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    Two men are in serious condition after a shooting at a backyard party in Scarborough early Sunday.

    Paramedics were called to Commonwealth Ave. and Brussels Rd. just after midnight, where they found a man, 31, in serious and possibly life-threatening condition with a gunshot wound. A 30-year-old man was also seriously injured after being grazed by a bullet.

    Staff Sgt. Jim Giczi said the shooting took place at a “large party” in a residential backyard, and that “a number of shots (were) fired.”

    Although police have yet to confirm that the victims were targeted in the shooting, he said the circumstances mean there’s a “likelihood it wasn’t a random event.”

    Police found shell casings at the scene, but are still working to find information on possible suspects.

    Earlier this month, a similar setting for a shooting happened in Scarborough when two men were killed at a backyard birthday party.

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    ZAMBOANGA, PHILIPPINES—Police in the southern Philippines said they fatally shot 15 people Sunday, including a city mayor who was among the politicians President Rodrigo Duterte publicly linked to illegal drugs, in the bloodiest assault so far in Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown.

    Officers were to serve warrants to Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr. to search his houses for the suspected presence of unlicensed firearms when gunmen opened fire on the police, sparking clashes that killed the mayor and at least 14 other people, Ozamiz police chief Jovie Espenido said.

    “He’s a high-value target on illegal drugs,” Espenido, who oversaw the simultaneous, post-midnight raids on the mayor’s residence and three other houses, said at a news conference.

    “We enforce the law to protect the people who want peace in this country,” he said. “How can we enforce the law if ... we’re scared of the drug lords? That cannot be, they should be afraid of people who do good for all.”

    At least five people, including Parojinog’s daughter, who serves as vice mayor of Ozamiz, a port city, were arrested during the raids. Policemen were approaching the mayor’s house when his bodyguards opened fire and hit a police car and wounded a police officer, sparking a firefight amid a power outage, Espenido said.

    A grenade held by one of Parojinog’s bodyguards exploded during the clash inside his house and it remains unclear if he and his wife were killed by the blast or police gunfire or both, Espenido said, adding that assault rifles, grenades, suspected methamphetamine and cash were seized in the raids.

    “The administration vowed to intensify the drug campaign,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in connection with Sunday’s raids in Ozamiz. “The Parojinogs, if you would recall, are included in (Duterte’s) list of personalities involved in the illegal drug trade.”

    Read more:

    Philippines’ Duterte vows to continue bloody drug war, reject communist rebel talksEND

    Philippine President Duterte slams Chelsea Clinton over rape criticism

    Ex-Philippine officer links President Duterte to nearly 200 killings as mayor

    Parojinog, who also faced corruption charges, had denied any links to illegal drugs. He was the third mayor to be killed under Duterte’s bloody crackdown on drugs, which has left more than 3,000 dead in reported gunfights with police and thousands of other unexplained deaths of suspects.

    Parojinog’s daughter, Vice Mayor Nova Echaves, was arrested and was to be flown to Manila for security reasons, regional police chief superintendent Timoteo Pacleb said.

    The drug killings have been widely criticized by Western governments and human rights groups that have called for an end to what they suspect were extrajudicial killings related to the anti-drug campaign.

    Last year, police officers shot dead Albuera town Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. inside a jail cell in the central province of Leyte, and a week before that, another mayor and his nine bodyguards were gunned down allegedly during a firefight on a road in the southern Philippines.

    Espenido was the Albuera police chief when the then-detained Espinosa was killed during a police raid in a jail in a nearby city in Leyte.

    Duterte has vowed to defend policemen who would face criminal and human rights charges while cracking down on illegal drugs. He recently ordered a police officer charged in connection with Espinosa’s death to be reinstated after briefly being charged and suspended following the jail killing.

    All three mayors were among more than 160 officials Duterte named publicly as being linked to illegal drugs in August last year as part of a shame campaign.

    Duterte has vowed not to stop until the last drug dealer in the country has been eliminated.

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    Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki got less than encouraging news on his right ankle prior to the game against the Angels on Canada Baseball Day at the Rogers Centre Sunday.

    In an injury update from the team, the Jays said an MRI revealed ligament damage to his right ankle. He will report to a foot-ankle specialist for further evaluation.

    Tulowitzki was injured during Friday night’s home game against the Los Angeles Angels. He left the game in the third inning after spraining his ankle while trying to run out a ground ball at first base.

    Tulowitzki was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Saturday but is likely sidelined for much longer than that. Jays manager John Gibbons said he wasn’t expecting a short-term layoff for his shortstop.

    The news, which comes on the three-year anniversary of his trade to the Jays, is a tough blow for the popular shortstop and for the Jays, who have two months remaining in the regular season schedule.

    While there’s no official word, its possible Tulowitzki could be lost for the remainder of the season, depending on what doctors find from further assessments.

    Tulowitzki appeared in just 66 games this season, having missed 31 games with a hamstring injury back in April-May. He has seven homers and 26 RBI.

    With files from CP

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    Toronto police are looking for two men suspected of intentionally setting a Yorkville personal injury law firm on fire in June.

    At around 2 a.m. on June 30, investigators say, two men used rocks to break the glass doors of the building on Scollard St., and set it on fire using an accelerant.

    Security footage released by police Sunday shows two men approaching the front doors of the firm wearing hoodies and with their face covered with cloth.

    In another security clip, the two men are seen running away.

    Investigators are asking anyone with information on the incident to contact police at 416-808-5300 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).

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    Police leaders across the country moved quickly to distance themselves from — or to outright condemn — U.S. President Trump’s statements about “roughing up” people who’ve been arrested.

    The swift public denunciations came as departments are under intense pressure to stamp out brutality and excessive force that can erode the relationship between officers and the people they police — and cost police chiefs their jobs.

    Some police leaders worried that three sentences uttered by the president during a Long Island, N.Y., speech could upend nearly three decades of fence-mending since the 1991 Los Angeles Police Department beating of Rodney King ushered in an era of distrust of police.

    “It’s the wrong message,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told Washington radio station WTOP while speaking of the trust-building work that departments have undertaken since King’s beating. “The last thing we need is a green light from the president of the United States for officers to use unnecessary force.”

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

    Trump made the comments at a gathering of law enforcement officers at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

    “When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” Trump said, miming the physical motion of an officer shielding a suspect’s head to keep it from bumping against the squad car.

    “Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head,” Trump continued. “I said, you can take the hand away, OK?”

    Trump’s remarks came after he spoke about local towns ravaged by gang violence.

    Across the country, police department leaders said the president’s words didn’t reflect their views.

    A tweet from the Gainesville Police Department read: The @POTUS made remarks today that endorsed and condoned police brutality. GPD rejects these remarks and continues to serve with respect.

    “The Suffolk County Police Department has strict rules and procedures relating to the handling of prisoners, and violations of those rules and procedures are treated extremely seriously,” the department said in an emailed statement. “As a department, we do not and will not tolerate ‘rough(ing)’ up prisoners.”

    Trump’s comments also drew a rebuke from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. In a statement Friday, the group did not specifically mention Trump by name but appeared to respond to his speech by stressing the importance of treating all people, including suspects, with respect.

    Statements from other police leaders followed.

    In a statement to, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said:

    “Seattle’s police officers have embraced reform and have worked incredibly hard to build community trust. We do not intend to go backwards. It is truly unfortunate that in today’s toxic environment, politicians at both ends of the spectrum have sought to inflame passions by politicizing what we do. We remain committed to our principles and reject irresponsible statements that threaten to undermine our relationship with the community.”

    Police departments are under increased scrutiny for violent, often fatal interactions with suspects. So far this year, 574 people have been shot and killed by police, according to The Washington Post’s Fatal Force database. Last year, police shot and killed 963 people.

    This year’s killings included the Minneapolis Police shooting of Justine Damond, an Australian woman who called 911 to report a possible rape in the alley near her home and ended up being shot dead by the responding officers.

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    A Toronto man has admitted in court that he killed his mother and two of his brothers out of fear of losing his fiancée three weeks before their wedding.

    Brett Ryan, 36, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of his oldest brother Christopher and two counts of second-degree murder in the death of his mother Susan and his younger brother Alexander. He also pleaded guilty to attempting to murder his older brother Leigh.

    He was sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for 25 years.

    Ryan’s guilty plea Friday puts an end to the mystery of why a man on the verge of his wedding day would instead commit the grisly killings of three family members with crossbow bolts at their family home in Scarborough on Aug. 25, 2016.

