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    OTTAWA—The deadline for applications for the job of RCMP commissioner has been extended so a more “proactive” search can be led by a committee charged with drawing up a shortlist, the Star has learned.

    The closing date for interested candidates to apply was supposed to have been Friday, Sept. 15 and the federal government has already received “a number” of applications —which it would not specify — for the job, according to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office.

    This week the government agreed to extend the deadline to Oct. 23, in an effort to broaden the search.

    Goodale’s office told the Star the decision to extend the application process will not affect the government’s expectation that a replacement for retired Comm. Bob Paulson be named by the end of the year, and is “no reflection” on the applications received to date.

    However, an official speaking on background said Frank McKenna, the former ambassador to Washington and N.B. premier leading the search committee that will provide the prime minister with a list of recommended candidates, will instruct a headhunting firm to canvass more broadly for potential applicants for the job of top cop.

    Paulson announced in early March his retirement effective at the end of June.

    While the hunt is ongoing, deputy commissioner Dan Dubeau is serving as interim RCMP commissioner.

    The final decision will be up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but the Liberal government has had trouble filling many federal appointments in a timely way.

    While it moved swiftly to name David Vigneault as CSIS director within two months of Michel Coulombe’s retirement at the helm of Canada’s spy agency, a government website lists two dozen top cabinet appointments that remain to be filled, including the RCMP commissioner job.

    Others include several Officers of Parliament ranging from the Official Languages Commissioner, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the Senate Ethics Officer, the Lobbying Commissioner and the Information Commissioner. There are other openings too at the head of Telefilm Canada, the new Canada Infrastructure Bank, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Canada Post Corporation, as well as ongoing openings at the Immigration and Refugee Board, the Veterans Review and Appeal Board; and upcoming “opportunities” the government says will be “posted in the coming weeks” to fill the positions of a new Chief Electoral Officer, a Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons, and chair of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP. Applications for the job of chairing the CBC closed earlier this week.

    Trudeau brought in what he called a new “merit-based” appointment process intended to be more inclusive and seek out a diversity of candidates. But long-delayed appointments have been the result.

    Meanwhile many of the positions have been filled on an interim basis for a year or more.

    A letter Goodale wrote to his opposition critics in June about the search process for Paulson’s replacement said the search would be expected to recommend candidates who “demonstrate the ability to spearhead organizational change, as well as the ambition to advance the government’s nation-to-nation reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and the promotion of diversity and gender equity in all internal policies. In addition, leadership on issues stemming from mental health-related illnesses and post traumatic stress injuries within the force will be a vital asset.”

    A “notice of opportunity” lays out job requirements for top Mountie including the government’s preference that candidates be bilingual. Beyond educational and professional qualifications, the government says it’s looking for a leader who demonstrates “sound judgment and impartiality,” and is a team builder with “high ethical standards, resilience and integrity, superior tact and interpersonal and communication skills.” And someone who is “motivated by challenge and change.”

    The RCMP has struggled over the past decade to deal with a range of management challenges including harassment allegations, recruitment problems and a failure to manage the mental health needs of its employees, as the federal auditor general reported last spring.

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    OTTAWA—Scarborough MP Arnold Chan — who used his final speech in Parliament to implore MPs to “elevate” their debate — has died after a battle with cancer.

    News of his death was confirmed Thursday, triggering condolences from his fellow MPs.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Facebook to reflect on a visit he had with Chan just a few weeks ago.

    “He was still cracking jokes — and insisted on playing piano and making me sing. We laughed and cried that day, and I’ll always cherish that visit and all the times we spent together,” Trudeau wrote.

    “Arnold, you have a beautiful family and my thoughts are with your wife Jean and your three sons, Nathaniel, Ethan, and Theodore. They are fine young men, just like their father. Rest in peace my dear friend,” he said.

    Condolences poured in from other MPs as well.

    “Mourning the passing of not only a great parliamentarian, but a close friend. @ArnoldChanLib, your drive to serve Cdns was ever inspiring,” Navdeep Bains, the minister of innovation, science and economic development, tweeted.

    “Devastated by the passing of @ArnoldChanLib. Sending my love to Jean and the boys, family, friends and colleagues. You will be missed,” said Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes.

    Environment Minister Catherine McKenna also took to Twitter to pay tribute. “Devastating. ArnoldChanLib was the best of the best in politics. He reminded us why what we do matters. Love to his family & all his friends.”

    At Queen’s Park, there was an audible gasp from MPPs in all three parties when a visibly upset Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid broke the news in the Legislature that Arnold Chan had died.

    Duguid, the Scarborough Centre MPP, asked Speaker Dave Levac if the House could have a moment of silence to remember the well-regarded Scarborough-Agincourt MP.

    MPPs on both sides of the chamber immediately agreed and outside, the Canadian flag was immediately lowered to half-mast in his memory.

    “He was a breath of fresh air in this business. Always positive, always optimistic, and always full of energy. A real gem,” Duguid told reporters after.

    International Trade Minister Michael Chan wept openly in the Legislature as he recalled his friend and former chief of staff.

    “Arnold was a great guy. Three weeks ago, he gave me a phone call, and got my family to his house. He told me there’s no more medicine. The doctor advised him that after five doses of trial medicine, they decided he’s no more,” the minister told the hushed chamber.

    “He told me, ‘Michael, I’m dying.’ That’s a message from him. You know what … life, for everyone, is short, so enjoy it,” he said.

    Chan also worked as a senior aide to former premier Dalton McGuinty and was widely respected at Queen’s Park.

    The 50-year-old was first elected to the House of Commons in a byelection in 2014. But he was forced to take time off from his political duties in January 2015 for treatment of nasopharyngeal cancer.

    Chan won his Scarborough seat in the October 2015 election

    The MP for Scarborough-Agincourt, struggled this year after the cancer reoccurred. In June, he made an emotional appeal to fellow MPS to elevate their debate and behaviour.

    Noting then that he might not have the energy to speak in the Commons again, Chan implored his political colleagues to rise above petty partisanship.

    “I know members revere this place, and I would beg us to not only act as honourable members but to treat this institution honourably,” he said.

    He singled out for praise the conduct of Green party Leader Elizabeth May, saying she set an example that other MPs should aspire to follow.

    “Despite strongly disagreeing, perhaps, with the position of the government of the day, she does so in a respectful tone. I would ask all of us to elevate our debate, to elevate our practice to that standard,” Chan said.

    “It is only through that practice, which I believe she so eloquently demonstrates, that Canadians will have confidence in this democratic institution that we all hold so dear. It is important that we do that,” he told the Commons in his June 12 speech.

    He also spoke out against the practice of “canned” talking points, saying such rote speeches undermine public confidence.

    “We can disagree strongly, and in fact we should. That is what democracy is about. However, we should not just use the formulaic talking points,” he said.

    Finally, he spoke about the importance of what he called basic common civility.

    “We have much to be proud of, and I would simply ask us to celebrate this incredible institution. By doing those small acts, we will continue to uphold our Canadian democracy and the values that bind us together,” he said.

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    WASHINGTON—Ontario might respond with its own protectionist measures if the U.S. implements the “Buy American” policies favoured by President Donald Trump, Premier Kathleen Wynne said on Thursday.

    In an interview in Washington, Wynne said she had told Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross an hour earlier that “we will retaliate if necessary.”

    “We don’t want to do that, but we will if we have to,” Wynne said at the Canadian Embassy.

