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    Google gave its employee James Damore the axe this week. Figuratively speaking, should it have, instead, killed him softly with its love?

    Damore, whom we will be hearing more about in the coming days as the newest face of white supremacy, is reportedly considering suing the tech giant for wrongful dismissal.

    An internal memo he wrote to staff, made infamous on social media as the “Google Manifesto,” said you can’t blame discrimination or hiring practices for the dismal number of women in the tech industry and leadership positions.

    It’s biology, stupid.

    Read more:

    Google memo shows workplace free speech protections are limited

    Ex-Google engineer James Damore says ‘secretive’ diversity session prompted memo

    Google fires author of divisive memo on gender differences

    Women’s “neuroticism” makes them less suited to be software developers.

    He said, “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.” Then he proceeded to rationalize the exclusion of women and to stereotype them.

    The internet well-nigh exploded, its embers descending onto predictable corners. At one end were those outraged that a supposedly logical-minded engineer could cherry-pick scientific studies to make sweeping, absolute denouncements about half of humanity. On the other, were those outraged that a man speaking up for the status quo was vilified and had his free speech rights violated.

    Much of the debate has focused on whether the brains of men and women are biologically different. One study says they are, another says they are not not. Certainly, no credible studies have made the connection between those differences and the career choices women make.

    While it’s comforting to seek the status quo and explain away discrimination as a biological necessity — not being equally considered for those “bro” jobs is in our interest, silly— why do countries such as India and those in Latin America produce proportionally more female programmers than North America?

    To lean on science first and then to switch to the claim that women don’t want leadership because “these positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life,” is just ridiculous, and ignores societal expectations that women carry the physical and mental load of running the house. It’s not just about who does the dishes.

    Damore says, “Status is the primary metric that men are judged on, pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail.”

    Aww, those poor rich corporate bosses. Given a chance, they’d much rather do a 9 to 5, rush home and take charge of the household, pick up their kids, help with homework, run their baths, cook dinners, prep for school the next day, arrange play dates, arrange the social calendar, relationships, groceries . . . just bliss. Instead they are valiantly living up to societal pressures to be powerful.

    “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

    — Unknown

    Damore’s views have clearly reverberated far beyond the boundaries of the tech industry to the wider world of sexists who couch their support of male dominance by heaping scorn on political correctness, by claiming victimhood while calling those actually victimized snowflakes, and finally, by relying on their “natural” leadership.

    They see opposition to their views as hypocrisy. They think social justice advocates welcome diversity of thought only when they agree with it.

    But an opinion is not “diverse” just because it differs from the norm.

    True diversity of thought based on different experiences enriches places of learning, places of work and societies when those speaking are not discounted simply for who they are. A differing view is not legitimate when all it seeks is to further oppress the marginalized.

    One immediate reaction that was widely cited within Google and outside was a persuasive opinion piece by a former employee, Yonatar Zunger, who said characteristics such as empathy, described as “female” in the manifesto, make you better engineers. “Engineering is not the art of building devices; it’s the art of fixing problems,” he wrote. “The large bulk of your job is about co-ordinating and co-operating with other groups.”

    He also made a case for why he would fire Damore. “I could not in good conscience assign anyone to work with you. You have just created a textbook hostile workplace environment.”

    Google fired Damore on Tuesday.

    There was another option. Google could have made Damore work in an all-women’s team with only female bosses, letting him stick out like a sore thumb, torn from his clique, unable to use “female” skills of collaboration because — biology just made him that way. Would he still want to “de-moralize diversity” if it meant there could be no men on his team? Would he still want to “de-emphasize empathy” if it led to his isolation?

    Google’s firing supposedly sent a message that sexist views would not be tolerated.

    In reality, it was not the views, but the expression of such views that were not being tolerated. The tech giant applied a Band-Aid to a far deeper cut. Firing people like Damore pushes underground the sexism that manifests daily in subtle ways around who is considered favourably, who is assigned challenging tasks, whose errors are excused more readily than others.

    The outcome of such thinking shows up in Google’s employee demographics (similar to other tech companies): predominantly male (nearly seven in 10) and predominantly white (56 per cent), with Asian males making inroads.

    It shows up in the company’s secrecy over its salary information while being investigated by the U.S. government over allegations of gender wage gap.

    In being tardy about changing its institutional sexism, all the Google firing did was confirm delusions of victimhood among the powerful and deliver supremacists a new martyr.

    Shree Paradkar writes on discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar

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    It was the morning commute from hell on the TTC.

    In a string of incidents and issues Thursday — causing delays which prompted an apology from Mayor John Tory — the transit service responded to everything from signal issues to medical emergencies to a trespasser on the tracks.

    Thousands of passengers at the height of rush hour had to deal with at least 40 additional minutes to their travel times. And, if anything, commuters were united by their bitterness.

    “The TTC is an “Award Winning Transit Service” . . . this is why participation trophies are bad,” one passenger tweeted.

    “Getting screwed over by the TTC one last time before my farewell to this city,” another added.

    There was also some sweetness. Commuter Nikki Clydesdale said passengers were trading seats between stations, offering their spot to anyone having a rough time standing for so long.

    “The (emergency) workers were doing a great job of helping people out,” Clydesdale said. “I saw them laughing with and comforting a girl who was having an anxiety attack.”

    The chaotic sequence began around 6 a.m. when the TTC tweeted about a five-minute delay southbound between St. George and St. Patrick stations because of signal issues.

    The delay steadily grew worse.

    Between Sheppard West and St. Patrick stations, more signal problems meant a 40-minute delay by 8 a.m. Commuters took to social media to declare that the delays were actually much longer.

    “When a 20-minute subway ride turns into a 1.5 hour subway ride. Thanks #TTC,” one passenger tweeted.

    Fourteen emergency alarms were set off across the TTC over the course of the morning, including passengers fainting and having seizures inside the subway cars. This led to a “domino effect” and caused more delays, TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said.

    Problems on the morning commute included:

    • Trains turning back at Islington station due to signal issues at Kipling on Line 2 at around 8:30 a.m. but the issue was later resolved.

    • Inside Queen’s Park station around 9 a.m, a pair of medical incidents drew emergency services to the same platform. As the train crawled into the station, commuters reached out to find water for a sick girl, crouching down to offer her help.

    • A suspicious package was reported near the Bloor subway station around 11 a.m. Bloor St. shut down at Yonge while the situation was investigated. No evacuations were necessary.

    • At around 11:50 a.m, the TTC had also suspended service both ways at Rosedale station, with a power-off situation because of a trespasser at the track level. Power was rebooted quickly after the issue was resolved.

    It wasn’t until nearly 1:30 p.m., when the original signal issue at St. Patrick was resolved.

    Ross said the TTC sincerely apologized to passengers for the delays. The situation’s origins had been traced back to Wednesday night maintenance crews, he explained, who inadvertently caused the signals at St. Patrick station to default to red and cause longer-than-normal travel times.

    A piece of equipment from the 1950s was mistakenly removed from an equipment room. To resolve the issue, track crews had to manually allow trains to bypass over trip arms that normally prevent trains from running red lights. Because of the issue southbound at St. Patrick, not enough trains were able to leave Wilson Yard to meet the morning rush.

    “This was a unique, one-off situation that has not happened before and should not happen again,” he wrote in an explainer posted on Twitter.

    Tory also apologized. The mayor posted five tweets on the delays, beginning with an apology on behalf of the city and the TTC. “It was due to work being done overnight installing the automatic train control system,” Tory wrote of the Line 1 disruption.

    “We’re trying our hardest to avoid disruptions at all times as we work to install this new signal system . . . once we have automatic train control, this won’t happen — that’s why we’re installing it and replacing a decades-old system.

    “We will continue to try to do better and we know today’s TTC service didn’t meet the standard that people expect and deserve.”

