonymous source claims clashing loyalties toward the commander in chief caused tension. Ball has been less than enthused about Scaramucci’s ascent in the ranks of Donald Trump’s White House. “Deidre is not a fan of Trump,” the source said.

    Scaramucci was photographed sans ring at the White House Friday.

    Read more:

    Meet Anthony Scaramucci, the fierce Trump loyalist who sparked Sean Spicer’s resignation

    Anthony Scaramucci calls Trump’s chief of staff a ‘paranoid schizophrenic,’ tosses foul insults at top strategist

    Who will ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast as its Scaramucci?


    0 0


    OTTAWA—Many NDP supporters may be focused on putting their feet up for the rest of the summer but their party’s leadership race is about to enter a critical phase as candidates eye the last leg of the campaign to replace Tom Mulcair.

    From now until the finish line, four candidates — Quebec MP Guy Caron, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, Ontario MP Charlie Angus and Ontario legislator Jagmeet Singh — will be focused on the final push to sign up new members, especially with a looming Aug. 17 cutoff to bring in fresh blood.

    “At the end of the day, that’s going to be a big factor in who can win this race,” said former NDP national director Karl Belanger. “It is crunch time ... When you bring your own people in, it is much easier to know where they are going to end up and who they are going to end up supporting.”

    Read more: NDP leadership rebel Jagmeet Singh takes aim at Old Age Security: Walkom

    NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton targets ‘corporate greed’ in green platform

    Amid leadership race, NDP finds itself at a crossroads — again

    This week, fundraising figures from Elections Canada from the second quarter will also be released ahead of a debate in Victoria — a telling moment in the race, Belanger said, noting it is critical for campaigns to demonstrate momentum when party members are preparing to make up their minds about the next leader.

    “If you are able to show your capacity as an individual to raise a significant amount of money, you are showing the potential you have once you become leader and use the organization and infrastructure that is in place to raise even more money,” he said.

    Veteran B.C. MP Nathan Cullen, a candidate in the last NDP leadership contest, said he is also watching to see how the campaigns demonstrate their strength from here on out, including fundraising prowess and social media savvy.

    “If you are able to demonstrate and be the momentum candidate, that is worth its weight in gold,” Cullen said. “This is a critical time.”

    In the first quarter, Angus led the fundraising pack with $110,765 followed by Ashton at $65,521 and Caron at $57,235. Singh was not included in this batch because he had yet to enter the race.

    Ashton’s campaign says it has raised more than $100,000 in the month of July alone — an indication of what’s to come, says the MP.

    “I will say that if our campaign is any sign, we have seen some incredible response in terms of ... fundraising,” Ashton said. “Our campaign has seen that you are able to raise money and ... build support.”

    All party members are eligible to vote for a new leader, either online or by postal mail. The winner must not only get the most votes, but also must attain at least 50-plus-one per cent of the ballots. As a result, although voting begins in September the balloting could last several rounds, stretching well into October.

    The ballot is preferential, meaning voters can rank candidates in their preferred order. Only those who cast ballots online can change their vote in between rounds.

    For his part, Singh is trying to appeal to members as a so-called “growth candidate,” suggesting the next leader needs to attract newcomers to the party.

    “I think the benefit of that is that we will have a bigger party,” Singh said. “At the end of the candidacy ... the goal would be to financially support the party so that we are in a better position to compete in 2019 and to grow the party so that we are in a better position to form government.”

    Membership and money are both central concerns for the party that had about 45,000 members late last year — a far cry from the 120,000 members the NDP had following the 2012 leadership race won by Mulcair.

    The party is also carrying about $5.5 million worth of debt, according to 2016 financial returns.


    0 0


    LONDON—The family of a young black man who died following a London police chase appealed for peace Saturday, a day after street protests over his death turned violent.

    Relatives held a vigil outside an east London police station for 20-year-old Rashan Charles, who died in a hospital last week after he was pursued and apprehended by an officer in the capital’s Hackney area.

    The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating the case and said it will consider whether any misconduct or crimes were involved.

    Clashes broke out on the streets of east London late Friday as riot police tried to disperse protesters, who hurled bottles and fireworks at officers, barricaded a road with garbage cans and mattresses, and later set the objects on fire. Some held “Black Lives Matter” placards.

    Scotland Yard said the violence overnight was “separate” from a peaceful protest at a police station earlier Friday.

    Police said the unrest resulted in damage to “vehicles, a cash machine and a number of windows.” An officer was injured and a 17-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of causing bodily harm.

    “No justice, no peace, doesn’t mean violence. It means we will not watch this in silence,” Charles’ family spokesman Stafford Scott told reporters.

    Unverified footage on social media appeared to show at least one police officer attempting to restrain Charles on the floor of a shop.

    The Charles family was joined by the family of Edson Da Costa, another black man who recently died after being detained by police. Supporters say Costa was beaten by police, and his June 21 death is also being investigated by the police complaints commission.


    0 0


    Witnesses say they saw “a big ball of fire” coming from an Air Canada flight that took off from Pearson Airport Friday night.

    Air Canada said the flight bound for Ottawa turned back shortly after taking off because of engine issues.

    Anwar Haq told the Star he was at his friend’s backyard barbecue in the Rexdale area in Etobicoke when he heard a “big bang” around 7:50 p.m.

    “I looked up and saw an airplane and then there was a big ball of fire coming from the left engine.”

    Haq said the fire went out and then he heard three more loud bangs.

    “It was pretty loud, but the plane seemed to be flying OK.”

    Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah said flight AC476, which took off at around 7:30 p.m., landed safely back at Toronto Pearson International Airport with an emergency response team standing by.

    According to Air Canada, no one was injured and the aircraft is being inspected to determine the cause of the issue.

    “We’re getting our customers on their way as quickly as possible; the flight will resume with another aircraft shortly,” Mah told the Star in an email.

    Sara Dalla Guarda also saw the plane flying over the Rexdale area around 7:50 p.m.

    “I was on my driveway and then I heard loud popping noises.”

    Dalla Guarda said when she looked up she saw flames coming from the left engine followed by black smoke. She then heard five to ten “loud pops.”

    “There was fire coming from the engine and then it stopped, and then there was black smoke,” she said. “But the plane didn’t look like it was out of control.”


    0 0


    WASHINGTON— U.S. President Donald Trump has ousted long-embattled chief of staff Reince Priebus, replacing him on Friday with homeland security secretary John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general.

    Trump announced the decision on Twitter, calling Kelly a “great American and a great leader” and a “true star of my Administration.”

    Priebus’s departure is another indication of the turmoil roiling a struggling administration plagued by infighting between its competing centres of influence. It leaves the White House even more firmly in the hands of people without conventional experience in politics.

    Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is the second top Trump aide to depart in just a week. Press secretary Sean Spicer, who announced his resignation last Friday, had also been a senior official at the party committee.

    Though the news broke on Friday afternoon, Priebus told U.S. news outlets that he “resigned privately” on Thursday, the lowest point of a tenure that was rocky from the start.