    “There will be real damage done on both sides of the border if Buy America takes hold in any way across the country. And the expectation of our industry will be that we will act in accordance, and we will put in place similar barriers,” she said.

    “And that’s what creates a trade war. And we’re not interested in that, we’ve managed to avoid that, we don’t want to go there, but we are prepared to. It’s what our businesses would expect of us.”

    Buy American policies vary. In general terms, they require U.S. governments to use U.S. companies for government projects, shutting out companies from Canada and other countries. A similar barrier from Ontario might limit certain Ontario projects to Canadian firms.

    Wynne’s Liberal government has aggressively challenged Buy American proposals in New York and Texas. Ontario’s lobbying, and threats of retaliation, were widely credited for helping to defeat the New York proposal in April, though the state then approved a narrower measure.

    Wynne’s Thursday remarks, after her half-hour meeting with Ross, were both her broadest and most direct retaliation threats to date. They came as Canadian, American and Mexican negotiators attempt to hammer out a new North American Free Trade Agreement.

    Wynne, trailing in the polls to Patrick Brown’s Progressive Conservatives, faces a tough election in June 2018.

    At Queen’s Park, Brown said he was “worried about the protectionist rhetoric in the United States.”

    “The goal is to have access to American markets. I hope that we don’t get to the point that we’re in a trade war with our largest trading partner,” Brown said in an interview.

    “I know that the federal government is trying to ensure that we have open access to the borders and I know that’s difficult with the latest push in the U.S.,” he said.

    NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said that while NAFTA needs to be renegotiated to help workers, she was “worried” about the risks of “one-upmanship.”

    “People become hardened in their positions and we don’t end up hammering out a deal that’s going to work for everyone,” Horwath said in an interview.

    “I understand that (Wynne) might be put in a bit of a spot, but at the same time we all have to keep our powder dry.”

    Trump has vowed to pursue a “Buy American, Hire American” agenda, and his negotiators are attempting to write Buy American policies into the new NAFTA. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is resisting, saying one of its top NAFTA priorities is keeping government procurement open.

    Wynne said Ross simply acknowledged her remarks. They were just talking, she said, not negotiating.

    Wynne, making her second trip to Washington in 2017, was also scheduled to meet Thursday with three Republican senators: Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, Montana’s Steve Daines and Maine’s Susan Collins. She was to deliver a lecture at Johns Hopkins University and remarks at an embassy barbecue for members of Congress.

    Like Trudeau, she said she is trying to strengthen relationships with state leaders while the mercurial Trump is in office.

    Read more:

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    Everything you need to know about NAFTA

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    MENLO PARK, CALIF.—Google faces a new lawsuit accusing it of gender-based pay discrimination. A lawyer representing three female former Google employees is seeking class action status for the claim.

    The suit, filed Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court, follows a federal labour investigation that made a preliminary finding of systemic pay discrimination among the 21,000 employees at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. The initial stages of the review found women earned less than men in nearly every job classification.

    Google disputes the findings and says its analysis shows no gender pay gap.

    Read more: Google anti-diversity memo shows how ‘entrenched’ tech bias is

    Google memo shows workplace free speech protections are limited

    The suit, led by lawyer James Finberg of Altshuler Berzon LLP, is on behalf of three women — Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease and Kelli Wisuri — who all quit after being put on career tracks that they claimed would pay them less than their male counterparts. The suit aims to represent thousands of Google employees in California and seeks lost wages and a slice of Google’s profits.

    “I have come forward to correct a pervasive problem of gender bias at Google,” Ellis said in a statement. She says she quit Google in 2014 after male engineers with similar experience were hired to higher-paying job levels and she was denied a promotion despite excellent performance reviews. “It is time to stop ignoring these issues in tech.”

    Charges of gender discrimination have swirled at Alphabet Inc.-owned Google since the U.S. Labor Department sued in January to bar Google from doing business with the federal government until it released thousands of documents related to an audit over its pay practices. The sides have been battling in court over how much information Google must turn over.

    The lawsuit also follows the firing of male engineer James Damore, who wrote a memo circulated on internal message boards that blamed inherent differences between men and women for the underrepresentation of women in engineering roles.

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    Police in Toronto say they’re looking for two boys who have been missing since Tuesday afternoon.

    They say Jayden LaRose, 14, and his 12-year-old brother Damien LaRose were last seen at 3 p.m. on Tuesday in the Wellesley Street East and Rose Avenue area.

    Damien LaRose is described as five-foot-one, 98 pounds, with short dirty-blond hair.

    Jayden LaRose is described as five-foot-four, 120 pounds, with shoulder-length blond hair and blue eyes.

    Police say the boys are known to frequent the Wellesley Street East and St. James Court area, as well as the Banff Avenue and Eglinton Avenue East area.

    Officials say they are concerned for their safety.

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    A Toronto factory the Star found was providing little training to the temporary workers it relies upon to churn out millions of bagels and croissants for major grocery stores and fast-food chains has hired an independent auditor to review its use of temp agencies and its health and safety practices as a whole.

    “We’re committed to the wellbeing of everyone that comes into our facilities, all workers,” said David Gelbloom, the lawyer and human resources manager for Fiera Foods, an industrial bakery where a Star reporter went undercover as a temp worker earlier this year.

    “We’ve hired an independent, senior HR professional who is going to audit our HR, going to look at our procedures, health and safety, our workplace.”

    Gelbloom added that Fiera Foods had also hired an independent auditing company “to audit our use of temp agencies and to audit the agencies themselves.”

    He refused to give the name of the HR professional or the auditing company conducting the internal reviews.

    Fiera’s announcement of the internal audit came after the company pleaded guilty to Ministry of Labour charges related to the death of 23-year-old temp worker Amina Diaby.

    Read more:

    I went undercover in a Toronto factory where a temp worker died. Here’s what I found

    One year after this temp agency worker died at Fiera Foods, family is still searching for answers

    NDP slams Liberals on temp work

    The company was fined $300,000 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act plus a 25 per cent victim surcharge, following a joint submission with the Crown. (The surcharge does not go directly to the victim’s family, but is added to a general government fund to assist victims of crime.”

    The fine is double what the company paid in 2002 following the death of 17-year-old temp Ivan Golyashov.

    Diaby, a refugee from Guinea, was working at Fiera’s Marmora St. factory on Sept. 2, 2016, when her hijab became “entangled” in machinery, strangling her. She was hired through a temporary help agency and had been working for the company for a little more than two weeks.

    Diaby’s husband, Sanunu Jabbi, cried quietly as the facts of the case were read out.

    “What happened to Amina Diaby was a tragedy,” Gelbloom told the Star outside court. “She died at our facility and that shouldn’t have happened. We take health and safety very seriously at our company. It is a top priority for us. We have to do better and we will do better.”

    Diaby was the third temp agency worker to die while working at Fiera Foods or one of its affiliated companies since 1999.

    Gelbloom said the company is going to do “everything that we can to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.”

    Crown attorney Shantanu Roy told court that Diaby was not wearing a lab coat at the time of her death, and that her hijab was not secured. It got stuck in a conveyor belt that was not adequately guarded and did not have an emergency stop button within reach. There were no witnesses to her death.

    Ashley Brown, the lawyer representing Fiera Foods at Thursday’s hearing, said the company recognized the “magnitude of the incident” and had taken numerous measures to improve safety at the factory. Within the last two years the company has invested $500,000 in health and safety initiatives, she said, while they updated uniform regulations and improved training following Diaby’s death.

