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    A Canadian partnership has won hotly contested rights to expand and operate GTA casinos, including one coming to Woodbine race track.

    B.C.-based Great Canadian Gaming Corp. and Toronto-based Brookfield Business Partners won the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. bidding process, they announced Tuesday.

    Woodbine, which now hosts slot machines, is expected to become a full-fledged casino and entertainment/hotel complex. The 22-year deal also includes rights to redevelop and operate: Great Blue Heron charity casino on Scugog Island near Port Perry; Ajax Downs race track, which has slot machines.

    The new partnership won’t make the winning plan public just yet, said Chuck Keeling of Great Canadian Gaming.

    “We are eager and excited,” he said, but, “in a proposal this large and complex, there a lot of vested stakeholders,” and it is important to brief them on plans and get feedback before making the details public.

    “We do have a vision for the GTA marketplace, and, at this place, we don’t want to speak to any of the details, which include preferential locations,” for casino sites, said Keeling, promising details “soon.”

    Any gaming re-locations by the partnership would require a business case and support from the new host community, OLG and Ontario's finance minister.

    Race track operator Woodbine Entertainment Group already has plans to build “a city within a city” on its sprawling site, guided by international architecture and planning firm SWA Group.

    WEG said, in a statement, it looks forward to working with the new “key partners” while proceeding with its vision for 684 privately owned acres, including “expanded entertainment and cultural offerings, food and dining, hotel, shopping, employment, post-secondary education, recreation, health, wellness, and urban residential living (facilities).”

    Ward 1 Councillor Vince Crisanti predicted the new complex will inject needed jobs into the northwest corner of Toronto that has seen past proposals go nowhere.

    “This sets the stage for a transformation and revitalization; Etobicoke north is going to come to life because of it,” Crisanti said. “There will be thousands of job opportunities,” that should spark new housing and transit opportunities.

    The Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, which hosts Great Blue Heron, has expressed “high hopes” for expansion of the small, but successful casino.

    In an interview Tuesday, Chief Kelly LaRocca said she had a small role in the selection process as a “subject-matter expert” on the bids’ Indigenous components and “how they thought to include and uplift the aboriginal community in their plans.”

    She congratulated the winning companies and expects to meet with them soon to go over their Great Blue Heron proposals.

    “I’m very hopeful that they are looking to reinvigorate employment opportunities for aboriginal peoples in the local and surrounding communities,” LaRocca said. “I know that they are probably looking at branding and how they can give a bit of a facelift to the Great Blue Heron and the other casinos.”

    As for Ajax Downs, the town has earned $6.4 million a year in OLG hosting fees and is making the case that it should host the new casino, boosting those fees to as much as $12.3 million. In a statement, the town said it looks forward to working with the new operator “to ensure Ajax continues to be a popular destination for gaming, horse racing and entertainment.”

    Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan, however, said in an interview he wants to convince the partners his city should host the casino.

    “We’re not only at the table, we’re on the table,” Ryan said. “We have twice the land opportunity and could host a much larger casino, entertainment and tourism complex,” than Ajax.

    OLG has said the deal will earn the partnership at least $72 million a year, plus up to 70 per cent of gambling revenue, but only after OLG has earned a pre-determined annual cut.

    Finance Minister Charles Sousa, speaking to reporters at Massey Hall, hailed the “exciting news.”

    “It was an arms-length process and it’s been some time in the making. I’m extremely excited about it. I’m very pleased by the outcome,” said Sousa, predicting construction of “a destination venue in the Toronto area.

    “There’s a huge investment coming into the community, a lot more jobs being created,” he said. “The proponent will now come out with the plans in association with Woodbine . . . , but it’s going to be a substantive investment with a great rollout and many opportunities for the region.”

    Not everyone is cheering. Theo Lagakos, president of PSAC Local 533 representing 400 workers at Woodbine slots, said his members have lost the rights of provincial civil servants and are guaranteed only one year of employment with the partnership taking over the operation.

    “I think this is a bad deal for the people of Ontario,” he said, arguingthere was little or no public debate on the privatization and “the private company is going to keep a large percentage of the profits that should be going back to the Ontario government.”

    With files from Robert Benzie

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    Former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and his one-time finance minister, Dwight Duncan, must answer questions under oath from a group of horse breeders regarding a controversial 2012 decision to end a slot machine revenue-sharing program with the horse racing industry.

    Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Emery has ordered McGuinty, Duncan and 11 others — including their chiefs of staff, economist Don Drummond and former chair of the Ontario Racing Commission Rod Seiling — to be cross-examined by counsel for the rural plaintiffs who are suing the province and co-defendant Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. for $65 million.

    The breeders allege that powerful individuals had secretly resolved to scrap the slots deal before it was raised at a key cabinet meeting on Feb. 8, 2012. The breeders claim they were blindsided by the decision because, for years, they had been encouraged by the government to keep producing racehorses.

    Read more:

    Wynne, OLG ordered to produce slots documents

    Where did Ontario’s slots-for-horses money go?

    Emery excluded Premier Kathleen Wynne and MPP Ted McMeekin (Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale) from the plaintiffs’ original list of witnesses, citing “parliamentary privilege” as they are sitting members of the legislature, according to Emery’s ruling released Friday.

    However, the standardbred breeders emailed a letter Tuesday to both Wynne and McMeekin to request they waive their privilege.

    The letter states in part: “We deserve access to justice and trust that your willingness to participate in court cases is not reserved for Liberal insiders and includes rural standardbred horse breeders who live throughout the province.”

    The letter references Wynne’s decision to waive her privilege in order to testify at an upcoming trial in Sudbury involving her former chief of staff. Wynne and McMeekin were cabinet ministers in 2012 under McGuinty.

    The province and OLG had sought to quash summonses for witnesses, a move challenged by the breeders in a June 19 hearing before Emery in Guelph, Ont.

    Toronto lawyer Jonathan Lisus represents the breeders. Lisus said he was pleased the court “wanted to hear from the people who made these decisions” to end what, for 15 years, was called the Slots at Racetracks Program.

    “The court reviewed and appreciated the large volume of evidence that we’ve been able to gather to date, which reflects the fact this decision was made by a very small group of people in advance of a cabinet meeting,” Lisus said.

    Lisus said the province ended the deal “contrary to the recommendations of the OLG after an extended period of study” and “with the knowledge that a lot of people in rural Ontario were going to be harmed by this decision.”

    The province and OLG deny all allegations of wrongdoing in their statements of defence. Earlier this year, both filed motions to have the case summarily dismissed, a matter scheduled for a November hearing in Guelph.

    The OLG declined to respond to Emery’s ruling. “As the matter continues to be before the courts, it would not be appropriate to comment,” spokesperson Rui Brum said.

    The Ministry of the Attorney General did not respond to a request for comment on the judge’s decision.

    The original slots agreement was established in 1998 when the Ontario government moved to install gaming machines at 17 racetracks. The province, racetracks and horse breeders in the racing industry shared in the revenues annually.

    In March of 2012, Duncan — then the finance minister, who was also responsible for OLG — gave the horse-racing industry a year’s notice the slots sharing would end. Up to 2013, horse racing’s total share of slots revenue was about $4 billion.

    In 2014, the breeders sued Wynne’s government over the “bad faith” decision made in 2012.

    One of the central allegations in the breeders’ lawsuit: The five- to seven-year cycle required to produce a standardbred racehorse from conception to race day. The plaintiffs claim the defendants had long understood the breeding cycle and the timeline’s importance to breeders’ business planning.

    Another aspect of the civil action involves the government compensating racetrack owners after the slots deal died — and not those who bred the racing animals.

    “Ontario and OLG paid $80.6 million in compensation to those racetrack owners, while refusing to even discuss compensation for the standardbred breeders,” the plaintiffs’ statement of claim alleges.

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    A man stabbed in Vaughan. A passenger mirror smashed in with a baseball bat on Lake Shore Blvd. A truck ramming into another car in the Port Lands.

    Each incident fell in the last few weeks, joining a growing list of road rage incidents in the GTA.

    On Sunday night, a 29-year-old-man was stabbed in Vaughan, after a verbal altercation with another driver while both were stopped at a red light near Highway 27 and Ashbridge Cir. No arrest had been made as of Tuesday afternoon, and the victim has been released from hospital.

    On Friday, the occupants of two vehicles at a red light at Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Strachan Ave. also got into a verbal altercation. One of the drivers then left his white Acura with a baseball bat and slammed it into the other car’s passenger mirror. Police have video and are looking for a suspect.

    On July 17, an extended confrontation was caught on video in the Port Lands. A pickup truck can be seen turning and accelerating head-on into a car in the oncoming lane.

    Further outside the GTA, some headlines may prompt a chuckle — like the 58-year-old Kingston motorist accused of biting the nose of a pedestrian who yelled at him.

    Others, though, are deeply distressing. On Sunday night in Cleveland, a four-year-old boy was shot in the head, moments after his mother had honked her horn to pass another car.

    While ‘road-rage’ isn’t explicitly tracked by Toronto or Ontario Provincial Police — it’s often listed as a factor in other classifications like negligence, dangerous driving, mischief, traffic offences, collisions or other criminal offences — both forces have seen an uptick in aggressive driving recently.

    In Toronto, there were 191 serious or fatal collisions involving aggressive driving in 2015, according to the police force’s data portal. Last year, that number rose to 213.

    Fatalities related to speed, which the OPP classifies as a form of aggressive driving, are up nearly 45 per cent from last year, Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said. Their 2017 death count is 42. On this day last year, there had only been 29.

    The road rage incidents are happening in plain sight.