    Read more:‘Please don’t be too nice’: Trump tells cops it’s fine if suspects hit their heads

    Trump’s press secretary pointedly refused to say whether the president still had confidence in Priebus. Then the New Yorker magazine released an interview in which Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, insulted Priebus at length, calling him a “paranoid schizophrenic.”

    Trump has a fondness for generals. Kelly, who quickly earned his trust by attempting to salvage the flawed execution of his January travel ban policy, will now seek to impose order on the disorganized operation of a leader accustomed to instinctual improvisation.

    The military is an unusual but not unprecedented training ground for a chief of staff. During the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon appointed Army general Alexander Haig, who later served in the same role for Gerald Ford.

    Kelly served 46 years in the military, including a stint as a top commander in the Iraq War. His new challenge is also formidable.

    Trump’s White House has been less formal than any in modern history, with senior aides walking in and out of the Oval Office as they please. The administration just failed to pass its flagship legislative initiative, a push to replace Obamacare. It is struggling with the growing reach of a special counsel’s probe into Trump’s campaign.

    It is notably short on legislative experience, though Kelly did spend time in the 1990s as a military liaison to Congress. And none of the president’s current aides have been able to rein in the impulsive behaviour that congressional Republicans say is impeding their agenda.

    Kelly joked gently about Trump during an interview two weeks ago. When his phone rang, he said, “It might be the president, so I do want to miss the call.”

    Priebus’s ouster was long in the making: he had been rumoured to be hanging by a thread since the first month of Trump’s presidency. Trump had appeared to authorize a public campaign by Scaramucci, a Wall St. financier hired just a week ago, to humiliate Priebus into quitting.

    Priebus still flew on Air Force One with Trump and Scaramucci to Trump’s Friday speech on Long Island. Trump tweeted the news of his ouster shortly after they landed back at a military base in Maryland. Priebus’s car then separated from the presidential motorcade as journalists snapped photos.

    “I would like to thank Reince Priebus for his service and dedication to his country. We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!” Trump said on Twitter.

    “I will continue to serve as a strong supporter of the President’s agenda and policies. I can’t think of a better person than General John Kelly to succeed me and I wish him God’s blessings and great success,” Priebus said in a statement.

    Priebus clashed at the beginning of Trump’s term with chief strategist Steve Bannon and more recently with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s influential family members. The president himself had never seemed fond of Priebus, frequently scolding him and undermining him behind the scenes.

    “I’m happy for Reince,” Republican strategist Katie Packer Beeson‏ said on Twitter. “He is a decent man who got caught up in this mess and didn’t deserve the treatment he received.”

    The New York Times and other outlets reported that Trump blamed Priebus for their initial failure to get their health bill passed and for the general dysfunction others believe has been caused by the president himself. At one point, according to Politico, Trump gave Priebus an implausible deadline of July 4 to clean up the administration.

    The Times reported that Trump scornfully reminded Priebus that he had advised Trump to drop out of the election after the release of a tape in which Trump appeared to boast about groping women.

    “If you’ve lost the confidence of the president, people smell it, feel it, know it within seconds — and you become an overblown scheduler,” Erskine Bowles, one of Bill Clinton’s chiefs of staff, told author Chris Whipple for The Gatekeepers, his book on the men who have held the job.

    Chiefs of staff generally do not last long; the average tenure is less than two years. At just six months and a week, Priebus’s term was especially brief.

    Only the widely respected James Baker’s second tenure in the job was shorter, at five months, and he was covering off the end of George H.W. Bush’s administration. Priebus is the only the second chief to leave in less than a year as the president’s tenure continued.

    It’s “the toughest job in government,” Baker told NPR in April. Priebus, he said, was being undercut by Trump’s decision to give various aides “broad and rather undefined responsibilities that cut across both domestic and foreign policy.”

    “It’s very difficult under those circumstances to have a co-ordinated, single, focused message, and that’s something that’s very important to the success of an administration,” Baker said.

    Trump’s allies outside the White House, such as political operative Roger Stone and Newsmax chief executive Chris Ruddy, had been calling for Priebus’s ouster since February, when Stone said“it’s time for the little man to go.”

    Priebus’s power had waned further in the subsequent months. His hand-picked deputy, former RNC official Katie Walsh, was pressured out of the White House in March, and another ally, communications director Mike Dubke, quit in May after just three months. One of Scaramucci’s first acts was forcing out yet another ally, assistant press secretary Michael Short.


    0 0


    Let’s talk about a few bad apples, and what they do. Or, about “a few bad apples” — in permanent quotation marks, almost audible in the manner it is spoken — the go-to cliché invoked whenever an episode of apparently unjustified police violence or misbehaviour becomes public.

    I’ve heard it, and the phrase has sprung to mind, after news this month about an off-duty police officer who is accused of using a metal pipe to beat Dafonte Miller, a Black teenager from Whitby, so badly he will lose the use of one of his eyes.

    Most cops are good people, many say. This is a just a case of “a few bad apples.”

    My sense is that people repeating it mean to suggest that the alleged bad actions we’ve become aware of don’t indicate a wider problem, don’t show a system-wide problem, shouldn’t reflect on entire police departments. From the context of the arguments it is used in, that’s what it seems to mean. My colleague Shree Paradkar took on the “bad apples” contention this week, arguing against exactly that interpretation.

    But what jumps out to me is that those using the cliché this way seem to be ignoring the rest of the old saying — perhaps they’ve used it so much and so often they forget what it is supposed to mean. And that’s particularly sad because police misconduct is one case in which the cliché seems particularly apt.

    “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” Its metaphorical meaning comes from a literal truth: a rotten apple in a bushel full of apples will cause the rest to rot, because overripe apples emit a gas that will hasten the ripening and eventual rotting of all the others around them.

    This is not a saying that warns against letting the behaviour of one or two members of a group affect your impression of the whole group. It is a saying advising you to remove bad members of a group before their toxicity contaminates everyone and everything around them.

    Let’s look at what we have learned about the case of Dafonte Miller: one night in December, around 3 a.m., Miller and some friends were walking down the street near where he lives in Whitby. It is alleged that Michael Theriault, an off-duty Toronto police officer, and Christian Theriault, a civilian said by Miller’s lawyer Julian Falconer to be his brother, approached the boys as they passed the house where Theriault’s father (also a Toronto police officer) lives, according to Falconer. It’s alleged by Falconer that Theriault identified himself as a police officer and demanded to know what Miller and his friends were doing there. When the boys refused to answer, the Theriault brothers allegedly chased them down, caught Miller and beat him with a steel pipe, breaking bones in his face and wrist and injuring his eye in way that means it will have to be removed. None of these allegations have been tested in court.

    According to Falconer, the teen called 911 and attempted to bang on the door of a neighbour to get help. When the Durham regional police arrived, they did not conduct much of an investigation — they took no witness statements, for example. Instead they charged Miller — the teen who had been beaten — with a series of crimes, including assault. Those charges were later dropped by the crown.

    Another thing Durham police did not do is call the Special Investigations Unit, which is responsible for handling investigations in which a police officer has seriously harmed or killed someone. They did, apparently, advise the Toronto police department that one of its officers had been involved in the incident. Toronto police did not report it to the SIU either.