    “I think it’s good because at least they will learn,” said Alusine Jabbi, Diaby’s brother-in-law, after the sentencing. “If it saves one person’s life, it’s worth it.”

    No representative of Fiera Foods has ever contacted Diaby’s family, according to her husband. He told the Star that he believes his wife was insufficiently trained to safely do her job.

    Eight months after Diaby’s death, the Star sent a reporter to work undercover at Fiera Foods for a month, as part of a year-long investigation into the rise of temp work in Ontario. Our reporter, who was hired through a temp agency, received about five minutes of safety training, no hands-on instruction, and was paid in cash at a payday lender without any documentation or deductions.

    Fiera Foods owners, Boris Serebryany and Alex Garber, have thus far refused interview requests from the Star.

    In response to the Star’s investigation, some of the grocery stores that sell products made by Fiera Foods said they planned to meet with the company.

    “We’re troubled by what we read in the Toronto Star article,” Sobey’s spokeswoman Maureen Hart wrote in an email. “We have contacted Fiera and will meet with them as soon as possible to understand what corrective actions they are taking.”

    A coalition of grocery retailers, meanwhile, told the Star they have a Supplier Code of Conduct, which includes not only health and safety, but also employment standards, and they expect Fiera Foods to follow it.

    “Our members expect all suppliers, including Fiera Foods, to adhere to all appropriate regulations and legal requirements governing their business, which includes ensuring food safety and a safe, healthy workplace for employees,” wrote David Wilkes, spokesman for the Retail Council of Canada, which provided a statement on behalf of Costco, Walmart, Metro and Loblaws.

    As a result of the guilty plea, the Crown withdrew charges against Diaby’s supervisor at the factory, as well as charges related to two other unrelated incidents that occurred at Fiera Foods in October 2015 and June 2016, when workers suffered “critical” arm injuries.

    “There’s a lot of lessons to be learned out of Fiera Foods,” Ontario’s labour minister, Kevin Flynn, said following Thursday’s guilty plea. “If companies think there’s a short cut, they’re fooling themselves. There’s a safe way to do the job and there’s a not safe way to do the job.”

    Thursday was the first court appearance on the charges related to Diaby’s death, and Roy, the crown attorney, noted how extraordinary it was for the company to plead guilty so quickly.

    “Very rarely do we have resolution on the very first day in court,” he said.

    Toronto police are also still investigating Diaby’s death. To date, no charges have been laid.

    Diaby was assigned to work at Fiera Foods by OLA Staffing, a temporary help agency based in Woodbridge. The agency was not charged by the Ministry of Labour, but the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board are still investigating the company’s role in Diaby’s death.

    Geetha Thushyanthan, who runs the agency, has declined the Star’s interview requests.

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    OTTAWA—Current U.S. policy directs the American military not to defend Canada if it is targeted in a ballistic missile attack, says the top Canadian officer at the North American Aerospace Defence Command.

    “We’re being told in Colorado Springs that the extant U.S. policy is not to defend Canada,” said Lt.-Gen. Pierre St-Amand, deputy commander of Colorado-based Norad.

    “That is the policy that’s stated to us. So that’s the fact that I can bring to the table.”

    St-Amand delivered that revelation Thursday during an appearance before the House of Commons defence committee, which is studying the extent to which Canada is ready for an attack by North Korea.

    The study comes after several provocative nuclear and ballistic missile tests by North Korea, which have stoked fears Canada could end up in the middle of a confrontation between the U.S. and the so-called hermit kingdom.

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    Those tests have also resurrected questions over whether Canada should join the U.S. ballistic missile defence shield, which it famously opted out of in 2005 following a divisive national debate.

    St-Amand said Canadian and U.S. military personnel at Norad headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., work side-by-side detecting potential airborne threats to North America.

    But Canada would have no role in deciding what to do if North Korea or any other country fired a missile at North America, he said.

    Canadian military personnel would instead be forced to sit on the sidelines and watch as U.S. officials decided how to act.

    The general did acknowledge that U.S. officials could ultimately decide to intervene if a missile was heading toward Canada, but that the decision would likely be made in “the heat of the moment.”

    St-Amand’s comments appeared to confirm the worst fears of many people who believe it is time for Canada to join the U.S. ballistic missile defence shield.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seemed to all but close the door on joining ballistic missile defence last month when he said Canada’s position is “not going to be changed any time soon.”

    But that has not stopped various defence experts, retired military personnel and even some Liberal MPs from calling for Canada to embrace the missile shield to ensure the country’s protection.

    Earlier in the day, officials from Global Affairs Canada and National Defence warned the committee that it was likely only a matter of time before North Korea would be able to launch an attack on North America.

    But they also said that based on recent contacts with Pyongyang, the North Koreans do not see Canada as an enemy, but rather as a potential friend that has the ear of the U.S.

    Those contacts include a meeting between Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her North Korean counterpart in August.

    “There has been no direct threat to Canada,” said Mark Gwozdecky, assistant deputy minister of international security at Global Affairs Canada.

    “On the contrary, in recent contacts with the North Korean government ... the indications were that they perceived Canada as a peaceful and indeed a friendly country.”

    Pyongyang’s primary goal is self-preservation, the officials said, and it understands the consequences of a war with the United States or any other country.

    Yet the officials also said the risks of a miscalculation are high, and the Liberal government believes Canada has an important role in helping find a peaceful solution to the situation.

    That includes talks, but also trying to exert more pressure on the North Korean government — either through diplomatic isolation or economic sanctions — to give up its nuclear weapons.

    “We must convince Pyongyang that it can achieve its goals through peaceful diplomatic means,” said Mark Gwozdecky, assistant deputy minister of international security at Global Affairs Canada.

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    OTTAWA—It’s a sonic whodunit, with international ripples.

    Canadian and U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba have been afflicted by a weird sonic blast that has affected their health and put police agencies in both countries on the trail for the culprit.

    “A conspiracy theorist could have a field day,” said a former Canadian diplomat familiar with Cuba.

    “This has been so strange and bizarre from the very beginning,” he said, speaking on background because of the sensitivity of the issue.

    In March, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department began to hear reports about “bizarre” symptoms — headaches, nosebleeds, dizziness, ringing in the ears — affecting a number of its diplomats working in Havana.

    Canadian diplomats and family members were affected in the incidents, suggesting that residences may have been targeted as well as official embassy buildings.

    A Canadian government official, who spoke on background, declined to give to firm numbers on how many were affected but said, “it was not a one-off.”

    But he said Canadians involved in the incidents are in “fine health” now and there has not been a reoccurrence.

    “Clearly, whatever happened affected the Americans more deeply,” the official said.

    It’s not clear whether it was some form of electronic surveillance gone awry or a deliberate attempt to target diplomats. Nor is it clear who is behind the attacks. Cubans? Russians trying to make mischief?

    “What’s difficult to determine is what the cause was and then, who caused it . . . Anything is possible,” the official said.

    However, he said the Cubans have been “very eager” to collaborate with the investigation since being alerted to the incidents.

    The RCMP is investigating, working in collaboration with the U.S., including the FBI, and Cuban officials.

    The Associated Press reported Thursday that 21 U.S. diplomats have been victims in the mystery attacks.

    And it reported that the attacks had a “laser-like specificity” seemingly able to target specific parts of a building.

    During the incidents, diplomats felt vibrations and heard noises like ringing, high-pitched chirping, grinding — and sometimes nothing at all, The Associated Press said.

