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- 09/19/17--15:21: _Police tribunal put...
- 09/20/17--10:27: _16-year-old boy sta...
- 09/20/17--10:54: _Tories unleash atta...
- 09/20/17--11:03: _12 arrested in $11M...
- 09/20/17--09:07: _‘Find a better way,...
- 09/20/17--09:44: _Disturbing images s...
- 09/20/17--07:17: _Volkswagen’s Ajax o...
- 09/20/17--08:59: _‘Radical reverend’ ...
- 09/20/17--10:39: _Woman accused in Ca...
- 09/20/17--10:11: _NDP's Jagmeet Singh...
- 09/20/17--02:52: _Mexico’s deadliest ...
- 09/20/17--03:12: _Hurricane Maria lea...
- 09/20/17--09:53: _China to Donald Tru...
- 09/20/17--12:17: _Vice urges RCMP to ...
- 09/20/17--12:15: _Tory leader Andrew ...
- 09/20/17--11:45: _Video shows suspect...
- 09/20/17--12:28: _Russia inquiry spec...
- 09/20/17--14:30: _Judge tosses drug e...
- 09/20/17--18:27: _Woman using walker ...
- 09/20/17--13:29: _Ontario considers p...
- 09/20/17--10:27: 16-year-old boy stabbed near Greenland Public School
- 09/20/17--10:54: Tories unleash attack ads on ‘untrustworthy’ Wynne
- 09/20/17--11:03: 12 arrested in $11M fraud investigation
- 09/20/17--10:39: Woman accused in Canadian Tire attack indicted on 14 terror charges
- 09/20/17--10:11: NDP's Jagmeet Singh gets key endorsement from BC MP Nathan Cullen
- 09/20/17--02:52: Mexico’s deadliest earthquake in decades leaves at least 225 dead
- 09/20/17--09:53: China to Donald Trump: Your North Korea speech was really unhelpful
- 09/20/17--11:45: Video shows suspect in Michael's restaurant shooting
- 09/20/17--18:27: Woman using walker killed by vehicle in east end
Immediately before Toronto police Const. Gregory Browne took a 15-year-old into a North York police station for booking on a November 2011 night, the teen — who had just been arrested for assaulting another police officer — asked if he could tell Browne something.
“I don’t know what happened . . . I learned from a lawyer program how to talk to police,” Browne recalled the young boy said, in testimony Tuesday at the Toronto police tribunal.
The ongoing misconduct hearing of two Toronto police officers in the so-called Neptune Four case resumed with an account from Browne, the officer who transported one of the teens to the police station after the four boys were stopped then arrested.
Const. Adam Lourenco and his partner Const. Scharnil Pais are accused under Ontario’s Police Services Act of unlawfully arresting the main complainant in the case, his twin brother, and two of their friends — boys all 16 or under at the time.
Lourenco also faces two other charges of disorderly conduct for allegedly using unreasonable force, one for punching the main complainant and another for pointing his gun at three of the teens.
The officers pleaded not guilty, and none of the allegations against them have been proven at the tribunal.
Because the teens faced criminal charges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Star is not identifying them.
The hearing stems from a 2011 incident when four boys were on their way to an after-school learning program in a Lawrence Heights public housing complex on Neptune Dr. The group was stopped by Lourenco and Pais, both with the now-disbanded Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) unit.
According to police records, the officers were at the Neptune Dr. buildings to enforce the Trespass to Property Act on behalf of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.
When they were approached by police, one of the boys attempted to exercise his constitutional right to walk away.
Last month, the tribunal heard from that boy — now the main complainant — who alleged he was punched and had a gun pointed at him after he attempted to stand up for his rights to walk away.
The young man then testified that Lourenco handcuffed him and violently placed him into the car of another unit called for backup. Once inside the car, he tried to explain what happened to a Black officer who had not witnessed the original interaction.
“He was Black and I was trying to appeal to him,’” the witness said of the officer, identified Tuesday as Browne.
The witness went on to say that the officer was respectful but told him to “forget about the rights stuff,” in reference to defending his constitutional right to walk away from police under certain circumstances.
“He said . . . basically don’t use it. It’s not going to work in real life,” the witness said last month.
But Browne testified Tuesday that while he did give the teen some advice, it was only after the teen told Browne he understood that he didn’t have to speak to police under any circumstances.
Browne told the tribunal he’d gotten the impression that the teen had told Lourenco and Pais to “f--- off immediately on contact.” The officer then gave the teen advice, saying “I don’t think that’s a good idea anywhere in life.”
While Browne had made some notes about the conversation — which took place outside of North York’s 32 division, according to Browne — he hadn’t written down that the teen or anyone else in the group had told the officers to “f--- off.”
When asked why he hadn’t made a note of that, Browne said that he was inexperienced at the time — he’d only been with TAVIS for a month — and had felt “some stupid reason” that he could not write curse words in his notes.
Browne also maintained that he would not forget someone stating that they’d told an officer to “f--- off,” so he didn’t need to make a note of it.
The four teens were charged with assaulting police, and the young man who did not want to answer police questions was charged with threatening death and assault with intent to resist arrest. All of the charges were later withdrawn.