    According to an agreed statement of facts submitted to court, Ryan planned to kill his mother, 66, out of fear she would expose the lies he had told his fiancée, and that his fiancée would then call off the wedding.

    Back in 2009, Ryan pleaded guilty to committing eight bank robberies. He was sentenced to five years in prison but due to pretrial custody, only served three years and nine months.

    In June 2016, Ryan got a job at an IT company, but before he could start he was fired after his employer found out he had a criminal record.

    Days before the murders took place, Ryan admitted to his mother that he didn’t have a job and that he was lying about it to his fiancée, telling her he was working from home while he stayed inside their Queens Quay condo throughout the summer.

    According to the statement of facts, Susan Ryan told her son to admit the truth to his fiancée and that if he did so, she would continue to financially support him for a short time. However, Ryan was worried that his fiancée would break off the relationship if she found out.

    As part of his plan, Ryan placed a crossbow in the garage of their family home on 10 Lawndale Rd. Then he set up electronic devices in the apartment he shared with his fiancée. The devices, a laptop and an iPad and an iPhone, were setup to be activated to create an internet footprint that would serve as an alibi.

    Police later said that they were never activated.

    On Aug. 25, 2016, Ryan arrived at the family home before 1 p.m. to confront his mother.

    According to the statement of facts, Ryan only intended to confront his mother about the threats of exposing him and to convince her to continue supporting him financially until the wedding and until he got a job.

    However, the argument between the two became heated quickly. Susan called her son Christopher, 42, to come and help her. During the argument, Ryan retrieved the crossbow and crossbow bolts from the garage.

    Susan followed him to the garage. As the argument continued, Ryan stabbed his mother with a crossbow bolt and strangled her to death using a yellow nylon rope.

    When Christopher arrived, Ryan shot him in the back of his neck using the crossbow. He moved their bodies into the garage and hid them under a tarp.

    As Ryan exited the garage, he was confronted by Alexander, 29, who had arrived at the house. As the brothers fought, Ryan fatally stabbed Alexander with a crossbow bolt.

    Leigh, 38, who was at home in his bedroom during the altercation, came outside to see what was happening. After seeing Ryan standing over Alexander’s body, Leigh ran back inside the house and called for help.

    Ryan followed Leigh into the house where he assaulted Leigh in an attempt to stop him from calling police. After managing to escape, Leigh ran to a home across the street, where the residents called 911.

    Police arrived at the scene around 1:03 p.m. They found Ryan standing near the steps of the home covered in blood. Ryan told police where his mother and three siblings were. He was later charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

    Autopsy reports say Susan died of ligature strangulation, while one of the brothers, Christopher, died from a perforating trauma of head and neck caused by a crossbow bolt and the other brother, Alexander, died from trauma of the neck by a crossbow bolt.

    On top of the life sentence for first-degree murder, Ryan was sentenced to life in prison in the second-degree murders of his mother and his brother Alexander and a 10-year sentence for the attempted murder of his brother Leigh. The sentences will run concurrently.

    With Star files

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    Mobsters are jostling to fill the vacuum left by the death of an organized crime mega-boss, resulting in about a dozen unsolved violent incidents this year in Ontario — shootings, explosions and killings.

    After Vito Rizzuto, considered by police to be Canada’s most powerful mobster, died in Montreal in December 2013 of reportedly natural causes, a vacancy at the top opened up. And the results have been bloody.

    “Everybody wants to be the next boss now that Rizzuto is gone,” said Paul Manning, a former undercover officer in Hamilton. “There’s a lot of infighting over who will be the next boss.”

    This evolving picture of organized crime in southern Ontario is drawn from interviews with a variety of sources — both investigators and those connected to organized crime — across southern Ontario and Quebec. Most declined to speak on the record for professional reasons.

    The leadership vacuum has attracted tech-savvy newcomers from Ontario and Quebec who are eager to challenge the old guard. It has also triggered vicious infighting inside what’s left of the old Rizzuto organization in Ontario.

    That infighting may explain the murder of Angelo (Ang) Musitano, 39, who was shot at close range May 2, 2017 in the driveway of his suburban Hamilton house in mid-afternoon with his wife and three young children inside.

    It was what Hamilton police Det.-Sgt. Peter Thom called “a very deliberate and targeted attack.”

    Before he went to jail, Musitano’s 49-year-old brother, Pat, was considered to be a long-standing Niagara Region associate of Rizzuto, with a keen interest in illegal gambling, according to a report by the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, a multi-jurisdictional police organization.

    Angelo Musitano reportedly found religion since he and Pat pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the 1997 gangland hit on Carmen Barillaro at the front door of his Niagara Falls home. They were both sentenced to 10 years in prison and were released on parole in October 2006 after serving two-thirds of their terms.

    Read more:

    Move over Tony Soprano, here comes Vito Rizzuto

    Vito Rizzuto became a victim when his eldest son was shot dead

    Vito Rizzuto, Canada’s most notorious mobster, dies suddenly

    Illegal gambling has been particularly contentious over the past few years since Rizzuto’s death and the 2013 dismantling of Platinum Sports Book, an illegal internet-based gambling network.

    “Everyone’s fighting for control of the sports book,” said a GTA police source who specializes in organized crime, but was not authorized to speak on the record.

    Early on the morning of June 27, someone opened fire on the Hamilton home of Pat Musitano.

    The gunman, or gunmen, apparently wanted to send a loud message, as there were about 20 shell casings found in front of the upscale home on St. Clair Blvd.

    Manning suspects it was a message to Pat Musitano that he should shelve any plans of avenging the murder of his younger brother.

    “It’s a warning to leave it there,” Manning said, adding that when Rizzuto was alive he would resolve such disagreements inside his organization like a stern but fair father.

    “Usually, there would be a sit-down, an apology.”

    Some of this year’s violence is blamed on an ongoing culture clash between the old and the new. On one side are the aggressive young computer-friendly newcomers from B.C. and Quebec allied to a gang called The Wolfpack Alliance. On the other side are the old guard — the GTA arm of the traditional ’Ndrangheta family of Cosimo (The Quail) Commisso of Siderno, Italy.

    The Wolfpack Alliance was formed in British Columbia about a decade ago. The alliance pulls together members of existing crime groups, some of which are organized along racial lines, according to Kash Heed, former B.C. solicitor general, minister of public safety and West Vancouver Police chief.

    It’s a rapidly evolving group of organized crime disrupters. Their members don’t have blood or ethnic ties or a code of conduct or a rigid hierarchy. They’re generally young and tech savvy. They have gold pendants with a wolf’s head gold medallion to show membership.

    “It’s a collective of very successful wealthy organized crime guys working together,” Heed said.

    By contrast, the ’Ndrangheta is steeped in a highly structured, quasi-religious criminal tradition that reaches back more than a century to the southern Italian region of Calabria.

    The ’Ndrangheta carries itself like a state within a state, with various councils and titles, like “capo-crimine” for minister of war and “contabile” for treasurer.

    While its titles may sound archaic, the ’Ndrangheta’s profits surpass those of many modern multinational corporations. Italian investigative journalist Giulio Rubino wrote earlier this month that the ’Ndrangheta made $70.41 billion (U.S.) worldwide in 2013.

    The violence between the newcomers aligned with the Wolfpack, and the old guard in the ’Ndrangheta, isn’t expected to end anytime soon, as the Wolfpack has aligned itself with enemies of the GTA ’Ndrangheta, sources say.

    The Star has learned that police have warned two York Region men who are considered to be senior members of Commisso’s family that there are credible threats on their lives. The warnings came over the past month and the men declined police protection.

    Two other men who investigators consider to be senior underworld figures in York Region have chosen to quietly leave town over the past month, sources say.

    One of those departing is related to Commisso. The other is related to Agostino Cuntrera, a former leading member of the Rizzuto crime family in Montreal who was murdered in 2010.

    There was enormous bad blood between the Rizzutos and local ’Ndrangheta at the time of Rizzuto’s death. They were on opposite sides of a mob war in the early 2000s that saw Rizzuto’s father and eldest son murdered.

    At the time of his death, Rizzuto was believed by police to have drafted a “black list” of men in the Commisso family he wanted killed.

    “People are watching their backs now,” the veteran investigator of organized crime said. “People aren’t being as open to meetings now. They’re getting nervous.”

    Newcomer Anastasios (Tassos) Leventis, 39, of Montreal may have been nervous when he was called to a mid-afternoon meeting on Jan. 30, but he went anyway.