    The issues come just before a planned disruption of the transit service on Saturday and Sunday, where Line 1 will be closed between Sheppard West and St. George for signal upgrades for the second time in a month.

    Installation of the new signal system is expected to be completed by 2019.

    With files from Alanna Rizza

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    OTTAWA—A recent court decision should come as a warning to the federal government to stop playing fast and loose with airline passenger safety rules, says the head of a union that represents thousands of flight attendants in Canada.

    In the wake of the ruling last week by the Federal Court of Appeal., the Canadian Union of Public Employees is urging the Liberal government to make changes to federal aviation rules about the ratio of crew to passengers on planes.

    The court disagreed with Transport Canada’s conclusion that there was no impact on passenger or crew safety when it allowed Sunwing Airlines to increase the ratio of passengers to flight attendants on its aircraft.

    Under federal rules at the time, flights originating in Canada were required to have one attendant for every 40 passengers, unless the transport minister granted an exemption.

    In 2013, Sunwing asked to raise the ratio to 1-50 on its Boeing 737-800 aircraft — each of which can seat 189 passengers, according to seating charts on the company’s website. That ratio is now the threshold for all carriers in Canada.

    Sunwing also sought permission to change procedures for flight attendants during an emergency evacuation.

    However, the airline failed three separate tests of the new system, in which crews were required to perform a partial evacuation in just 15 seconds. A Transport Canada inspector was on hand for those tests.

    The inspector suggested the crew could save time by foregoing “blocking” orders, which calls for a passenger to block the aisle to allow a crew member to open an emergency exit. The advice worked; the crew passed the test.

    However, before the government could sign off on the change, Sunwing was told to provide a risk assessment showing that dropping the blocking order from its procedures wouldn’t compromise safety.

    The resulting risk assessment said that it would be unlikely that passengers would block emergency exits during an evacuation.

    CUPE took the government to court over the decision to increase the ratio on Sunwing flights. The union represents more than 11,500 flight attendants at nine airlines.

    The ruling, dated Aug. 4, said the risk assessment was “cursory and provides no indication of how this conclusion was reached.” The judge also felt that testimony at trial showed that “no reliable testing was conducted to verify the accuracy of the conclusions.”

    The inspector didn’t review the assessment before giving his seal of approval, the judge added.

    The Supreme Court’s test for government decisions requires that they be transparent, intelligible and justifiable; this decision met none of those benchmarks, the judge continued, saying there was no way to determine how the inspector reached such conclusions.

    “Not only did the inspector fail to review Sunwing’s risk assessment, there is in addition no evidentiary basis to substantiate the assumption that passengers would not likely block a Sunwing flight attendant who needs to open an emergency exit to evacuate the aircraft,” the ruling said.

    “It is impossible to see how the inspector could have been satisfied that the proposed amendment ... did not compromise safety.”

    The government was also ordered to cover the union’s legal costs of $3,000.

    “This is a major wake-up call for Transport Canada. The safety of passengers and crew must come first, before any other consideration,” CUPE national president Mark Hancock said in a statement.

    A Transport Canada spokesperson said officials are reviewing the ruling.

    A June report from the House of Commons transport committee recommended the government review the 1-50 ratio with an eye to safety and security.

    The union wants the Liberal government to require all airlines to use the lower ratio of passengers to crew to promote safety.

    Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.

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    How will Canadians be living in 2018? They will be “together apart” within their homes, surrounded with blues and greens, natural materials and glitzy metallic embellishments.

    The predictions come from Ikea Canada, which is releasing its 2018 furniture and design catalogue August 14. Widely considered a predictor of lifestyle shifts, the catalogue will reach seven million homes across Canada by August 25.

    This year’s theme is “Make room for life” and it’s centred around the living room — one of the hardest working spaces in the home, said Kathy Davey, the interior design head of Ikea Canada.

    “The influences there are urbanization and technology, those are really two big trends we’re seeing,” she said.

    Movement to city centres has people living in smaller spaces, Davey said, which means the spaces have to be more fluid, since they’re used for a variety of activities.

    Technology has influenced a trend Davey called “together apart,” where people can be together in the same room but using different devices, such as a tablet and a phone, putting them essentially a world away from each other.

    Key to that is showing people they don’t have to have their sofa along a wall, or anchor it to a TV set, Davey said.

    “Just enabling people to really have this custom space that we’re not seeing today, that we really want people to be bold and brave and have a new take on their living room, especially because it’s a much more multi-functional space,” she said.

    Ikea carried out market research in Canada, customer surveys and home visits to figure out how people behave in their homes and what activities take place in them. The company also noticed people have been bringing nature into their homes — from herb gardens to flowers.

    “Greenery is becoming important in the home and people want to see more natural materials,” Davey said.

    “People are feeling they need more and more to reflect their own personal style. They’re getting so many different influences out there, but in their home they really want to put a stamp on their own space — it’s the one environment they can control,” she said.


    This brass-coloured 20-piece flatware set does the double duty of being both chic and dishwasher safe.



    Champagne coupes bring a touch of The Great Gatsby to a get-together, unlike their fluted counterparts.

    $2.99 each


    The metallic base is on trend right now and, Davey said, “they really bring, I would say, the accent to the home.”



    This table lamp looks like a fishbowl over a light bulb and is one of the many “shiny glass objects” featured in the new catalogue. “You could say it’s the jewelry to the wardrobe,” Davey said of accessories.



    This decorative hourglass is one of the elegant accessories in the catalogue. “These things add a level of detail and quality, I think, to be warm and inviting and inspiring,” Davey said.



    This sofa has storage on all sides and can be placed in the middle of a room, not up against a wall. “Sofa, of course, is the soul of the living room,” Davey said. “It’s about comfort and quality but it doesn’t have to be lining the walls anymore and your sofa doesn’t need to be in front of a TV.”



    These colourful office chairs come in blue, grey and green and let your living room stay trendy and bright, even if it’s doing double duty as a study. “We really want people to be bold and brave and have a new take on their living room, especially because it’s a much more multi-functional space,” Davey said.



    These shiny bowls, plates and side plates made of tempered glass add a bit of glitz to dinner.


    This brass-coloured frame can hold anything from mail to keys to help keep a small space organized and stylish.


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    HALIFAX—Former prime minister Paul Martin said he thinks a federal payout to Omar Khadr could have been avoided had Ottawa handled the situation differently from the start.

    Speaking after receiving an award in Halifax, Martin told The Canadian Press he wishes Ottawa had taken a different approach in the early stages of the Khadr case, but his own government had to work with the hand it had been dealt.

    “I think it was a situation that was not well handled by a succession of governments, and I think obviously hindsight demonstrates that,” Martin said in a phone interview Thursday. “Unfortunately, we continued with the precedent that had been established by ... previous governments, and certainly one could argue that more could have been done at that stage, and I wish it had been.”

    Read more:

    Scheer nonsense from Conservative leader about Khadr settlement: Opinion

    Condemnations of Khadr reek of double standards: Kanji

    Justin Trudeau had a choice on Khadr settlement: Scheer

    In 2002, the Canadian-born Khadr was imprisoned in the notorious U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo, Cuba, accused of killing an American soldier/medic during a firefight in Afghanistan at the age of 15.

    Martin, who became prime minister in late 2003 after serving in the previous Liberal cabinet, said he feels the Khadr case was on track for a federal settlement by the time he came to power.

    “Really, by the time we came along, the courts had already decided the payments were there,” he said. “If your question is if the thing had been handled from the very beginning, then the answer is yes (a payout could have been avoided), but it was not handled differently at the very beginning.”

    The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2010 that Canadian authorities violated Khadr’s charter rights when they interrogated him there, despite the fact he was a minor, had no legal representation and had been tortured.

    Khadr subsequently launched a $20-million civil suit against the Canadian government. That was settled in July when the government reportedly paid him $10.5 million rather than pursue what officials said would have been a costly court battle that the government had no hope of winning.