The charges against Lourenco and Pais came after an investigation by Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director, spurred by the four teens complaining to the watchdog. One of the four teens has since withdrawn his complaint and is not participating in the hearing.
With Star files
Police tribunal puts spotlight on Black teen’s interaction with officer in cruiser in Neptune Four case
A 16-year-old boy was taken to hospital after being stabbed in the Don Mills area.
Police were called to Greenland Public School, at The Donway East and Greenland Rd., around 10:39 a.m., where the teen was found on a grassed area with a stab wound to his leg.
Const. Caroline de Kloet could not provide any information on the suspect and said no school lockdown was necessary.
16-year-old boy stabbed near Greenland Public School
The Progressive Conservatives have unleashed a new attack ad against “untrustworthy” Premier Kathleen Wynne that accuses the governing Liberals of being corrupt.
Released last week, the U.S.-style spot features a grim-faced Wynne against a red and black backdrop as an ominous true-crime soundtrack plays.
Complete with sound effects reminiscent of jail cell doors being clanked shut, the ad splashes headlines critical of the Liberals from the Star and other news outlets.
“Kathleen Wynne is untrustworthy,” intones the male narrator in the 30-second commercial that is airing on numerous channels in prime time and on CP24 around the clock.
“The Liberal party is politically corrupt. From the gas-plant rip-off and eHealth billions to their cash-for-access fundraising scheme,” he continues.
That’s a reference to former premier Dalton McGuinty’s decision to cancel two gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election, problems at the electronic health records agency, and political fundraising changes triggered by a Star probe last year.
“Now the premier is testifying at a bribery trial. Just imagine what’s next,” says the narrator.
“Kathleen Wynne will say anything to get elected. You can’t trust her or them ever again.”
While the ad boasts a small Ontario PC logo, there is no mention of Tory Leader Patrick Brown or the fact that the next election is on June 7, 2018.
Wynne is threatening to sue Brown for defamation after he incorrectly claimed on Sept. 12 that she was on “trial” in the Sudbury byelection bribery case.
But Patricia Sorbara, the premier’s former deputy chief of staff, and Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed are on trial — not Wynne — for alleged Election Act violations related to the 2015 byelection. Both deny any wrongdoing.
Deputy Premier Deb Matthews expressed concern Wednesday that the Tory ad spots coincided with his controversial comments about the premier.
“It is looking like this is part of a strategy — a very unsavory strategy based on a lie,” said Matthews.
“He knows he said something that was false and then he runs these ads, which came out immediately after,” she said.
Brown insisted the advertising had nothing to do with his statement about Wynne.
“That’s a leap and a stretch — it’s not a reality,” he told the Star, adding he will continue to ignore the premier’s “baseless legal threat.”
The PC leader also defended the hard-hitting TV spots, which are airing as the criminal trial of two top ex-McGuinty aides— David Livingston and Laura Miller — continues Friday. They have pleaded not guilty.
“We’re going to continue to have an assortment of ads. Some of them will be about my approach and some, frankly, will be about the Liberal legacy — the record after 14 long years,” said Brown.
“Obviously there’s a lot of scandals that swirl around this government.”
In contrast to gauzy commercials featuring the leader released earlier this year, the attack ads do not appear on the Ontario PC YouTube channel.
Last January, the Tories launched a multi-million dollar blitz of commercials aimed at introducing Brown to voters.
One featured the mother of an autistic child praising him for his advocacy; another had him discussing hydro rates; and a third featured him discussing how he overcame a childhood stutter.
They followed up those ads with others that showed Brown marching in Toronto’s Pride parade.
Tories unleash attack ads on ‘untrustworthy’ Wynne
A routine traffic stop led Toronto police to a multi-national organized crime investigation that has resulted in charges against a dozen people, including long-time Vaughan resident Cosimo Commisso.
Commisso, 72, is charged with possession of proceeds of crime following “Project Briscola,” which drew together investigators from Canada, the United States and Australia, Toronto police Insp. Peter Callaghan told a news conference Wednesday.
“Think of it as building a large puzzle whose pieces are scattered all over the world,” Callaghan said.
The investigation began in August 2015 when Giuseppe Gatti, 48, of Ajax, was arrested on a charge of impaired driving. The arresting officers alleged Gatti was carrying $10,000 in cash, as well as credit cards in a number of different names.
“None of this would have come to light if it weren’t for an impaired driving arrest,” Callaghan said.
Police say the investigation led them to a scheme in which lenders were defrauded of $11 million by individuals who falsely presented themselves as officers of a business that was seeking to expand by borrowing money to invest in heavy equipment.
That equipment was allegedly “undervalued or never leased at all” through a series of shell companies.
Investigators eventually tracked the payments to an account under Commisso’s name, which “did not initially come up in this investigation,” Callaghan said.
Commisso served prison time in the 1980s for convictions including two counts of counselling to commit murder and uttering a death threat.
Callaghan didn’t expand on allegations against Commisso, but said “we’re not alleging that he had a directing role” in the scheme, which allegedly saw money flow across Canada into Brazil and the Seychelles
Charged with fraud over $5,000 and participation in a criminal organization are Gatti; Faisal Iqbal Qureshi, 42, of Richmond Hill; Tarragh Bracken, 47, of Whitby; Darrell Shulman, 49, of Thornhill: Mary Sophie Kaloczi, 35, of Georgetown; Maurizio Adiletta, 53, of Brampton; and Pino “Frank” Guido, 53, of Kleinburg.