    Leventis was connected to the Wolfpack Alliance, even if he wasn’t a member.

    Leventis moved to downtown Toronto from Montreal more than a year ago to collect drug debts owed to Montrealers, the police source says.

    Not long before his death, he had a confrontation with a York Region ’Ndrangheta Mafia boss connected to Commisso over a drug debt.

    On the afternoon of his death, Leventis realized something was horribly wrong almost immediately after stepping out of the condo complex on George St. near Adelaide St. E. in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood. He bolted in front of students, passersby, construction workers and area residents.

    Moments later, a gunman stood over him, pumping bullets into his body.

    “The victim knew his killers,” the police officer familiar with the case told the Star. “The killers were waiting for him outside his condo. He was chased down the street.”

    “He certainly got set up,” the police source said.

    Toronto police investigators declined several requests to comment on the case.

    Leventis was an enthusiastic gambler who trained as a computer programmer. Computer skills are vital as organized crime groups reach out across borders, journalist/ academic Luis Horacio Najera said in an interview.

    Mexican drug cartels connect with the new small aggressive groups like the Wolfpack Alliance with encrypted messaging systems as they push into Canada.

    “In today’s world, there’s a lot of resources as personal information, contacts, instant communications — even hiring a hit man, or buying guns — that you can access through the web,” said Najera, who worked as a journalist covering drug cartels in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico before he was forced to leave the country as a refugee.

    Domenic Triumbari, 58, of Woodbridge, was related to the Siderno ’Ndrangheta boss Commisso, which meant he wasn’t a man to be trifled with.

    Certainly, Triumbari didn’t appear to worry when he went out to play cards on the evening of March 31 in an industrial plaza that featured a social club and a banquet hall on Regina Road in Vaughan, less than five minutes drive from the Highway 7 and Martin Grove Road intersection.

    “He loved to play cards,” said a police officer who knew him. “He was involved in a whole series of games.”

    Despite all of the conflict around him, Triumbari seemed like a lucky man in the days before his murder.

    The longtime York Region resident was basking in the afterglow of a $150,000 win at Casino Niagara when a gunman rushed out from a parked car in the plaza and shot him dead.

    “He’s not a guy that you would just casually decide to take out,” a retired organized crime investigator said.

    Violence hasn’t abated since the murder of Leventis six months ago. Much of it has been in York Region, and includes the massive explosion early in the morning of June 29 that knocked a wall out of the Caffé Corretto on Winges Rd. near Highways 400 and 7.

    That blast showered brick and gaming machine bits down onto a nearby black BMW.

    The café had been targeted in a police sweep of illegal gaming machines in January 2016.

    This violence appears to be directed against the Commisso network, but no clear victor has emerged in the conflict, which isn’t expected to end any time soon.

    Both sides are strong and motivated and there’s no one with the power of Rizzuto to order a cease fire.

    “Everybody’s taking a hit,” the veteran police office said. “It was never like this.”

    Peter Edwards is the author 10 books on organized crime and writes regularly on the topic for the Toronto Star.

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    Hooked to an artificial respirator, Khaldoun Senjab has been identified by the United Nations as a Syrian refugee for priority resettlement.

    A Canadian official who interviewed the computer systems programmer in Lebanon last year noted on the refugee sponsorship application for Senjab, his wife and two children: “Beautiful family that will settle well.”

    That’s why the family was shocked to receive a rejection letter from the Canadian visa post in Beirut in April, saying Senjab was inadmissible because of his work with the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, an opposition umbrella group recognized by the United States, as well as countries in the Middle East and Europe, as Syria’s legitimate representative.

    “We escaped death and war in Syria to face a very difficult situation in Lebanon. Just imagine the situation for a woman with her ventilator-dependent quadriplegic husband,” said a frustrated Senjab, who is restricted to lying in bed after a serious diving accident in 1994.

    “The decision of the Canadian visa officer was absolutely unfair. They treated me like a criminal. I did nothing wrong. They didn’t only break my heart but they broke the heart of my tiny little family.”

    According to the Immigration Department, visa officials have rejected 381 cases, or 3 per cent, of the 11,333 Syrian private sponsorship applications received between Nov. 4, 2015, and July 20 this year. Of those, nine cases were refused due to the applicants’ alleged association with a group “engaged in or instigating the subversion” of a government.

    The Syrian opposition coalition was launched in 2012 with the goal of “overthrowing” the regime of Bashar Assad and building a democratic, pluralistic Syria. It works with the Free Syrian Army — made up of defected Syrian Armed Forces and supported by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — to protect civilians. Canada has not recognized the Syrian opposition coalition as the country’s legitimate representative.

    “Although we cannot comment on a case, we can say that applications are considered on a case-by-case basis on the specific facts presented by the applicant,” said Immigration Department spokesperson Nancy Caron.

    “Admissibility decisions are made by trained officers in accordance with the criteria set out in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.”

    Since the Syrian civil war started in 2011, five million Syrians have fled the country, with another 6.2 million internally displaced, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. The death toll is estimated at over 400,000.

    The Assad regime has been condemned by the international community for its brutal attacks on its own people and use of chemical weapons.

    Critics said supporters of the Syrian opposition are particularly at risk of torture and persecution if returned to the country from temporary shelter abroad.

    “It is preposterous that the Canadian government is refusing urgent refugee cases like Senjab’s, for any kind of remote connection to the Syrian opposition,” said Toronto lawyer Tim Wichert, who represents the family in asking the Federal Court of Canada to review the government decision.

    In his client’s case, Senjab said he worked as a freelancer through a friend on the web server for the website of the coalition, providing defence against web security attacks. He said neither was he a member of the group nor did he endorse any violent activities with or against the Assad regime.

    As of the end of March, almost 46,000 Syrian refugees had settled in Canada, including 23,975 sponsored by Canadian government, 17,705 by private faith and community groups and some 4,210 in the mixed stream.

    However, there are still 14,972 Syrians in 5,652 private sponsorship applications in process. Wichert fears immigration officials are trying to “find a simple solution to clear their caseloads” by using the inadmissibility on security grounds to refuse applications.

    “Immigration’s position seems to be that anyone who worked or volunteered with the coalition is inadmissible to Canada on security grounds for engaging in the subversion of a government by force or being a member of an organization that has engaged in the subversion,” said lawyer Pierre-Andre Theriault, who is aware of at least three such cases in recent months.

    “Over 80 countries around the world, including the European Union and the United States, recognize the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The discretionary, and discriminatory, application of inadmissibility provisions seems problematic to me.”

    Theriault’s client, Mohammad Waleed Taleb, received a “fairness letter” in June from the Canadian visa post in Turkey raising concerns that the Syrian refugee could be inadmissible “due to your past activities and past employment” with the coalition.

    Taleb, 32, said he volunteered to help with creating the media office for the opposition in October 2011, advocating for human rights and democracy for a new Syria.

    “I created the websites, social media, branding and e-marketing channels. I felt it was important to be involved in the movement for democracy in Syria because of the ongoing violence in Syria being committed by the al-Assad regime against civilians,” said Taleb, who is in exile in Turkey with his wife, Duaa Khiti, and children, Khaled, 7, and Lana, 4.

    “My role was very specific within the media office and I was not directly or indirectly involved in the promotion or implementation of any violence or war crimes.”

    Taleb said life has been tough for his family as they only have temporary residence status in Turkey and he fears for their lives there because he is known to members of Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL, in the country and has received threats.

    “Duaa and I are terrified to return to Syria. We know that the situation in Syria has deteriorated significantly and we believe that our lives would be at risk,” said Taleb. “There is no place in Syria that my family and I can be safe.”

    Jennifer Raine, of the People of the East End Refugee Support Group that is sponsoring Taleb and his family, said she understands the needs to properly screen newcomers for security threats but Ottawa’s broad stroke against anyone associated with the Syrian opposition does not make sense.

    “It’s not that hard to tell the difference between those who work behind the desk promoting democracy and those who have weapons in their hands,” said Raine, whose group was matched with the family in December 2015.

    “These guys can’t go back to Syria. Their status in Turkey is tenuous. What are they supposed to do?”

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    OTTAWA—It’s the plan the federal government doesn’t want you to see and doesn’t want to talk about.

    Details of Canada’s special forces operations in Iraq? Nope. The inside scoop on Canada’s negotiating strategy for upcoming trade talks with the United States? Not that, either.