    Read more:

    Mystery deepens in Cuba over ‘health attacks’ on U.S., Canadian diplomats

    Two more Americans were affected by health attacks in Cuba, Tillerson says

    At least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba also suffered hearing loss, Global Affairs says

    The union that represents U.S. diplomats said it has met with 10 personnel who have suffered health effects from what it called “sonic harassment” against the U.S. embassy in Havana.

    Diagnoses include mild traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing loss, and symptoms include loss of balance, severe headaches, cognitive disruption and brain swelling, the American Foreign Service Association said.

    The association called on Washington to ensure care for those affected and “to work to ensure that these incidents cease and are not repeated.”

    Its counterpart in Canada — the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers — offered no details on the incidents, saying only that it works closely with the Foreign Affairs Department to “address this and other health and safety issues” affecting diplomats working abroad.

    Contrary to earlier published reports, the Canadians did not suffer hearing loss.

    The Canadian diplomat said he suspects some sort of technical mistake in a surveillance operation is the blame rather than a deliberate campaign to target and harm diplomats.

    “I think you had a surveillance operation that technologically went wrong, some sort of equipment malfunction, some mistake,” he said.

    He said that surveillance is a fact of life for diplomats posted abroad.

    “Lots of people engage in them. The Americans run massive signals intelligence operations around the world and spy on everybody. The Russians spy on everybody, the Chinese, the French, the Israelis, you name it,” he said.

    And yes, even the Canadians, keeping tabs on the activities of some foreign diplomats in Ottawa, he said.

    “If you’re a foreign diplomat, especially in a place like Cuba, in your daily life you have to assume that there are surveillance activities,” he said.

    “They can be more or less intrusive, they can be more or less electronic,” the former diplomat said.

    He said that it defies logic that the Cubans would deliberately target Canada, with whom they have long enjoyed warm relations, or Americans, at a time when President Donald Trump is re-evaluating the past administration’s policy of warming ties with the Caribbean nation.

    He said the Cubans were always respectful of diplomatic personnel and property. “There is no plausible motive to launch an aggressive campaign do to harm to foreign diplomats,” he said.

    Last month, the U.S. State Department said American personnel in Cuba had suffered a “variety of physical symptoms” in incidents that date back to late 2016.

    “Initially, when they started reporting what I will just call symptoms, it took time to figure out what it was, and this is still ongoing. So we’re monitoring it. We provide medical care and concern to those who believe that they have been affected by it, and we take this extremely seriously,” spokesperson Heather Nauert told an August briefing.

    She admitted at the time of the briefing, that American officials were in the dark about the cause of the incidents. “We’re taking that situation seriously and it’s under investigation right now,” she said.

    Yet, the U.S. government forced two Cuban diplomats to leave the embassy in Washington, apparently because two American diplomats were forced to return home from Havana.

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    It is mid-morning in a packed upstairs kitchen at The 519 community centre and Kristen Ireland is brandishing an eggplant and making upbeat and practiced demands.

    “Somebody has got to cut the eggplant,” she declares, before flipping the tubular purple fruit into a set of ready hands, followed by an extremely large knife.

    “Knife skills, remember,” she said, offering it out handle first. “Pass it so you don’t kill somebody.”

    Ireland is a health promoter with the Inner City Family Health Team, a group of health professionals dedicated to caring for former or current residents of Seaton House and people who are experiencing homelessness.

    Brandon, who took and is diligently cutting the eggplant into cubes, is a health team client and has stayed for two years at Seaton House, Toronto’s largest shelter.

    At The 519 he is part of a team of chefs, working to learn how to prepare healthy and affordable meals, as part of a life skills program called Street Eats.

    “The most important thing is we learn from each other and master some skills,” said Brandon. People who don’t have housing, he felt it was important to say, are often isolated and lonely and benefit from group programs.

    The cooking program “warms my heart,” he said.

    Arnoldo Alcayaga, who at one time lived in an emergency shelter, was part of a group who came up with the workshop, with health team registered nurse Roxie Danielson and his own doctor.

    He was a health team client and wanted to find a way to give back because of the support he received.

    “Emotionally and spiritually you have to nourish your body and the best way to do that is to be aware of what you put in your body,” said Alcayaga, who is a chef.

    To do that properly, he said, you need to be instructed on how to pick, cook and find foods within your budget.

    Each session one of the men, all health team clients, picks out a recipe to make. Brandon chose pesto and pasta salad, topped with shredded cheese and tiny tomatoes from the health team’s garden.

    With Ireland’s help he coaches eight men through the hour and a bit it takes to turn out a pasta dish in a tiny and somewhat chaotic kitchen. The room is packed with jostling and laughing men, trying to communicate over the general din and a sputtering and roaring blender.

    The program runs every three weeks and is a partnership between the health team and The 519, a multi-service, city agency serving the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups.

    The 519 donates the kitchen and the money for the food.

    “We have done everything from tamales to Chinese food,” as well as indigenous recipes, said Curran Stikuts, community organizer, who also does a fair bit of the grocery shopping.

    Stikuts said programs like Street Eats help provide a bit of additional food security for people struggling to get by in Toronto.

    He said in the last year The 519 provided more than 12,000 meals, just through their drop-in program and demand continues to rise.

    The men of Seaton House are facing an uncertain future. The shelter is scheduled for demolition in 2019, according to the city’s website. Construction is expected to take place from 2020 to 2023, provided council approves funding in 2018.

    There is a relocation plan in the works, but regardless of where they live many will continue to face the challenge of trying to live in Toronto on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.

    Most single men on ODSP who are living in social housing would be left with about $649 each month after paying rent. Those paying market rents would have far less.

    “ODSP just doesn’t cover the cost of living and eating well. It just doesn’t match what people need anymore,” said Danielson.

    Danielson, who helps run the class, said healthy food is a vital part of preserving health and preventing cardiovascular issues or conditions like diabetes from getting worse.

    Michael, a class participant and former Seaton House resident, now lives in supportive housing. In addition to ODSP, he receives what is known as a special food allowance, of $250 each month.

    “Seaton House was good to me in many ways,” particularly because of programs he was connected to, he said.

    He still relies on food banks for staple items, like pasta and rice and canned goods. The bulk of the allowance is spent on fresh produce and protein.

    One of the biggest appeals of the program, he said, is they are taught how to transform donated food items into decent meals, without a huge extra cost.

    “You get to meet people with a common purpose,” he said.

    0 0

    The Toronto Police Association is encouraging its members to wear union ball caps to protest what its president calls “empty promises” from police leadership to fix low staffing levels.

    “We want to see a sign of solidarity, a sign of unity. We want to send a message to the chief, the chair and the mayor that we are together on these issues,” Mike McCormack says in a video message to Toronto officers released Thursday, announcing what he calls “phase two” of its protest against modernization plans within the Toronto Police Service.

    The move prompted a lengthy internal message from Chief Mark Saunders Thursday, assuring officers he was listening to their needs and detailing how he was responding to union and officer demands.

    “I, and my command, have and will always make time to listen to your ideas, concerns and issues,” Saunders wrote in the internal message to all officers, obtained by the Star through a police source Thursday night.

    Stressing solidarity “for the right reason is something that is important in any industry — especially law enforcement,” said Saunders.

    But he also said he would soon crack down on officers donning the ball caps in place of their service-issued hat.

    “In the spirit of solidarity, I will allow you to wear the ball caps for a short period of time until I lawfully order you to return to your forage cap. The (Police Service Act) is clear of the effect of lawful orders given by me,” Saunders wrote.