    This week, Schmidt said he himself was driving down Highway 400 when, suddenly, a vehicle cut in front of another driver and intentionally slowed down to around 40 km/hr.

    “I’m watching this, in my police vehicle, like ‘what’s going on?,’ ” Schmidt said.

    Clicking into business, he pulled the driver over. The driver’s son was also buckled into the vehicle at the time.

    “He just goes ‘well, he cut me off on the exit ramp and I wanted to show him that that was not appropriate.’ Well, excuse me, what you’re doing is actually just aggravating the situation. It’s completely uncalled for,” he said.

    Schmidt cited a “arrive-just-in-time mentality” on the part of drivers, instead of preparing to get there a few minutes earlier than scheduled, as a contributing factor to the cases he’s seen on the job.

    “Anytime you’re being delayed by anything, you’re feeling violated,” he said. “Everyone thinks they’re anonymous out on the highway, they can do whatever they want, and that was certainly not the case.”

    For Toronto police Const. Clint Stibbe, the issue of road rage can be far more personal, and therefore more difficult to untangle and pinpoint.

    An incident that took place several years ago has stuck with him. Two vehicles were coming in eastbound on the Gardiner Expressway when one, seemingly without realizing, cut the other off during a lane change.

    “The vehicle didn’t do it erratically, he didn’t do it quickly,” Stibbe said. “He turned on his signal, and clearly had not seen the vehicle that he cut off. I was right there; I watched the whole thing happen.”

    But the cut-off driver reciprocated and cut off the original driver. The first driver, unaware why the second driver was upset, cut them off again. In the end, two drivers with completely clean records — one in their mid-50s and the other in their late-30s — were convicted of stunt driving.

    Neither knew what came over them, Stibbe said. He urged anyone discussing solutions to road-rage to consider the bigger picture.

    “You and I are speaking right now. I know nothing about you, you know nothing about me. I could go home to a house that’s just a nightmare. Stress, money, personal life, whatever. Maybe you’re going home to that,” he said.

    “You have to look at it a little further outside just the vehicle event.”

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    Two Toronto police officers pleaded not guilty to professional misconduct Tuesday at the first day of the high-profile — and much-delayed — hearing into the 2011 gunpoint arrest of four Black teenagers, a controversial incident known as the Neptune Four case.

    Dressed in a dark blue suit, Const. Adam Lourenco rose from his seat inside the tribunal room at Toronto police headquarters, stating “not guilty” as each of his three Police Services Act charges was read out by hearing officer Insp. Richard Hegedus, the adjudicator at the tribunal.

    Lourenco is accused of one count of unlawfully arresting the four boys and two counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly using unreasonable force — specifically, punching one of the boys and pointing his gun at three of them. Const. Scharnil Pais, in full police uniform, pleaded not guilty to one count of unlawfully arresting the teens.

    None of the allegations against the officers have been proven at the tribunal.

    At long last, the hearing will provide an opportunity to dissect a case with racial dimensions as relevant now as they were at the time of the incident, said Jeff Carolin, the lawyer representing the teens, who are now 20 and 21 years old.

    “The perspective that I’m going to try to bring is that you can’t look at this case without talking about racism, you can’t look at this case without talking about racial profiling,” he said in an interview outside police headquarters Tuesday.

    The hearing stems from a November 2011 incident where four boys, ages 15 and 16, were on their way to an after-school learning program in a Lawrence Heights public housing complex on Neptune Dr. They were stopped by Lourenco and Pais, both officers with the controversial and now-disbanded Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) unit.

    According to police records, the officers were at the Neptune Dr. buildings to enforce the Trespass to Property Act on behalf of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.

    When they were approached by police, one of the boys attempted to exercise his constitutional right to walk away, according to Carolin and a previous account of the incident provided to the Star.

    The encounter escalated. According to allegations contained in the written Police Act charges against the officers, Lourenco threw punches and drew his gun.

    The incident was captured by a Toronto Community Housing security camera and first reported by the Star.

    The boys were charged with assaulting police, and the young man who did not want to answer police questions was charged with threatening death and assault with intent to resist arrest. All of the charges were later withdrawn.

    Because the teens faced criminal charges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Star is not identifying them.

    The charges against Lourenco and Pais came after an investigation by Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director, spurred by the four teens lodging complaints with the watchdog. One of the four teens has since withdrawn his complaint and will not be participating in the hearing.

    The three young men going forward with their complaints are eager for closure and an opportunity to share their stories, Carolin said.

    The case has taken a circuitous route to the tribunal in large part due to two rare developments. Last spring, the Ontario Human Rights Commission attempted to gain official status at the hearing in order to ensure the tribunal adequately addressed the role racial profiling may have played in the officers’ alleged misconduct. After a separate hearing, a Toronto police hearing officer denied the rights group’s request, saying the tribunal did not have the legal jurisdiction to allow the OHRC to participate.

    Months later, Lourenco sought to have Hegedus removed as hearing officer on the case. Lourenco alleged that the senior officer had recently committed misconduct himself, and arguing there was a reasonable perception Hegedus may be biased.

    The move prompted an unusual written decision by Hegedus, clearing himself of appearing biased and ruling that he could oversee the disciplinary hearing. Lourenco later sought a judicial review of Hegedus’ decision, but the application was quashed.

    The hearing continues Thursday.

    Wendy Gillis can be reached at

    With files from Star archives

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    WASHINGTON—In 2012, when Donald Trump was a celebrity businessman, he wrote on Twitter: “Price of corn has jumped over 50%. This will cause a jump in food prices perhaps beyond what we've ever seen.”

    Four years later, when he was running for president, he told the New York Times that China was building, in the South China Sea, “a military fortress the likes of which perhaps the world has not seen.”

    The expression popped out of his mouth again after he won the election. In December, Trump told supporters that they had created “a grassroots movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

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

    And there it was again when Trump was ad-libbing about the opioid addiction crisis on Tuesday afternoon. He claimed that he was “very, very strong on our southern border — and I would say the likes of which this country certainly has never seen.”

    Until that point, the president’s pet phrase was unremarkable. It was mere hyperbole — mere Trump. This was a man who never used “big” when “huge” could do. This was just how the man spoke.

    And then, minutes after his remarks on opioids, the phrase suddenly became a threat of nuclear war.

    A reporter asked him if he had any response to the news, revealed by the Washington Post on Tuesday, that U.S. intelligence believes North Korea has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead.

    “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump responded, stern, at his golf club in New Jersey. “He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

    Without the “like the world has never seen,” Trump’s remarks about “fire and fury” could conceivably have been taken to mean any kind of military strike. With the “like the world has never seen,” the comments are an unmistakable threat of nuclear annihilation.

    Read more:

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    North Korea threatens retaliation against the U.S. after UN imposes tough sanctions

    It is possible that Trump intended to make just such a nuclear threat. He has, after all, promised to eradicate North Korea’s nuclear threat “one way or the other.”

    But it is also possible that the president bumbled into the threat because he did not understand the ramifications of a favourite phrase he had in his head.

    “I'm guessing that this talking point didn't come through the rigorous interagency process,” tweeted Dan Pfeiffer, communications director in the Obama administration.

    Kim Jong Un is now confronted with the dilemma that has vexed American voters and lawmakers alike: whether or not to take Trump literally.

    “I don’t pay much attention anymore to what the president says because there’s no point in it,” Sen. John McCain told an Arizona radio station while criticizing Trump’s comments. “It’s not terrible what he said, but it’s kind of the classic Trump in that he overstates things.”

    Experts believe Kim is rational, not mad, and that he wants to avoid nuclear war. But they have long feared that Kim might be provoked by loose Trump language into miscalculating, launching a strike because he thought Trump meant precisely what he said.

    “I don’t think (Trump is) brave enough to start a war with the North Koreans. But he’s dumb enough to talk like he might. And the fear I have is he’ll say something that the North Koreans will interpret as a sign that an attack is coming, and they’ll overreact,” Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told the Star in April.

    As usual, there is an old Trump tweet that can be read as foretelling the current situation.

    “Be prepared, there is a small chance that our horrendous leadership could unknowingly lead us into World War III,” he wrote in 2013.

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    An Ajax woman caught part of an altercation on video in which a TTC employee can be heard calling her a derogatory name.

    In a statement the TTC said it is investigating the incident to better understand why the expectations of its dignity and respect policy “were not seemingly met in this case.”

    “The language used is very concerning,” said TTC spokesperson Brad Ross.

    Brittany Rattray, 26, was on her way from Ajax to Lamport Stadium on Sunday to enjoy the Toronto Caribbean Festival with her two-year-old son when she approached the TTC collector’s booth operator at King Station to ask for directions.

    The TTC officer said he could not provide directions and asked her to look at the wall map, she said. When she couldn’t find the stadium on the map she asked to see a paper fold-out version, thinking it might include more detail.

    Rattray said she got upset when she couldn’t find Lamport Stadium on that version either. She crumpled the map and pushed it back through the opening in the collector’s booth.

    Then she started recording, planning to complain to the TTC about the way its employee had spoken to her.

    In the video she is heard explaining the situation, while the TTC employee is speaking with another customer. Towards the end of the video the employee says “lady, get out of my face, man, get out of my face, retard.”

    “I just don’t even think that’s a word that should exist,” Rattray said.

    At that point Rattray stopped recording because her phone battery was close to dying, but the conflict continued, she said over the phone Wednesday.

    Rattray said he also called her a “dummy.”

    In a second video Rattray can be heard saying “I’m a dummy? Say it in the mike.”

    The employee then says “Yeah, yeah, what do you think, you think that hurts me?”

    Rattray called the experience frustrating and upsetting.

    The employee should apologize to her and her child, she said.