    Instead, the document kept under wraps outlines some of the planning for how the Canadian government will respond to the death of Queen Elizabeth.

    Yet the Privy Council Office — the bureaucrats who support the Prime Minister’s Office and cabinet — has refused to reveal the internal plan meant to guide the government’s actions in the hours and days after the Queen dies.

    That plan is a cabinet confidence, reserved for the eyes of cabinet ministers and senior advisers, the office said in response to an access to information request by the Star.

    The office even refused to discuss whether bureaucrats have been meeting to discuss the topic. Asked for details about any committee established to oversee the planning, the Privy Council Office delayed its response, saying it needed four months to consult “other government institutions.”

    The Star appealed the office’s decision to withhold all records to the information commissioner of Canada. But after a review, commission investigators deemed that the documents are indeed cabinet confidences that will be kept under wraps.

    It’s no secret that the health of the Queen, age 91, has been on the minds of Canadian bureaucrats and politicians.

    In announcing in April that Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, would be visiting Canada for July 1 celebrations, Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said the Queen’s health did not allow her to make the trip.

    “I understand that, of course, the Queen is ill,” Joly told CTV’s Power Play. She then clarified to say, “Well, not necessarily ill, but doesn’t have the capacity, the health, to come to Canada.”

    Documents obtained from the Canadian Heritage Department reveal that backroom planning for the Queen’s death has been underway for several years, with broad consultations that have included the Canadian Armed Forces, Rideau Hall, the Privy Council Office, Buckingham Palace and Canada’s High Commission in London.

    In 2012, Kevin MacLeod, at the time the Canadian secretary to the Queen, reviewed the “Succession of the Crown Plans.” In an email to Stephen Wallace, the secretary to the Governor General, MacLeod said he was “most impressed with its thoroughness.”

    MacLeod passed along several suggestions to Wallace — all of them censored from the material released to the Star — but said, “all in all, this is a very strong document and, again, congratulations on a great effort.”

    That planning has continued, with meetings and email exchanges, including several in 2016 with the subject line “Succession to the Throne” that included officials in the Heritage Department responsible for major events and commemorations.

    Emails were also exchanged with the office of the Earl Marshal, who has a role in planning state ceremonies in the United Kingdom, including organizing the funeral of a monarch and the coronation of the new one.

    Exact details of all those discussions and decisions were kept from the Star’s view. Dozens of pages provided under access to information were censored in their entirety on the grounds that their contents constituted advice to a cabinet minister.

    The Privy Council Office declined to comment Friday on any of the planning, saying only that arrangements “concerning succession to the throne will be announced at an appropriate time” and conveying a wish for the Queen’s continued good health.

    “PCO will work closely with Rideau Hall and all implicated government departments to ensure that appropriate measures are in place. The Government of Canada wishes Her Majesty the Queen a long and prosperous reign,” a council office spokesperson, Stéphane Shank, told the Star.

    Rideau Hall, the home of the Governor General, was equally tight-lipped. “It will not be possible to share with you, at the present moment, details and the sequence of events pertaining to the death of Her Majesty the Queen,” said a spokesperson, Marie-Ève Létourneau.

    The reluctance to comment is understandable, said one person familiar with some of the government’s work on the file.

    “People don’t want to cast a lot of light on the subject because no one wants anyone to believe that the Queen is about to die,” the source said.

    But the source, who spoke on background because of the sensitivity of the topic, said that developing contingency plans was simply good practice.

    The source noted, for example, that when members of the Royal Family travel abroad, they pack mourning clothes with them, just in case. “If a death occurs in London, they have to be prepared,” he said.

    Just as Ottawa has planned for the deaths of past prime ministers and governors general — often in consultation with those personalities themselves — it has laid plans for the death of the Queen.

    “When the news comes that so-and-so has passed, there is an awful lot that has to be done in a very short prescribed period of time. The more planning you can do in advance to know who has to be called when and what happens in what order, so much the better,” the source said.

    “The key players who will be involved know that they will have roles to play and I presume they are talking to each other on a fairly regular basis.”

    That planning is almost certain to include the offices of the lieutenant-governors, who serve as the Queen’s representatives in each of the provinces.

    The death of the Queen — who has reigned for 65 years — will have a profound effect on Canadians, predicted Garry Toffoli, vice-chairman and executive director of the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust.

    “Most of us have never known any other monarch. It has defined our lives,” he said.

    “Traumatic might not be the right word, but it will be emotional when it happens,” Toffoli said in an interview.

    Given that her mother lived to 101, the Queen could have another decade ahead of her, he said. But he said it’s understandable that plans have been laid.

    As for guidance on what to expect when she dies, Toffoli suggested looking to the death of the Queen’s father, King George VI, on Feb. 6, 1952 — the last time a reigning British monarch died.

    The Heritage Department documents provided to the Star included an annex detailing some of the activities that unfolded on the Canadian end that year.

    Within an hour of the official announcement of the king’s death in London, notifications went out to the prime minister and cabinet officials in Ottawa. The CBC was quickly instructed to ensure that radio programs would “immediately be altered in a manner suitable for the occasion.” That meant no ads, only “appropriate” music, news and announcements.

    Public Works was contacted to ensure flags were lowered to half-mast on federal buildings. Work was started on proclamations: one to announce the death of the king and another to mark the accession of the Queen. The senior judge of the Supreme Court and the prime minister took oaths of allegiance to the new monarch.

    The Canadian representatives at the king’s funeral included the Canadian high commissioner, Vincent Massey, who was the incoming governor general, as well as the minister of national defence and the secretary of state for external affairs. Prime minister Louis St.-Laurent did not attend the funeral.

    A national day of mourning was declared and a ceremony held in Ottawa at the National War Memorial on the day of the funeral.

    Toffoli expects some of those activities will occur in the wake of the Queen’s death, too. “There are things that will happen automatically and then there will be things that will be up to the government of the time to decide what to do,” he said.

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    Over the past 19 years, the Canadian government has spent more than $150 million maintaining Pickering land it seized in the '70s — for an airport that’s never been built.

    And while $59.2 million of that sum is listed for site repairs and maintenance, a group of local advocates say they’ve watched as properties under federal management were left to rot and the tenants evicted before the buildings were demolished.

    “Many of those were perfectly livable houses if they had been maintained by the landlord as they should have been,” Mary Delaney, a resident of the land and chair of the anti-airport advocacy group Land over Landings, told the Star.

    The saga began in 1972, when the government of Pierre Trudeau expropriated 7,530 hectares of land in Markham, Pickering and Uxbridge to build an airport, to take pressure off what is now Pearson International airport.

    But after waves of fiery protest made national headlines, the plan was cancelled.

    The federal government kept control of the land, and to this day, politicians at all levels of government — municipal, provincial and federal — are wrestling with what to do and whether an airport will finally be built.

    In the meantime, according to information obtained via an Access to Information request and follow-up with the federal Ministry of Transport, the unplanned land is costing up to tens of millions per year, on top of unknown costs for the expropriation itself and maintenance pre-1998.

    Transport Canada spokesperson Julie Leroux said that the maintenance of properties on the land — a legal obligation for Transport Canada post-expropriation, as they rent out the homes left on the land — can rack up “considerable expenses.”

    The homes average 80 years of age, she added, saying it’s especially difficult to maintain properties in a privately serviced rural area. The land in question doesn’t have municipal sewers, operating on wells and septic systems.

    However, to Delaney, a $7.89 million cost for mould assessment and abatement from 1999 to 2010 raises questions about the quality of site maintenance at the time.

    “In those days, that was the big thing. The houses have mould,” she said. “Why, only right here, did all these houses have mould? … if they did, and some did, it’s because they weren’t being maintained properly.”

    She cited poorly maintained roofs, wells and eaves leading to the mould.

    Upkeep in recent years has been significantly better, she said, giving credit to Ajax (former Ajax-Pickering) MP Mark Holland for advocating the issue.

    In 2009, Holland released a damning statement about Transport Canada’s 2005 attempt to demolish a property on the Pickering lands under a mould claim. He wrote that, after his office pressured for a third-party assessment, no evidence of mould could be found on the property.

    “Transport Canada has a history of resorting to deceptive tactics when carrying out evictions and demolitions in order to avoid public backlash,” his statement reads.

    Speaking to the Star, Holland said there was “a real cost to the mismanagement of those lands,” noting that the price tag on maintenance got “exorbitantly high” as a result of poor oversight over properties.