    The police union’s move comes just over a month after it released a joint statement with the Toronto Police Service and its civilian board announcing changes aimed at addressing problems with staffing levels, caused in part by a higher-than-anticipated number of staff departures.

    The central fix was a temporary lifting of a three-year hiring and promotions freeze. The statement announced 80 new officers would be recruited by the end of 2017.

    But McCormack now says the hiring and training schedule for the new recruits means all 80 won’t be on the road until January 2019. Meanwhile, 203 uniform members have left Toronto police this year and more are expected to depart by year’s end.

    “The carpet got pulled out from under our feet,” McCormack said in an interview Thursday.

    In his internal message, Saunders said the service has received 116 applications since Tuesday, when the service officially announced the recruiting process had opened. Some applications came in from other police services.

    “That tells me that we are still an employer of choice and that people want to join one of the best police services in North America,” Saunders said in the message.

    A Toronto police news release this week said the service was “now accepting applications for the position of cadet-in-training,” but did not include any deadline for application, or any details about deployment.

    Speaking to reporters Thursday, Mayor John Tory, who sits on the police board, said “every one of the issues” that the union expressed concerns about is being addressed “as we speak,” including the hiring of officers.

    Approved by the police board earlier this year, the Toronto police’s transformational task force plan, dubbed The Way Forward, found $100 million in savings for the police service’s operating budget over three years. Sixty million dollars of savings would come from the three-year freeze on hiring and a moratorium on promotions.

    The report also recommended no new uniform officers be hired over three years, with the end goal to reduce the number of officers to about 4,750 by 2019.

    The union has said it has yet to see the data to show how that number was decided upon; as of July, the Toronto police employed 5,100 police officers.

    The police union has for months been critical of the Way Forward plan, claiming officer ranks have been depleted to critically low levels, causing safety issues.

    McCormack has also raised the alarm about wait times for 911 calls, saying they are up due to decreased staffing, and was equally critical of Saunders and the police board for dealing too slowly with staff promotions.

    In his internal message, Saunders addressed both concerns, saying a new class of communications operators will start working next month, and that he’s tasked one of his deputy chiefs to conduct a high-level review.

    “Based on her feedback, I am moving a superintendent to support Communications and will be taking immediate steps to get more people on the floor,” Saunders wrote.

    The chief also said he will be submitting a report to the police board to ensure that Toronto police employees, both sworn and civilian, who qualify will be promoted “as soon as possible.”

    With files from David Rider

    Wendy Gillis can be reached at

    0 0

    SEOUL—North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan into the northern Pacific Ocean on Friday, U.S. and South Korean militaries said, its longest-ever such flight and a clear message of defiance to its rivals.

    Since U.S. President Donald Trump threatened the North with “fire and fury” in August, Pyongyang has conducted its most powerful nuclear test and launched two missiles of increasing range over U.S. ally Japan. It tested its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

    The growing frequency, power and confidence displayed by these tests seems to confirm what governments and outside experts have long feared: North Korea is closer than ever to its goal of building a military arsenal that can viably target both U.S. troops in Asia and the U.S. homeland. This, in turn, is meant to allow North Korea greater military freedom in the region by raising doubts in Seoul and Tokyo that Washington would risk the annihilation of a U.S. city to protect its Asian allies.

    South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile travelled about 3,700 kilometres and reached a maximum height of 770 kilometres.

    North Korea has repeatedly vowed to continue these tests amid what it calls U.S. hostility — by which it means the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Japan and South Korea. Robust diplomacy on the issue has been stalled for years, and there’s little sign that senior officials from Pyongyang and Washington might sit down to discuss ways to slow the North’s determined march toward inclusion among the world’s nuclear weapons powers.

    Friday’s missile, which triggered sirens and warning messages in northern Japan but caused no apparent damage to aircraft or ships, was the second fired over Japan in less than a month. North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3.

    The missile was launched from Sunan, Pyongyang’s international airport and the origin of the earlier missile that flew over Japan. Analysts have speculated the new test was of the same intermediate-range missile launched in that earlier flight, the Hwasong-12.

    That missile is linked to North Korea’s declaration that it means to contain the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, which is the home of important U.S. military assets and appears well within the Hwasong-12’s range.

    Friday’s missile test was met with the usual outrage. South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered his military to conduct a live-fire ballistic missile drill in response to the North Korean launch and instructed government officials to pursue “stern” measures to discourage Pyongyang from further provocations. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis both called the launch a reckless act.

    The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency closed-door meeting to be held Friday afternoon in New York. Trump has not commented.

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    The North American Aerospace Defence Command and the U.S. Pacific Command said the missile posed no threat to North America or to Guam.

    South Korean experts have said North Korea wants to make missiles flying over Japan an accepted norm as it seeks to win more military space in a region dominated by its enemies.

    North Korea initially flight-tested the Hwasong-12 and the ICBM model Hwasong-14 at highly lofted angles to reduce their range and avoid neighbouring countries.

    The two launches over Japan indicate North Korea is moving toward using angles close to operational to determine whether its warheads can survive the harsh conditions of atmospheric re-entry and detonate properly.

    North Korea has been accelerating its nuclear weapons development under leader Kim Jong Un, a third-generation dictator who has conducted four of North Korea’s six nuclear tests since taking power in 2011. The weapons are being tested at a torrid pace and include solid-fuel missiles designed to be launched from road mobile launchers or submarines and are thus less detectable beforehand.

    North Korea claimed its latest nuclear test was a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for its ICBMs, which could potentially reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.

    The UN Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions earlier this week over the nuclear test. They ban all textile exports and prohibit any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers — two key sources of hard currency. They also prohibit North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates, and cap Pyongyang’s imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

    North Korea’s Foreign Ministry denounced the U.N. sanctions and said the North will “redouble its efforts to increase its strength to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and right to existence.”

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    It really is hard for women to break the glass ceiling . . . even at an organization whose mandate is to accomplish that very thing.

    For the second time in a row, Catalyst Canada, a non-profit organization that pushes for the advancement of women in the workplace, has appointed a man to chair its advisory board.

    The Canadian arm of the 55-year-old global institute promoting gender equity in the boardroom and the executive suite announced Thursday that CIBC chief executive Victor Dodig has replaced former chair Bill Downe, the Bank of Montreal’s CEO, who is retiring from the bank this year and was the Catalyst chairperson.

    “Isn’t that interesting?” said Trish Hennessey, director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Ontario office, who has personally worked on the issue of income inequality for over a decade.

    “That is kind of ironic. As an organization, you might want your leader to be a reflection of your stated mandate,” she said.

    “It’s 2017 and the glass ceiling is a very real phenomenon in Canada.”

    Jeannie Collins-Ardern, the new interim CEO of Women in Capital Markets, agreed that “the optics aren’t the best.

    “It would have been nice to set an example to have a woman chair the board this time around, since they had a man the last time,” said Collins-Ardern. But she added that she has heard that Dodig is “a very supportive individual of women’s initiatives and he’s done a lot of good for the community.”

    Dodig was named the 2017 Catalyst Canada Honours Champion in recognition of his “exceptional contributions to accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion,” says a release from Catalyst.

    “He is a vocal advocate for gender diversity in the workplace and actively supports the advancement of talented women to executive roles and on boards,” the release says.

    The group’s Toronto-based executive director defended the move to name Dodig, who has been on the organization’s board of directors for the last three years, as board chairman, saying he’s a leader on the issue of gender diversity in the workplace.