    Martin, who has spent much of his post-government life working on education initiatives for Indigenous children, received the Samuel Cunard Prize for Vision, Courage and Creativity on board the Queen Mary 2 cruise liner at the Halifax waterfront Thursday.

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    Watching your favourite shows on Netflix Canada just got a little more expensive.

    The popular video streaming service is hiking prices for new members effective immediately. It will do the same for existing users after notifying them by email in the coming weeks.

    Netflix’s standard plan will now cost a dollar more — or $10.99 a month — to watch content on two screens at a time.

    The basic plan, which does not offer high definition video and only permits one streaming screen at a time, also goes up a dollar to $8.99 a month.

    Premium plan subscribers will pay $2 more for up to four simultaneous streams and ultra high-definition 4K content. It will now cost $13.99 monthly.

    It’s the first price increase in nearly two years that affects subscribers in Canada.

    Netflix says it made the decision in an effort to bolster its content and services. The price change only impacts Canadian subscribers.

    “From time to time, Netflix plans and pricing are adjusted as we add more exclusive TV shows and movies, introduce new product features and improve the overall Netflix experience, to help members find something great to watch even faster,” it said in a statement.

    Read more:

    Disney to pull children’s programming from Netflix to launch own streaming service

    CBS All Access plans to launch in Canada next year

    Cable, satellite TV providers lost $185M in 2016 amid shift to online entertainment: CRTC

    Netflix has invested heavily in producing its own original content in recent years, including House of Cards, Ozark and a slate of feature films bought at international film festivals.

    The company also faces a growing number of other competitors who are seeking the Canadian rights for buzzworthy TV series and movies, and potentially driving up the acquisition costs.

    CraveTV, which is owned by Bell Media, holds the rights to Showtime TV shows and some content from U.S. streaming site Hulu, while Amazon Prime Video acquired streaming licences for Mr. Robot and Starz cable series American Gods.

    Netflix purchases the Canadian rights to U.S. network shows as well, including ABC’s Scandal and the CW’s Riverdale.

    But earlier this week CBS Corp. announced plans to dive into the Canadian marketplace with its CBS All Access streaming service early next year. At once it’ll be vying to attract its own subscribers, while also competing for streaming rights and valuable library content.

    Netflix generally raises its prices by country based on the local market. In June, the company bumped up the monthly bill for Australian users by a few dollars, saying it was responding to a local tax increase.

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    The OPP is asking for the public’s help in identifying an “organized motorcycle mob” that was seen driving dangerously on major highways over the long weekend.

    OPP said they received numerous complaints about a group of motorcycles traveling as a group on Highways 409, 401, 403, the QEW, Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner on Sunday between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

    “Not only were they driving dangerously and aggressively, at sometimes they came on a dead stop on the highway causing congestion, chaos, frustration for other motorists and really putting everyone at risk on the highways,” said OPP Sgt Kerry Schmidt.

    Schmidt also said that officers were rebuffed when they tried to pull over riders on the 401.

    "That officer was swarmed by riders," he said. "They all flippantly took off from the officer at high rates of speed."

    Schmidt that type of behaviour is "not cool."

    "These guys may think they're showing how powerful they are by hiding in a group, but this is something that is serious and could result in serious consequences," he said.

    According to Schmidt, the motorcyclists could have easily caused accidents.

    “There is no place for groups like this to hijack our highways that are used for commerce, for transportation, for a shared community of drivers that are trying to get around the GTA especially on a long weekend. This will not be tolerated,” said Schmidt.

    Provincial police laid charges in March following similar incidents on Toronto-area highways in 2016.

    A man died on July 23, 2016 when he collided with a transport truck as a group of motorcyclists travelling together on Highway 401 slowed traffic while performing stunts.

    A group of motorcyclists also slowed traffic and performed stunts on Highway 427 on Sept. 22, 2016.

    OPP is asking anyone with information, photos, videos, or dash cam footage of the riders to contact them or call Crime Stoppers.

    Schmidt says if anyone involved in the “motorcycle mob” wants to come forward, they can do so.

    With files from the Canadian Press

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    BRIDGEWATER, N.J.—President Donald Trump issued a new threat to North Korea on Thursday, demanding that Kim Jong Un’s government “get their act together” or face extraordinary trouble. He said his previous “fire and fury” warning to Pyongyang might have been too mild.

    “Maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said in the latest round of an escalating exchange of threats between the two nuclear-armed nations.

    Speaking to reporters in New Jersey, Trump said North Korea has been “getting away with a tragedy that can’t be allowed.” Still, he declined to say whether the U.S. is considering a pre-emptive military strike, arguing that his administration never discusses such deliberations publicly.

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

    Trump spoke after North Korea intensified its own rhetoric by announcing a detailed plan to launch a salvo of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers. That announcement had been a response to Trump’s threat that the North would face “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it threatened the U.S. again.

    On Thursday, Trump said it is time somebody stood up to the pariah nation.

    “North Korea better get their act together or they are going to be in trouble like few nations have ever been in trouble,” Trump said, flanked by Vice-President Mike Pence. “It may very well be tougher than I said.”

    Trump spoke after meeting with national security advisers at the golf resort where he’s vacationing. He said the U.S. “of course” would always consider negotiations with North Korea, but added that talks with the North have failed for the last 25 years. He said that China, the North’s biggest trading partner, needs to do more to apply pressure — and predicted that it will.

    The threatened attack near Guam, if carried out, would be the North’s most provocative missile launch to date. The North said it is finalizing 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.

    Read more:

    Did Donald Trump accidentally threaten nuclear war out of a penchant for hyperbole?: Analysis

    Trump’s warning to North Korea suggests he may be ready to strike first, but is that self-defence?

    Why North Korea is threatening Guam with its ballistic missiles

    Trump says North Korea will be met with ‘fire and the fury like the world has never seen’ if it doesn’t stop threatening the U.S.

    Japan and South Korea vowed a strong reaction if the North were to go through with the plan. Trump added his voice on Thursday, insisting that if North Korea took any steps to even think about an attack, it would have reason to be nervous.

    “Things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK?” Trump said. Of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump added: “He’s been pushing the world around for a long time.”

    North Korea said the plan, which involves the missiles hitting waters 30 to 40 kilometres from the island, could be sent to leader Kim for approval within a week or so. It would be up to Kim whether the move is actually carried out. But the extreme specificity of the plan suggested it was designed to show North Korea is actually plotting a launch.

    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.

    It is unclear whether — or exactly why — North Korea would risk firing missiles so close to U.S. territory. Such a launch would almost compel the United States to attempt an intercept and possibly generate further escalation.

    North Korea, no stranger to bluffing, 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 threats from both sides.

    South Korea’s military responded by saying North Korea will face a “stern and strong” response from Washington and Seoul. Taking it a step further, Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told parliament a missile attack on the U.S. territory would be a Japanese national emergency because it would threaten Japan’s existence as a nation.

    Guam lies about 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 Hwasong-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 radius 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 salvo of four, the North would be attempting to make it harder for the U.S. to intercept all of the incoming missiles. Its stated flight path over Japan is also very aggressive — it has recently tried to avoid flying over neighbouring countries by shooting its missiles up at a very high angle to land in the ocean.

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    When Ken Hirschkop moved into historic Cabbagetown in 2005, he didn’t expect a tourist site to pop up behind his backyard. But he says that’s what the house a 2 St. James Ct. has become.

    It’s not because, among the rows of Victorians adorned with official heritage conservation district plaques, this house possesses particular charm. It’s because its box-like exterior and perpetual state of partial-construction makes it seem out of place.

    “It looks like it’s landed from space,” Hirschkop said, noting that Cabbagetown visitors regularly make detours to catch a glimpse of the unusual building.

    The house belongs to 78-year-old Norm Rogers, and its redevelopment has been the subject of a 10-year-old battle between neighbours , first over proposals for a bigger house on the lot, then over damage and inconvenience caused by the construction.