    “It’s easy to say it was when I was in opposition, but look, it’s been happening a long time,” he said. “Whether or not it was planned negligence, or whether it was just negligence, the homes that were being maintained on those lands were allowed to get into a terrible state of repair.”

    Since 1999, $5.5 million has been spent on demolition.

    But, even as some tenants have left the land, the federal government is responsible for paying a sum of money to local municipalities in lieu of taxes. That money, since 1999, has totalled $36 million.

    Environmental assessment and abatement has cost an additional $26.3 million over the last 19 years, though environment-related costs have been significantly lower since 2011-2012 — the same year the government announced the creation of Rouge National Urban Park, later allotted some 21 square km of the expropriated space.

    Salaries for those working on the Pickering file have gone up over the years, going from a collective of around $200,000 a year in 1999 to approximately $900,000 collectively in 2016.

    Additional staff was assigned starting in 2011-12, Leroux said, to work on major Canadian government projects related to the site. These included planning for the Rouge National Urban Park, and policy and paperwork like zoning regulations, land use identifications and site orders.

    Since 1999, the salaries of those working on the Pickering project have cost the government $9.8 million. Other costs incurred over the years include $3 million in capital projects and $2 million in green space improvement.

    The final cost category, aviation forecast and planning, only cropped up in 2005-06 — racking up the smallest overall total at $1.6 million. Leroux says Transport Canada is committed to maintaining the lands in the most “fiscally prudent manner” possible as the debate over the land continues.

    But, as Land over Landings fundraises $85 thousand for their own agricultural study, Delaney says the millions the government has spent on the land without a concrete plan for the future is disappointing.

    “The waste here is at ground level,” she said.

    0 0

    After ruling that a Toronto police officer assaulted a drunk driving suspect and told him to urinate in the back seat of a police cruiser, a judge threw out an impaired driving charge this month.

    Const. Amanpreet Gill, a police officer for 15 years, showed a “lack of honesty” with the court about what happened that night, Ontario Court Justice Joseph Bovard said in his decision.

    “Officer Gill’s evidence about the incident and about what happened afterwards was vague and at times evasive,” Bovard said, finding that Gill assaulted Jong-Won Jung and thereby violated his charter rights.

    “An assault on a person in custody while handcuffed to a bench to try to persuade him to do something that he has no obligation to do is indeed a grievous breach of the person’s rights under Section 7 of the charter.”

    Jung was arrested at a RIDE stop after midnight on Feb. 28, 2016, after he failed a roadside breathalyzer test, according to the ruling. His girlfriend was in the car with him. His first breath test at the police station showed a level of 140 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood (the legal limit is 80), Bovard said.

    As a result of the charter breach, the breath test results were excluded as evidence and, since there was no other evidence, Bovard found Jung not guilty.

    Jung had one hand cuffed to a bench at 41 Division police station and was waiting for his second breath test at about 1 a.m. when Gill said Jung’s girlfriend was being disruptive at the front desk, according to the ruling.

    Gill testified he asked Jung to speak to her on the phone and calm her down. He said he put the phone to Jung’s ear but Jung pushed his hand away causing him to accidentally hit Jung with the phone receiver.

    Jung, however, testified Gill shoved him repeatedly, causing his head to hit the wall five or six times, and hit him in the head with the phone receiver six or seven times. His left collarbone was injured.

    He said Gill saw his rookie partner, Const. Corey Sinclair, coming to take Jung for his second breath test and stopped. Jung said the assault lasted 10 or 15 seconds.

    “I was in a state of shock,” he testified, according to Bovard’s ruling. “I mean, it’s not like I said anything to — to cause this. I wasn’t being repulsive, I wasn’t being violent. I tried to stay as compliant as I can. I mean, I’m handcuffed to a bench, in a police station, there’s nothing I can do. And the fact that this whole thing happened, it just — like I just didn’t know why.”

    Jung told the officer conducting the breath test he was subjected to “police brutality” and “almost punched,” according to the video from the breath test room.

    He said he wasn’t able to be clearer because he was in shock. He also mentioned the “police brutality” to Sinclair before he was released.

    Sinclair denied seeing an assault take place. Though he acknowledged Jung made allegations of “police brutality,” he did not follow up, he told the court.

    Jung said he did not complain again while at the station because he felt there was no point given the lack of response up to that point — a feeling Bovard said was entirely valid.

    “His account of the assault is completely plausible,” Bovard said. “I find that the conduct of the police further exacerbates the (charter breach) . . . . Officers Sinclair and Gill were not forthright with the court. None of the officers responded responsibly to Mr. Jung’s report that Officer Gill had assaulted him. They did nothing to follow up, investigate, or even report the allegation to their superiors.”

    A Toronto police spokesperson, Meaghan Gray, said the court’s decision is being reviewed by the internal Professional Standards Unit.

    Gill’s and Sinclair’s testimony also “lacked candour” when it came to what happened in the police cruiser until confronted with the in-car video, Bovard found.

    The video shows Jung saying he really needs to go to the washroom while waiting in the cruiser to enter the booking area at 41 Division. Gill responds by telling Jung to hold it and that he needed to be processed first.

    Then “Gill went further and demonstrated a belligerent and demeaning attitude toward Mr. Jung,” Bovard said. “He told him to urinate in the police cruiser.”

    Both officers said they arranged for Jung to use the washroom prior to the start of the booking process.

    Speaking generally about cases involving charter violations like this one, Jung’s lawyer, Heather Spencer, said video has been a game-changer.

    “One of the main concerns is cases slipping through the cracks where people plead guilty because they are not sure they will be believed over what the officers have to say,” she said. But the presence of video can make these cases less challenging, she says.

    Jung did not respond to a request for comment through his lawyer.

    0 0

    The Toronto Islands are bracing for another flood.

    This time it’ll be waves of visitors arriving at the city’s lake oasis, bringing the sweet waft of sunscreen and the laughter of summer fun.

    Toronto Island Park opens again Monday. Flooding had shuttered the islands since mid-May — it was so bad, carp were swimming over one submerged baseball diamond — but our island in the sun is open for business once again.

    “I’m expecting a bit of a crazy day on Monday,” says longtime Algonquin Island resident Linda Rosenbaum. “I think we’ve all been quite amazed at what a major event the closing of the island has been for Torontonians and how people are looking forward to coming back.”

    The ferries will begin chugging from the mainland at 6:30 a.m., the first off to Ward’s Island. At 8 a.m., escapees from the city’s summer’s heat can begin returning to Centre Island. Ferries have been running to Ward’s — a largely residential island — during the clean up but with limited access.

    The islands aren’t perfectly dry. Some pools of water remain where there were none before. And some patches of grass are quite soggy, definitely too wet for a picnic.

    But there are also large swaths of lush green lawn that look just as visitors remember from previous summers. Oddly, the sprinklers were turned up full blast near the Centre Island Boat House on Sunday.

    Olympic Island remains closed and there will be some other areas that are clearly marked as inaccessible due to groundwater.

    It’s taken a monumental effort to get the park ready again. The city used 27 pumps, including nine industrial-sized units, 24 hours a day to remove surface pooling. There are pumps still in operation on the islands. They also moved earth, used more than 45,000 sand bags — many of which are still visible — and dumped gravel in some areas in a race to get the park open by Monday’s self-imposed deadline.

    At peak flooding, water covered more than 40 per cent of the island’s surface as Lake Ontario recorded its highest water level in decades. Even now, the beaches appear as if much of the sand has been removed for the bags used to stem the push of lapping waves.

    The beach on Ward’s Island, for example, is about a quarter of what it once was.

    “Better get there early if you want a spot,” said Susan Roy, another longtime resident.

    Crews continued to work Sunday, raking landfill into wet spots along the roadway between Ward’s and Centre Islands.

    “We’re trying our best,” said one worker. “We’re trying to stay half a step ahead; there’s a lot to do still but it’s a huge difference already. We want the park to be beautiful. That’s why people come here.”

    Centreville Amusement Park will open at noon Monday but spokesperson Shawnda Walker said there will be no fanfare to mark the occasion.

    “People want to just get on those rides so we’re just going to open the grounds, get those rides going and, hopefully, there’ll be great crowds,” she said.

    While Centreville management has no idea how many people to expect, Walker senses a pent-up demand based on the volume of emails from the public — sometimes as many as 50 in a day — asking when the theme park would reopen.

    “We’re going to be prepared for a busy day,” she said.