    Tanya van Biesen said the decision was made after “a very thoughtful process” that included both male and female candidates for the position.

    “This is a real reflection of what we believe: that it’s critical to engage men in the dialogue of gender balance . . . to eradicate this problem. This is not just a women’s problem; it’s a societal problem,” said van Biesen in an interview.

    Catalyst Canada’s advisory board includes executives from top Canadian corporations, including McDonald’s Canada, BCE Inc. and soup titan Campbell Company of Canada.

    “We think he is a fantastic choice,” van Biesen said.

    “We don’t have an issue with the optics at all.”

    Hennessey questions the move, given that “there is a vast pool of talented women who are extremely qualified to fill a position like that.

    “If your mandate is to question hiring practices, you have to start at the top,” said Hennessey.

    The website for the organization, which has its global headquarters on Wall St. in New York City, boasts that “Catalyst is the most trusted resource for knowledge on gender, leadership, and inclusive leadership in the world.”

    “We (women) have to lead by example,” noted Collins-Ardern, whose organization is the largest network of women in the Canadian financial industry.

    Of the 19 members of Catalyst Canada’s advisory board, seven are women. About three per cent of Canadian-based public companies have women at the helm, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

    Of the 17 directors who sit on the board at CIBC, where Dodig is CEO, seven are women.

    Dodig was unavailable for comment Thursday, but said in a statement that he is excited to “accelerate progress for women, improve gender balance in leadership roles and create more inclusive workplaces.”

    “It’s by building truly inclusive organizations and harnessing everyone’s talent that we will strengthen the Canadian economy and enable our country to compete on the global stage,” he added.

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    Metrolinx is pledging to open its decision-making process to greater public scrutiny after the Star revealed the Ministry of Transportation intervened behind the scenes to pressure it into approving two new GO stations that weren’t supported by internal reports.

    One of the stations is in Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca’s riding, the other is part of Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” plan.

    Following a public session of a meeting of the Metrolinx board Thursday, board chair Rob Prichard said the agency from now on intends to publish business cases for transit projects before the board votes on them.

    A spokesperson for the agency later confirmed Metrolinx will also post notices of when the board meets behind closed doors and publish the minutes of those meetings afterward.

    “One of the good things coming out of this is, I think, it is advantageous to always release the business case analysis in advance of the board discussing it,” Prichard said.

    “I’m always in favour of continuous improvement in governance . . . . Our practices are developing, and I think it will be a good evolution in our practice to do that.”

    Metrolinx, an arm’s-length agency of the provincial government, is in charge of transportation planning in the GTHA and regularly makes decisions that involve billions of dollars of public money and will impact the region’s transit network for generations.

    The public so far has had limited insight into the agency’s internal deliberations, however. Since the start of 2014, the board has held 29 meetings, and 12 of those — more than 40 per cent — were held in private.

    According to agency spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins, dates of the closed-door meetings will be posted online before they happen, except in the case of emergency meetings, in which case they may be posted afterward. The minutes will also be posted, although they will be reviewed to remove sensitive information related to privacy and commercial interests.

    Documents the Star obtained through a freedom of information request detailed the role that closed door meetings and secret reports played in the approval of two politically sensitive GO stations: Kirby, which is in Del Duca’s Vaughan riding, and the “SmartTrack” stop at Lawrence East in Scarborough.

    In June 2016 the board met in private and decided to support a list of 10 new GO stations that didn’t include Kirby or Lawrence East.

    Business cases for both stops found they would actually cause a net decrease in ridership on the GO network. A summary report of the business cases that Metrolinx commissioned recommended that neither be considered for at least another 10 years.

    However, a day after the closed door board meeting, Del Duca’s ministry sent Metrolinx press releases that showed he planned to announce the two stations were going ahead.

    Metrolinx management subsequently changed its advice to the board, which then reconvened in public and voted to build Kirby and Lawrence East as part of a package of 12 stops to be added to the GO network under the province’s regional express rail expansion plan.

    The estimated cost of building Kirby is about $100 million, while Lawrence East would cost roughly $23 million.

    The public had little opportunity to scrutinize the stations’ approval at the time because business cases for the new stops weren’t released until almost nine months after the decisive vote.

    Metrolinx never alerted the public to the closed door meeting or posted minutes of what was decided.

    Eric Miller, director of the University of Toronto’s Transportation Research Institute, applauded Metrolinx’s decision to open its board to greater public scrutiny, calling it an “important step in the right direction towards better transparency.”

    He predicted that publishing studies before board votes could lead to Metrolinx performing better analysis on transit projects because the agency will be aware they will be critiqued.

    “People can pick at them and debate them. And that may lead to more trust, and lead to a healthier debate.”

    Miller added that the transparency measures are something Metrolinx, which was created by the provincial government in 2006, should have already done. He also said the agency should publish all its reports, not just business case analyses, “as a matter of course.”

    Following the publication of the Star investigation two weeks ago, Prichard ordered Metrolinx to perform a “thorough and comprehensive review” of Kirby and Lawrence East.

    The exercise will involve gathering updated information on land use, transit plans and projected development to determine whether the approval of the stations should stand.

    However, it will not examine how Del Duca’s ministry pressured Metrolinx into approving the stops.

    On Thursday, Prichard said he supported the review but didn’t say he believed Del Duca’s ministry had improperly intervened to secure approval for stations that weren’t supported by evidence.

    Prichard told reporters Metrolinx has a “collaborative relationship” with the ministry and the approval process is “a combination of art and science” which involves taking into account studies, input from local politicians and the views of the ministry before arriving at a final judgment.

    “In this case . . . concerns have been expressed about the judgment so we’re going to take a second look at it, as thoroughly as we can, making sure we have completely up-to-date information. And we’ll make it all public, and members of the public can make a judgment as to whether it’s the right decision,” he said.

    In an open letter to Prichard two weeks ago, Del Duca acknowledged “concerns have been raised” about the GO stations, but the minister hasn’t specified what he believes those concerns are.

    On Tuesday, he declined to answer questions about why his ministry sent Metrolinx press releases showing he intended to announce stations that the board hadn’t endorsed, dismissing the events that led to the stations’ approval as “historical details.”

    “I’m focused on the go-forward,” he said.

    Del Duca said he provided “input” to the decision-making process, but didn’t answer whether he had directed Metrolinx to approve the stops.

    He stressed Metrolinx won’t enter into contracts to build the two stations unless the review determines they’re warranted. “If the evidence isn’t there, the stations won’t go forward,” he said.

    During question period at Queen’s Park on Wednesday, Progressive Conservative transportation critic Michael Harris called on Del Duca to “come clean” about his role in the stations’ approval and questioned whether he was “unfit for the job” of minister.

    Metrolinx expects to complete the review in time for its February board meeting. The agency plans to enter into procurement contracts for new GO stations in spring of next year.

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    WASHINGTON—They would stand by and let him get impeached. Or boycott his hotels. Or maybe, a couple of them suggested, they would set their Make America Great Again caps on fire.

    Some of the most reliably Trumpian corners of the internet were raging Thursday as if they had signed up for the left-wing resistance. Just nine days after he had made them so happy, the champion of their anti-immigration fantasies had betrayed them.

    In a momentous move that could have major consequences for his political future, U.S. President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he is eager to make a deal with Democrats to protect the so-called Dreamers, the undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

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

    Not only that: he suggested that it was ridiculous that anyone would want to deport such upstanding and innocent residents.