    It was Miller’s lawyer, Falconer, who finally alerted the SIU to the alleged violent attack. In mid-July, the SIU laid charges against both Michael and Christian Theriault for aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and public mischief.

    Now, let us assume — and hope — that there are very few police officers who would do what Theriault is alleged to have done: chase down and savagely beat a teen for no apparent reason other than, perhaps, that he was walking through the wrong neighbourhood at night — though it appears it was his own neighbourhood too, or close to it.

    Most cops I don’t believe would do something like that. Maybe just “a few bad apples.” But look what happened next: the on-duty Durham police called to the scene charged the alleged victim. Two different police departments failed to investigate and take action against the officer involved, and failed to alert the SIU who are supposed to independently investigate such allegations.

    It is becoming harder to believe that this type of behaviour — covering up for misbehaviour or violence, looking the other way or refusing to co-operate in investigations of alleged police officer misconduct — is uncommon or accidental.

    “It’s not fumbling ‘Keystone Cops’ here, it’s a consistent — and I’ve seen it in hundreds of cases — consistent thought process: Avoid the SIU at all cost,” former SIU director and Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin told the Star recently.

    My colleague Wendy Gillis reported this spring on more than 150 letters from the SIU to Toronto’s police chief complaining of actions by police that “appear to have violated their legal duty to co-operate with the provincial watchdog, including allegations police failed to immediately notify the SIU of a serious civilian injury or interfered with a scene after the watchdog took over an investigation.”

    The apparent code of silence in the protection of officers extends to the highest levels, where reports on problems and investigations are routinely kept secret from the public.

    Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders has called in Waterloo police to investigate the circumstances around the assault on Dafonte. Mayor John Tory has promised to make the findings public. Durham’s police Chief Paul Martin told the Star’s Peter Goffin he has ordered an internal review of his force’s response to the beating. Martin could not say if the findings would be made public.

    Some police or police supporters may think that anything that would make one officer look bad is bad for all police. So making sure it never becomes known, they might think, serves some greater cause.

    But shielding bad behaviour allows it to continue, and to spread. It makes those with bad intentions certain they have licence to act on them. It makes others less inclined to suppress their own worst impulses. It makes everyone involved — not just those who may have initiated bad actions or made mistakes — part of a coverup that perpetrates injustice. It takes an isolated rotten act and allows it to infect the whole system. The police department is an organization set up to uphold the law — if they start undermining it for their own purposes, they have already failed.

    And when such apparent coverups come to light, they rot out public confidence in the whole system, for good reason.

    A few bad apples? Maybe to start. But the only way to ensure they remain “only a few” is if they are identified, removed, and discarded from the rest as soon as possible. Otherwise, the cliché tells us surely enough what’s bound to happen.

    Edward Keenan writes on city issues ekeenan@thestar.ca . Follow: @thekeenanwire


    0 0


    CARACAS, VENEZUELA—Despite four months of deadly protests and the threat of U.S. sanctions, Venezuela on Saturday found itself 24 hours away from a consolidation of government power that appeared certain to drag the OPEC nation deeper into a crisis that has entire neighbourhoods battling police and paramilitaries while the poor root for scraps in piles of trash.

    In the opposition strongholds of relatively wealthy eastern Caracas, skinny teenagers manned barricades of tree branches, garbage and barbed wire torn from nearby buildings. Clashes with police began late Friday afternoon and lasted into the night. The months of violence have left at least 113 dead and nearly 2,000 wounded.

    The rest of the capital was calm. Across the city, residents said they wanted President Nicolas Maduro out of power but didn’t want to risk their lives or livelihoods taking on his socialist government and its backers.

    Read more: Death toll in Venezuela civil unrest hits 100

    Streets of Venezuela’s capital relatively calm days before controversial election

    “I have a young daughter, I can’t risk anything happening to me,” said Maria Llanes, a 55-year-old flower-store worker who lives in a south Caracas neighbourhood dominated by armed pro-government motorcycle gangs. “What do I do, protest in this neighbourhood, so that they kill me? This area’s run by a mafia loyal to the money the government pays them.”

    Maduro called for a massive turnout Sunday for a vote to elect members of an assembly tasked with rewriting the 18-year-old constitution created under President Hugo Chavez. The opposition is boycotting because, it says, the vote called by Maduro was structured to ensure that his ruling socialist party dominates.

    The opposition says the government is so afraid of low turnout that it’s threatening to fire state workers who don’t vote, and take away social benefits like subsidized food from recipients who stay away from the polls. By Wednesday, the resulting National Constituent Assembly will become one of the most powerful organs in the country, able to root out the last vestiges of democratic checks and balances in favour of what many fear will be a single-party authoritarian system.

    First Lady Cilia Flores, a candidate for the assembly, said it would create a commission to ensure those responsible for the political upheaval “pay and learn their lesson.” Diosdado Cabello, first vice-president of Venezuela’s socialist party, says the assembly will strip legislators in the opposition-controlled National Assembly of their immunity from prosecution. He said the office of Venezuela’s chief prosecutor, who recently became one of Maduro’s most outspoken critics, would be “turned upside down.”

    “On July 30, the constitutional assembly will happen,” Maduro said Friday at a subsidized housing ceremony. “I’ve been loyal to Chavez’s legacy. Now it’s your turn.”

    Washington has imposed successive rounds of sanctions on members of Maduro’s administration and Vice-President Mike Pence on Friday promised “strong and swift economic actions” after Sunday’s vote. He didn’t say whether the U.S. would sanction Venezuelan oil imports, a measure with the potential to undermine Maduro but cause an even deeper humanitarian crisis here.

    Opinion polls show that more than 70 per cent of the country is opposed to Sunday’s vote. But as many as half of all Venezuelans support neither the government nor the opposition — a phenomenon evident in the glum paralysis that has gripped much of the country as protesters and police wage nightly battles. While Venezuelans bitterly complain about shortages of food and medicine, few still respond to opposition calls for protests, a far cry from early demonstrations that saw hundreds of thousands pouring into the streets.

    “Many strange things have taken place this week that makes you wonder what is going on with the opposition. I don’t know. The opposition is at home, the opposition is hiding,” Caracas resident Abed Mondabed said.

    The opposition has organized a series of work stoppages and a July 16 protest vote it says drew more than 7.5 million symbolic votes against the constitutional assembly. It called late Friday for massive marches on the day of the assembly vote.

    In the eastern neighbourhood of Bello Monte, the site of fierce battles with police in recent days, a 54-year-old shop owner named Ricardo watched masked adolescents block a road with dumpsters as a soot-smeared, emaciated man picked through their contents for bits of food.

    Ricardo, who declined to provide his last name for fear of government retaliation, said he felt the Sunday vote meant the last chance for political resolution of Venezuela’s problems was gone, ushering in an even more violent phase.

    “Negotiations have come to an end,” he said. “The fight will continue and all of a sudden it could be a lot tougher.”


    0 0


    The union for 700 striking workers at Canada’s busiest airport says the strike caused significant baggage handling delays Friday evening.