    Not all the rides will be operational. Some of the track for the train remains underwater and will need to be replaced. It won’t run this summer. The docks for the swan ride and bumper boats are also submerged making boarding unsafe. Walker said there is still hope those rides will open before the summer is over. And the barns and pens at Far Enough Farm, a petting zoo, remain sodden so the animals are staying at farm in Schomberg.

    The shutdown has been understandably hard on island businesses. The Star earlier reported that Centreville has lost more than $6 million in revenue and ownership sold its iconic carousel for $3 million to offset some of that money. The 110-year carousel will be in operation for the remainder of the season.

    Brandon Sherman of The Otter Guy water taxi service says boat operators have been “hemorrhaging” carrying about 10 to 20 cent of the passengers that normally ride to the islands.

    “We have no idea what to expect (Monday) but we’re all hoping for good things,” he said.

    The flooding also prompted the owners of The Rectory Café, on Ward’s Island, not to continue their lease beyond this year. After a 14-year run, they are helping to identify a new ownership group to take over the restaurant.

    That the park is open now won’t be make up for lost revenue says Ken McAuliffe, one of the owners

    There is “a lot of built up demand” to return to the islands, he wrote in an email, but “unfortunately it will not be sufficient to counteract the loss of business over the last two and a half months for most of the Toronto Island businesses.”

    This summer, Rosenbaum and Roy started a business together — Walk Ward’s Island — taking visitors for guided tours. Rosenbaum concedes the timing might not have been the best.

    But beyond the impact on her new endeavour, she’s just excited visitors are about to return to the islands in big numbers.

    “It has been like a ghost town,” she says. “In some ways, it’s been quiet and peaceful and there’s never any lineups and we don’t have to jostle through crowds just trying to get home. But we miss people.

    “I was down at Centre (Island) where the formal gardens are and the Parks department has been pruning the gardens and the flower beds are absolutely beautiful. But it’s bizarre because there’s not one person looking at them. It’s so strange.

    “It’s so beautiful and there’s so much to see, it’s a shame people couldn’t come but it really was flooded. It was bad and it was dangerous. You wouldn’t be able to keep people safe. Now people will be safe.”

    0 0

    Kristyn Ferguson hates garlic mustard. That’s why she wants you to eat it.

    “It’d be great on gnocchi,” she says, pulling a plant from the forest ground. The leaves taste like garlic, and Ferguson swears they’re great in pesto.

    But while it makes for zesty pasta, this harmless-looking herb is actually a hostile invasive species that’s been menacing Ontario forests for years.

    This year, Nature Conservancy Canada has ramped up its fight against the “enemy” garlic mustard in Ontario’s Happy Valley Forest — which includes spreading the word that it’s “fairly delicious.”

    “I want to see people local foraging for garlic mustard,” said Ferguson, a program director with Nature Conservancy Canada.

    “In another prong in the effort to fight it, we‘re going to make people want to eat it.”

    Garlic mustard was brought over from Europe as a culinary herb in the 1800s. But the weed has become an aggressive intruder — it has no natural predators in Ontario, and its roots emit chemicals that hinder the growth of native plants.

    “Nothing’s feeding on it. It’s kind of having the time of its life out here,” said Ferguson, at the start of the trail. Left to its own devices, she said, the weed could take over a forest floor.

    She said garlic mustard covers a combined dozens of acres throughout the Happy Valley Forest, a lush woodland just 45 minutes north of downtown Toronto in King Township. It’s a threat to the native plant species in the area, said Ferguson, which has ramifications right up the food chain.

    This year Nature Conservancy Canada has enacted a “battle plan” for managing the plant — which includes a lot of good old-fashioned weeding.

    There were weekly “pull parties” in the forest this spring, where volunteers filled several garbage bags with garlic mustard. This is also the first year the conservancy has a permanent staff member in Happy Valley Park, largely dedicated to managing invasive species.

    Standing in a patch of garlic mustard, Ferguson pulls one up from its roots. It’s kind of addictive, she says, and in a few minutes she’s already filled a bag. Another staff member plans to whip up a batch of pesto that evening.

    “It wouldn’t be bad added to a sandwich in the place of lettuce,” she adds later.

    The knee-high plants sprout green leaves and tiny white flowers, and bear a pod filled with dark seeds. The leaves have garlicky smell when crushed, and are high in Vitamins A and C, according to the Government of Ontario’s website.

    Ferguson urges people to pull up garlic mustard by its roots when they see it, put it in a sealed bag, and toss it in the garbage — or in the pantry. Even removing one plant could mean stopping hundreds of seeds from spreading, she said.

    Nature Conservancy Canada helps protect more than 780 acres of the Happy Valley Forest, one of the biggest remaining deciduous forests on the Oak Ridges Moraine.

    On Saturday morning, a group of about 20 met for a free public hike through part of the forest, called the Goldie Feldman Nature Reserve. Dragonflies circled overhead, and the sun beamed through a towering deciduous canopy.

    In a few decades, parts of the forest will be “old growth,” filled with 200-year-old maples, beeches and oaks, and a rich undergrowth of fallen logs. These old growth forests are rare in Ontario, Ferguson said, and make incredible habitats.

    Ferguson led the enthusiastic pack of hikers, pointing out monstrous maples, monarch butterflies, and “disappearing streams” that bubble in and out of the ground.

    She shared tricks for identifying trees by their bark(red oak looks like burnt hotdogs; American beech trunks like an elephant leg) and we patted the soft needles of a baby pine. On the edge of a meadow, the group spied a 300-year-old sugar maple — it took three adults to fully hug the trunk.

    Naomi Loeb, who lives in downtown Toronto, had never heard of the Happy Valley Forest until this hike.

    “I think it’s really important people know there are areas like this so close to the city,” she said. “Most of the time all you hear about and experience is how congested it is, and how crowded it is.”

    Near the end of the trek, Ferguson spotted a large fallen log, covered in fungus and moss, and home to a plethora of bugs and animals. It’s these dead trees that make an old growth forest so rich and diverse, she says. Eventually, there’ll be many more here.

    “It almost ceases being a tree and becomes something else.”

    0 0

    Ten months after the death of their brother Anthony, the Divers family is still no closer to finding out if the Hamilton police officer who shot him will be charged.

    “The police and the (Special Investigations Unit) know what happened that night, but I’m his brother, and his two sisters, and we don’t have a clue, almost a year later, what happened on Sept. 30,” Divers’ brother, Edward, told the Star.

    The SIU, the independent agency that investigates police-involved deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault, has yet to produce a decision in the Divers case.

    Delay in SIU cases was recently addressed in a sweeping review of Ontario police oversight bodies, which recommended tighter timelines for completing investigations.

    The wait for the Divers family has been made worse, they said, by SIU investigators implying to them that a decision is forthcoming.

    One lead investigator told them in December that his report was on SIU director Tony Loparco’s desk, waiting for approval, the family said. But seven months later, still nothing.

    “They said in December they had a decision, and now they're stalling and stalling even more,” said one of Divers’ sisters, Leslie Wilson.

    The SIU did not respond to the Star’s request for comment for this article. A spokeswoman told the Star in December that the SIU attempts to conclude investigations as quickly as possible.

    “The SIU has been in regular contact with two of Mr. Divers’ siblings. All communications have been prompt, courteous, professional and as transparent as possible given the limitations during an ongoing SIU investigation,” Monica Hudon said at the time.

    Divers, 36, was shot and killed around midnight Sept. 30 by a Hamilton police officer, who was responding to a call about a man who had committed an assault and was reportedly armed with a gun, according to the SIU.

    “There was an interaction and the officer discharged his firearm,” said a brief news release issued by the SIU last fall.

    The family said they believe, based on an eyewitness who they spoke to, that Divers was not armed that night. Two eyewitnesses interviewed by the Hamilton Spectator also said they did not see a weapon.

    Divers, who had mental health issues, was clearly in crisis, his family says.

    The family has been persistent in their attempts to get answers as to what happened that night. They call the SIU weekly, and in June two investigators came to speak with them in person, yet had no final decision to share.

    “It was almost like giving us false hope,” said Divers’ eldest sister, Yvonne Alexander.

    She has so far been unsuccessful in reaching Loparco, the SIU director, despite her many phone calls, she said.

    “Is this guy like God? He doesn’t even talk to you.”

    The family said the uncertainty has exacerbated their grief. Birthdays are hardly celebrated, and they only really marked Christmas for the sake of the children.