Charged with fraud over $5,000 are Eric Thomas, 57, of Mississauga; Sanjeev Mannan, 48, of Locust Hill; Laura Tolosa, 37, of Toronto; and Ravinder Bedi, 54, of Brampton.
The accused are all scheduled to appear in a Toronto court on Oct. 26.
With files from Annie Arnone
A proposed drain feature at the St. Lawrence Market north redevelopment is now being reconsidered after the city said they cannot justify the expense.
The proposal for a glass “viewing portal” looking onto an 1831 central drain was headed to the government management committee next week.
But Mayor John Tory said in a statement Wednesday morning that he “cannot justify spending an additional $1.96 million for a ‘drain feature’ in the St. Lawrence Market redevelopment.”
Tory said he spoke to Paul Ainslie, chair of the city’s government management committee Wednesday morning.
“He agreed with me that the Committee should send this back to City staff to find a better way.”
Tory noted that the heritage of Toronto is important.
“As Mayor, I believe it is my duty to ensure we do what we can to protect our city’s heritage within the limited resources we have.”
A portion of the near-$2 million cost could be funded within the current redevelopment budget of $91.5 million, but $1.64 million in additional funding would be required.
The current redevelopment plan includes 250 underground parking spaces, a five-storey atrium, a market hall and mezzanine, court services and courtrooms.
‘Find a better way,’ Tory says of $1.64M drain feature at St. Lawrence Market
Two medical staffers at a military hospital in Florida were barred from caring for patients after they were seen in disturbing images mishandling a newborn, making obscene gestures and calling babies “mini Satans.”
One video shows a female staffer in gloves and medical scrubs holding the infant by the armpit, moving the arms and body as music played in the background. One photo shows a staffer flipping a middle finger at the infant. Its caption reads: “How I currently feel about these mini Satans.”
It’s unclear from the images if the female employee in the video is the same person flipping her middle finger in the photo. ABC affiliate WFTS reported that the photo is an image from a Snapchat account belonging to one of the employees. The post also said that the “navy nurse” and her friend held up the baby and made it dance to rap music, according to WFTS.
Capt. Brenda Malone, spokesperson for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, which oversees several hospitals around the country, said the employees are corpsmen or medical officers for the Navy, not nurses. Malone said they are still assigned at the Jacksonville, Florida, hospital but are no longer providing direct patient care.
The hospital said in a statement that the infant’s parents have been notified of the incident.
In a statement Tuesday, Navy Surgeon Gen. Vice Adm. Forrest Faison said that he has ordered commanding officers to make sure no photos of patients remain on social media and to personally reassure all mothers planning to deliver at Navy facilities. He is also prohibiting employees from using personal cellphones at patient-care areas.
“Unprofessional and inappropriate social media behaviour is inconsistent with both our core values of honour, courage and commitment as well as our medical ethics, violating the oaths we took for our profession and office,” Faison said, adding later: “In an age where information can be shared instantly, what we say and post online must reflect the highest standards of character and conduct, in both our personal and professional lives.”
Malone said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which looks into felony offences affecting the Navy and Marine Corps, is investigating.
“Once investigation is complete, appropriate action will be taken,” Malone said.
The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, has 18 medical centres and hospitals in Washington, California, Florida, Virginia, the Carolinas and Guam. It also has locations in Italy, Japan, Spain and Cuba.
Disturbing images show Navy hospital staffers mishandling infant, calling babies ‘mini Satans’
Volkswagen Group Canada’s offices in Ajax have been raided as a pollution charge was laid against its parent company in the international emissions scandal that broke two years ago.
The action by Ontario Ministry of Environment investigators took place Tuesday, four days after Volkswagen AG of Germany was charged with causing or permitting the operation of vehicles that did not comply with provincial emissions standards.
“The execution of the search warrant is part of the ministry’s continuing investigation into this matter,” Environment Minister Chris Ballard said in a statement Wednesday.
He declined to release further details, saying “the case is before the courts.”
Volkswagen Canada officials said the company “is cooperating with the ministry in its investigation and it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
Ballard did not explain the time lag in the charges; Volkswagen pleaded guilty in the United States last March to defrauding the U.S. government in a scheme to cheat diesel emission rules.
The company agreed to pay $4.3 billion (U.S.) in penalties, on top of billions more to buy back cars.
In April, Ontario Superior Court ruled members of a $2.1-billion class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen could begin submitting claims for reimbursement.
About 105,000 Canadians who bought or leased some Volkswagen or Audi vehicles with two-litre diesel engines will each get between $5,100 and $8,000.
They also have the option of returning their vehicle at a buyback price set at September 2015 levels before the so-called “defeat device” was made public, or they can keep their cars and get an emissions system modification approved by government regulators.
Worldwide, 11 million cars were equipped with software that detected when cars were being tested and turned off environmental controls during normal driving.
In the U.S., for example, this resulted in pollution of 40 times the legal limit for nitrogen oxide.