    The vice-president of Teamsters Local 419 says most of the flights serviced by the ground crews’ employer, Swissport, landed in the evening and overnight at Pearson Airport.

    Harjinder Badial says Friday’s delays lasted anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours, because experienced ground crew were walking the picket line.

    Read more: Pearson airport ground crew workers on strike

    700 baggage handlers, ground crew at Pearson Airport on strike

    Affected airlines include Air Transat, Air France, and Sunwing.

    The Greater Toronto Airports Authority told The Canadian Press Friday that the strike caused minimal disruption to flights at Pearson.

    Workers with Teamsters Local 419 began their strike Thursday evening.


    0 0


    A Toronto man has been charged with second-degree murder after a fatal shooting in Vaughan on Friday morning.

    York Regional police responded to an call at around 7 a.m. on Tall Grass Trail, near Pine Valley Dr. and Highway 7.

    Officers found a man with serious injuries. He was taken to hospital where it was discovered that he had a gunshot wound.

    Roy Khan, 24, of Vaughan, succumbed to his injuries Friday afternoon, police said.

    York Regional Police have arrested and charged Kevin Khemraj Deonath, 29, with second-degree murder.

    He is being held in custody and will appear for a bail hearing at a Newmarket court on Monday or Tuesday.

    Police said the investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact the homicide unit or Crime Stoppers.


    0 0


    Electronic patient records in doctors’ offices across the country are being used by brand name drug companies looking to muscle market share away from generic competitors, a Star investigation has found.

    Concerned physicians say a clinical tool they use to write prescriptions and care for patients is being co-opted, and they fear health records are being tapped so drug companies can increase profits.

    In the battle for pharmaceutical dominance, this new tactic, deployed in software used by doctors, has allowed brand-name companies to capitalize on the moment a prescription is written.

    Here’s how it works:

    The patient records are found in EMRs, or electronic medical record software, owned by Telus Health, a subsidiary of the telecom giant. The software is used by thousands of Canadian doctors to take notes during patient visits and to create a prescription to be filled by the patient’s pharmacy.

    To drive business their way, brand-name drug companies have paid Telus to digitally insert vouchers so that the prescription is filled with their product instead of the lower-cost generic competitor that pharmacists normally reach for.

    The vouchers are known in the industry as “patient-assistance programs.” It works like a coupon: If a patient’s insurance does not cover the full cost of the pricier brand name drug, the drug’s manufacturer will cover part or all of the cost difference from its generic equivalent.

    The voucher feature is offered in a number of other electronic medical record systems, Telus said.

    Doctors had to agree to the new feature in the Telus software before it was enabled on their systems, and physicians can opt out at any time.

    But some physicians may not realize the implications of the vouchers when they click to accept the software’s updated features, said Dr. Antony Gagnon, manager of the pharmacy program with the Hamilton Family Health Team.

    “The brand name companies are basically using physicians to redirect their prescriptions of generic drugs to the companies’ brand drugs,” Gagnon said.

    In an internal document obtained by the Star, the head of Ontario’s doctor regulator, speaking generally, said vouchers being included on a prescription is “not appropriate” as they may lead patients to think their physicians favour brand drugs over generics.

    Generics contain the same medical ingredients and can cost as little as one-fifth of the brand price. A former assistant deputy health minister, Helen Stevenson, said the vouchers can pile unnecessary costs on to private drug plans. These costs could ultimately be passed to the patient through higher premiums.

    In an interview, Telus Health President Paul Lepage defended the program, saying thatelectronic vouchers streamline payment assistance programs already “used by millions of Canadians who really use them to reduce the cost of their medication.”

    In the past, drug company reps gave paper vouchers to physicians who in turn could hand them out to the patient.

    With the updated software, the voucher can be printed right on the patient’s prescription.

    “Our physician customers who use these programs have asked us if we can simplify the process,” said Lepage of Telus. “We’re focused on offering cost-effective solutions to physicians and patients.”

    The voucher function has been “very positively received by the majority of our physician users,” a Telus spokesperson said.

    Why do brand name companies offer these vouchers?

    In an effort to keep costs down, many drug plans encourage pharmacists to substitute a cheaper generic drug when filling a prescription for a brand drug, unless the prescribing doctor specifically requests otherwise. Without the voucher, even if a doctor uses the brand name on a prescription, pharmacists may substitute the cheaper generic.

    But when enabled, the Telus software feature detects when a doctor is prescribing a drug by its brand name, such as cholesterol medication Crestor. The voucher is printed on the prescription and the pharmacist takes that as a specific instruction to dispense the brand name. The voucher is not offered if the doctor enters the generic name (rosuvastatin, in Crestor’s case), Telus said.

    The brand companies say the payment assistance vouchers are about giving the patient choice between brand and generic drugs without having to spend more money.

    But for Gagnon, the vouchers are manipulating physicians’ prescribing practices, adding that many physicians use a drug’s brand name when writing a prescription out of habit and aren’t necessarily instructing that a drug be dispensed over its generic.

    The vouchers also reinforce a false premise that generics are inferior in quality to the original brand name drugs, say doctors critical of the program.

    The first time Toronto physician Nav Persaud logged on to Telus’ PS Suite after its recent update, a text box popped up notifying him of the new feature that could “lead to greater choice and lower cost for your patients.”

    But Persaud questioned how much his patients would get out of the vouchers.

    “It wasn’t clear to me who was going to benefit from it. Was it going to further the marketing of brand name products, which I think are prescribed without any clear reason, given that they have the same effects (as generics), and they cost more?” said Persaud, a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital.

    He disabled the feature.

    A Telus spokesperson said the voucher is offered only after a physician chooses a specific brand name drug to prescribe “so there is no influence on what drug the physician selects.”

    “As a technology provider, we are careful not to influence or restrict the clinical choices made by medical professionals.”

    Telus Health is a dominant player in Canada’s electronic medical record industry. Its seven EMR systems impact more than 25 million patient-physician interactions each year.

    Two of those programs — PS Suite and Nightingale — have the feature offering payment assistance vouchers. Telus plans to expand the feature to all of its EMR programs.

    Brand companies pay on a “fixed-fee basis” for their vouchers being included, Telus officials said, but they refused to discuss the details of their agreement with drug companies, saying it was “subject to commercial confidentiality.”

    About 7,000 doctors across Canada use PS Suite, and roughly two-thirds have chosen to use the voucher function. The company said doctors were involved in designing the feature.

    In the medical practices of the Hamilton Family Health Team, a network of 165 physicians, some doctors were unaware of the voucher feature — nor were they aware that information about those vouchers was being shared with drug companies.

    Some of those doctors send the prescriptions directly from their computers to the pharmacy fax machine and never saw the voucher that was included on the printout, said lead physician Dr. Monica De Benedetti.

    Without the doctors being fully aware, they could not tell their patients about the program, De Benedetti said.

    The health team encouraged its members to turn off the voucher feature. In 2016, De Benedetti, along with Gagnon and the Health Team’s executive director, wrote a complaint letter to Telus Health.

    “There will certainly be a number of physicians who will be concerned that they are inadvertently participating in contributing data to pharmaceutical companies,” the letter read.