    Now, construction of a house that Rogers, neighbours, and the city agreed upon (resemblance to spacecraft aside) in 2014 is well underway, but those plans are being held up by neighbours who accuse Rogers of neglecting to stick to their agreement.

    Rogers’ house was supposed to be completed last December, and complaints about property damage have mounted steadily since construction recommenced about a year ago.

    “It’s such a colossal waste of everyone’s time,” Hirschkop said.

    Rogers agrees, and says that, after the long slog to build his home, he no longer plans to live there; the stairs of the three-storey house would be too much for him to manage at his age.

    “All I want to do is build the house,” he said in an interview Thursday. Then he’ll move out of the city.

    Rogers is now in a standoff with Laura Allen, Hirschkop’s neighbour, whose backyard Rogers needs to access in order to complete the work.

    “We’re prepared to finish it, and finish it so it looks really good,” Rogers said.

    He warned Allen that, without permission to enter her backyard, he will have to paint the concrete wall facing her backyard — black, because that’s the colour of paint he has handy.

    “If she thinks she’s going to hold us up for ransom, that doesn’t work with me,” Rogers said.

    Allen, who moved into the neighbourhood in 2011, says she’s determined to block workers from entering her backyard until she has a guarantee that her property will be protected.

    She estimates thousands of dollars worth of backyard furniture has been destroyed as a result of the work. Rogers has refused to compensate her, saying that she overestimated the value of what’s been damaged.

    “It has been devastating,” said Allen. She now plans to sell her house, but says she can’t as long as the disruption continues.

    Allen thinks the city, which granted Rogers his building permit, should intervene to make sure the neighbours’ property is protected.

    “If you’ve given someone permission to build something that size, there was always the possibility of damage,” she said.

    The city said that it has regularly inspected Rogers’ building site for compliance with the building permit, and that damage to adjacent property is the responsibility of the permit owner. Disputes over damage are “civil matters,” a Mario Angelucci of Toronto Building, said.

    Martin Rendl, a Toronto-area planning professional, who argued to the Ontario Municipal Board in 2008 that Rogers’ plans were not appropriate for the neighbourhood, said it is not common for development disagreements to go on for so long.

    “A new house you can put up in a couple of months, not over a decade,” he said.

    Part of the reason the construction missed the December 2016 deadline is because Rogers did not receive his heritage permit from the city until June 20, 2016. He now has until September 2017 to complete the work.

    Hirschkop says he’s grown accustomed to construction delays, and run-ins with Rogers have been a fact of life as long as he’s lived in Cabbagetown. He’s making do; last year he put up a shed in his backyard to block out the view of Rogers’ unfinished concrete wall. (“We needed a shed anyways.”)

    Hirschkop still worries the drawn-out building of Rogers’ house will set a precedent for developers to change the landscape of their neighbourhood, if the city doesn’t step in to support him and his neighbours.

    “It’s the most beautiful neighbourhood I’ve lived in by a long shot,” Hirschkop said. “It won’t stay beautiful if you let people do whatever you want.”

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    A video has surfaced showing Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim walking across the tarmac of a U.S. military base in Fussa, Japan, Thursday, the day after he was freed from a North Korean prison. The 62-year-old Lim is with members of the Canadian government delegation sent to Pyongyang this week to negotiate his release, according to Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi.

    While on a humanitarian mission to a northern region of North Korea in January of 2015, Lim was picked up and detained by North Korean authorities. Lim was convicted in late 2015 of purportedly scheming to overthrow the authoritarian regime of Kim Jong Un. He was given a life sentence in a hard labour camp.

    Read more:

    Freeing of Hyeon Soo Lim is a bright spot in Korean crisis: Editorial

    Trudeau confirms release of Mississauga pastor imprisoned in North Korea

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

    Lim is the pastor of the Light Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, which has a congregation of about 3,000.

    Lim is expected to be reunited with friends and family in Canada shortly.

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    Mayor John Tory says it will be up to Chief Mark Saunders to determine if three Toronto police officers should face any internal discipline after being acquitted of sexual assaulting a colleague.

    “I’m not going to pre-judge what the police chief does,” Tory said Thursday. “Understand my role as the mayor and/or as a member of the police services board is to oversee what the chief does. The chief is in charge of the police service. He will reach whatever decision he chooses to reach.”

    On Wednesday, a judge acquitted three 51 Division constables, Leslie Nyznik, Sameer Kara and Joshua Cabero, accused of sexually assaulting a female parking enforcement officer in a downtown Toronto hotel room Jan. 17, 2015. The complainant’s identity is protected under a publication ban.

    “It is simply not safe to convict,” Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy wrote in her 45-page ruling.

    Molloy, however, said she did not “necessarily believe” Nyznik, the only one of the three officers who testified and “freely” acknowledged “many things that were not to his credit.”

    For example, “the amount of drinking that was going on; the extent of the free food and drinks and privileged treatment provided by the bars they attended, his familiarity with the Brass Rail and its staff,” the name of the Yonge St. strip bar the officers attended before going to the hotel.

    Nor was Molloy impressed with the ease with which Nyznik (and the others) “lied to the stripper at the Brass Rail about being a pornographic movie crew,” the judge wrote in her ruling. She also upbraided him for showing “shocking insensitivity and cruelty… of finishing with the complainant and then asking the two men if they should still call the ‘hooker’ to come over.”

    The officers have been suspended with pay since the criminal charges were laid.

    “The chief has not revoked their suspension as yet. He is reviewing the case with professional standards from a Police Services Act perspective,” Meaghan Gray of TPS corporate communications said Thursday.

    A lawyer familiar with police tribunal matters, but who is not authorized to speak publicly about the case, says the service faces “significant” legal hurdles if it finds discreditable conduct charges are warranted.

    Under the Police Services Act, charges must be laid within six months from when the complaint was made, which was more than two years ago. The investigation was carried out by the service’s professional standards unit. The officers were charged in Feb. 2015.

    However, the act allows the service to issue a “notice of hearing” to the officers if the police board accepts the delay was “reasonable.” The source said defence lawyers for the officers are likely to argue it was not because Toronto police did the investigation, laid the charges, and “should have known the evidence.”

    The police service could conceivably get around the six-month time restriction by basing charges on contents found in the judge’s ruling. Yet it’s questionable whether it would be legally permissible if the charges relied on Nyznik’s testimony, the lawyer said.

    Tory said Thursday that what he “expects from all of our public servants, and I include in that first and foremost police officers, people who work for the transit system, a high standard of behavior. Whether you’re on or off duty, you are a public servant,” Tory said.

    Read more:

    The slogan ‘believe the victim’ is popular but has no place in a criminal trial, says judge, ruling 3 cops not guilty: DiManno

    ’It is simply not safe to convict,’ judge rules after Toronto officers accused of sex assault found not guilty

    Prosecutor says complainant in police sex assault trial had good reason to ‘remain silent’

    “I can’t say ‘I am not the mayor’ when I leave work at the end of a long day. I’m the mayor all the time. Police officers, while they may be off duty, are police officers all the time. I just hope people take from this that message, most importantly.”

    He repeated police officers “have to exercise good judgment” and respect the position they hold.

    “And even though you may not be on duty, you are a person representing the transit commission or the police service or city council. I think people have to think more carefully than they sometimes do,” he continued.

    “Everybody, when it comes to the relationship between men and women and showing proper respect for one another and proper care – both in terms of the sort of the kinds of events they go to, how they behave, how much they have to drink, and how they treat each other, most importantly.”

    Tory said the situation is difficult because Molloy rendered not guilty verdicts, “on the other hand there are some real concerns that exist out there of people saying ‘well what if those officers, for example, were to be involved in a future case of this kind?’”

    Tory added people “have to behave in a manner that would stand the test of public scrutiny that is inevitably applied either during, or in many cases after events happen.”