    “Really!” he wrote incredulously on Twitter.

    Not only that: the self-proclaimed master negotiator did not plan to demand funding for his border wall as part of the deal to save Barack Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program he had campaigned on eliminating.

    “DACA now and the wall very soon,” he said at the White House after he returned from a visit to hurricane-ravaged Florida.

    And not only that: he refused to refer to DACA as “amnesty,” as he did throughout his campaign and his attorney general did last week when he announced Trump was getting rid of it.

    “The word,” he said, “is DACA.”

    The details of a possible deal had not yet been hammered out. But it was immediately clear that Trump’s turnabout would be the biggest early test of the loyalty of his base, much of which is hostile to immigration of all kinds.

    To some of his staunchest allies, the news smacked of unforgivable abandonment. They had celebrated Trump’s decision to end DACA, thinking he had sent the Dreamers on a path to deportation.

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    “Amnesty Don,” proclaimed an apoplectic Breitbart, the website run by former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon.

    “Why did we have an election,” moaned Mike Cernovich, the pro-Trump personality who traffics in conspiracy theories.

    “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?” said far-right writer Ann Coulter, author of the book In Trump We Trust.

    “If (Associated Press) is correct,” Iowa Rep. Steve King said when news of the tentative deal first broke, “Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible.”

    Pollsters cautioned that it was far too soon for such proclamations. Trump’s voters have proven to be willing to fall in line behind his own preferences, and not all of them are as hostile to DACA as his most aggressive supporters on Twitter. Polls suggest a firm majority of his voters believe Dreamers, so named for a legalization proposal called the DREAM Act, should be permitted to stay.

    “I can live with it either way, to be perfectly honest with you,” said Carl Hobson, 78, who for months displayed a large Trump sign at his gas station in Maryland.

    Hobson thinks Trump should be “damn tough” on illegal immigration, and he complains about tax money going toward services for illegal immigrants. But he said protecting the Dreamers is “the right thing to do.”

    “It’s a pretty raw deal to have a kid that’s lived here for several years and then try to throw them away. You can let them stay and let them go through the citizenship process just like the rest of us,” he said.

    Larry May, Republican chair in Nolan County, Texas, said he was “not in favour of essentially granting amnesty to the so-called Dreamers,” saying that most of them are adults who “need to be sent back.”

    But he said even a bad deal would have a “minimal” impact on Trump voters like himself. He said Trump will remain preferable to people like “communist Bernie Sanders or extreme socialist Hillary Clinton.”

    “There’s really not anyone any better. If his supporters are not going to support the communist Democrats, I don’t see they’re going to give up their support just because they disagree with something Trump may have done,” said May, 63, an accountant.

    DACA gives 690,000 people two-year work permits and protection from deportation. It was created by Obama without legislation. A Trump deal could well make the Dreamers far more secure than they are under the Obama program, granting them some sort of lasting legal status.

    Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi said she and Trump had come to an “understanding” that the Dreamers would get a path to citizenship. A Trump spokesperson said he was open to such a path “over a period of time.” But Trump muddied the waters, saying “we’re not looking at citizenship.”

    The context for Trump’s shift was especially infuriating to his conservative allies.

    He agreed to pursue a deal during a Wednesday dinner with Democratic leaders Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — who was heard saying Thursday, “He likes us. He likes me, anyway.” Irked with Republican leaders, Trump appeared to be eager to earn another round of the media praise he generated when he cut a budget deal with the Democrats last week.

    Dreamers were not ready to celebrate, noting that Trump often changes his mind and that congressional Republicans leaders had not bought in. The president’s regular shifts in tone and substance have frequently led pundits to wonder whether he is a new man, only to see him revert to the same old.

    “This is looking good. But Donald Trump is very unpredictable. I don’t want to get my hopes up,” said DACA recipient Miguel Mendez, 27, an electrical engineer in Texas.

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    Emergency crews are responding to a collision on Hwy. 400 north involving at least five vehicles.

    Seven ambulances responded to the crash site. York Regional paramedics confirmed that six patients were treated at the scene, while five were taken to hospital for further care. Paramedics would not confirm the extent of their injuries.

    OPP officials and Vaughan fire officials said northbound lanes of the highway were all closed between Major Mackenzie Dr. and Teston Rd. Two left lanes have since reopened, but one remains closed while crews work on the scene.

    Police and fire crews have all advised drivers to avoid the highway.

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    After a heated discussion among residents and councillors about the purchase of the antique Centreville carousel, the city of Carmel’s finance committee voted to remove funding for the carousel from a redevelopment investment loan.

    In a 2-0 vote, with one member not present, the city of Carmel’s finance committee recommended that city council remove the funding for the Centreville carousel from a combined $100-million redevelopment investment proposal.

    The finance committee’s vote took place “without comment and without fanfare,” said Tim Hannon, a physician in Carmel, Ind., and author of a petition opposing the city borrowing money to buy the Centreville carousel, which has over 1,600 supporters.

    The issue will be decided at a council meeting set to take place on Sept. 18, where seven councillors will have the final vote whether or not the century-old carousel will be bought with taxpayer funds.

    “I think (the carousel) is something we should have spent the last six months privately raising money for,” said Kevin Rider, chair of Carmel’s finance committee.

    In an email to the Star, Christine Pauley, the city of Carmel’s clerk-treasurer, said that Carmel’s redevelopment plans are “expected to pass without the carousel.

    “The deal looks void now,” wrote Pauley. Rider, too, expects the vote on Monday to be against the city funding the carousel.

    According to the purchase agreement between Carmel’s Mayor James Brainard and Bill Beasley, owner of Centreville, the city has until Oct. 31 to provide proof of payment — what is now looking like an impossible deadline to meet, said Pauley.

    The mayor’s office declined to comment for this story.

    Beasley is continuing with “business as usual” and hasn’t had any contact with anyone from the city of Carmel.

    “At the moment there is no Plan B,” he said. “I mean, Plan B is to keep it and continue operating the carousel at Centreville, I guess.”

    In his last conversation with Mayor Brainard, Beasley was told that everything is still moving forward with the hope that the city will purchase the carousel.

    “There was no assurance, other than it was the same plan as usual,” he said.

    The mayor still has the option of alternate funding sources, which may include 'leftover' funds from other projects or private funding, Hannon and Pauley said.

    “If (the mayor) wished to raise money privately, I would help him,” Rider said.

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    GJOA HAVEN, NUNAVUT—The man who guided searchers to the wreck of John Franklin’s flagship may have one more surprise left up his parka sleeve.

    “I believe that Franklin is in a vault on King William Island,” says Louie Kamookak, an Inuit historian who has spent 30 years correlating stories collected from elders with European logbooks and journals.

    The mystery that surrounds the Franklin Expedition is one of the great legends of Arctic exploration. The ships Erebus and Terror set out from England in 1845 with 129 men to search for the Northwest Passage, but they never returned.

    Little by little, the Franklin story is coming together.

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    Artifacts and graves found throughout the 19th and 20th centuries were joined by several more bodies discovered in the 1980s. The ships were found in 2014 and 2016.

    But where is the grave of John Franklin?

    Kamookak relates two stories passed down through generations that may offer tantalizing clues.

    “One group of Inuit said they saw a burial of a great chief under the ground, under stone.”

    This was remarkable for the hunters, as Inuit traditionally buried their dead on the surface, wrapped in caribou skins and under a cairn. They investigated the site, expecting to find something similar. All they found was a flat stone.