Volkswagen’s Ajax offices raided after environmental charge laid in emissions scandal
MPP Cheri DiNovo is leaving politics — and going to church.
The well-known NDP politician, who has represented Parkdale—High Park for 11 years, said that, as of Jan. 1, she will be minister at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Arts and Justice in downtown Toronto.
“I’m in fact returning to my true love: theology, advocacy and ministry,” said DiNovo, a United Church minister, who wore her white clerical collar for the announcement at Queen’s Park.
DiNovo is well-known as a champion of higher minimum wages, LGBTQ and minority rights, and met with success in pushing the government on legislation and introducing her own private member’s bills.
Before moving into politics, she said she was “privileged to perform the first legalized same-sex marriage,” and later became the only LGBTQ critic in the history of the Ontario legislature.
“. . . Trinity-St. Paul’s is, and will be, a centre for all non-binary, queer, lesbian, bisexual, trans and gay people,” she said.
DiNovo said the centre will focus on “queer theology and spirituality for all those fleeing oppression based on race, class, immigration status and poverty as well.
“It is a place, one of the few, where women’s leadership is extolled and encouraged.”
While DiNovo may be leaving Queen’s Park, she said she is not going far and pledged to be there for her political colleagues and their spiritual needs.
The legislature “will be a part of my parish and I intend to continue fighting for those who are marginalized, but also provide pastoral care for those who are in need in the political sphere, both here and in Ottawa,” she said.
“Political work is non-stop, exhausting and demanding. I intend to be here and there for anyone who needs someone who can listen and someone who can pray.”
DiNovo will continue her “Radical Reverend” radio show on CIUT.
In 2016, DiNovo decided not to pursue the leadership of the federal NDP because she needed time to recover after suffering two mini-strokes.
Late last year, the province passed the All Families are Equal Act, updating parentage laws and giving same-sex parents legal recognition, legislation that was inspired by a private member’s bill put forth by DiNovo.
With files from Rob Ferguson
‘Radical reverend’ NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo is leaving politics for the church
A woman who allegedly left Canada some 17 months ago for the purpose of participating, facilitating, instructing or harbouring a terrorist group was indicted Wednesday morning on 14 terrorism-related charges.
Rehab Dughmosh, 32, appeared in person in the Scarborough courtroom following several earlier video-link appearances.
Wearing a green tunic tracksuit and black veil that covered all of her face except for the eyes, Dughmosh immediately informed Judge Kim Crosbie that she would not stand in the dock, as is customary when being spoken to.
“I want to stay seated.”
Occasionally speaking English for herself but mostly communicating through an Arabic interpreter, Dughmosh made it clear she had no intention of pleading guilty or of co-operating with the court in this procedure.
“You told me you wished to plead guilty,” said Crosbie, apparently referring to an earlier communication.
Dughmosh, through her interpreter: “Tell her I am still a supporter of the Islamic State.
“I am not guilty and I don’t want to go to bail court.”
Dughmosh was arrested in June after allegedly trying to attack employees at a Canadian Tire in Scarborough with a golf club and a knife. She has pledged allegiance to Daesh, also known as the Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL, in court and declared that “if you release me, I will commit these actions again and again and again.”
Because Dughmosh refused to make her preference known for the next legal step Wednesday, Crosbie “deemed” that the defendant would be transferred to Ontario Superior Court for a trial before judge and jury.
Following a psychiatric assessment earlier ordered, Dughmosh was found mentally fit to stand trial.
Afterward, Dughmosh made another little speech.
“I say to all you who don’t believe, I do not believe what you believe.
“Tell her I will always be a supporter of the Islamic State until the last day of my life.
“If you allow me to go out and leave, I will do exactly what I tried to do last time and failed.”
Woman accused in Canadian Tire attack indicted on 14 terror charges
OTTAWA—Long-serving MP Nathan Cullen endorsed Jagmeet Singh for the NDP leadership on Wednesday, praising the candidate’s “enormous energy” and ability to connect with a broad and diverse range of Canadian voters.
The New Democrat from British Columbia said he arrived at the decision after much contemplation, but ultimately concluded that Singh’s presence on social media and ability to draw crowds are “fundamental criteria to modern politics,” and that — unlike Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — Singh would not abandon progressive pledges like electoral reform if he wins power.
Cullen added that he was also enticed by Singh’s proposals for the environment and Indigenous peoples.
“We have a candidate here who at this moment in our time, in our history as a party, ticks all the boxes for me,” Cullen told reporters at a joint press conference with Singh on Wednesday.
“In the end, I knew what this party needed, I knew what this country needed, and it’s a leader like Jagmeet Singh.”
Cullen is a prominent member of the NDP caucus who represents a large riding in northern B.C. and was first elected in 2004. He ran for the federal leadership in 2012 when Tom Mulcair took over the party after Jack Layton’s death, and recently completed a cross-country tour to voice outrage over the Liberal government’s abandonment of its promise to change the voting system.
Singh has already declared unequivocally that he will win the NDP leadership race — “I will win,” he said in a recent Montreal debate — and spoke again Wednesday as if his victory were a foregone conclusion.
“We have an incredible team of 44 MPs that are going to do great work in the House, and I’m looking forward to working with all of them,” Singh said, adding that this includes his opponents in the leadership race: federal MPs Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton and Guy Caron.