    Telus said all doctors had to enable the new voucher feature by clicking “accept” in a pop-up text box.

    Drug manufacturers paying to have their vouchers in the EMR receive “aggregated and anonymized, province-level statistics” on the total number of vouchers printed off for their products, the company said.

    No patient or physician information is shared, Telus said.

    Telus said payment-assistance vouchers are offered in a number of other electronic medical record systems offered by other companies.

    The company behind one of those systems, however, says it will be ditching the vouchers from its software.

    When Loblaw Companies Ltd. purchased B.C.-based QHR and its Accuro software in 2016, it already included a voucher feature, spokesperson Kevin Groh said in a statement. He said they plan to remove the function in the coming months.

    “While some discount vouchers — commonly called ‘brand cards’ — offer valuable financial assistance to patients, many keep patients on higher-priced brand products when more cost-effective generic medications are available,” he said.

    “Brand cards can create confusion for patients, often leading to the perception that generic medications are inferior,” Groh added. “This is a problem for a system reliant on savings from generics.”

    In an internal letter obtained by the Star, Dr. Rocco Gerace, registrar of Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons said vouchers, in general, should not be printed on prescriptions as they “may lead some patients to perceive that the physician is in a conflict of interest, or that they are recommending or endorsing the name-brand formulation of a drug instead of a generic or other alternative.”

    Gerace’s comments were in a July 2016 response to the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, an industry group that contacted the College asking for the regulator’s view on brand vouchers being included on prescriptions, which it says “appears to be increasing in frequency.”

    Telus says its voucher feature was not introduced until August 2016. That was after Gerace’s comments. A Telus spokesperson said its software follows ethical principles not present in all EMR systems with voucher features, adding that the company sets “the gold standard on how things should be done.”

    In summer 2016, after learning about the voucher feature for Telus’ EMR, clinical pharmacist Cora Van Zutphen crunched the numbers. She estimates that a regular patient with diabetes and heart problems could be billing his private drug plan nearly $3,000 a year in unnecessary costs by using the brand name drugs over their generic equivalents.

    Van Zutphen wrote a letter to her colleagues with the Upper Grand Family Health Team, advising the network of doctors in communities north of Guelph to turn off the vouchers.

    “When insurance companies pay for brand-name drugs over lower-cost generics, billions of dollars are added to the costs of private drug plans,” she wrote to her colleagues. “Ultimately, those costs are passed on to employers and employees.”

    Voucher programs are not designed to add costs to private plans, a Telus spokesperson said. “Private plans choose what costs they will and will not cover,” she said.

    But in some cases, if the patient’s private drug plan doesn’t cover the full cost of the brand drug, then the patient’s spouse’s health plan is tapped as the next payer — not the drug company, an industry expert said.

    “The brand manufacturer is typically the last payer. The claims system looks for every other payer first. It’s a brilliant strategy for brands looking to grab market share but not for drug plans — it can unnecessarily raise costs,” said Stevenson, former head of Ontario Public Drug Programs and CEO of Reformulary Group, a drug plan management company.


    0 0


    Unlike the roadside attractions he catalogued, Ed Solonyka was not attention-seeking. He worked for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, was slightly taller than the national average, and had a moustache from the time he could grow one.

    During a family vacation in the early 1990s, the Sudbury geologist became fascinated with the monuments that interrupted the Canadian landscape. The internet was young and Ed, then in his 40s, made a website chronicling roadside attractions, like the big nickel in his hometown. People sent along their photos, and it became a never-ending census that captured monuments like the Wawa goose, and more obscure finds like the “World’s Largest Endangered Ferruginous Hawk,” in Leader, Sask.

    In January 2015, I emailed Solonyka, believing his site could be a way into a series about small towns: “That sounds like a dream project,” he replied promptly. “Unfortunately I have a cold presently, however perhaps sometime later this week or next week I’ll be in touch to arrange a time.”

    The series didn’t happen, and this summer, I noticed Solonyka’s website had changed. It looked modern, and there was a note:

    “For more than 17 years, Ed regularly maintained and updated the site, which is now the authoritative list of large roadside attractions in Canada … For some of us, the challenge was to find a roadside attraction not yet listed on the site — take the photo and send it to Ed to be added to the list. And it was fascinating to keep track of the expanding list of roadside attractions — even, and perhaps especially, those that we weren’t likely to see in real life.

    “On December 19, 2015, Ed passed away.

    “This website will go on, in memory of Ed.”


    When people travelled by rail and stage coach in the 1890s, “roadside attractions” were lakes, villages, and even a patch of finely cut grass. One of the earliest references in the age of the automobile was a pile of stones stacked in an Illinois field and noted in Bloomington’s Pantagraph newspaper in 1924. By the time Ed Solonyka was born in Winnipeg in 1946, the car was king, and communities throughout North America were building more showy displays of local pride, using concrete, wood and steel.

    David Stymeist, a retired anthropology professor from the University of Manitoba, spent many summers in the ’90s living in his van as he drove across Canada to research the folk art phenomenon, speaking to people about their town’s giant coffee cup or Plexiglas mosquito. He often turned to Solonyka’s site. “I found things I didn’t know about or wouldn’t have ever found,” he says.

    He found monuments weren’t as abundant in southern Ontario, but they appeared more frequently on the edge of the Canadian Shield, and into northern Ontario. The “true heartland” was the prairies. Some were made by professional artists, others by locals, and they were a part of the Canadian consciousness in a way that hadn’t happened in the U.S. They were affirmations — a sign of settlement, history, economy and achievement, but sometimes they were contested symbols, and occasionally people got mad about all the money being spent.

    Take the pysanka in Vegreville, Alta., for instance. Its construction in the 1970s was delayed and people began to criticize the cost. “There were rumours that some local youth were planning to blow up the partially constructed statue with dynamite, and the project’s designer began to spend nights at the site to ward off an attack,” Stymeist wrote in the Journal of Canadian Studies in 2012.

    Ed Solonyka, who grew up in a Ukrainian family, had a soft spot for that big Ukrainian Easter egg, decorated with equilateral triangles and stars. (“The first computer modelling of an egg,” the town website notes, calling it one of the “premier tourist attractions on the Yellowhead Highway.”)

    Solonyka studied at the University of Manitoba before moving to Toronto to work in geology and mining. That’s where he met Phil Hum, who would steer him toward the world of web design when the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines relocated to Sudbury in the 1990s.

    Because he owned a computer and knew how to use it, Hum became the ministry’s webmaster in those innocent days of chat rooms and page counters. With a limited budget, Hum asked each department for a “champion” who wouldn’t mind learning HTML. Solonyka was a joiner, and of course, he was in.

    Together, the friends experimented on the ministry’s internal development site, copying and pasting bits of code they admired. They found a graphic of Indiana Jones in a mine car that was tantalizingly on brand, but “we can’t put cartoons on a government of Ontario site,” Hum recalls from his Sudbury home, laughing.

    They enjoyed a good laugh, but they were analytical types who thought things through.

    “When we were in the office, even on casual days, we still wore office casual attire,” he says.