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    A woman died in a two-vehicle collision in Scarborough Thursday evening.

    The incident happened around 6 p.m. on Sheppard Ave. E. and Water Tower Gate, east of Morningside Ave., when a car and a TTC bus collided.

    Paramedics say the woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Images from the scene show the car hit the back of the bus. Toronto police traffic services Const. Clinton Stibbe said it is too early to say what caused the collision.

    A TTC spokesperson said a passenger on the bus was treated on scene for minor injuries. The transit agency says it is cooperating with police during their investigation.

    Police have closed the westbound lanes on Sheppard Ave. E. from Water Tower Gate to Conlins Rd. for the investigation.

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    Six months after approving an ambitious plan to overhaul policing in the city and rein back a sky-high budget, the Toronto police board is backpedalling on a central component, confirming Thursday there will be a brief thaw in what was meant to be a three-year hiring freeze.

    Eighty new uniform police officers will join the force by year’s end, a step taken to address staff departures happening at a rate faster than expected, the Toronto police board said in a joint statement with the Toronto Police Service and the Toronto Police Association on Thursday.

    “We realize that the path to modernization is not a straight line,” the statement read.

    The move comes in the wake of months of criticism by the police union, which said officer ranks had depleted to critically low levels and morale was rock bottom due to burnout.

    In this year alone, approximately 300 Toronto police staff members have retired, resigned, or moved to other police services, including 191 uniform officers, according to the union. Approximately 100 to 150 police employees typically retire or resign each year.

    “I think it’s a good thing for everybody — a good thing for the public, good thing for the officers, good thing for the service,” Mike McCormack, president of the police union, said Thursday in an interview.

    Approved by the police board in February, the “Way Forward” action plan recommended no new uniform officers be hired over three years, a freeze the force began implementing even before the officially sign-off on the final report earlier this year. The aim was to reduce the number of officers to about 4,750 by 2019. According to the union, Toronto police employed 5,100 police officers as of last month.

    The plan found $100 million in savings for the police service’s operating budget over three years — $60 million of which would come from the three-year freeze on hiring and a moratorium on promotions.

    Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Mayor John Tory said the goal of cutting costs and downsizing the number of uniform officers can still be met by 2019.

    Tory said city leaders recently struck a renewed partnership with the union as the police service continued to implement the recommendations spelled out in the Way Forward. The union has agreed to work with the board to achieve “the ultimate objective of modernizing the force, including a more efficient deployment of police resources,” Tory said.

    “We’re moving ahead with all of those changes but it takes time,” Tory said.

    Thursday’s announcement came after recent meetings between Toronto police, its board and the union. In addition to lifting the hiring moratorium, the joint statement also announced a review of staffing levels at police divisions to ensure “acceptable levels,” as well as a full review of the uniform staffing levels, using data “to validate” the 4,750 number suggested by the modernization report.

    The joint statement also said there will be a review of all uniform and civilian supervisory assignments and “continued collaboration” on the thorny issue of the compressed work week schedule.

    In the Way Forward report, the task force said the current scheduling system sees officers on shift regardless of time of day or patterns in demand, limiting the service’s ability to be more flexible about officer deployment.

    The most recent contract, signed in 2015, created joint committees to examine the compressed work week, as well as the requirement for two-officer patrol cars at night, but thus far no changes have been made.

    In the final version of the Way Forward report, the task force said a hiring moratorium would “give the Service the time it needs to change outdated models and practices to make better use of existing officers.” It would also allow the service to focus on a “neighbourhood-centered approach to policing and other priorities.”

    However, the report did state there may be circumstances where hiring or filling vacant positions may be necessary.

    With files from Betsy Powell

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    A 77-year-old woman who went to court to clarify the assisted dying law for people who are in excruciating, incurable pain but who do not face imminent death has died with medical assistance.

    The woman, known as AB due to a publication ban, had severe osteoarthritis but her doctor would not perform the end-of-life procedure because he was concerned she did not meet the “reasonable foreseeable death” requirement.

    In documents filed with the court, the woman’s lawyer Andrew Faith stressed the chilling effect a lack of clarity in the legislation had on access to medical care.

    In a ruling in June, Superior Court Justice Paul Perell said that a person does not need to have a terminal condition or be likely to die within a specific time frame to access medical assistance in dying.

    The death of the woman last week was confirmed by a news release Thursday from Dying with Dignity Canada.

    “After AB died, her daughter said it was the first time in decades that she had seen her mother in a pain-free state,” the release said.

    0 0

    Ontario’s independent police review director has mandated Toronto police chief Mark Saunders hold a disciplinary hearing after a video appeared to show Sgt. Eduardo Miranda’s repeatedly Taser and stomp on a man during a Jan. 24 arrest.

    In the report, obtained by the Toronto Star, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) found that there was “evidence of misconduct” during the arrest.

    Two of the complaints were deemed to have been “substantiated (as) serious,” including that Sgt. Miranda “used excessive force.”

    “Clearly, in my view, this matter had to be investigated, not just based on the complaint filed, but also on the videos and so on. I see what’s on TV,” police review director Gerry McNeilly said.

    “I found that the actions of the officer reached a threshold for misconduct based on the excessive use of force and I determined that it was serious. That means that the matter must go to a tribunal hearing. The chief has no choice.”

    Read more:

    Toronto police threaten to seize phone of man lawfully filming arrest

    Teen allegedly punched by cop in 'Neptune Four' case finally gets to tell his tale: DiManno

    If Toronto police are serious about restoring our faith they need to root out the bad-apple cops: Keenan

    Police must follow the law: Editorial

    The hearing, which will be open to the public, will take place Sept. 26 at 9 a.m.

    The report found that five constables and Sgt. Miranda, contrary to police orders, neglected their duty by failing to activate their in-car camera system microphones upon arriving at the scene.

    “With regards to the other officers involved, I determined that there was misconduct, but that it was of a less serious nature. It was still serious, but I didn’t find that it met the threshold for me to send it to a disciplinary hearing,” said McNeilly, who was appointed Ontario’s first independent police review director in 2008.

    “They still have to be disciplined, but it’s informal. If any of those officers refuse the informal discipline, then the matter must proceed to a tribunal disciplinary hearing.”

    The arrest was captured on video by complainant Waseem Khan. In the video, Khan is repeatedly told that he isn’t allowed to record the arrest, even though citizens have a right to record police during their duties if they are not obstructing the officers.

    For that, McNeilly found that Sgt. Miranda improperly directed a constable to interfere with Khan’s lawful presence in the area and with his recording of the incident, “thereby bringing discredit on the reputation of the Toronto Police Service.”

    Khan will have full standing at the hearing.

    He plans to attend.

    “I hope that there’s some sort of accountability, because I think officers, just like any other citizen, should be held accountable when they go beyond the law or do something criminal,” he said Thursday.

    “If he is found guilty of the allegations in this hearing, I hope that Toronto police services realizes that this is something that they have to act on and that he should be charged criminally as well.”

    Khan said he believes the police are losing public trust and that this case will be revealing about their approach.

    “If anyone else was to do that to someone, it wouldn’t be OK, so I don’t think anybody should be outside the law,” he said.

    “It’s becoming more and more evident that it’s hard to trust the police.”

    Toronto Police Association spokesperson Mike McCormack said Thursday that he will wait for all evidence to be unearthed in court before he comments on the case.

    The Toronto Police Service did not offer any comment on it.

    “Generally speaking, any matter of internal discipline is confidential until such time as the officer has made a first appearance in the Tribunal,” said spokesperson Meaghan Gray in a statement.

    0 0

    You’re a Black teenage male just crossing the road. You haven’t done anything wrong but a belligerent cop is suddenly in your face.

    And before the day is over, you will be charged with assaulting police, threatening death and assault with intent to resist arrest.

    All of those charges will subsequently be withdrawn.

    Nearly six years go by.