The provincial legislator from Brampton is the only candidate that does not have a federal seat. He said Wednesday that, while he’s open to advice on the matter, he does not plan to rush into the House of Commons before the 2019 election, pointing out that Layton didn’t have a seat either when he won the leadership in 2003.
Singh’s lack of a federal seat has been questioned by Angus, who was first elected with Cullen in 2004 and is the most experienced MP in the leadership race. Earlier this week, Mulcair also told reporters that the next leader should have a seat so that he or she can spar with the prime minister in Question Period.
Cullen later said “it’s unfortunate” Mulcair, as outgoing leader, entered the debate at all. He repeated Wednesday that he believes it would be an asset to have the next leader tour the country while the team in Ottawa works in Parliament.
“We were incredibly strong in the House of Commons during the last Parliament (when Mulcair was opposition leader), yet not so much out of the bubble,” he said, pointing out that Trudeau spent a lot of time away from Parliament before the 2015 election, when the Liberals won a majority government.
Cullen added that Singh did not try to cut a deal to earn his support in the leadership race — by promising him a certain critic’s role, for example, or pledging to emphasize a given priority as leader. “Nothing was asked; nothing was offered,” Cullen said, describing this as the “cleanest way” to earn an endorsement.
Another issue following Singh in the final days of the leadership campaign involves the turban and kirpan dagger that he wears as a practicing Sikh. Bloc Québécois Leader Martine Ouellet said this week that Singh is part of the rise of a “religious left” in Canadian politics, and that most Quebecers don’t want politicians to promote any religion.
“His primary values are related to his religion,” she told reporters. “In Quebec, we decided to have a separation between religion and the state, and that’s really important for the liberty of all religions.”
Singh said Wednesday that he is confident he can win in Quebec and that he firmly believes in the separation of religion and the state.
“My experience in Quebec is that people in Quebec are open-minded, open-hearted; it’s one of the most progressive provinces in Canada,” he said, with policies like affordable tuition and child care.
“I values that I have are the values of social democracy, progressive beliefs, standing for the rights of all people, and that’s what’s going to (connect with) the people of Quebec.”
Singh’s campaign says it has brought in 47,000 new members to the party, which has a total membership of 124,000. He also raised more than $350,000 in donations during the second quarter of the year — more than his three leadership rivals combined.
NDP members started voting by ranked ballot online and by mail for a new leader on Monday. The results of the first ballot will be unveiled in Toronto Oct. 1.
NDP's Jagmeet Singh gets key endorsement from BC MP Nathan Cullen
MEXICO CITY—Rescuers said Wednesday they have found a surviving child in the ruins of a school that collapsed in Mexico’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake, one of many efforts across the city to save people trapped in under schools, homes and businesses toppled by a quake that killed at least 225 people.
Helmeted workers laboured throughout the morning, sometimes calling for silence to listen for any voices from the wreckage as they tried to reach the girl at the Enrique Rebsamen school in southern Mexico City. AP journalists at the scene saw three rescuers entering the rubble.
Rescuers spotted the girl and shouted to her to move her hand if she could hear them, and she did, according to Foro TV. A search dog then entered the wreckage and confirmed she was alive.
Tuesday’s magnitude-7.1 quake struck on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that killed thousands. Just hours before it hit, people around Mexico had held earthquake drills to mark the date.
One of the most desperate rescue efforts was at the Rebsamen primary and secondary school, where a wing of the three-story building collapsed into a massive pancake of concrete slabs. Journalists saw rescuers pull at least two small bodies from the rubble, covered in sheets.
Volunteer rescue worker Dr. Pedro Serrano managed to crawl into the crevices of the tottering pile of rubble that had been Escuela Enrique Rebsamen. He made it into a classroom, but found all of its occupants dead.
“We saw some chairs and wooden tables. The next thing we saw was a leg, and then we started to move rubble and we found a girl and two adults — a woman and a man,” he said.
“We can hear small noises, but we don’t know if they’re coming from above or below, from the walls above (crumbling), or someone below calling for help.”
Neighbourhood volunteers, police and firefighters used trained dogs and their bare hands to search through the school’s ruins. The crowd of anxious parents outside the gates shared reports that two families had received WhatsApp messages from girls trapped inside, but that could not be confirmed.
Rescuers brought in wooden beams to shore up the fallen concrete slabs so they wouldn’t collapse further and crush whatever airspaces remained.
The federal Education Department reported late Tuesday that 25 bodies had been recovered from the school’s wreckage, all but four of them children. It was not clear whether those deaths were included in the overall death toll of 225 reported by the federal civil defence agency. Pena Nieto had earlier reported 22 bodies found and said 30 children and eight adults were reported missing.
In a video message released late Tuesday, Pena Nieto urged people to be calm and said authorities were moving to provide help as 40 per cent of Mexico City and 60 per cent of nearby Morelos state were without power. But, he said, “the priority at this moment is to keep rescuing people who are still trapped and to give medical attention to the injured people.”
“Every minute counts to save lives,” the president tweeted.