    Hum passed the exciting graphics to Solonyka, who had created two websites at home. The first honoured his uncle, Ukrainian-Canadian poet Volodimir Barabash, and the second was dedicated to roadside attractions. It had two spinning maple leaves and a Canadian flag blowing in the breeze of the information superhighway. In the beginning, there were two dozen photos from his family vacations.

    In the pictures, Tanya Solonyka, now 35, can watch herself grow up beside objects she will never reach in height. The earliest photo is pixilated, but she must be 11, standing under a moose, wearing a striped T-shirt and pink shorts. She remembers how her dad stopped the minivan where the Trans-Canada jogs north outside of Dryden, Ont., on a family trip to Winnipeg.

    Stymeist visited the same moose during one of his research trips. They are a popular animal in the roadside attraction game, with about 30 statues across Canada.

    “Some kid chiselled off his genitals, which was remarked to me as being a terrible thing to have happened,” Stymeist says. “They were kind of outraged by this.”

    (A town official told the anthropologist that while Moose Jaw, Sask., may have a bigger moose, Dryden’s was more realistic. “It’s true,” says Stymeist, which is big of him, as a Moose Jaw resident.)

    Tanya Solonyka remembers how her dad would sit at the oak desk in their living room for hours. When the computer whirred to life, he marvelled at the questions and photos in his inbox. He categorized the attractions by location, alphabet and type, and had a special group for “planes on pedestals.”

    “Anytime he’d be driving somewhere for work, he’d always have to detour to go find those planes,” his daughter says.

    He kept the site immaculate, like the backyard garden he nurtured with his wife. The couple were private people, and the website became this “weird social activity for him,” Tanya says. He liked the connections.

    Dale Redekopp, a retired air force pilot from Alberta, was a frequent correspondent. He liked documenting ghost towns and grain elevators, and during his drives on the prairie back roads he often came across oddities like the giant fibreglass man, “out standing in his field” near Moose Jaw.

    “We call him Bob,” says Gord Gadd, who owns Mid Prairie Body Centre. “In the ’90s, there was a Doritos commercial, and it was, ‘Where’s Bob?’ So we named him Bob.”

    Gadd found the giant in an auto wrecking yard, smashed and broken, a relic of a fibreglass moulding process that created muscular men as advertising gimmicks. Gadd sculpted him back into shape and set him up in the field in the 1990s. In Saskatchewan, where people often navigate by landmark, Bob is helpful to locals.

    When Redekopp saw Bob, he pulled over, walked into the field, and stood beside the man’s legs for scale. Then he sent the photo to Ed.

    Lorraine Hirning, who lives in British Columbia, bought her first digital camera in the early days of the site so she could do the same thing.

    “It’s awesome to just go wander,” she says. “A lot of people wander to museums, to art galleries. I tend to wander to the smaller towns.”

    Like early cartographers, Solonyka’s internet friends fanned out across the country to create their new map. Hirning planned her vacations around the task and emailed the last of her photos each fall with a cheery “see you next year.”

    It was like a family without the baggage, “because nobody threw much baggage out there,” Hirning says.

    Like Redekopp, Hirning only communicated with Ed by email. She invited him and his wife to Melita, Man., for the unveiling of the town’s big banana in 2010, but Ed wrote back to say they wouldn’t make it. (It was another divisive landmark: “I guess some people think maybe money could be spent on health care or roads and streets instead of building bananas,” Mayor Bob Walker told the Winnipeg Free Press, “I think anything that attracts people to the town of Melita is good for the town of Melita.”)


    When Solonyka was diagnosed with leukemia the following year, he didn’t tell many people. He didn’t want people to treat him differently. The doctors said it wasn’t an aggressive form and he didn’t need treatment until 2015. Chemotherapy went well and Hum would often pick him up for the weekly lunch with his coworkers.

    Solonyka enjoyed work, but looked forward to more free time in retirement. He wanted to modernize the site, and drive an RV across Canada to every attraction. His wife laughed; not for her. Tanya said sure. She’d go and see “all those crazy things.”

    Her favourite was the “Happy Rock” in Gladstone, Man. Back when she was a kid, they would pass it on the way to visit her cousins: a smiling fibreglass rock wearing a top hat, giving the thumbs-up on a neatly manicured lawn.

    In November 2015, her father rang the remission bell. He was back at work, and happy to have a powerful new computer at home. He emailed Redekopp to ask about the exact location of a dragon and a Minion statue, and added a few new photos.

    In mid-December, he didn’t feel well. His children rushed home as his cancer became very aggressive very quickly. Everybody was shocked by the change, including Ed. He died less than a week before Christmas.

    Amid the grief, Canada’s supply of roadside attractions was unceasing. Nobody knew Solonyka was unwell. Some learned he had died when his wife emailed them for the first time.

    Redekopp, who learned about Ed’s death from Hirning, had never heard Ed’s voice. The webmaster was a mystery. “I had no idea what he had done before,” he says. “I assumed he was retired. I’m not even sure where he lived.”

    He had a sense from years of respectful, prompt emails: Ed was a real nice guy.

    “He was following his dream, and allowing many of us to live it with him,” Hirning says.

    Redekopp sends photos of grain elevators to a man in Nova Scotia for a different website, and they banter back and forth about grandchildren. But Ed didn’t veer off track from his solution-oriented correspondence. Redekopp once spotted a homemade plane in his travels in Alberta. A man had built it, he died, and his widow didn’t know what to do, so a friend raised it high on a pedestal. He emailed the details to Ed.

    Ed had a separate category for “planes on pedestals,” but they had to be planes with real flight hours.

    “I said, well, let’s put it on large roadside attractions — and he did,” Redekopp says.


    Lorraine Hirning didn’t have the time or skills to take over the site. Worried it would disappear, she printed a full copy.

    Mira and Mike van Bodegom noticed the site was stale in the winter of 2016, and they too found out what had happened. They had been followers since 2002, when they were a couple of newlyweds looking for adventure. Back then, they hit the road in their Ford Tempo to see an old plane and police car on the roof of the Cainsville, Ont., flea market. The site had been the source of countless road trips.

    They didn’t want it to disappear. With the Solonykas’ support, the van Bodegoms agreed to take over. Their 12-year-old son, Smith (Smitty), is a computer programming whiz, and it has become a family project. This summer, they added the site’s 1,500th attraction: a silver maple key in Cambridge.

    Ed Solonyka would have been humbled and honoured. He had been so proud of his website that, in a rare instance of self-promotion, he ordered a red baseball cap with “Large Roadside Canadian Attractions,” embroidered in white thread. It was his favourite hat.

    His daughter would tease him. “This is going to be your claim to fame,” she’d say, and he’d stick his tongue out. But she was right. It was noted in his obituary, alongside his love of gardening and his volunteer work with the Out of the Cold program. For a small but passionate segment of the Canadian population, it is impossible to see a roadside attraction without thinking of Ed Solonyka.

    He didn’t get the chance to take his final road trip, but he laid the groundwork in more than 1,000 co-ordinates that dot the country like a bad case of chicken pox on the site’s new map. Maybe you’ll remember him if you find yourself in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. It’s between the flagpole and the gazebo in Montmartre, Sask.