    “They said he was a great shaman who turned to stone,” Kamookak says.

    In another account, a group of travelling Inuit came across a large wooden structure.

    “They managed to get a cross piece they took for a sled. The man who was telling the story said there was a flat stone and he could tell the stone was hollow.”

    Given that other expedition graves have been found on land, Kamookak believes Franklin’s is there too.

    “I don’t think they would have an ocean burial for him.”

    If he’s right, Franklin is probably still lying beneath the tundra on King William Island’s rocky and windswept northeast coast.

    If he’s wrong, chalk up one more mystery in a tale that’s been generating questions for 170 years.

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    One of Ireland’s most successful canine athletes has been banned from dog-racing indefinitely after three doping control tests found evidence of cocaine in his system, the BBC reported Thursday.

    Clonbrien Hero will now have some of his prize money and titles withheld, including his winnings from July’s Irish Laurels final at Cork, where he took home the top prize worth roughly $35,000 (U.S.).

    Of course, this is no fault of the dog’s. It’s Clonbrien Hero’s owner Kay Murphy and trainer Graham Holland who are facing the questions. They have denied they intentionally gave the dog drugs and are blaming accidental ingestion instead.

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    “We feel we are being victimized here for something we haven’t done,” Holland told the Times. “If you know you are going to be tested when you win a race, you are not going to administer cocaine to a greyhound. I’ve been training greyhounds for over 30 years and now I’m accused of doping them.”

    The three failed tests came from samples taken at the Curraheen Park Greyhound Stadium on June 25, July 1 and July 22, the latter date coinciding with the Laurels finding. Holland is not exactly sure how his dog may have ended up with cocaine in his system, but has one theory about how a winning dog might come into contact with the illegal drug.

    “You can pass traces of cocaine by handling money,” Holland told the Times. “When a dog wins a race, people are walking up to the dog and patting it on the head. If they have cocaine on their hands, they can pass that to the dog and it can come out in a urine sample.”

    That does not seem terribly likely, however. While a 2007 study showed trace of amounts of cocaine on 100 per cent of currency in circulation in Ireland, it’s unclear how probable it is that those trace amounts could be transmitted to a person’s hands, then to a dog’s head and eventually the dog’s bladder. For example, a 1997 study of U.S. currency by the Argonne National Laboratory said those small amounts were unlikely to rub off on hands because they become embedded in the fibres of the bill.

    Clonbrien Hero is not the first dog to test positive for cocaine. This year in Florida, at least 22 greyhounds tested positive for the substance.

    “The fact that we’re seeing this over and over again indicates the industry has a drug problem,” Carey Theil, executive director of industry watchdog group GREY2K USA Worldwide told The Washington Post in July.

    Thiel’s explanation of why dogs are getting popped for cocaine isn’t as innocent as Holland’s.

    “To me, this looks like race-fixing. There does seem to be a correlation between dogs testing positive and performance,” Theil said, noting a particular dog in Florida put up her two best times while on cocaine.

    There remains no evidence that cocaine boosts greyhound performance, however. Nor are there any studies that suggest cocaine would help human track and field stars. In fact, it may hurt.

    “Competitive athletics increases the potential of cocaine’s powerful adverse cardiovascular stimulating effects,” Dr. Gary Wadler, a New York University School of Medicine professor and lead author of the book Drugs and the Athlete, told ESPN once, “namely, life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms and heart attacks.”

    Unlike human athletes, however, Clonbrien Hero’s ban likely won’t be prolonged. According to the BBC, the Irish Greyhound Board will allow the dog to race again when he “has been passed clear.”

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    The criminal trial of two former key Dalton McGuinty aides in the gas plants case has been delayed one more time.

    It will now start Sept. 22 after problems with late disclosure of evidence to the defence by Crown prosecutors, Ontario Court Judge Timothy Lipson ruled Friday.

    “We’ve now come to the end of what was supposed to be the first week of the trial,” he added after a brief 20-minute hearing with lawyers.

    Laura Miller and David Livingston, the former aides to ex-premier McGuinty, are charged with deleting documents related to the government’s ‎decisions to scrap controversial gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election.

    Both have pleaded not guilty. McGuinty was not charged and co-operated with the police investigation.

    As the trial was slated to begin on Monday of this week, defence lawyers asked Lipson for a seven-day adjournment but that did not give them adequate time to prepare for the trial.

    Now that evidence disclosure problems have been worked out, and “unnecessary witnesses” have been pruned from a list of people slated to testify, Lipson said the case should be completed in early November as previously scheduled.

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    Ontarians appear to be high on the sale of recreational marijuana being restricted to a provincial government monopoly, new poll suggests.

    Campaign Research found 51 per cent of those surveyed back Premier Kathleen Wynne’s new plan to have cannabis sold solely through standalone LCBO-operated stores and a website.

    “Media and the punditocracy… are suggesting that it’s inefficient and it’s bureaucratic and the antithesis of what most people wanted when, in actuality, the government is doing exactly what Ontarians want,” said Eli Yufest, CEO of Campaign Research.

    Read more: Liberals accused of using marijuana plan as smoke screen

    “The government appears to be on the right side of the issue,” Yufest said Thursday.

    About a third – 35 per cent – of those polled oppose the idea and 14 per cent had no opinion.

    The online poll of a panel of 1,133 Ontario voters was conducted between last Friday — the day the weed retail scheme was unveiled — and Monday. It is considered accurate to within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

    Asked specifically where recreational marijuana should be sold after the federal government legalizes it next July 1, respondents were divided.

    A quarter — 24 per cent — said the “Cannabis Control Board of Ontario,” 10 per cent said existing LCBO liquor stores, 16 per cent said pharmacies, 19 per cent said “dispensaries,” which are currently operating illegally, while 2 per cent said convenience stores, 1 per cent said other shops, 6 per cent didn’t know, and 23 per cent oppose any sale of marijuana.

    Yufest said Wynne’s decision to limit pot to 40 LCBO-operated stores next year — rising to 150 by 2019 — appears to be contributing to her party’s slight bounce in the polls.

    “The minimum wage and pharmacare and all of the other stuff that the government has been rolling out over the last few months … coupled with this is what’s driving both her personal numbers and the party numbers up,” he said.

    With an election set for June 7, 2018, the pollster found Patrick Brown’s Progressive Conservatives at 38 per cent, Wynne’s Liberals at 33 per cent, Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats at 23 per cent and the Greens led by Mike Schreiner at 6 per cent.

    “We certainly see a tightening between those two parties,” said Yufest, referring to the Tories and the Liberals.

    Wynne’s personal approval ratings are still the lowest of the three major party leaders.

    The premier had 19 per cent approval, 67 per cent disapproval, and 14 per cent weren’t sure.

    Brown had 28 per cent approval, 22 per cent disapproval, and 50 per cent didn’t know.

    Horwath led the pack with 37 per cent approval, 19 per cent disapproval, and 43 per cent had no opinion.

    Yufest said the fact that half of respondents did not have any opinion on Brown suggests the Tories’ recent seven-figure television ad blitz has not had much impact.

    The slick commercials, which have aired during major league sporting events and prime-time programs, were designed to introduce the leader to voters.

    “Those messages aren’t breaking through and they’re not resonating among the electorate so whatever messages they put out there or whatever TV ads they bought don’t seem to be breaking through,” he said.

    “It doesn’t seem to be translating into higher awareness about Patrick Brown.”

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