People across central Mexico already had rallied to help their neighbours as dozens of buildings tumbled into mounds of broken concrete. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 sites in the capital alone as highrises across the city swayed and twisted and hundreds of thousands of panicked people ran into the streets.
The huge volunteer effort included people from all walks of life in Mexico City, where social classes seldom mix. Doctors, dentists and lawyers lined up alongside with construction workers and street sweepers, handing buckets of debris or chunks of concrete hand-to-hand down the line.
Even Mexico City’s normally raucous motorcycle clubs swung into action, using motorcades to open lanes for emergency vehicles on avenues crammed with cars largely immobilized by street closures and malfunctioning stoplights.
Economist Alfredo Coutino, Latin America director for Moody’s Analytics warned Wednesday of economic disruption to several central states and the capital in particular.
“Though it is too early for authorities to have an estimate of the damage as rescue work continues, it is certain that economic activity ... will continue to be disrupted for some time,” Coutino wrote.
The official Twitter feed of civil defence agency head Luis Felipe Puente said 94 dead had been counted in Mexico City and 71 in Morelos state, which is just south of the capital. It said 43 were known dead in Puebla state, where the quake was centred. Twelve deaths were listed in the State of Mexico, which borders Mexico City on three sides, four in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca.
At the site of a collapsed apartment building in Mexico City, rescuers worked atop a three-story pile of rubble, forming a human chain that passed pieces of rubble across four city blocks to a site where they were dumped.
Throughout the day, rescuers pulled dust-covered people, some barely conscious, some seriously injured, from about three dozen collapsed buildings. At one site, shopping carts commandeered from a nearby supermarket were used to carry water to the rescue site and take rubble away.
As night fell, huge flood lights lit up the recovery sites, but workers and volunteers begged for headlamps.
Where a six-story office building collapsed in Mexico City, sisters Cristina and Victoria Lopez Torres formed part of a human chain passing bottled water.
“I think it’s human nature that drives everyone to come and help others,” Cristina Lopez said.
“We are young. We didn’t live through’85. But we know that it’s important to come out into the streets to help,” said her sister Victoria.
Ricardo Ibarra, 48, did live through the 1985 quake and said there hadn’t been anything like it since.
Wearing a bright orange vest and carrying a backpack with a sleeping bag strapped to it, he said he and his friends just wanted to help.
“People are very sensitive because today was the 32nd anniversary of a tragedy,” he said.
Buildings also collapsed in Morelos state, including the town hall and local church in Jojutla near the quake’s epicentre. A dozen people died in Jojutla.
The town’s Instituto Morelos secondary school partly collapsed, but school director Adelina Anzures said the earthquake drill held in the morning came in handy.
“I told them that it was not a game, that we should be prepared,” Anzures said of the drill. When the quake came, she said, children and teachers rapidly filed out and nobody was hurt.
Many people spent Tuesday night on the streets next to homes that were severely damaged or flattened outright, wrapped in blankets on mattresses dragged outside. In the morning they walked past shattered buildings and picked through what was left.
At a wake in Jojutla on Wednesday for Daniel Novoa, a toddler killed when his home collapsed, family members bent over a white child-size coffin surrounded by a crucifix and images of Mexico’s patron, the Virgin of Guadalupe. Alongside was a larger open coffin for the child’s aunt, Marta Cruz.
In Atzala in Puebla state, villagers mourned 11 family members who died inside a church when it crumbled during a baptism for a 2-year-old girl. People at the wake said the only ones to survive were the baby’s father, the priest and the priest’s assistant.
Mexico’s deadliest earthquake in decades leaves at least 225 dead
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years tore off roofs and doors, unleashed heavy flooding and brought down cell towers and power lines Wednesday in an onslaught that could deepen the island’s financial crisis.
Leaving at least nine people dead in its wake across the Caribbean, hurricane Maria blew ashore in the morning in the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm with winds of 250 km/h, and was expected to punish the U.S. territory with life-threatening winds for 12 to 24 hours.
It was the second time in two weeks that Puerto Rico felt the wrath of a hurricane.
As people took cover inside stairwells, bathrooms and closets, Maria slowly crossed the island, knocking down communication towers, snapping trees and unloading at least 50 centimetres of rain.
Widespread flooding was reported across the island, with dozens of cars half-submerged in some neighbourhoods and many streets turned into rivers. People calling local radio stations reported that doors were being torn off their hinges and a water tank flew away.
About 90 per cent of customers were without power.
The storm threatened to ravage the island’s already crumbling electrical grid and worsen its economic woes.
Puerto Rico is struggling to restructure a portion of its $73 billion (U.S.) public debt, and the government has warned it is running out of money as it deals with furloughs and other austerity measures imposed by a federal board overseeing the island’s finances.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello urged people to have faith: “We are stronger than any hurricane. Together, we will rebuild.”
He later asked U.S. President Donald Trump to declare the island a disaster zone, a step that would open the way to federal aid.
More than 11,000 people — and more than 580 pets — were in shelters, authorities said.
Felix Delgado, mayor of the city of Catano on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, told WAPA Television that 80 per cent of the homes in a neighbourhood known as Juana Matos were destroyed.