    Ed Solonyka’s favourites

    • Wawa goose (Wawa, Ont.)

    • Big Nickel (Sudbury, Ont.)

    • World’s largest pysanka (Vegreville, Alta.)

    • 12.8-metre sausage (Mundare, Alta.)

    0 0


    “There it is! Mommy, I see it!” yells one young boy, screaming around the bend of Charity Cres. ahead of his younger sisters Friday morning.

    “I can see the cow!”

    Across the park, Theresa Pacariem holds her daughter in her arms on the front steps of her house, watching groups of people on bicycles and in cars come and go from her once-quiet street near Woodbine Ave. and Elgin Mills Rd. E.

    Less than two weeks after Charity was installed eight metres — or three storeys — above the centre of the crescent’s parkette, Markham’s giant stainless steel cow on stilts has become a tourist attraction.

    As soon as you turn the corner at the end of the street that boasts her namesake, she’s there, staring down at you. You can’t mistake her, with her bronze-leafed wreath, towering over the trees.

    The city has now put up a fence barricade to protect Charity from the crowds. A sign has also been installed, telling the famous cow’s story (she was a nine-time all-Canadian or all-American show cow, said to be the most productive milking cow in the world in the 1980s) and advising that the landscaping around it will be completed in September.

    “There was probably 200 people here yesterday taking selfies and pictures. They walk their children here and they’re in their strollers,” Pacariem says. “My angle isn’t as bad as some people. The people right in front of it have it even worse.”

    “This morning there was two big groups of women out here taking pictures,” chimes in her partner, Thomas Servellon, stepping out from the house to join her on the steps and watch.

    “Every few minutes you’ll see cars going by and people getting out to take pictures.”

    Around the bend, Lita Santiago plays with her granddaughter outside one of the 19 other homes that look directly at Charity.

    “It’s crazy, it’s crazy. It’s a tourist attraction now! Everyone comes over here,” she says, shaking her head and laughing.

    Tom Phillips told his partner Gayle they were going for lunch and an afternoon drive when he brought her to see the controversial monument.

    “If there’s any reason I would be pissed off here, it’s because idiots like us who live in Aurora who came down to see it,” he says, laughing about their 25-minute trek.

    After decades in the area, he’s familiar with the Roman family — who donated the $1.2-million cow statue to the site after developing the Cathedraltown neighbourhood and insisting it remain there despite local complaints.

    Still, he doesn’t understand the cow.

    “There was a dynasty here. Roman was famous for spending a lot of money on livestock,” he adds, while Gayle gets closer for a picture on her phone. “A million bucks eh, good lord. Just to think if you had a million bucks, you’d spend it on something wiser.”

    Pacariem says she’d be fine with Charity in her front yard if she weren’t on stilts.

    “I can see it from my window,” she says, shaking her head.

    “People around here don’t like it. It’s sitting right on top of those houses. You look out you see a cow and it’s on stilts,” echoes Theresa Yu, who has lived in the neighbourhood for more than a decade.

    But the stilts, that’s the part Phillips gets.

    “You could imagine if it was down here people would be spray painting and climbing on it — she’s a realist if nothing else,” he says of Helen Roman-Barber, who is developing the neighbourhood in honour of her family’s deep history in the area.

    “She can do whatever the hell she wants.”

    Some Charity Crescent homeowners are concerned the “eyesore” will diminish the value of their homes.

    Longtime Markham real estate agent John Procenko says that’s a matter of buyer preference.

    “One person would say ‘Oh, I’ll never buy this house’ and another person could say ‘where do I sign? It doesn’t bother me.’ It’s 50/50 really,” says Porchenko, who has sold homes in the area for 31 years.

    Still, eyesores often affect the value of a house, from cell phone and water towers to backing onto retail dumpsters, he says.

    “It’s not something you can put a dollar value on, maybe someone else loves it,” he says. “The neighbours don’t like it that are currently there.”


    0 0


    Toronto police have issued a public safety alert after four deaths likely caused by fentanyl overdose in the past three days in downtown Toronto.

    Police said there have been four fatalities and 20 overdose incidents since Thursday.

    The most recent incident was on Saturday when a woman was found dead in a stairwell near Queen St. E and Trefann St.

    A 27-year-old man died on Thursday in the area of Queen St. W. and Bathurst St., where he allegedly overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl, a powerful opioid that’s about 50 times stronger than heroin.

    Police said they believed the substance was bought in the area of Yonge St. and Dundas St.

    “It’s definitely worrisome to see these clusters of overdose deaths in Toronto, and I think we will see even more,” said Tara Gomes, epidemiologist and principal investigator of the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network.

    “What we’re seeing is the increase of fentanyl contamination of drugs sold on the street, like fentanyl pressed into OxyContin pills, and heroine.”

    Another man was found Friday without vital signs near Bathurst St. and Dundas St. W. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. Police say his death might have been due to a fentanyl overdose.

    “We continue to be extremely concerned about the number of people we are losing to overdoses,” Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, told the Star in an email.

    “These deaths are preventable and this issue is having a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities.”

    Toronto’s Overdose Action Plan, launched in March, provides a list of measuresthe city will be taking on, including the launch of supervised injection sites this fall.

    In Ontario, 734 people died of opioid-related causes in 2015, according to a report by researchers with the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

    Gomes, who is also a scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, said the most effective ways to respond to the increase of fentanyl contamination includes increased access to supervised injection sites and naloxone kits.

    Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opiod overdose, is available at various pharmacies and health centres across Toronto.

    Despite Toronto police’s public safety alert, there still no urgency in equipping officers with naloxone.

    “As far as right now, officers are not equipped with naloxone and I haven’t been made aware of any plans for that,” said Const. Craig Brister.

    Toronto paramedics carry naxolone.

    Dr. David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Toronto, said he thinks it’s a “mistake” for police to not have naloxone on hand.

    “All first-responders should have it on them. That’s an easy method of precaution.”

    “The appetite and the street market for opioids has gone through the roof. Fentanyl is so potent that you don’t need much to get high or to ward of withdrawal symptoms.”

    Juurlink believes the spike in overdose deaths is a result of a surge of doctors prescribing opioids, which if not done responsibly, can lead to addiction.

    “Every month that goes by, we’re losing more and more people to opiod overdose. And I think it’s fair to say that we will lose more than 3,000 people in Canada this year.”


    0 0


    REGINA—A spokesperson for Canadian Tire says a staff member who physically removed an Indigenous man from a store in Regina is no longer with the company.

    Kamao Cappo of the Muscowpetung First Nation posted a video to social media last week that appears to show him being pushed by a store employee who accused him of shoplifting.

    A spokesperson for Canadian Tire says the employee in the video “has not been working in the store since the time of the incident and he is no longer with (the company).”

    The incident sparked online outrage, and about 40 people staged a demonstration outside of the store Friday to show support for Cappo, who says he was discriminated against because he is Indigenous.

    Cappo was in the store buying a chainsaw, an extra chain and oil, but when he was at the checkout, he realized he had the wrong model and took the goods to customer service where he put the chain and oil inside the saw box for ease of handling by the clerk.