    A representative for ATU Local 113, the union which represents Toronto transit workers, said the collector’s behaviour was “inappropriate.”

    “While we still need to learn more about what happened before and after the video footage, plain and simple, the collector’s behaviour is inappropriate,” Kevin Morton, secretary-treasurer for ATU Local 113, said in a statement.

    “Under no circumstance should a passenger be subjected to insults and we apologize for this individual’s behaviour. It is important to remember this individual’s behaviour in no way reflects the hardworking transit workers of our city, who themselves are increasingly subjected to abuse and assaults.”

    The TTC said the employee would not be made available to the media.

    “This is now an employee-employer matter,” Ross said. “The TTC has a respect and dignity policy that it expects all of its 14,000 employees to embrace and adhere to. It also expects its employees to be courteous and professional with customers and the public at all times. The vast majority of TTC employees, of course, do this day in and day out.”

    Rattray said she encountered at least two other TTC employees on that trip who were both polite and helpful, and has never had a problem with the TTC before.

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    An Ontario judge says it is “totally unacceptable” that Crown attorneys in Brampton allowed case files to go missing for over four months, contributing to charges being stayed against a man accused of a stabbing.

    Kadeem Payne’s legal right to be tried within a reasonable amount of time was violated as actions taken by the Crown, and regular procedural delays, prolonged his case by over 19 months, Judge Paul Monahan ruled on July 27.

    That was enough to put Payne’s case over the time limit guidelines established in a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year which has already resulted in dozens of criminal charges being stayed — effectively ending prosecutions without any decision of guilt or innocence.

    Payne was arrested in Peel in September 2014 and charged with assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm, after he allegedly stabbed someone in the leg and hand with a knife, Monahan wrote in his decision.

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    But the trial for Payne was not set to begin until this coming September, about 36 months after his arrest.

    Provincial court cases like Payne’s should last no more than 18 months from the date of arrest to the anticipated conclusion of the trial, not counting delays caused by the defence or unforeseen circumstances like illness, the Supreme Court ruled in 2016.

    Payne’s defence prolonged his case by applying for legal aid later than they could have, Monohan ruled. And a trial date scheduled for July 2016 had to be postponed when Payne’s then-lawyer fell ill, contributing to the 36 month-wait.

    But even without those defence-related delays, Monahan ruled, Payne would have waited over 19 months between his arrest and the end of his trial.

    Payne, who was out on bail while awaiting trial, would have pleaded not-guilty to the charges, Haig DeRusha, the senior lawyer on Payne’s defence team, said.

    The Crown office at the Peel court in Brampton referred the Star’s questions about Payne’s case to the Ministry of the Attorney General. Ministry spokesperson Emilie Smith said it would be “inappropriate to comment on the specific facts of this case,” because an appeal of the judge’s decision could be launched.

    On four separate occasions between August 2015 and January 2016, defence lawyers and Crown prosecutors went to court with the intention of setting a date for trial. But each time, no progress could be made because the Crown said its brief on the case was missing, Monahan said.

    “The defence was ready to proceed and said on the record that they wanted to set a trial date but each time they were told they could not do so because the Crown could not find its own file,” Monahan wrote in his decision.

    The judge acknowledged that files sometimes go missing, particularly when officials are grappling with large workloads.

    “These things happen... when the Crown, the defence and the Court carry a heavy load, as they do in Brampton, a busy Court jurisdiction,” Monahan wrote. “Having said that, losing a Crown file for more than four months and having four court attendances during the same period of time which in turn prevents the setting of a trial date is totally unacceptable.”

    Further delays were caused when the Crown failed to disclose all of its evidence to the defence, preventing a trial date from being set between February and July 2015, Monahan ruled.

    The defence team is pleased that they were able to have Payne’s charges cleared without the time or cost of a trial, said DeRusha.

    “It is difficult to be perfect all the time, but one must try,” DeRusha said of the Crown’s missing files.

    “The negative consequence to Kadeem has been remedied. He was facing criminal charges for a long time. He was on (bail) conditions that imposed penalties that make him a criminal when he does certain things that the rest of us do.”

    As a condition of his bail, Payne had to be at home between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day — restrictions that cost him his job when his boss put him on the night shift, Payne is quoted as saying in an affidavit.

    This is at least the third time in under a year that delays by the Crown’s office in Brampton has resulted in charges being stayed — essentially ending a prosecution.

    In the two previous cases which were both related to drug crimes, which concluded in December and February respectively, the Crown took too long to provide disclosure to the defence, judges ruled.

    The right to be tried “in a reasonable time” is laid out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    The Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in the case of R. v Jordan articulated what that right means in practical terms, Michael Rosenberg, a Toronto lawyer not affiliated with the Payne case said.

    “The core argument (is) that if you are put to trial some lengthy period after the relevant events we recognize there is a material likelihood that recollection will blur, important evidence won’t be available and at the very least justice won’t be seen to be done,” Rosenberg said.

    Prior to 2016, judges could stay charges if a trial was not completed fast enough, but the decisions required a more “complex and contextual analysis,” Rosenberg added.

    “Often there was delay that was not met with any sanction and brought into jeopardy the fairness of the proceedings.”

    Under the old system, defendants had to establish that the delay in their case had created “prejudice” against them for their trial. Since 2016’s Jordan ruling, a judge needs only to determine whether the delay was “reasonable.”

    While the Crown in the Payne case argued that many of the delays had occurred prior to the Supreme Court’s updated ruling, Monohan said in his decision that Payne’s charges would have been stayed even if they were measured using the old criteria.

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    As GTA residents await details about new casinos, the start of Woodbine’s dramatic transformation is already under way.

    A new partnership of Great Canadian Gaming Corp. and Brookfield Business Partners, announced Tuesday as the winner of a competitive bid process to develop and operate three GTA casinos, is keeping plans under wraps while consulting “stakeholders” including the host communities.

    But Woodbine Entertainment Group, operator of the horse-racing track and its largely undeveloped 684-acre Rexdale site, already has a master plan, with the first rezoning applications being reviewed by the City of Toronto, to build a new community, including gambling, in Toronto’s northwest corner.

    WEG chief executive Jim Lawson said Wednesday that based on his preliminary talks with Great Canadian Gaming, and the international reputation of Brookfield as a big-league developer, he believes their plans can mesh to create a new “city within a city” that happens to stable more than 2,000 horses.

    Racing uses about 240 acres at the site’s south end. Another 60 acres to the north will be devoted to entertainment uses including gaming, restaurants, a hotel, convention space and theatres.

    “About half of that may well be for initiatives of the winning bidder but we're certainly open to speaking to them about further development,” Lawson said.

    Replacing Woodbine’s slot machine parlor with a full casino, and other venues to make it the “integrated entertainment complex” demanded by Toronto council when it gave conditional approval for a casino there, should be “the catalyst, the trigger” for the rest of the site, Lawson said.

    Further phases would include office space, retail, cultural and educational facilities, and a sizeable residential component including townhouses.

    “Brookfield is a world-class developer and there is keen interest especially in the balance of the north corridor,” Lawson said, adding that the focus of WEG, formerly the Ontario Jockey Club, is to foster development that will promote and sustain the horse-racing industry.

    Chuck Keeling, Great Canadian’s vice-president of stakeholder relations and responsible gaming, said in an interview Wednesday that the new casino partnership will work with Woodbine’s master plan.

    “Our plan will be complementary and work hand-in-hand with Woodbine’s,” he said.

    WEG hired California-based architects and planners SWA Group to develop its master plan.

    SWA architect and urban designer Andrew Watkins said in an interview from Laguna Beach that work continues to create a “node” serving community around Woodbine, along with future visitors and residents, and travelers who can be lured from layovers at nearby Pearson international airport.

    That includes more intersections along Rexdale Blvd. to bring “permeability” to a Woodbine site that is now an “island”, he said, and connecting the green-space trail networks of Mimico Creek and the Humber River.

    Although the new casino will be an important anchor, Watkins added, many U.S. gaming complexes are now drawing more revenue from restaurants, theatres and other venues surrounding the poker tables, roulette wheels and slot machines.

    Toronto council included 21 conditions in its 2015 approval of Woodbine as a casino site, many aimed at ensuring Rexdale residents get a share of socio-economic benefits, and that the casino operator and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. work to minimize gambling addictions and other social ills associated with casinos.

    Councillor Mike Layton, who voted against having any casinos in Toronto, remains convinced that expanded gambling at Woodbine will only hurt the community.

    “A good chunk of the research about casinos suggests a lot of their income comes from people who live locally,” he said. “Some jobs are creating but more are lost by the closure of businesses in the surrounding areas.

    “OLG is giving out 22-year casino leases so you don’t get a second toss of the dice. We’re not investing in the economy to get a real economic boost — a significant amount of economic activity will be sucked out of that community and the provincial government is banking on that.”

    OLG says gross gaming revenues for the slot machines at Woodbine and Ajax Downs track, and the small Great Blue Heron casino near Port Perry, total about $1 billion per year. The agency’s modernization plan aims to boost revenues but OLG won’t say how much it hopes to earn from the sites once they host full casinos operated by the new private partnership.

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    SAINT-BERNARD-DE-LACOLLE, QUE.—Teams of Canadian soldiers stretched canvas across the metal frames of tents at a camp site near the Quebec-U.S. border Wednesday as they helped fellow authorities cope with the crush of asylum seekers crossing into Canada.

    The site, located on a flat stretch of grass behind the building where asylum claimants are bused in from the border, was expected to accommodate up to 500 people.