    On the morning of Aug. 10, 2017, you — one of the “Neptune Four” as the quartet of Black youths arrested in the incident that night have become known — finally get to tell your story in front of a police disciplinary tribunal.

    Because the officer who allegedly arrested you unlawfully, who allegedly pointed a gun in your stunned face, who allegedly dropped you with a punch in the head, who allegedly smeared blood from a cut finger across the back of your vest — a cut you did not inflict — has himself been charged under the Police Act with unlawful arrest and two counts of disorderly conduct.

    That’s Const. Adam Lourenco, who has pleaded not guilty.

    Read more:

    Teen testifies he stood up for himself, then got punched by a cop

    Another officer, who purportedly stood by as all of this was going on, deliberately turning his back on the scene and ignoring pleas for help, is Const. Scharnil Pais. He also has pleaded not guilty on one count of unlawful arrest.

    Oddly, on Day 2 of this hearing, the prosecutor, Insp. Dominic Sinopoli, does not ask the witness how Lourenco cut himself on his utility belt.

    Perhaps that will come later. Lord knows this entire matter has moved like molasses, with preliminary excursions to Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director, and pre-hearing arguments (rejected) for the Ontario Human Rights Commission to get a place at the table on the grounds that an exploration of racial profiling was intrinsic to the hearing, and even a motion (brought by Lourenco) that the adjudicator, the judge in other words, be removed over the “optics” of an old misconduct allegation. Insp. Richard Hegedus, the hearing officer, cleared himself of reasonable perception of bias and an application for judicial review was quashed.

    Got all that?

    So now, on Thursday, we reached the meat of the thing with the first of the four Blacks youths — three, actually, because one of them formally withdrew from the collective complaint — sworn in to testify. Not a youth anymore, aged 21, but his identity remains protected because he’d been charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act — even though those charges no longer exist.

    The young man unspooled his tale and then did so again as commentary for the Toronto Community Housing surveillance video which captured most of the encounter.

    Four teens on their way from a Neptune Dr. public housing project, in the Lawrence Heights area, to a Pathways to Education meeting across the street.

    There they are on the video, exiting the building. And before you can say who’s-your-daddy an unmarked black police car pulls into the parking lot.

    “Very aggressive, as far as their body language,” the witness says, recalling how Lourenco and Pais — both members of the now-disbanded Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) unit approached the group. Lourenco got in front of them, Pais behind.

    It was Lourenco who told them there had been a robbery in the area and they matched the suspects’ description.

    He demanded to see ID. “I’m 15 years old. I don’t have ID on me. I said, you can call my mom. She lives in that building.”

    But this youth, he’d earlier attended an Ontario Justice Education program and knew that he wasn’t compelled to identify himself.

    “I asked him, ‘am I under arrest?’ He said no. ‘Am I free to go?’ He didn’t answer.”

    Instead, the complainant testified, Lourenco began berating him. “He was calling me names, that I was being a smart-ass. He was trying to provoke me.”

    Lourenco, the witness said, steered him away from the three other youths — which seems evident on the grainy video. Hits him with a couple of uppercuts in the midsection, then a hard “shot to the head and I fall down.”

    The other youths implore Pais to intervene but he tells them to sit down on the ground, then turns the other way, steadfastly not looking at his partner.

    “When I was on the ground . . . he’s still calling me names, bitch, wannabe thug, smart-ass . . . ”

    Lourenco, while cuffing the youth, uses one hand to pull out his gun — points it at the three other teenagers, points it at him.

    To the others, threatens: “Don’t move or I’ll f----- kill you.”

    To the handcuffed teenager: “He says, ‘I’ll kill you as well.’”

    Asks if the cuffs are too tight. The teenager says yes. “So he tightens them more.”

    It was at this point, the witness testified, that Lourenco cut himself on his utility belt. “Look, you’ve just assaulted a police officer.”

    As he’s lying on his stomach, the witness continued, Lourenco wipes his bleeding thumb along the teen’s back. “He was kneeing me and scraping my face on the sidewalk.”

    He was shoved violently into the back of a squad car that had just arrived on the scene. “Throws me in, slams the door on my legs.”

    Sinopoli: “Did you ever assault Police Constable Lourenco?

    Witness: “No.”

    Sinopoli: “Did anyone in your group?”

    Witness: “No.”

    Sinopoli: “Did you spit?’’

    Witness: “No.”

    He was taken to the station, booked, dumped in a cell — no food, no phone call. He was 15 years old.

    He spent nine months on bail.

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

    Lourenco and Pais were charged under the Police Act in September, 2014.

    In unrelated matters, Lourenco has also twice been criminally charged with drunk driving: One stay of charges, one guilty plea.

    The hearing continues.

    0 0

    It’s a hot topic when it’s hot outside; it’s a hot topic when it’s cold outside.

    Ontarians love to complain about their hydro bills.

    But are ratepayers in Canada’s most populous province really getting ripped off?

    And, if so, who or what is to blame for that?

    Here are some answers to questions that have long perplexed and vexed consumers:

    How did we get to where we are today? In 2003, when the Liberals took power, we were dealing with brown-outs because there wasn’t enough power. Now we have too much. What happened?

    The government undertook major upgrades to improve and modernize the electricity system, making it more reliable, adding generating plants and transmission lines to keep the lights and air conditioners on. Later in the decade, there was a push toward green energy as a way to create manufacturing jobs here in solar panels and wind turbines given forecasts that electricity demand would keep rising rapidly. But along came the 2008-09 global recession, and demand forecasts proved too high as manufacturing trailed off. However, lucrative contracts to green energy producers were already in place. The government has since cancelled some, but others keep coming on stream because contracts were signed.

    Is electricity more expensive in Ontario than in neighbouring provinces and states?

    More expensive than some, not as high as others. According to a 2016 Hydro Quebec survey, average electricity prices for residential customers per kilowatt hour in selected major North American cities in April 2016 were (not including taxes, all figures in Canadian dollars.):

    Adjusting for the most recent rate cuts in Ontario, the Ministry of Energy calculates that Ontario now averages 14.12 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers, higher than the Canadian average of 12.84 cents.

    One kilowatt hour of electricity is enough to power an LED television for 10 episodes of a typical program.

    What’s the deal with Premier Kathleen Wynne’s claim that hydro bills have gone down 25 per cent this year?

    In response to complaints that electricity costs were too high, the province began instantly rebating the 8 per cent provincial portion of the HST on electricity Jan. 1. That was followed by another 17 per cent reduction in electricity costs, for most ratepayers, by July 1 as the government decided to do two things: First, costs of hydro subsidies for the poor, and for rural and remote residents who pay high delivery fees, were switched from hydro bills to the broader tax base of all Ontarians; second, the cost of billions of dollars in hydro system improvements from the last decade is being spread over the next 30 years.

    How much will I save?

    The government says the average monthly household bill will drop $41 to $121 this summer.

    How can the province afford that?

    The government plans to borrow billions and make hydro ratepayers foot the bill in the long run. Wynne has compared it to extending a mortgage on a house to enjoy better cash flow with lower payments now. The additional debt interest will cost $25 billion over the next 30 years.

    Opposition parties say the Liberal plan doesn’t fix underlying problems that have made electricity expensive and simply borrows money to spread the costs over a longer period of time.

    Wynne argues it’s reasonable to do that because the hydro system improvements will benefit coming generations of Ontarians, making it unfair to force consumers to pay the full costs now.

    What’s the long-term cost of subsidizing electricity?

    In May, the province’s financial accountability officer (FAO) warned the hydro rate cut will cost the province in the long run — some $21 billion over the next 30 years. The FAO also warned that if the province is unable to produce a balanced budget at any time over the next 29 years, the cost of the cut could actually balloon to as much as $93 million because the government would have to borrow to pay for it.

    And while electricity costs will be lower over the next decade, they will be slightly more expensive after 2027.