    Cappo says that when he went to look for the right model he was approached by an employee who accused him of trying to shoplift, pushed him against some shelves and physically removed him from the store when he wouldn’t leave.

    He says he has a heart condition and was injured in the confrontation. He says he filed a complaint with police and is considering pressing charges.

    Read more: Indigenous man live-streams altercation with Canadian Tire employee


    0 0


    A battle is brewing just south of James Bay between Moose Cree First Nation and a resource company that wants to develop the world’s next niobium mine in the heart of its traditional territory.

    For now, NioBay Metal Inc. wants a drilling permit to confirm the results of an exploration program undertaken in the 1960s. Down the road, the company has plans to develop an underground mine to produce niobium, a metal that helps make lighter, stronger steel.

    NioBay says the mine will cause minimal environmental damage and offers big benefits for Moose Cree, but the First Nation fears otherwise. The proposed mine site sits near the shore of the South Bluff Creek, a culturally significant area for Moose Cree members that borders the North French River Watershed, a region they consider protected. Now, they want the province to protect it too.

    The company’s President and CEO Claude Dufresne, meanwhile, said Moose Cree members aren’t in a position to make a decision about the project because NioBay hasn’t been allowed to make its pitch in the community.

    From a global economic perspective niobium is critical, he said.

    The metal is used in the construction of cars, high rises, bridges, jet engines, and MRIs, but most of the production comes from only three mines in the world – one in Quebec and two in Brazil. Its significance to the U.S. became clear in 2010, when it appeared more than once in a diplomatic cable, leaked by WikiLeaks, outlining 300 foreign infrastructure and resource sites considered critical to U.S. interests.

    If NioBay’s James Bay project proceeds the mine will be built in the heart of Moose Cree’s homeland.

    To date, the province has protected 1,583 sq. km of the North French River Watershed from development. Moose Cree wants that protection extended to cover the remaining 5,080 sq. km of watershed still open to mining as well as the South Bluff Creek Watershed, which lies right next door.

    Stuck in the middle, the Government of Ontario has put NioBay’s application on hold, leaving Moose Cree and NioBay to wait for a final decision.

    In a statement to the Star, Northern Development and Mines Minister Bill Mauro said his government “will continue to work with the company and Moose Cree First Nation regarding this exploration permit application. Any identified potential impacts will be considered in a future permitting decision.”

    Moose Cree Chief Patricia Faries says her community is united in its opposition to the project.

    “The South Bluff Creek is highly used by our members and has camps all along it. You can still drink the water from the creek and the sensitive wetland area supports brook trout, moose, black bear and boreal caribou,” Faries wrote in a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne in May.

    “Families that occupy the area are united in their opposition to this project. Its protection is also of paramount importance to our people,” she said.

    Her letter and a band council resolution rejecting the project have been posted on the First Nation’s website and Facebook page.

    In a statement Natural Resources and Forestry Minister Kathryn McGarry added that her ministry has met with Moose Cree First Nation and “recognizes the importance” of the two watersheds to the community.

    “The (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) supports the participation of Indigenous groups and communities in natural resource management which is why the ministry has taken steps to protect areas of interest to Moose Cree First Nation in the past and is interested in pursuing a dialogue with Moose Cree First Nation to further these opportunities in a balanced approach.”

    Meanwhile, Dufresne said the mine would bring more benefit than risk to Moose Cree First Nation – including jobs for Moose Cree members and a partnership agreement for the First Nation.

    The mining claim is about 40 km south of Moose Factory, where Moose Cree First Nation is based. Dufresne said the footprint of a future mine would be smaller than the Niobec niobium mine in Quebec and a fraction of the size of the Detour gold mine near the southeastern edge of Moose Cree’s traditional territory.

    “The risks associated with niobium processing are very, very low,” he added, noting the Niobec mine in Quebec has been operating for 40 years with no environmental issues.

    Niobium doesn’t require toxic chemicals for processing, unlike gold processing, which often involves cyanide, and the mine could recycle most of its water, limiting its discharge to close to zero, he told the Star

    When asked about effluent reports from the Quebec Niobec mine in 2013, which show it released some amount of arsenic, zinc, copper and nitrogen, though at levels below regulated limits, Dufresne said it’s “too early to say which elements will be discharged.”

    “However, I would like to note that even drinking water contained minerals,” he said.

    Right now, NioBay is focused on finalizing exploration work to validate the resource. But a presentation to investors on its website shows NioBay was hoping for mine construction by 2020 and production by 2021. The company is estimating a mine life of 25-30 years.

    “Obviously now everything will be postponed until we can get some support from the Moose Cree,” Dufresne said.

    “We obviously want to make sure that the project is well known and after that if the community as a whole is against it, well then, obviously we won’t be able to build a mine – but we haven’t reached that stage yet,” he said.

    Moose Cree First Nation, however, seems resolute.

    “It is not a matter of our community needing more time to better understand the economics of the project. Moose Cree will not allow any industrial development here ever,” Faries wrote in her letter to Wynne.

    “Our ancestors have lived on this land since time immemorial drawing the animals, fish and plants for our sustenance. We are charged by the Creator with the sacred duty of preserving and protecting the land including its waters for our future generations.”

    Moose Cree’s opposition to development in this area is nothing new and their right to reject the mine should be respected, said Anna Baggio, the director of conservation planning for Wildlands League, the Ontario chapter of CPAWS.

    Moose Cree declared the North French Watershed protected in 2002 and rejected a similar drilling proposal in the South Bluff Creek Watershed by the mining claim’s previous owner in 2003 – thirteen years before NioBay acquired the claim.

    “NioBay should have done their due diligence and checked with the community before they purchased that property because if they had checked with Moose Cree, Moose Cree could have told them that they had said no to drilling before,” Baggio said.

    Damage from the 1960’s exploration work, which was undertaken without Moose Cree’s consent, is still visible on the landscape and Baggio fears a mine will cause permanent damage to the ecosystem.

    “These are very sensitive wetlands, it’s cold and the growing season is very short, the land does not restore itself,” she said.

    “There are certain places where mining just shouldn’t happen and this is just one of those places.”

    Wildlands League and 11 other environmental organizations have thrown their weight behind Moose Cree First Nation’s call for protection of these lands and waterways.

    In an open letter to Wynne in June, they noted the watersheds not only provide critical habitat for migratory birds, fish, and threatened boreal caribou, the boreal forest serves as a vital carbon sink.

    Protecting these areas could help Canada meet its international climate and biodiversity targets, they said.

    Canada has committed to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and, under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, to protect 17 per cent of its lands and inland waters by 2020. With three years left to reach its goal Canada is lagging behind other G7 countries, a CPAWS report released last week said.

    Only Canada and the U.S. have not yet met the 17 per cent target, but the U.S., which has protected 13 per cent of its territory, is ahead of Canada, which has protected 11 per cent. Germany meanwhile is leading the pack with protection for 37.8 per cent of its lands and inland waters.


older | 1 | .... | 987 | 988 | (Page 989) | 990 | 991 | .... | 1060 | newer