El Nuevo Dia newspaper reported that 80 per cent of homes in a small fishing community near San Juan were damaged, and that an emergency medical station in the coastal town of Arecibo lost its roof, while communication was severed with several emergency management posts. A hospital and a police station reported broken windows, and a tree fell on an ambulance.
Those who sought shelter at a coliseum in San Juan were moved to the building’s second and third floors, radio station WKAQ-AM reported.
Many feared that extended power outages would further sink businesses already struggling amid a recession that has lasted more than a decade.
“This is going to be a disaster,” said Jean Robert Auguste, who owns two French restaurants and sought shelter at a San Juan hotel. “We haven’t made any money this month.”
The heavy winds and rain and the noise of things crashing outside woke many across Puerto Rico before dawn. At one recently built hotel in San Juan, water dripped through the ceiling of a sixth-floor room and seeped through the window.
“I didn’t sleep at all,” said Merike Mai, a 35-year-old flight attendant from Estonia who was vacationing in Puerto Rico and tried to leave ahead of the storm.
As of late morning, the storm was centred about 40 kilometres west of San Juan with Category 4 winds of 220 km/h. It was moving to the northwest at 19 km/h.
Previously a Category 5 with 281 km/h winds, Maria hit Puerto Rico as the third strongest storm to make landfall in the United States based on a key measurement that meteorologists use: air pressure. The lower the central pressure, the stronger a storm is.
Maria’s pressure was 917 millibars, lower than Irma’s 929 millibars when it roared into the Florida Keys earlier this month.
Irma sideswiped Puerto Rico on Sept. 6, causing no deaths or widespread damage on the island but leaving more than 1 million people without electricity. More than 70,000 still had no power as Maria approached.
Hurricanes tend to veer north or south of the island. The last Category 4 hurricane to blow ashore in Puerto Rico was in 1932, and the strongest ever to hit the island was San Felipe in 1928 with winds of 250 km/h.
As Maria approached, Trump offered his support via Twitter: “Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you—will be there to help!”
The storm’s centre passed near or over St. Croix overnight Tuesday, prompting U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp to warn people to remain alert. St. Croix was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Irma on the chain’s St. Thomas and St. John islands.
“For folks in their homes, I really recommend that you not be in any kind of sleepwear,” Mapp said. “Make sure you have your shoes on. Make sure you have a jacket around.” He added: “I don’t really recommend you be sleeping from 11 o’clock to 4.”
Maria killed two people in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, and two people aboard a boat were reported missing off La Desirade island, officials said.
The storm also slammed the island of Dominica late Monday. Hartley Henry, an adviser to the prime minister, reported at least seven deaths and a “tremendous loss of housing and public buildings.” He said the country was “in a daze,” with no electricity and little to no communications.
“The situation is really grave,” Consul General Barbara Dailey said in New York.
Hurricane Maria leaves 90% of Puerto Rico without power as heavy flooding continues
BEIJING—China rebuked U.S. President Donald Trump Wednesday after he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary, a warning that may have undermined the chances of peace but also gave Beijing an easy opportunity to seize the moral high ground.
Beijing has consistently blamed not just Pyongyang but also Washington for what it sees as its hostile policies toward the regime. It argues that U.S. hostility has helped to pushed North Korea’s rulers into a corner and talk of total destruction only reinforces that narrative.
“Trump threatens DPRK with ‘total destruction’, while China calls for peaceful settlement,” the online English-language edition of the People’s Daily newspaper headlined an op-ed, referring to the county’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Trump’s political chest-thumping is unhelpful, and it will only push the DPRK to pursue even riskier policies, because the survival of the regime is at stake,” it wrote.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang was more restrained, but nevertheless conveyed a similar message.
In imposing economic sanctions on Pyongyang, the United Nations Security Council has agreed that the North Korea issue should be solved through “political and diplomatic means,” he said.
“The Peninsula situation is still in a complex and sensitive state,” he said. “We hope that relevant parties could maintain restraint while completing United Nations Security Council resolutions, and take more correct actions which are helpful in easing the situation.”
More than 80 per cent of North Korea’s foreign trade is with China, while both Beijing and Moscow have been blamed for helping North Korea develop its missile program. Although Trump thanked both countries for agreeing to sanctions at the UN, he also appeared to rebuke one or both of them.
“It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict,” he said.
But China is uncomfortable with the idea that it should shoulder the lion’s share of the blame for North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, and for Pyongyang’s refusal to back down, experts explain.
“They don’t like the idea that the international community sees this as a China problem,” said Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing. “To a certain extent, this kind of talk at the UN plays right into their hands.”
Yanmei Xie, a China policy analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics in Beijing, made a similar point.
“Trump’s bellicose rhetoric does add urgency to how China views this issue,” she said. “But it also reinforces China’s view that both sides are to blame for the tension.”
China has become extremely frustrated with Pyongyang, but does not believe that sanctions will ever force it to abandon its nuclear program, which the regime sees as central to its survival.
It has resisted pressure to cut off North Korea’s oil imports, which it believes would only serve to alienate the regime from Beijing, and leave China facing an nuclear-armed enemy state on its border.
“They believe that there is nothing we can do at this point to prevent Kim Jong Un from reaching his goal (of developing an intercontinental nuclear missile capability,)” said Haenle. “And they don’t want to cross the threshold where they become North Korea’s enemy.”