    “Are we going to get justice for Tony?” Alexander asks. “Ten months of my life seems like 10 years of my life . . . I can’t enjoy anything, because 24/7 my brother is on my mind.

    “We want a decision, to start the new normal without our brother . . . How can I grieve? I don’t even know what the hell happened to my brother, so I that I could put facts together and grieve my loss.”

    The SIU has long faced criticism not only from affected families, but from police associations as well, for taking too long with probes.

    The final report from a sweeping review of police oversight bodies, made public in April, by Justice Michael Tulloch recommended that the SIU aim to conclude investigations and report the results to the public within 120 days.

    If the SIU is unable to complete a probe in 120 days, it should report its status to the public, and then every 60 days thereafter, Tulloch said.

    A spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Attorney General told the Star on Friday that the government is currently working on new police oversight legislation and that Tulloch’s recommendations, “including those about public outreach and timelines, are under active consideration as part of the ongoing work to be ready to introduce legislation in the fall.”

    The SIU has already publicly stated that it would need additional resources to meet Tulloch’s recommended timelines.

    0 0

    The first night that Nicola Simpson spent in an emergency shelter she was in a state of complete and utter disbelief, alone and facing a new life in Canada.

    “I was numb. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I was upset, I was filled with anger,” said Simpson, now 38, who spent the better part of 2011 at a facility in North York for women who have experienced or are fleeing violence.

    Those feelings, she says, didn’t last for long because of how she was welcomed and treated by staff at the 30-bed facility.

    “They don’t spoon-feed you . . . they push you. They are going to make sure you don’t fall into the gutter, or feel like a victim,” said Simpson, an aspiring lawyer, who now has housing and a string of academic degrees.

    “When you are at such a dark place in your life, when you have lost everything, being a part of something is very important.”

    The North York Women’s Shelter was shut down in May, resulting in the layoff of close to 30 full and part-time staff and clients being relocated to other shelters across the province.

    The plan is to raze and replace it with a fully accessible structure, still with 30 beds but eight times the size and designed to offer services that weren’t previously available, including on-site medical care. The new shelter is expected to be completed in spring 2019.

    Former staff told the Star the shutdown was unnecessarily abrupt and they are seriously concerned about what they see as a gap in services in the region, as well as the relocation of vulnerable women in an already crowded system.

    Executive director Mohini Datta-Ray said the shutdown was part of an expedited process tied to a rare and badly needed funding opportunity, but the full closure, layoffs, and relocation were not done without first exploring if other options were possible. There wasn’t time or the funding needed to find and secure a temporary space and make it safe, she said.

    After 33 years in operation, and serving more than 11,000 women on a 24-hour rotation, they jumped at the chance to get $8.8 million for a rebuild. Datta-Ray acknowledged they had to make fast and tough choices, but ones they feel are best for the women they serve.

    “We were cramped, tired and it wasn’t a safe space anymore for women and staff,” said Datta-Ray. “At a certain point the building starts to crumble,”

    It won’t mean a loss of services, she said, because the physical shelter didn’t offer direct services, just beds. They had to lay off staff in their own office and more than half their funding left with the women who moved out, which in the final weeks was six or seven.

    “The funding goes with the beds,” said Datta-Ray. The facilities where the women went “didn’t have the capacity to make a new position because of one or two beds coming online.”

    The laid-off staff, 13 full-time and 16 part-time or relief workers, were given employment counselling and an extension of their union recall rights, so if construction goes longer than expected they are still entitled to those jobs, she said.

    Datta-Ray said she hopes that ultimately some of the staff who served the women at the old shelter will come back.

    “Some of them have more than a decade of experience, working at North York in particular, but the shelter system in general and we are hoping their vision will really inform what we are building.”

    A spokesperson with the Ministry of Community and Social Services said the money was part of a broader financial commitment to improve services for violence against women (VAW) shelters. In 2015 and 2016, more than 95 facilities served 10,770 women and 6,920 children and were operating at 83 per cent capacity.

    “The beds in operation at North York Women’s Shelter have been absorbed by their partners and all women who were receiving service from (the shelter) are continuing to receive service without disruption,” said Takiyah Tannis, in an email.

    Former staff do not agree.

    “How can they say there are no disruption in services when we are missing for two years?” asked Amy Clements, who worked there for 14 years.

    The Star met with Clements and four former staff members. They described a deeply loving and supportive community environment, where chaos and compassion intertwined and staff and clients worked together to help women and children heal and get on with their lives.

    In that building, on top of making sure everybody was fed, bedded, safe and secure, they helped connect women with legal support, crisis counselling and all manner of applications, including and especially housing.

    Former clients, they said, are reaching out in confusion and still seeking their help with ongoing issues, largely because of the trust they built up in that community. Kids who used the shelter, they say, also had to switch schools with just weeks left in the term.

    “There is no reason why we couldn’t have reached out to community partners and organized office space. There are so many different ways to have done it,” said Clements.

    Former client Simpson is still in touch with staff and said she couldn’t list everything they did for her, because so much was above a basic job description.

    Simpson also wonders why an office couldn’t have been set up to help clients struggling with the change. “It is not the same as a shelter, but at least the gap can be filled and the need is there.”

    Simpson was born in Jamaica, where, as a lesbian she faced homophobic violence. “Even though it was difficult for me to stay in the closet, it was about survival,” she said.

    She chose Canada as a safe haven, moving here in 2010. Things did not go as planned and she ended up in the shelter, on a visitor’s visa and with few future prospects, but staff didn’t let her stay down for long.

    She became a licensed paralegal and has an undergraduate degree in legal studies from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and hopes one day to practise human rights and disabilities law.

    Her first try to get into law school was unsuccessful, so this fall she begins a Master of Arts in Criminology and Social Justice at Ryerson University.

    Her backup plan is to train as a forensic psychologist, so she can work with people who have experienced domestic violence and give back some of what she was offered in North York.

    “I don’t know how I would have survived, if I had not been in that shelter.”

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    The Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA) is asking the Attorney General of Ontario to reverse his decision to charge a Mississauga resident with a hate crime.

    The organization has launched an online petition intended for Yasir Naqvi regarding the charge against Kevin Johnston of wilful promotion of hatred.

    “The Ontario Civil Liberties Association believes that the proceedings against Mr. Johnston are systemically political in nature and should not be consuming public, police, and judicial resources,” says the petition, which was launched last week.

    “We believe that the proceedings are harmful to Canadian society, in addition to being unacceptably unjust towards a citizen.”

    Read more: Peel police charge Mississauga man with hate crime

    Johnston, a former Mississauga mayoral candidate and outspoken online personality, was charged by Peel police on July 24 after they received approval from the attorney general's office, a requirement for that particular charge.

    Police would not elaborate on the specifics of the charge, but the promotion of hatred was allegedly toward to the Peel Muslim community.

    A police news release stated that the charge against the 45-year-old is from a “lengthy investigation into numerous incidents reported to police” and “concerns information published on various social media sites.”

    Johnston told The Mississauga News that he's aware of the petition and supports it.

    “I think it's fantastic — I think that it's the same type of petition I would do for anybody else (who's) being hosed like myself … and everybody else who's going to be silenced when all they're doing is speaking their minds based on fact,” Johnston said over the phone.

    Asked to respond to an excerpt from the petition that noted the situation was “systemically political,” he responded: “This is entirely politically motivated. This has nothing to do with anything other than hurt feelings and politics. There is no danger to society because I pose no danger to society.”

    Emilie Smith, a spokesperson with ministry of the attorney general, said Peel police's formal request to charge Johnston was granted on July 21.

    Smith would not comment further on the “specific matter” as it before the court.

    However, Smith said, “Comments and actions that promote hate are deeply offensive and will not be tolerated in our society.”

    Johnston has stirred up quite a bit of controversy — most recently, his protesting of Muslim prayer in Peel District School Board this year. His criticism of the religious practice in schools, and the board's handling of the matter, contributed to him being banned from all Peel board properties.

    OCLA researcher Denis Rancourt became aware of Johnston's charge through recent media reports. He feels that the charge itself that Johnston is facing — Section 319(2) of the criminal code — is an “obscene law.”

    “Democratic societies should not have … criminal code provisions where the state is not ever having to prove actual harm, physical or psychological, to any actual person that they bring forth as a person that was harmed,” he said.

    “There isn't even a harm to talk about; it's all at the emotional level and harm against the public at large.”