    “We have about 100 personnel here on the ground who will set up 25 tents in order to house approximately 500 people,” Maj. Yves Desbiens said in an interview in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

    “We’re going to set up lighting as well, and heating and we’re going to have flooring installed.”

    The soldiers will have no role in security matters and will not participate in law-enforcement tasks. All but a few will return to their home base once the site is completed.

    Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson Judith Gadbois-St-Cyr said the camp was being set up because too many people were crossing the border for them to be processed immediately.

    In a phone interview, she said it can currently take two or three days to process a refugee claim and most people would not stay in the camp longer than that.

    She said border services would be responsible for providing food, water, beds and blankets.

    By 5:30 p.m., the tents had been erected and strung with hanging lights as soldiers continued to lay down wooden flooring.

    Read more:

    Montrealers rally outside Olympic Stadium to welcome asylum seekers from U.S.

    Montreal’s Olympic Stadium becomes shelter as Haitian refugees from the U.S. seek home in Canada

    Quebec asylum requests surge from 50 to 150 a day, minister says

    Gadbois-St-Cyr said the camp would be ready to accept people “in a short time” but could not say exactly when that would be.

    Earlier in the day, in nearby Hemmingford, some 40 asylum seekers sat under white tents at an impromptu reception centre that has sprung up on the Canadian side of a popular illegal border crossing.

    The atmosphere appeared relaxed as border crossers lined up for lunch boxes handed out by RCMP personnel and waited to be shepherded onto buses for the 10-minute drive to the Lacolle processing station.

    “I’ll be your tour guide,” one RCMP officer inside the bus could be heard joking.

    “There’s the United States; this is Canada.”

    Many of the hundreds of people who are crossing the Canada-United States border into Quebec to seek asylum are of Haitian descent.

    Robert Duteau, the mayor of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, told The Canadian Press he is not worried about overcrowding.

    “There is space to receive them (the soldiers),” he said. “I know there’s a lot of action in that area, but, all things considered, it doesn’t upset me.”

    In the United States, the Trump administration is considering ending a program that granted Haitians so-called “temporary protected status” following the massive earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010.

    Many of the arrivals are being housed in Montreal at the Olympic Stadium.

    The City of Montreal said recently between 250 and 300 people were crossing the Canada-United States border to seek asylum every day, up from 50 per day in the first half of July.

    On Wednesday, the Quebec government announced the opening of another facility, this one at the former Royal Victoria Hospital with a capacity of between 300 and 320 places.

    Another shelter was opened earlier this week at a former convent that is owned by the city.

    Francine Dupuis, who oversees a Quebec government-funded program that helps asylum seekers, said 2,620 people are currently being housed in temporary accommodation in Montreal.

    “As soon as people arrive (in Montreal), not only do we find them a place to stay but we make sure it’s safe, that they have the meals they need and that it’s hygienic,” Dupuis said.

    “We try to keep families together.”

    With files from Jean Philippe Angers in Montreal

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    OTTAWA—The Envoy Air jet slowed on Runway 24 Left at Pearson International Airport after an uneventful flight from Chicago’s O’Hare airport. It was 5:30 p.m., the height of the afternoon rush at Canada’s busiest airport.

    As the Envoy pilots exited the runway, fast-talking controllers in the tower — moving metal at an industrial pace — issued instructions to them to stop on the taxiway, short of a parallel runway being used for departures.

    The controller then cleared a Westjet Boeing 737 bound for St. John’s to depart on that parallel runway.

    But worried that the Envoy flight, an Embraer 175 jet operated by a subsidiary of American Airlines, wasn’t stopping as instructed, the controller issued firm orders, according to a recording on the website

    “Envoy 3765, stop, stop,” the controller said.

    Tuesday’s incident was yet another close call at Pearson. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has launched a special review of operations at Pearson, worried that the frequency of incursions — when an aircraft inadvertently taxies into the runway environment — could lead to disaster.

    “We’re very aware of a broader systemic issue,” said Ewan Tasker, the regional manager for air investigations for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

    The circumstances around Tuesday’s incident remain under investigation. In a statement to the Star, American Airlines, the parent company of Envoy Air, says the flight “turned onto the appropriate taxiway, held short of runway 24R, and then taxied to the gate as instructed.”

    The pilots say they did not cross the active runway until directed by controllers.

    Tasker says the Envoy Air flight crossed the hold short line, entering the protected runway environment, but stopped short of the runway itself. “It wasn’t as if the planes narrowly missed . . . the severity of this individual event, not that high,” Tasker said.

    But a rash of similar incidents — almost two dozen dating back to June, 2012 — has safety board officials worried about the potential for a catastrophic incident.

    “Some of the worst aviation disasters in history have been due to a runway incursion of sorts. So it’s a very serious issue,” Tasker said.

    That’s why the board has taken the rare step of launching a special safety study to examine incursions that occur between the two parallel runways on the south side of Pearson airport. At busy times, aircraft land on the outer runway and then taxi across the inner runway to reach the terminal buildings.

    “They generally land on the outer or southerly runway and are instructed to hold short of the inner runway. There’s been a whole bunch of incidents where air crews haven’t done this,” Tasker said.

    As they exit the runway, pilots are performing post-landing checks, looking at airport diagrams to find their way to the terminal and it’s easy to get distracted and lose situational awareness of the approaching parallel runway.

    “That’s something we need to look at in all these events, what the crews were doing, who was doing what, who was looking where,” Tasker said.

    It’s already recognized as a potential hazard. When the south parallel runways are in use at Pearson, another controller position is opened in the tower, specifically to monitor communications and be on guard for potential incursions, Tasker said.

    As well, ground radar can sound an alarm when an aircraft on the ground violates the protected space around a runway.

    The study, which the board hopes to finish by year’s end, is looking at issues like airline procedures, airport design, air traffic control and the automated warning systems. Investigators are also looking at airports around the world with similar runway configurations to see whether measures in those places have helped mitigate incursions.

    It’s the second such incident for Envoy Air at Pearson this year. An Envoy flight had a close call on the same parallel runways in April.

    But Tasker said the research so far shows a variety of airlines have been involved in the incursions.

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    “No matter how high he climbed, he never forgot where he came from and he was never intimidated by title or by success.”

    That humility referred to by Bob Rae was one of the overriding traits family and friends remembered in eulogies at the funeral of businessman and philanthropist Jack Rabinovitch, founder of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, who died Sunday at the age of 87 after a “catastrophic” fall at his home in Toronto.

    In the depth of summer, dignitaries and luminaries including Rae and his wife Arlene Perly Rae, former Ontario cabinet minister Gregory Sorbara, Ontario Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, editor Douglas Gibson, writers Nino Ricci, Alison Pick, media mogul Moses Znaimer, friends Anna and Julian Porter, and so many others gathered to remember his philanthropy and business acumen, yes, but, mostly, his humour, zest for life and his friendship.

    Rabbi Adam Cutler and Cantor Aviva Rajsky officiated at the Wednesday morning funeral at the Beth Tzedec Congregation on Bathurst St.

    “It was a testament to the friendship and love he had given to so many people,” remarked Louise Dennys, the executive vice-president of Penguin Random House Canada. “He was truly beloved.”

    Read more:

    Jack Rabinovitch, creator of Giller Prize, dies at 87

    Jack Rabinovitch’s legacy was a gift to Canada: Editorial

    What emerged was a portrait of a family man, a lover of books and of life, a man who was as generous with his friendship as he was in his philanthropy.

    His three daughters stood together in front of the gathered mourners, side by side as if to gain strength from each other and hold each other up, from youngest to eldest, Elana, Daphna and Noni, his legacy, as one of them pointed out.

    Noni talked about the different “acts” of her father’s life — Act I being his early life in Montreal and Act II being the Doris Giller years.

    She remembered his leaving for work when she was a child in his gold-coloured Buick with the 8-track tape deck playing Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. To get offered a lift to their parochial school was a big deal.

    She also remembered Doris Giller, Rabinovitch’s second wife, saying the former Toronto Star books editor had a hard time understanding three little girls who didn’t drink scotch, didn’t smoke and needed to be fed before the civilized hour of 8 o’clock at night.

    The Giller Prize was established by Rabinovitch after his wife’s untimely passing in 1993. It brought glamour to the Canadian literary scene, offering the winning author a prize of $25,000 — these days, the winner claims $100,000.

    “You can tell how important Jack Rabinovitch was to the world of books in Canada just by looking around the funeral,” said editor Douglas Gibson after. “Publishers, authors and many others in the book world were there, paying tribute to the man who made Canadian novels popular.”

    “Miraculously, he found a way to create ‘the Giller Effect,’ which induced hundreds of thousands of Canadians to become excited about our books, and to buy them,” Gibson added.

    Daphna Rabinovitch recalled her and her father’s shared love of good food, and of him sitting in the kitchen with a stack of newspapers by his side — he read five a day, we were told — and television remote at the ready nearby so he could watch his beloved sports. He was a spectator but also an athlete, playing tennis only recently.

    Elana Rabinovitch, now the executive director of the Giller Prize, met weekly with her father to talk about the prize — meetings she looked forward to, even if they did end up yelling at each other sometimes.

    “He fostered in all of us a wonder about and love for — as he put it — the arsenal of language,” she said. “I will always be grateful that he showed us the value for and understanding of the wider world.”

    Through all the eulogies, those several hundred people in the synagogue learned about Jack Rabinovitch’s mother Fanny, a seamstress who escaped from Ukraine to Romania and Bucharest in the 1920s. We heard about his early life in Montreal, where he grew up poor in the Main district around Saint Laurent Boulevard and how he learned his math skills by counting coins for the family business.

    We heard of his time at Baron Byng High School — where he was at the centre of a story referenced by a number of his family and friends in relation to throwing a teacher’s desk out a window.