    What are all those charges on our hydro bills?

  • The electricity charge, which is simply for the amount of power used in your household.

    • Delivery charge, or the cost of getting the electricity into your home. It is based on how many customers are in a particular area and how far it is from generating stations. Residents of Toronto and other cities generally enjoy much cheaper delivery costs than people in remote or rural areas.

    • Regulatory charges are a smaller portion of the bill. They are to cover the costs of administering the wholesale electricity system, to maintain the reliability of the provincial grid and to fund energy conservation efforts.

    • The HST or harmonized sales tax of 13 per cent, of which the 8 per cent provincial portion is now instantly rebated on bills. The other 5 per cent goes to the federal government.

    • Customers who are not on time-of-use rates will see a separate “global adjustment” charge on their bills. While that is included in time-of-use rates, it is listed separately for residential and other customers who have signed retail contracts for their electricity.

    (The global adjustment, in place since 2005, is the cost of paying for electricity that is produced from non-market agreements, including contracts with private generators, the regulated output of Ontario Power Generation and from other arrangements, such as renewable power contracts. Those sources now make up the vast bulk of Ontario’s power supply.)

    For more tips on how to read your hydro bill, the Ontario Energy Board has an explanation on its website.

    Where does Ontario get its electricity?

    The vast majority of the province’s electrical generation — 61 per cent per cent last year — is produced at nuclear reactors at Bruce, Darlington and Pickering. Only about a quarter — 24 per cent — actually comes from “hydro,” meaning it is generated from hydroelectric generating stations such as Niagara Falls, where fast-moving water flows over turbines that generate power. Another 9 per cent is from plants fuelled by natural gas or oil and 6 per cent is from wind and less than 1 per cent each from solar and biofuels.

    How much electricity does this province use in winter versus summer?

    The winter record of 24,979 megawatts was set Dec. 20, 2004. But more power is used in the summer due to air conditioning. The highest use in Ontario history was during a heat wave on Aug. 1, 2006 when the load demand was 27,005 megawatts. Put in context, Ontario now has an installed generation capacity of 36,130 megawatts, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator’s latest figures. That means there is a surplus of power and the risk of blackouts and brownouts is lower, though those can still occur in extreme weather conditions or if there are technical problems.

    If nuclear power is so efficient, why don’t we just build more reactors?

    There are few more expensive things in the world than nuclear reactors. Building new nukes is costly and time-consuming while refurbishing old stations is also financially daunting. That’s because nuclear projects are almost always plagued by cost overruns caused by lengthy environmental assessments and engineering hurdles. And once they are built, getting rid of radioactive waste is challenging. Currently, Ontario Power Generation is undertaking a 10-year $12.8 billion refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear station just east of Oshawa.

    Why do ratepayers bankroll “green energy producers” with long-term contracts to purchase wind and solar power for more than the market price?

    In 2009, former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty announced a sweeping green energy strategy, including the feed-in tariff (FIT) that would pay companies and individuals a premium for generating clean electricity. It was an economic development tool to encourage manufacturers to build wind turbines and solar panels here in Ontario. To create a market for such equipment, the government encouraged farmers and others in rural Ontario to install wind turbines by guaranteeing them a fixed price over 20 years for the power they generate. That’s why there are so many turbines and solar panels in the countryside.

    Why did the Liberals sell off the majority share in Hydro One and will privatization increase electricity bills?

    Over the past year or so, Wynne’s government has sold more than 51 per cent of the provincial transmission utility, making some $9 billion — $5 billion to pay off Hydro One’s debt and $4 billion to bankroll transportation infrastructure such as public transit, roads and bridges. Critics charge the sell-off was so the Liberals could balance the books before the 2018 election.

    But Hydro One cannot unilaterally increase electricity rates. Those are set by the independent Ontario Energy Board and, like all private and public utilities, Hydro One needs the board’s permission to hike rates.

    Still, both the Tories and the New Democrats insist privatization will lead to higher costs while the Liberals claim the company could be better run and actually save ratepayers money.

    Just how unhappy were Ontarians with their hydro bills?

    Before Hydro One was privatized, Ontario’s ombudsman was looking into 10,500 complaints about billing errors, including some cases where Hydro One had mistakenly gone into customers’ bank accounts and withdrawn thousands of dollars. As well, a new computer system meant about 100,000 customers received no bills over several months, while others got “estimates” which meant many were faced with huge makeup payments when actual usage was calculated. Then customers were threatened with losing power, even in the winter.

    Faced with mounting criticism, the Liberal government in February quickly enacted a bill to outlaw winter disconnections across the province.

    The ombudsman’s office lost the authority to handle consumer complaints once it was no longer 100 per cent publicly owned. Complaints are now handled internally by Hydro One.

    How efficient is Ontario’s hydro system?

    In 2015, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk said consumers were being hit with billions of extra dollars in costs because of overpriced green energy, poor government planning and substandard service from Hydro One. Her value-for-money audit estimated that from 2006 to 2014, Ontarians paid $37 billion more than necessary, a figure that would balloon to $133 billion by 2032.

    “Hydro One’s customers have a power system for which reliability appears to be worsening while costs are increasing,” Lysyk said at the time.

    Her analysis did not take into account the health benefits and savings as a result of phasing out cheaper, dirty coal-fuelled generation. Smog warnings and smog days are now rare.

    Isn’t there a lawsuit aimed at stopping the sale of Hydro One shares?

    Yes. The Canadian Union of Public Employees has filed a $1.1 million civil suit in Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which held a hearing in June to hash out arguments from the union and the government as to whether the case should proceed. The government — which has already sold all the intended shares in Hydro One — has asked for the suit to be dismissed, calling it a political stunt. The union alleges the government “knowingly structured” the sale to reward investors and the Ontario Liberal Party through fundraising with investment bankers. Ontario’s integrity commissioner has ruled there was no wrongdoing with the fundraising events. The judge in the lawsuit has reserved his decision as to whether it should go ahead.

    What about the “gas-plants email” trial that starts in September?

    Before the 2011 election, McGuinty cancelled two gas-fired power plants that were to be built in Oakville and Mississauga because they were unpopular with local residents and could have led to the defeat of five Liberal MPPs in those areas.

    Lysyk has estimated the cancellation will cost ratepayers $1 billion over 20 years in terms of compensating the companies behind the scrapped plants and building replacement plants near Napanee and Sarnia.

    In 2013, as McGuinty was handing the reins of power to Wynne, his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff were implicated after computer hard-drives were deleted in the premier’s office. Ontario Provincial Police launched an investigation in response to a complaint from the Progressive Conservatives that said emails related to the gas plants could have been deleted. Charges were laid in 2015.

    Both David Livingston and Laura Miller go to trial Sept. 11 for criminal breach of trust. They deny any wrongdoing. McGuinty, who co-operated with police, was never under investigation.

    When will we learn more about the direction hydro rates are headed in Ontario?

    Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said the latest version of the government’s long-term energy plan, which is updated every four years, will be released soon. He has pledged to find ways to remove more costs from the system.

    What have the opposition parties at Queen’s Park promised to do about hydro?

    • New Democrats: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath insists she can chop hydro bills by up to 30 per cent by keeping the Wynne government’s instant rebate of the 8 per cent provincial HST, asking the federal government to scrap its remaining 5 per cent HST, eliminating time-of-use pricing, capping profits of private power producers and buying back shares in Hydro One. Rival parties have scoffed at the multibillion share buyback plan, saying it isn’t feasible, and cast doubt that the feds would forego their HST on electricity. Since the buyback promise was announced, Hydro One announced it is spending $6.7 billion to buy U.S.-based Avista, raising further questions about the viability and affordability of that pledge.

    • Progressive Conservatives: Despite promising to unveil a hydro plan earlier this year, Tory Leader Patrick Brown has yet to deliver his party’s policy and may not until just before the June 7, 2018 election.