    The petition suggests that instead of potentially jailing an individual for unpopular opinions, the government should allow these matters to be resolved through public debate.

    Smith noted that very careful consideration goes into each individual case under Section 319(2) before a charge is laid such as permission from the Attorney General.

    “This requirement offers a safeguard for free expression and can be seen as Parliament's recognition of the important, competing values, which are at stake in such prosecutions,” Smith said.

    She added that there must also be reasonable prospect of conviction and public interest before permission to lay the charge in question is given.

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    Mayor John Tory has called four overdose deaths over the weekend tragic but preventable as advocates call on the city to do more.

    “It’s such a tragedy to see this number of people dying,” Tory said Monday during a trip to Toronto Island for its official re-opening.

    Toronto police put out a safety alert on Saturday as the city saw four deaths and 20 overdoses since Thursday.

    Tory said the city is moving forward with its overdose action plan, but warned that those using drugs and those around them need to be “vigilant” during an ongoing fentanyl crisis.

    “These are preventable deaths,” he said. “I’m troubled by it because it is a devastation to families, to communities.”

    Fentanyl is a powerful opioid which experts across the country say is being cut into other drugs with frequency, often unbeknownst to those using them.

    There were 730 opioid-related deaths in Ontario in 2015, the most recent provincial data available, 137 of which were in Toronto. That number has risen steadily since 2012 when there were 585 deaths in Ontario, 85 of which were in Toronto.

    Toronto police have faced recent criticism because there are no plans for frontline officers to carry the powerful antidote naloxone. Toronto paramedics already carry the drug proven to save lives in the event of an overdose and distribution to firefighters is planned this fall.

    Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash has said it is their policy that officers can only administer the epiPen medication.

    Naloxone blocks the effect of opioids in the brain, reversing the effects of an overdose.

    Related story: Sherbourne Health Centre latest to offer naloxone in midst of opiate crisis

    The mayor said the city’s first responders are “doing their part” when it comes to the deadly drug’s toll on the city.

    “We have relied on the advice of all of these different people, including public health, first responders and others,” Tory said of the city’s response. “I’m willing to consider anything that those people who know more than I do about this are willing to think are reasonable and is going to save lives.”

    Two of the recent victims died within steps of the Queen West Central Toronto Community Health Centre, one of three locations that will see supervised injection services opened this year.

    Advocates have been pushing for such sites for the past decade. Necessary federal approval and provincial funding were finalized last month.

    With files from David Rider

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    All eastbound collector lanes have reopened on Hwy. 401 after a fatal tractor trailer collision on Monday morning.

    The express lanes remain closed at midday in both directions from Allen Rd. to Avenue Rd., but are expected be reopened by the afternoon rush hour.

    Toronto Fire Services say that callers reported an “explosion” and fire across all lanes at 5:15 a.m. The collision occurred on the eastbound express approaching Yonge St., according to the OPP.

    When Toronto fire arrived on scene after being delayed by heavy traffic, they found a tractor trailer carrying paint “fully engulfed” in flames.

    Paramedics confirmed that the driver of that tractor trailer was killed in the collision. Although Toronto fire is not sure exactly how many vehicles were involved, paramedics treated the male driver of another vehicle for a minor shoulder injury.

    Toronto fire was able to have the blaze under control in around five minutes.

    But cleanup may take a lot longer than that, Toronto fire Capt. David Eckerman says.

    The truck had 50-gallon drums of paint and paint thinners on a flatbed, he said, and the paint spread across the lanes in the accident.

    Eckerman says Toronto fire will “be there for a while.”

    In a tweet Monday morning, the TTC said it was “experiencing extended travel times on several west end bus routes” due to the collision. It asked commuters to plan for extra travel time.

    With files from Fakiha Baig

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    Premier Kathleen Wynne has tinkered with her cabinet, promoting Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP Peter Milczyn after Glen Murray’s surprise resignation.

    As first disclosed by the Star, Murray stepped down as minister of environment and climate change on Monday.

    He will be succeeded by Chris Ballard, whose duties as housing minister will be now be handled by Milczyn, a well-regarded former Toronto councillor first elected in 2014.

    In a statement from Calgary, Murray said he would resign as Toronto-Centre MPP on Sept. 1 four days before becoming executive director of the Alberta-based Pembina Institute, a 33-year-old environmental think-tank.

    “More than ever, the world needs Canada to lead the fight against climate change. With its national team of experts and its proven ability to craft solutions with industry, government, and communities, the Pembina Institute is essential to finding the way forward,” he said.

    Also involved in Monday’s mini-shuffle was Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde, whose other portfolio at Francophone Affairs has grown into a standalone ministry.

    Murray, 59, also a former mayor of Winnipeg, has been an outspoken minister, overseeing the government’s five-year, $8.3 billion plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

    Wynne hailed her colleague who, like her, is a pioneer as one of the first openly gay elected officials in Canada.

    “Glen’s work battling climate change is another passion that is leading him now down a new path. After spending decades in community and public service, I understand and respect that decision, made with the support of his partner, Rick,” the premier said.

    “I will be always be grateful for the unwavering support Glen has shown me.”

    His resignation will not trigger a byelection in what is seen as a safe Liberal seat both provincially and federally, where it is held by Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

    Under Ontario law, a byelection must be called within six months of a vacancy unless a province-wide election is imminent.

    Voters are headed to the polls on June 7, 2018, so there was concern about Elections Ontario spending an estimated $500,000 on a byelection.

    “We’re not having a byelection because there are significant costs associated with one and we’re moving into an election period and I think the cost associated with a byelection doesn’t justify having one,” said Wynne.

    The premier, who could easily have called a snap byelection for this summer, denied she was ducking voters at the same time as two high-profile court trials involving Liberals begin in September.

    “As I said, the people of Toronto Centre … will be served by a community office and by this government as they have been.”

    Ballard, the Newmarket-Aurora MPP first elected in 2014, said he planned to follow in Murray’s activist footsteps.

    “The file is critical and so important, we can’t turn the heat down on this one, quite frankly,” said the new environment and climate change minister.

    “Glen Murray has been a fantastic minister in this role.”

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    A Polish couple on the first public ferry to Centre Island this season had most of Toronto’s green waterlogged gem to themselves.

    “It’s very nice, we want to rent bikes,” said Malwina Kempsaa as she and Rafal Kruszewski surveyed empty beaches and trails just after 8 a.m. Monday.

    The first sparse but excited crowd disembarked on a makeshift plywood ramp, built to cope with flooding that kept much of the islands closed until now, followed by ferryloads full of daytrippers, bikes and dogs.

    Centreville amusement park and all beaches are now open. Signs of historic flooding abound, however, with some Centreville attractions including the railroad remaining closed, fencing around parts of some beaches and sandbags, chugging pumps and big pools of standing water.

    Mayor John Tory took the first ferry and was greeted by Algonquin Island resident Halina Bregman.

    She told him she was dismayed to see “young men” jump fences and trample flood-damaged shoreline between Algonquin and Snake islands to snap photos showing the harbour and CN Tower.

    “We need more supervision of some of the sensitive areas,” Bregman said, with Tory promising to ask parks staff to keep an eye on such spots and urging the public to respect emergency fencing and signs.

    Bill Beasley, president of Centreville operator Beasley Enterprises, told Tory and reporters he is happy to finally open after much uncertainty.

    Parts of the railroad are still underwater, meaning the little train won’t run this year. High lake levels mean the bumper boats and swan rides aren’t open yet. Damage to the farm area will keep animals away although the pony rides are starting soon.

    But antique cars, the carousel that has been sold, a new $2 million overhead chair lift and about 20 other attractions and eateries will greet visitors as they finally arrive for the final five weeks of summer and weekends into the fall, Beasley said.

    Closure due to flooding cost his family business more than $8 million in sales and more than $1 million in profits, he said ruefully, adding that the losses followed two very good years.

    “We’re definitely going to be here for another 10 years at least, we’ll get through it,” he said.

    More than half the students who couldn’t start summer jobs at Centreville will be on the job, with another 100 hired at a recent job fair.

    Tory said the city has forgiven some fees for flood-struck businesses and will aim to help make them “thrive and be healthy” by getting people to the islands.

    Flooding is also hitting taxpayers in the pocketbook. City staff estimate high-water costs of about $4.9 million until the end of July. The mayor warned of other “considerable additional expenditures” to finish repairs and to make the islands more resistant to future flooding.

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