    Jack Rabinovitch came down the “Rene Levesque” highway from Montreal to Toronto in 1985 to Toronto where he and his family made a life — and had an impact.

    Bob Rae, former Ontario premier and once acting leader of the federal Liberal Party, gave a eulogy commenting on their 25 years of friendship.

    He spoke of how Rabinovitch had talked with him about the idea of building the new Princess Margaret hospital before the 1990 election, which saw Rae become premier. They worked together to bring it into being in 1996.

    Rae said no matter how high he climbed, Rabinovitch never forgot where he came from, nor did he lose his playful spirit.

    “He cared about his friends, he cared about all of us. And it was never a club with a closed door,” Rae said in his eulogy.

    Former TTC chairman and lawyer Julian Porter recalled travelling with his close friend to London, sitting in the Lord Mayor’s pew in Westminster Abbey. Rae also regaled about tales of travels with him and his wife Arlene Perly Rae. Julian Porter quoted from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, struggling to hold back tears — “I didn’t cry,” he said as he walked off to the open arms of Rae and of Rabinovitch’s family.

    Writers were quoted liberally — Auden, Yeats, Shakespeare — and Madeleine Thien whose book Do Not Say We Have Nothing, was the last Giller Prize winner that Jack Rabinovitch would ever read, a rabbi pointed out.

    “The funeral was a great reflection of the kind of person Jack was. The speeches mixed funny stories with tributes to Jack’s tremendous skills at business and philanthropy,” remembered Jack Batten, writer and friend, after the funeral.

    “That combination described Jack to a T, but if he were around, he’d say, ‘Gimme more jokes.’ He took serious things seriously but sooner or later in any discussion, sooner most often, he would insert a funny line. Jack was the least stuffy businessman you would ever meet.”

    Elana Rabinovitch began and ended her commemoration with words from the W.H. Auden poem “Twelve Songs”:

    Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

    Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,

    Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

    Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

    . . .

    He was my North, my South, my East and West,

    My working week and Sunday rest,

    My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

    I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

    With files from the Star’s wire services

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    OTTAWA—A first-of-its-kind study in Canada has painted a national picture of homeless youth and drawn a link to the foster care system that researchers say could be playing a more active role in keeping young people off the streets.

    The study found nearly three out of every five homeless youth were part of the child welfare system at some point in their lives, a rate almost 200 times greater than that of the general population.

    Of those with a history in the child welfare system, almost two of every five respondents eventually “aged out” of provincial or territorial care, losing access to the sort of support that could have kept them from becoming homeless, the study found.

    The result is that Canada is creating a group of young people who are at higher risk of becoming homeless because they lack resources when coming out of foster care, said Stephen Gaetz, the study’s co-author and director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.

    Read more:

    Stop dumping kids in care onto the street: Editorial

    A perfect storm: homelessness, mental health, criminal law and no shelter beds

    Richmond Hill high school program for homeless youth set to graduate first class

    The study released Wednesday comes months before dozens of cities will take part in the second, federally organized point-in-time count of the homeless population that will include a focus on young people.

    The first federal point-in-time count last year asked respondents for their ages, but changes to the questionnaire are coming for the 2018 count to help communities that choose to put extra attention on targeting the youth homeless population including when someone first became homeless.

    The survey also will now includes questions about immigrants and refugees, as well as gender identity to better help cities co-ordinate and plan services or, in the case of newcomers to Canada, whether there may be “an issue that can be addressed upstream.”

    The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the updated questionnaire under the Access to Information Act.

    The first count last year included 32 cities. More cities have suggested they are interested in taking part in next year’s count.

    All of the data will feed into the Liberal government’s anti-poverty strategy that will target vulnerable populations like youth. Mathieu Filion, a spokesman for Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, said the government will look at the youth homeless study released Wednesday to see how its recommendations can be worked into the national anti-poverty plan.

    The study is based on a survey of 1,103 young people who were homeless in 42 different communities in nine provinces and Nunavut.

    There are about 6,500 young people between the ages of 13 and 24 homeless on any given night.

    The report urges the federal government to focus on preventing youth homelessness — particularly among Indigenous youth — and on provinces and territories to focus on “after care” by providing support as needed until age 25.

    “We’re not calling out child protection services,” Gaetz said. “We’re not pointing fingers going, ‘It’s horrible what you’re doing.’

    “Rather, we’re saying this is an unintended consequence of a whole number of things, but it’s something that we can identify as leading to bad outcomes when young people leave care.”

    New census data released last week reported some 43,880 youth in foster care in 2016, a decline of about 4,000 from the 47,890 young people Statistics Canada counted in 2011, the first time such data was collected for the census.

    The problem is particularly acute for Indigenous youth, who in 2011 made up nearly half of the children in care nationally. Statistics Canada is set to release more census details about Canada’s Aboriginal population later this fall.

    The study says that the problems with Indigenous child welfare, which governments have vowed to tackle, highlight the need for structural reforms to the system.

    “None of these approaches can be a one-size-fits-all approach,” said study co-author David French, director of policy and planning with A Way Home, a national, anti-youth-homelessness coalition.

    “So when you speak about Indigenous young people or young people who identify as LGBTQ2S, or new immigrant young people, each of them does require a targeted response underneath a specific strategy.”

    LGBTQ2S stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit, the latter term referring specifically to members of the Indigenous community.

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    CHAMPLAIN, N.Y.—They have come from all over the United States, piling out of taxis, pushing strollers and pulling luggage, to the end of a country road in the north woods.

    Where the pavement stops, they pick up small children and lead older ones wearing Mickey Mouse backpacks around a “road closed” sign, threading bushes, crossing a ditch, and filing past another sign in French and English that says “No pedestrians.” Then they are arrested.

    Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, migrants who came to the U.S. from across the globe — Syria, Congo, Haiti, elsewhere — arrive here where Roxham Rd. dead-ends so they can walk into Canada, hoping its policies will give them the security they believe the political climate in the United States does not.

    “In Trump’s country, they want to put us back to our country,” said Lena Gunja, a 10-year-old from Congo, who until this week had been living in Portland, Maine. She was travelling with her mother, father and younger sister. “So we don’t want that to happen to us, so we want a good life for us. My mother, she wants a good life for us.”

    Read more: Montreal’s Olympic Stadium becomes shelter as Haitian refugees from the U.S. seek home in Canada

    The passage has become so crowded this summer that Canadian police set up a reception centre on their side of the border in the Quebec community of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, about 50 kilometres south of Montreal, or almost 480 kilometres north of New York City.

    It includes tents that have popped up in the past few weeks, where migrants are processed before they are turned over to the Canada Border Services Agency, which handles their applications for refuge.

    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are adding electricity and portable toilets. A Canadian flag stands just inside the first tent, where the Mounties search the immigrants they've just arrested and check their travel documents. They are also offered food. Then shuttle buses take the processed migrants to their next destination. Trucks carry their luggage separately.

    The Canadian military said Wednesday that about 100 soldiers began arriving to prepare a site for tents to accommodate almost 500 people. The soldiers will also install lighting and heating equipment.

    How this spot, not even an official border crossing, became the favoured place to cross into Canada is anyone’s guess. But once migrants started going there, word spread on social media.

    Under the 2002 Safe Country Agreement between the United States and Canada, migrants seeking asylum must apply to the first country they arrive in. If they were to go to a legal port of entry, they would be returned to the United States and told to apply there.

    But, in a quirk in the application of the law, if migrants arrive in Canada at a location other than a port of entry, such as Roxham Rd., they are allowed to request refugee status there.

    Many take buses to Plattsburgh, New York, about 32 kilometres south. Some fly there, and others take Amtrak. Sometimes taxis carry people right up to the border. Others are let off up the road and have to walk, pulling their luggage behind them.

    Used bus tickets litter the pavement, their points of origin mostly blurred by rain that fell on nights previous. One read “Jacksonville.”

    One Syrian family said they flew into New York City on tourist visas and then went to Plattsburgh, where they took a taxi to the border.

    The migrants say they are driven by the perception that the age of Republican President Donald Trump, with his calls for bans on people from certain majority-Muslim countries, means the United States is no longer the destination of the world’s dispossessed. Taking its place in their minds is the Canada of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a member of his country’s Liberal Party.

    Most of the people making the crossing now are originally from Haiti. The Trump administration said this year it planned to end in January a special humanitarian program enacted after the 2010 earthquake that gave about 58,000 Haitians permission to stay temporarily in the U.S.

    Walking toward the border in a group on Monday, Medyne Milord, 47, originally of Haiti, said she needs work to support her family.

    “If I return to Haiti, the problem will double,” she said. “What I hope is to have a better life in Canada.”

    Jean Rigaud Liberal, 38, said he had been in the United States for seven months and lived in Florida after he left Haiti. He learned about Roxham Rd. from Facebook and said he thinks “Canada will be better than America.”

    “We are not comfortable in America,” Liberal said. “We are seeking a better life; we don’t want to go back to Haiti.”

    On the New York side, U.S. Border Patrol agents sometimes check to be sure the migrants are in the United States legally, but they said they don’t have the resources to do it all the time.

    Besides, said Brad Brant, a special operations supervisor for the U.S. Border Patrol, “our mission isn’t to prevent people from leaving.”

    Small numbers continue to cross into Canada elsewhere, but the vast majority take Roxham Rd. U.S. officials said they began to notice last fall, around the time of the U.S. presidential election, that more people were crossing there.

    Francine Dupuis, the head of a Quebec government-funded program that helps asylum seekers, said her organization estimates 1,174 people overall crossed into Quebec last month, compared with 180 in July 2016. U.S. and Canadian officials estimated that on Sunday alone, about 400 people crossed the border at Roxham Rd.