    • Green Party: Green Leader Mike Schreiner wants to phase out nuclear power and use that money to help Ontario families and businesses conserve energy. Instead of Wynne’s 25 per cent across-the-board hydro rate cut, the Green Party would target price reductions to the poor who need help the most. Any further privatization of Hydro One would be stopped. The Greens would conduct an independent, public review of electricity generation costs to guide future choices.

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    Sigrid Kneve said she arrived at the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Toronto about three weeks ago with nothing but umbrellas and lawn chairs to host a vigil for First Nations people grappling with suicide. On Friday, the space in front on St. Clair Ave. had been transformed into a robust camp, complete with bedding, hot water, and enough food to hand out to passersby.

    A large portion of the supplies were donated by locals, said Kneve.

    It shows that the group and their cause are supported, organizers say.

    “It grew to this,” said Kneve.

    A poster behind her had the words “Suicide Crisis” written across it.

    “The public has been responsive,” she said.

    Geoffery Daybutch, who helps keep watch at night to ensure everyone is safe, attested to this.

    “People are bringing food in,” he said. “They’re asking us, in the morning, if we want coffee or food during lunchtime and dinner.”

    There are three people at the camp at all times, he added.

    The “land-defenders” or “water-carriers,” as the group members prefer to be called, are raising awareness about a series of suicides that has plagued many remote First Nations in Northern Ontario.

    A crisis in Pikangikum First Nation last month spurred the vigil, said Carrie Lester.

    “There were five deaths in their community in one month,” she said. “Here we are now, in the middle of August, and we’ve already lost four children in Neskantaga.”

    Since 1986, there have been 543 suicides afflicting communities such as these, reported Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 Northern Ontario communities. There have been more than 20 Indigenous people who have taken their lives in the region this year.

    A meeting last month between Indigenous leaders and the federal government yielded 20 mental health workers for Pikangikum. On July 24, the “Charter of Relationship Principles” was signed by federal ministers and NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, which seeks to “transform the delivery of health care to First Nation communities.”

    The “Ground Zero” camp is a continuation of an occupation that occurred last spring inside INAC, where demands included that Ottawa make good on its promises to remedy a spate of suicide attempts in Attawapiskat, which thrust the community into a state of emergency.

    “We’re asking for more money to be released to each of these First Nations,” said Kneve.

    Organizers are holding the government to task so it doesn’t renege, said Lester.

    “We need to hold the government to account for its promises with a timeline,” she said. “It’s not just about the kids; it’s about the families. They’re shells of themselves.”

    Several people at the camp said it was an opportunity to educate others.

    “It’s an eye-opener for a lot of the residents and people who work in the area,” said Daybutch. “Many were unaware of the issues that First Nation communities are facing, so this, for them, was a huge wake-up call and it’s making them act and question (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett).”

    A spokesperson said Minister Bennett has offered to meet with group members to engage in dialogue with them and listen to their concerns.

    “We look forward to hearing back from the group on a time that works for them,” she said, in a written statement.

    “My people are dying all around me,” said Dean McLeod, who returned to the camp from the hospital after he was treated for pneumonia, which he said was caused by being outside for so long at the camp. “The government needs to smarten up and start giving aid, housing, the proper things.

    “These kids deserve better than having to resort to suicide.”

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    CRANBROOK, B.C.—A British Columbia judge who sentenced a former husband and wife to jail for taking a 13-year-old girl to the United States to marry the leader of their religious sect says he wants to “send a clear message” about the removal of children to the others in the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C.

    Brandon Blackmore, 71, has been sentenced to a year in jail, while his ex-wife, Gail Blackmore, 60, was handed a term of seven months. Both have been ordered to serve 18 months of probation.

    Just before Justice Paul Pearlman of the B.C. Supreme Court finished reading his decision, the young woman at the centre of the case asked to address the court.

    “In my view it’s not appropriate at this stage,” Pearlman replied. “I’ve delivered my reasons for sentencing.”

    Read more:

    Prosecutor urges strong message with sentence of 18 months in child-bride case

    Two of three convicted in B.C. child bride case

    The woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, did not give a statement during a sentencing hearing in June.

    The Blackmores were found guilty in February of the charge of taking a child under the age of 16 out of Canada for sexual purposes.

    “In my view a term of imprisonment is warranted in this case,” Pearlman said.

    Their trial heard the girl was taken into the United States in 2004 to marry Warren Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who is now serving a life sentence for assaulting two of his child brides.

    Pearlman said the sentences had to be proportionate to the gravity of the case and serve as a deterrent.

    He said both Blackmores were aware there was a high likelihood that the young woman would have been subjected to sexual touching or sexual interference shortly after her marriage to Jeffs. Gail Blackmore was a “willing participant” but her former husband was most to blame, Pearlman said.

    “Mr. Blackmore’s moral culpability is somewhat greater,” Pearlman said.

    Pearlman said neither Blackmore showed any remorse for taking the girl to the United States to marry a man who was 49 years old at the time.

    “Brandon Blackmore and Gail Blackmore both received and adhered to FLDS religious instruction concerning the purpose of plural marriage being the procreation of children; a wife’s duty of obedience to her husband; and the early consummation of marriage,” Pearlman said in his decision.

    As the sentence was imposed on Gail Blackmore, one of her daughters sitting in the gallery began sobbing uncontrollably and fled the courtroom.

    The Blackmores were both handcuffed and led away by sheriffs at the end of the hearing.

    A former bishop of the community of Bountiful, James Oler, was acquitted of the same charge during their trial in connection to a 15-year-old girl. Pearlman ruled that there wasn’t proof Oler crossed the border with the girl, who was later married to a member of the sect.

    Special prosecutor Peter Wilson is asking British Columbia’s Court of Appeal to overturn his acquittal or order a new trial.

    Oler was convicted last month in a separate trial of practising polygamy. That trial heard he had five wives.

    Wilson told the sentencing hearing on June 30 that Brandon Blackmore should serve a jail sentence of 12 to 18 months, while Gail Blackmore should get six to 12 months.

    “The special prosecutor in this case urged the court to impose a sentence which would denounce the unlawful conduct of the offenders ... and as well act as a general deterrent to other members of the community,” B.C. Prosecution Service spokesman Dan McLaughlin said outside court.

    “The sentence is toward the lower end of the range that was submitted by the special prosecutor but it is a range of sentence that the Crown respects.”

    On hand for the sentencing was Nancy Mereska, the Alberta-based founder of the lobby group Stop Polygamy in Canada.

    “Very satisfied with the sentence ... and also the fact that the judge said if he didn’t incarcerate them it would not send the message that’s needed to the Bountiful community and the FLDS that they are breaking the law,” said Mereska.

    “Watching Brandon Blackmore and (Gail) Blackmore be led out in handcuffs brought tears to my eyes because so many people never thought that this day would come.”

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    The province’s police watchdog is investigating after a 45-year-old man was found dead outside a Woodstock, Ont. hospital after a police officer spoke to him over the phone.

    The Special Investigations Unit looks into cases involving police where there’s been death, sexual assault or serious injury. The agency didn’t reveal details about the circumstances of the man’s death, nor did it explain how police may have allegedly played a role.

    The Ontario Provincial Police asked Woodstock police for help finding the man on Wednesday, said the SIU in a press release Friday.

    A Woodstock Police Service officer was able to reach the man by phone, the SIU said. The press release didn’t clarify when the phone call happened, and the SIU wasn’t immediately available for comment.

    The man was found inside a parked car outside Woodstock General Hospital at about 7:30 a.m. Friday. He was pronounced dead at the scene, said the SIU.

    The unit said it was investigating one subject officer and speaking with four witness officers. All are from the Woodstock Police Service.

    The agency has assigned three investigators and two forensic investigators to the case. Investigators are asking anyone with information to contact them at 1-800-787-8529, or to upload any video of the incident through the SIU website.

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