    “All they have to do is cross the border,” Dupuis said. “We can’t control it. They come in by the hundreds, and it seems to be increasing every day.”

    Canada said last week it planned to house some migrants in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. It could hold thousands, but current plans call for only 450.

    In most cases, once the migrants are in Canada they are released and can live freely while their claims for refugee status are processed, which can take years. Meanwhile, they are eligible for public assistance.

    Brenda Shanahan, the Liberal Party member of Parliament who represents the area, visited the site Monday. She is proud of her country for being willing to take in the dispossessed, she said, but there is no guarantee they will be able to stay in Canada.

    “It’s not a free ticket for refugee status, not at all,” Shanahan said.

    Opposition Conservative lawmaker Michelle Rempel said the Trudeau government lacks a plan to deal with the illegal crossings, even though a summer spike had been anticipated.

    “All that we have heard is that we are monitoring the situation,” she said. “The government needs to come up with a plan right away to deal with this.”

    It will further backlog a system in which some refugees are already waiting 11 years for hearings, Rempel said. Canadians will question the integrity of the immigration system if the “dangerous trend” of illegal crossings continues, she said.

    Trudeau himself recently said his country has border checkpoints and controls that need to be respected.

    “We have an open compassionate country, but we have a strong system that we follow,” he said. “Protecting Canadian confidence in the integrity of our system allows us to continue to be open, and that’s exactly what we need to continue to do.”

    Inancieu Merilien, originally of Haiti, moved to the United States in 2000 but crossed into Canada late last month. U.S. authorities, he said, are trying to scare Haitians by refusing to guarantee they’ll be able to stay.

    “There’s a big difference here. They welcomed us very well,” he said after leaving the Olympic Stadium to begin looking for a home in Montreal’s large Haitian community. “They’re going to give us housing in apartments. I hope everything goes well.”

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    Devon Travis isn’t one to wake up early and do a lot of moving around on the road. When it’s not game time, he mostly just sleeps and eats.

    Those habits earned the 26-year-old the nickname “The Baby,” which is what’ll be on the back of his jersey when the Blue Jays take on the Minnesota Twins at Rogers Centre the final weekend of August.

    Major League Baseball announced plans Wednesday to host the inaugural Players Weekend from Aug. 25-27, three days for MLB players to rock brightly coloured, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms.

    Instead of Donaldson, Bautista and Martin on their jerseys, the Jays will sport their nicknames — Bringer of Rain, Joey Bats, and Muscle. Players will also be able to wear uniquely coloured and designed spikes, batting gloves, wristbands, compression sleeves, catcher’s masks and bats.

    During pre-game workouts and post-game interviews, players will be able to don T-shirts that highlight a charity of their choice, and the right sleeve of each players’ jersey will feature a patch with a blank space to write the name of a person or organization that was instrumental to his development.

    Each player got to choose his own nickname, and the navy and powder blue jerseys are on sale for $199 at the MLB Store.

    Travis admits he doesn’t know many of the monikers his teammates chose — they’re not necessarily used on a day-to-day basis — but said he’s looking forward to getting to the bottom of each.

    “It’s just fun, something you can put on the back of our jersey and we can laugh,” said Travis. “It’ll be a fun day.”

    Here’s a closer look at what to expect from the Blue Jays players later this month:

    THE TRIED AND TRUE: You’ve heard them before and you’ll see them again at the end of the month: nicknames that have become common lingo among Toronto fans, especially over the past two years. There is Josh Donaldson’s“Bringer of Rain,” a reference to his Twitter handle and to all the third baseman’s home runs; Jose Bautista’s“Joey Bats,” because that is what the right-fielder does best; and Marcus Stroman’s“Stro-Show,” because no one puts on a show quite like the young right-hander.

    THE STANDOUTS: There will be a couple of not so well-known nicknames that could catch on for longer than just a weekend, such as Aaron Sanchez’s“Sanchize,” a tag he earned as one of the young faces of the franchise, which is already popular on social media. Then there’s catcher Russell Martin, the Blue Jays’ backbone, or “Muscle,” a nickname he copped to in a 2015 story by Sportsnet’s Kristina Rutherford that also rhymes with his first name. There is Roberto Osuna’s“No Panic,” hearkening back to the closer’s previous entrance music, and Marco Estrada’s “Estradabien,” a hybrid between the pitcher’s name, the Spanish phrase “esta bien,” loosely translated as “it’s all good.”

    The mock-up of Steve Pearce’s jersey initially looked like he intended to keep it simple as just use his last name, but it turns out he’ll be going with “The Train.” He hoped to use “Wayne Train,” a play on his middle name, but the slogan was copyrighted so he dropped the first half.

    THE TRADITIONALISTS: Then there are versions of the names you see all the time, sticking strictly to the traditional clubhouse moniker policy of playing on given names. Hence Ryan Tepera is “Tep”; Justin Smoak is “Moakey”; Kendrys Morales is “Mo Mo”; Dominic Leone is “Dom”; Ryan Goins is “Go Go”; J.A. Happ is “Happer”; Kevin Pillar is “Pill”; Ezequiel Carrera is “Zeke”; and Joe Biagini is “Gini.” Aaron Loup is expected to go with his usual Loup. This practice gets a bit tricky when you have Darwin Barney and Danny Barnes sharing a locker room. But the Blue Jays laugh in the face of such hurdles, going with “Dar Bar” for the infielder and “Barnezy” for the pitcher.

    THE ONES YOU WON’T SEE (BUT CAN BUY):Troy Tulowitzki and Travis are both on the 60-day disabled list at the moment, but the infielders were not left out of the jersey mix. The shortstop’s version comes emblazoned with the traditional “Tulo.”

    Other injured players getting the nod include catcher Luke Maile (“Mailes”) and utility man Chris Coghlan (“Cogs”). Chris Smith, who was optioned to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons last week, gets a token “Smitty” jersey but pitchers Leonel Campos, Taylor Cole, J.P. Howell, catcher Raffi Lopez, outfielder Nori Aoki and infielder Rob Refsnyder, all on the Blue Jays’ current 25-man roster, were left out of the mix.

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    It can cause third-degree burns and even permanent blindness – and it’s spreading.

    Giant hogweed is cutting a wider swath in B.C. and Ontario, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada is urging people across the country to document sightings of the­ towering, three-metre green plant with large umbels of white flowers.

    Dan Kraus, a biologist with the conservancy, said the invasive Asian species likely arrived in Canada in the 1940s and can now be found in areas of the Atlantic provinces and Quebec, and has been spreading in southern Ontario and southern B.C.

    “Nobody’s really sure when it arrived here. It was probably introduced as an ornamental plant and it is starting to slowly spread,” said Kraus from Guelph, Ont.

    “It’s possible people are moving it from garden to garden. They see it in their aunt’s garden and they think it’s this wonderful plant, and they’re collecting seeds and moving it to another location, which is something we definitely don’t want people to do.”

    In 2015, five children in England were reportedly burned in two separate incidents after coming into contact with giant hogweed in public parks.

    Often mistaken for the similar-looking cow parsnip, it can be seen growing in gardens, along roadsides, in ditches and on the shores of rivers and streams. Its clear sap can cause blistering third-degree burns and even permanent blindness if it touches the body and is then exposed to the sun, through a phototoxic reaction.

    “It’s very nasty. It can cause huge water blisters — almost like boils — that erupt on your skin,” said Todd Boland, a research horticulturist at Memorial University’s Botanical Garden in St. John’s, N.L.

    “It may be the next day before you start to see the effects. That’s the funny thing about this. It’s not like it’s an instant thing. It takes awhile and you have to have repeated exposure to the sun.”

    But simply touching the plant is not dangerous, Boland stressed. It’s the sap that is problematic and washing your body and clothes after exposure can prevent the phototoxic reaction.

    “If you get it in your eye, it can lead to permanent blindness, but that’s pretty rare. You’d be hard-pressed to get it in your eye unless you were rolling around in the plant,” said Boland, adding that giant hogweed can be found in the St. John’s area.

    The plant has prompted communities across Canada to issue warnings to residents in recent years.

    Guelph, Ont., has been dealing with giant hogweed for about two years and although it is now contained in two locations, eradicating the plant has proven difficult.

    “In 2015 we removed some plants from one location and the next year we returned to the site and there were no plants, but this year we returned to find plants,” said Timea Filer, an urban forester with the city. “So there appears to be a seed bank and we’ll have to monitor it continually.”

    Kraus said there is also a concern about a loss of native biodiversity, as giant hogweed is an aggressive plant that can outcompete native plants and spread — especially when it grows near waterways and its seeds are carried downstream. One plant can produce thousands of seeds and they can stay in the ground for years before germinating.

    The conservancy is asking people to document sightings of the invasive plant through apps such as iNaturalist, which helps scientists understand how the plants are spreading and identifies areas in which they need to be eradicated, he said.

    “We also want to make people aware that they may have a plant in their garden which at some point could spread into a natural area and impact on biodiversity... or have public health impacts,” said Kraus.

    “Ideally you want to keep invasive plants out, but the next best thing is to detect them early and to remove them before they take over large areas.”

    Kraus said Canadians who spot giant hogweed should contact local parks officials.

    0 0

    SEOUL, KOREA, REPUBLIC OF—North Korea on Thursday announced a detailed plan to launch a volley of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers, and dismissed President Donald Trump’s threats of “fire and fury” if it doesn’t back down.

    The announcement, made in the name of a general who heads North Korea’s rocket command, warned the North is preparing a plan to fire four of its Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan and into waters around the tiny island, which hosts 7,000 U.S. military personnel on two main bases and has a population of 160,000.

    It said the plan could be finalized within a week or so and would then go to leader Kim Jong Un for approval. It would be up to Kim whether the move is actually carried out. It said the missiles would hit waters 30 to 40 kilometres away from the island.

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

    It is unclear whether North Korea would risk firing missiles so close to U.S. territory, which could provoke countermeasures and further escalation.

    North Korea frequently uses extremely bellicose rhetoric with warnings of military action to keep its adversaries on their heels. It generally couches its threats with language stating it will not attack the United States unless it has been attacked first or has determined an attack is imminent.

    But the statement raised worries amid a barrage of threats from both sides.

    Following reports that U.S. intelligence suggests the North might be able to pair a nuclear warhead with a missile capable of reaching targets on the United States mainland, Trump warned North Korea that “it faces retaliation with fire and fury unlike any the world has seen before.”

    Pyongyang, meanwhile, has been louder in its complaints against a new and tough round of sanctions imposed on it by the United Nations, with strong U.S. backing, and Washington’s use of Guam as a staging ground for its stealth bombers, which could be used to attack North Korea and are a particularly sore point with the rulers in Pyongyang.

    Even so, its reported plan to launch missiles toward Guam is extremely unusual.

    Read more:

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    Ever wonder how Trump might handle a crisis? North Korea may give him one sooner than previously thought: Analysis

    The report said the Hwasong-12 rockets would fly over Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi prefectures in Japan and travel “1,065 seconds before hitting the waters 30 to 40 kilometres away from Guam.”

    It said the Korean People’s Army Strategic Force will finalize the plan by mid-August, present it to Kim Jong Un and “wait for his order.”

    “We keep closely watching the speech and behaviour of the U.S.,” it said.

    Such a move would not merely be a test launch, but a demonstration of military capabilities in a manner than could easily lead to severe consequences.

    If North Korea were to actually carry out such a launch — even if it aimed at hitting the waters off the island and not the island itself — that would clearly pose a potential threat to U.S. territory and put the United States in a much more complicated situation than it has been during previous missile launches.

    Guam lies about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometres) from the Korean Peninsula, and it’s extremely unlikely Kim’s government would risk annihilation with a pre-emptive attack on U.S. citizens. It’s also unclear how reliable North Korea’s missiles would be against such a distant target, but no one was writing off the danger completely.

    Washington has been testing its missile defences in response to the North’s stepped-up development and the current escalation of tensions could lead to pressure for the U.S. military to try to shoot down the North’s missiles in midflight if they are heading toward Guam.

    That would likely open up a set of very major problems, including the possibility of both a very high-profile failure or a miscalculation of Washington’s intentions and a more deadly pre-emptive strike by the North — which has missiles able to hit Tokyo and conventional weapons that could devastate South Korea’s capital of Seoul.

    The Hweasong-12, which was revealed for the first time at a military parade in April, is an intermediate-range ballistic missile that is believed to have a range of more than 3,700 kilometres. It can be fired from mobile launchers, making it hard to detect and destroy on the ground.

    By launching a volley of four, the North would be attempting to make it harder for the U.S. to intercept all of the incoming missiles.

    Washington, meanwhile, has been giving out mixed signals of what its intensions might be.

    While Trump was threatening annihilation and boasting from the New Jersey golf resort where he’s vacationing that he has made the U.S. nuclear arsenal “far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to calm the sense of crisis.

    Speaking earlier Wednesday on his way home from Asia, he insisted the U.S. isn’t signalling a move toward military action.

    “Americans should sleep well at night,” Tillerson told reporters. “Nothing that I have seen and nothing that I know of would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours.”

    But then Defence Secretary Jim Mattis ratcheted the rhetoric back up, calling on Pyongyang to “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.” As seldom as it is for a president to speak of using nuclear missiles, the reference to the “destruction” of a foreign people is equally rare.

    North Korea immediately called Trump’s rhetoric a “load of nonsense” that was aggravating a grave situation.

    0 0

    Not guilty but not so innocent either.

    Not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

    And not worth it, maybe: The invasion of privacy, the savagery of cross-examination, the dismantling of a woman’s character.

    There was no surprise in the acquittal Wednesday of three off-duty cops charged with sexual assault.

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    There was just a judge — a wise, widely respected female judge — palpably gritting her teeth, on the bench reading aloud and in her written decision issued, which found the defendants not guilty of forcing sexual acts upon a non-consenting female parking officer.

    And one lone voice yelping out a “Yeah!” in the courtroom as the verdict was delivered — the sister of a defendant unable to contain her relief. But even that interjection sounded heavily inappropriate in this setting and was abruptly stilled.

    It helps to love the law, as Justice Anne Molloy clearly does, in fraught cases such as this. The law pivots on a presumption of innocence even for those accused of sexual assault, just as it applies in any other criminal offence. Amidst competing testimony and conflicting evidence, it was the Crown’s responsibility to prove the case brought against Constables Leslie Nyznik, Sameer Kara and Joshua Cabero. The prosecution failed, as it so often does, when one person’s word is pitted against another person’s word and the alleged offence is sexual.

    “Although the slogan ‘Believe the victim’ has become popularized of late, it has no place in a criminal trial,” Molloy wrote. “To approach a trial with the assumption that the complainant is telling the truth is the equivalent of imposing a presumption of guilt on the person accused of sexual assault and then placing a burden on him to prove his innocence. That is antithetical to the fundamental principles of justice enshrined in our constitution and the values underlying our free and democratic society.”

    Whether deserving of it or not, these police officers are the beneficiaries of a sound, centuries-old justice system that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    There was too much doubt, much of it emanating from the complainant’s lengthy appearance in the witness stand, subjected to unconscionable character assassination. Some of those lapses were trivial and insignificant. Others were more problematic, especially when placed against the evidence of a toxicology expert who testified that the complainant’s alcohol consumption, based on her own recollection of drinks imbibed, was inconsistent with the symptoms of blackouts, nausea and immobility which purportedly ensued.

    The complainant — whose identity is protected by a publication ban — maintained that her body was unresponsive, her mental will useless, such that she was unable to fend off the unwanted simultaneous sexual acts by all three accused — intercourse and fellatio — inside a room at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in the early morning hours of Jan. 17, 2015, following a night of pub crawling.

    A blood-alcohol concentration — estimated and projected, given the complainant’s account, her height and weight — of between 65 mg and 90 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood, “would not come close to” the level of impairment required to cause memory blackouts and loss of consciousness. The complainant leaned heavily on that scenario to explain away inconsistencies in her testimony.

    Such symptoms could only be contributable to the ingestion of a drug, which was the complainant’s firm belief, although she could not point to an instance where her drink might have been spiked and there’s no evidence of that occurring in the surveillance tapes available. Further, as the expert from the Centre of Forensic Sciences testified — a Crown witness — had the culprit been GHB or ketamine (common rape drugs), the effects would have been felt within 15 to 30 minutes of ingestion, peaked and then disappeared within half an hour. No memories, rather than patchy memories, would have resulted from that blackout period.

    AB (the initials made up by the judge) did have memories from that sordid hotel room encounter. Also, upon arrival at the Harbour Castle, she is seen on video getting out of the cab without problem, then conversing normally with two of the accused as they wait for an elevator.

    “That does not mean that AB was lying about these symptoms,” Molloy observed. “It is possible she has an inaccurate or unreliable memory of her symptoms. It is also possible . . . that she has reconstructed a memory of her own participation in the hotel room and believes it to be true.”

    Throughout the month-long trial, defence lawyers — and Nyznik, the only accused to take the stand — insisted that the sexual episode was consensual and that, in fact, AB was the one who initiated it.

    If eyes rolled at Nyznik’s under-oath version of events — with AB the succubus, preying on a trio of men (one of them, her friend Kara, sleeping off his colossal drunk when she got to the room) — there was precious little to hang a conviction on. That is the nature of such trials and why it takes a brave complainant to go the prosecution route.

    Molloy made no bones about her skepticism regarding Nyznik’s evidence, bold-facing that section in her decision: I Do Not Necessarily Believe Mr. Nyznik.

    Indeed, Molloy agreed with most of the Crown’s submissions that the testimony was scripted and missing in details except for those aspects which the prosecution characterized as “rehearsed.”

    “However, making a determination that someone has lied under oath is not an easy task. There are certainly aspects of Mr. Nyznik’s testimony that I did not find convincing.” Some of his account — describing how AB had pulled down his zipper and taken his penis into her mouth with no assistance or prior discussion, for example — was “unlikely.” Parts of his evidence “simply did not ring true.” But Molloy was stuck with what was presented.

    “I do not find Mr. Nyznik’s version of the events to be compelling and I am not able to say I necessarily believe him. However, neither am I in a position to say that I reject his evidence as untruthful. I simply do not know whether or not he is telling the truth about the critical issue — the consent of the complainant to the acts he described.”

    A jury, possibly, with lesser appreciation of the law, might have come to a more gut-instinct conclusion. But Molloy, in a judge-alone trial, didn’t have the luxury of instinct over evidence. She clearly went as far as she could go, adhering to the constraints of law.

    That included, quite notably, an entire section on: Irrelevant Evidence and Things I Have Not Taken Into Account.

    This, I believe, was an admonition to the defence team for getting down and dirty in their rape-myth maligning of the complainant’s character: The allegation she’d told Nyznik and Kara, before hand, that she planned to wear a short skirt to “Rookie Buy Night,” for “easy access” (Molloy was not satisfied the comment had been made and it didn’t matter to whether she consented to sex several days later); the insignificance of what AB was wearing that night (“What a woman wears is no indication of her willingness to have sexual intercourse, nor can it be seen as even the remotest justification for assuming she is consenting to sex”); AB’s willing accompaniment of Kara and Nyznik to a strip club or whether she “invited herself” to their hotel room afterwards; her initial reluctance to report the alleged assault and her erratic behaviour in the days that followed.

    “In particular, a woman who has been the victim of a sexual assault will not necessarily exhibit immediate symptoms of trauma. She might, or might not, be weepy. She might, or might not, be depressed and withdrawn. She might, or might not, be hysterical. Or she might cover up any of those kinds of emotions with an exterior of jocularity …

    “There is simply no ‘normal’ or typical’. I have not taken any of this conduct into account in reaching my decision.”

    May not feel that way, in this moment, but that’s a win for victims of sexual assault.

    It gives them back their dignity.

    0 0

    Hyeon Soo Lim is free.

    After two and a half years of detention in North Korea, Lim — the senior pastor at the Light Presbyterian Church in Mississauga — is heading home Thursday.

    The 62-year-old was expected to fly on a Canadian government charter directly from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to Ottawa, where he will reunite with his family. The Lims — who have not seen each other in person since the pastor’s detention in 2015 — will then travel to Toronto, where the family has a west-end home.

    Sen. Yonah Martin, deputy leader of the Conservatives in the Senate, is a friend of Lim’s. She described her reaction to the Toronto man’s imminent release as “relief and disbelief — with a lot of anxiousness mixed in.”

    Read more: Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim released over health reasons, says North Korea

    “I had a great sense of relief but it took me by surprise only because it had been so long,” she said of Lim’s detention — more than 900 days.

    “This is long-awaited.”

    On Monday, a high-ranking Canadian government delegation quietly flew to Pyongyang to discuss Lim’s release. The group, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser, Daniel Jean, secured Lim’s freedom and by Wednesday, preparations for departure were underway.

    The news was first reported by North Korea’s state media as a “sick bail” decision by the country’s Central Court, granted on humanitarian grounds.

    “Rim Hyon Su, a Canadian civilian, was released on sick bail according to the decision of the Central Court of the DPRK on Aug. 9, 2017 from the humanitarian viewpoint,” the Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday, using the country’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

    “He (Lim) had been under the penalty of indefinite hard labour as he conducted hostile deeds against the DPRK,” the news agency continued.

    The Prime Minister’s Office had no comment on Lim’s release Wednesday.

    Jean’s delicate Canadian mission to extricate Lim — thought to be the longest-held western prisoner in North Korea — was carried out as tensions amplified this week between the United States and North Korea over nuclear capabilities. U.S. President Donald Trump’s warning about unleashing “fire and fury” on the authoritarian regime spurred North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to threaten a missile strike on Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific.

    A medical doctor was reportedly aboard the Canadian charter.

    As prisoner No. 036, Lim dug holes for eight hours a day, six days a week, in a hard-labour camp since December 2015.

    Lim is apparently in poor health and has lost weight. He has high blood pressure, a condition that requires medication. The North Koreans permitted that medicine to be sent to Lim, via the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.

    Canada does not have a diplomatic presence in North Korea and the Swedish Embassy serves as the protective power for Canadians there.

    Lim, a native of South Korea, is the spiritual leader of one of Canada’s largest churches. The Light Presbyterian Church has about 3,000 members, a congregation that under Lim’s stewardship grew from about half a dozen families over two decades.

    As part of his ministry, Lim developed a passion for humanitarian work.

    He and church colleagues travelled to countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea on charitable visits. Lim eventually decided to devote more time and money to the needy in North Korea, making about 110 trips there since 1997. Besides bringing in food, Lim’s charitable operations included supporting orphanages and a seniors’ nursing home.

    On his last visit, Lim went missing the same day he crossed the border from China into a northern region in late January 2015. North Korean authorities later confirmed they’d detained the Canadian. In December of that year, Lim was convicted of ostensibly plotting to overthrow the Kim regime and was given a life sentence in a hard labour camp.

    Raymond Cho, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Scarborough-Rouge River, said he prayed for the return of his friend, whom he calls “a gentle man.”

    “I believe in the power of prayer,” said Cho, who has known Lim for two decades. “I prayed for him every night, twice a night.”

    Cho, like Lim a native of South Korea, said the pastor will need time to rest and recover to full health but for now, he’s relieved at Lim’s release.

    “The bottom line is he’s coming home,” Cho said.

    With files from Bruce Campion-Smith

    0 0

    When Liberal MPP Glen Murray rides off into the sunset on Sept. 1, residents of Toronto Centre will go without a representative at Queen’s Park for more than nine months.

    That’s because Premier Kathleen Wynne has opted not to call a byelection since there will be a provincial election on June 7, 2018.

    By law, Wynne is allowed to do that, but NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it is unfair to those living in the downtown riding and “extremely inappropriate.”

    “It’s quite shocking that the people of Toronto Centre will be without an MPP for … nine months. I think that’s quite shocking and I’m surprised,” Horwath said Thursday at Queen’s Park.

    “The premier is prepared to allow that riding to be without representation here in the Legislature for two more sessions. The end of this year and then the spring of next year,” she said.

    Murray announced his resignation from cabinet on July 31 to take a new post as executive director the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based environmental think tank. His tenure as an MPP ends Sept. 1.

    Wynne defended her decision, noting “there’s a significant cost associated with running a byelection” — as much as $500,000.

    “There will continue to be a community office in place. There will continue to be service to the residents and the constituents of Toronto Centre … but I think it is only responsible that we not — so close to an election — incur the cost of a byelection,” she said two weeks ago.

    “We’re moving into that period well within a year of a general election and historically, there has been a practice when you get that close it’s not necessarily responsible to call a byelection. So, we won’t be doing that.”

    Under provincial law, a byelection must be called within six months of a vacancy unless an election is imminent.

    But the premier’s decision to forego a byelection was surprising since Toronto Centre is considered a safe Liberal seat provincially and federally, where Finance Minister Bill Morneau is the MP.

    One senior Toronto Liberal, speaking on background in order to discuss internal party machinations, expressed astonishment that Wynne would cede the political advantage in a key riding.

    “It is not smart to leave territory open,” said the Grit, warning the NDP, the traditional runner-up in Toronto Centre, could exploit the vacuum there.

    “Toronto Centre can be an energy and money source — not a cost (for the Liberals),” the insider said.

    0 0

    NIAGARA FALLS, ONT.—Animal cruelty charges that had been laid against Marineland were dropped Thursday after prosecutors said there was no reasonable chance of conviction on most of the 11 counts faced by the Ontario tourist attraction.

    During a brief hearing in a Niagara Falls, Ont., courtroom, the Crown said it could have proceeded on three of the charges — which related to failing to comply with standards of care for a peacock, guinea hens and a red deer — but did not believe it was in the public interest to do so, citing potential court costs and a weak case.

    Crown attorney Stephen Galbraith said prosecutors had instead come up with an alternative solution that included ongoing monitoring of the amusement park and zoo.

    “The Crown’s case is more circumstantial than direct evidence,” Galbraith told the court. “The photographs and video provided preserves observations, but there was no independent examination of the animals. The veterinarian’s report was not able to determine the cause of issues related to the animals.”

    The justice of the peace hearing the case accepted the Crown’s submission and withdrew the charges.

    The 11 charges against Marineland were the result of an investigation by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that was launched last November after the animal welfare agency received a complaint.

    Marineland was initially charged with five counts of animal cruelty late last year in connection with the treatment of peacocks, guinea hens and black bears. In January, the OSPCA laid six more animal cruelty charges against Marineland relating to elk, red deer and fallow deer.

    In a statement issued after Thursday’s court hearing, Marineland said it had suffered “reputational damage” as a result of the charges that were withdrawn.

    “The Crown conducted its own independent review of the OSPCA charges and has effectively agreed with Marineland by determining all the charges ought to be withdrawn,” the company said.

    Read more:

    Marineland charged with six new counts of animal cruelty

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    Marineland charged for five counts of animal cruelty in ongoing investigation

    The OSPCA said it was surprised the charges were withdrawn.

    “We are extremely disappointed in this outcome and feel that this matter is of public interest as all animals rely on humans for appropriate care for their general welfare and the public demands this,” said OSPCA chief inspector Connie Mallory.

    “If anyone has any concerns for the welfare of the animals at Marineland, we encourage the public to contact 310-SPCA to report the new information.”

    The 35-page complaint that prompted the OSPCA investigation in November was filed by a California-based animal rights group called Last Chance for Animals. It contained allegations of animal abuse along with photographs and videos from a former Marineland employee.

    The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the group’s complaint, as well as copies of the photos and videos from the former employee with metadata indicating they were taken on Marineland property last summer.

    Marineland said at the time that the complaint was part of a smear campaign by a former employee who had been fired for poor performance and inappropriate behaviour. It also argued the images and videos may be doctored.

    The former employee, who requested anonymity for fear of being sued, told The Canadian Press he quit on good terms and is not an animal activist and doesn’t want the park to close.

    Last Chance for Animals, meanwhile, has said its goal is not to shut down Marineland, though it does believe “wild animals should be left in the wild.”

    On Thursday, Marineland reiterated its previous position that the OSPCA laid the charges to appease animal rights groups that have criticized it for not doing enough to protect animals.

    “The OSPCA literally prepared the first of these charges on site, after spending a single afternoon executing a search warrant and viewing more than 4,000 animals across more than three hundred acres at our park,” Marineland said. “The OSPCA did not remove or isolate any of the 4,000 animals, despite laying multiple charges.”

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