So while Trump has convinced China to turn the screw on North Korea, he will struggle to convince it to act more forcefully.
François Godemont, director of the Asia/China Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations said Trump may suffer a “credibility” problem in Chinese eyes by also threatening the governments of Iran, Venezuela and Cuba, rather than showing a resolute focus on a single issue.
But do Trump’s words presage armed conflict?
The nationalist Global Times newspaper took a pessimistic view, arguing in an editorial that Trump’s speech head “reduced hope of peace” on the Korean Peninsula.
“Facts prove Pyongyang won’t yield to pressure. Pushing North Korea to its limit may eventually trigger a bloody war,’ it warned. “If a nuclear war broke out, that would be a crime against Chinese and South Koreans by Pyongyang and Washington.”
However, several other experts said they were not worried.
“China and Russia have a common stance on this - they want to prevent war even if there is only a one per cent chance of it,” said Wang Sheng, a North Korea expert at Jilin University in Changshun. As a result of their joint resolve, he said, “the United States could not easily start a war.”
Military expert Song Xiaojun agreed.
“What he said is a tactic, it doesn’t mean he will really start a war,” he said. “The U.S. army is concerned about other things, such as China’s rise and Iran. Since the atomic bomb was developed, the United States has never started a war with a nuclear-armed country.”
Last month, the Global Times newspaper warned North Korea that China would not come to the country’s help if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil, although it would intervene if Washington strikes first.
That statement was meant to deter Pyongyang from crossing any red lines, experts say.
In the event of war, it is unlikely Chinese troops would fight alongside or on behalf of North Korea soldiers to defend the regime, as they did in the 1950-53 Korean War, but they could enter the country to secure nuclear weapons sites, and prevent U.S. troops from crossing into the North and installing a U.S.-friendly puppet government, some experts say.
In Pyongyang, the government will also have taken very clear note of Trump’s angry disavowal of the nuclear deal with Iran, where that country agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program under international supervision in return for a lifting of sanctions.
Trump called that deal “an embarrassment to the United States” and threatened to pull out of it. Saying “oppressive regimes cannot endure forever,” he also called for the Iranian people to change their own government.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has already seen Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein agree to surrender their efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction only to end up ousted from power and killed. Trump’s talk will only reinforce that lesson.
“How can Kim not conclude from this that Americans will not rest until his regime is topple and that giving up nuclear weapons is suicidal?,” asked Xie at Dragonomics.
China to Donald Trump: Your North Korea speech was really unhelpful
A Canadian news outlet at the centre of a closely watched media-freedom case is calling on the RCMP to drop its demand for a journalist’s background materials used for stories on a suspected terrorist in light of reports that the man is in fact long dead.
In a letter to federal prosecutors this week, lawyers for Vice Media say they would abandon their attempt to fight the demand at the Supreme Court of Canada if the RCMP were to drop its production order, which two courts have upheld.
The materials in question relate to three stories reporter Ben Makuch wrote in 2014 about Farah Shirdon, a Calgary man whom Canadian authorities have charged in absentia with various terrorism-related offences. However, the American military now maintains Shirdon was killed in 2015.
“In our view, the main condition and basis for the production order, i.e. the criminal investigation and prosecution of Mr. Shirdon, is no longer present,” lawyer Iain MacKinnon said in the letter obtained by The Canadian Press. “Therefore, the production order is no longer valid or enforceable.”
RCMP have been trying to force Makuch to turn over screen captures of his instant messaging chats with Shirdon, who was quoted as making threats against Canada from the Middle East.
In a decision in March that set a binding precedent, Ontario’s top court affirmed an earlier ruling that Makuch comply, despite objections from Vice and several media groups. The Supreme Court was expected to say within the next several months whether it would weigh in as Vice is asking it to do.
One crucial factor clouding the legal proceedings is whether Shirdon is in fact dead.
In April, the U.S. State Department placed Shirdon on its designated terrorist list, suggesting he was still alive. However, as Global News first reported earlier this month, U.S. Central Command, which oversees American military operations in Syria and Iraq, maintains Shirdon died two years ago.
“We can confirm Farah Mohamed Shirdon was killed in July 2015,” a command spokesman said in an email Wednesday.
The State Department said it was looking into the discrepancy.
Federal prosecutor Sarah Shaikh refused to discuss the case because it’s before the courts. RCMP did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
In an interview, MacKinnon said he could see no plausible reason for the RCMP to pursue Vice if Shirdon is dead, while Makuch again decried the RCMP’s action.
“Any time a government pressures a reporter to give up his sources, it sets a very dangerous precedent, one that strikes at the foundation of our democracy,” Makuch said. “Canada should be a beacon for freedom of the press internationally, not a cautionary tale.”
Vice spokesman, Chris Ball, said the outlet was hoping RCMP and the federal government would now “drop their fishing expedition.”
Vice’s leave application urges Canada’s top court to hear the case because of what it calls the current legal void around protecting a journalist’s communications with non-confidential sources.
“Many key questions remain unanswered or are the subject of conflicting appellate decisions,” the leave memorandum states. “Clarification is desperately needed.”
Even if RCMP drops its production order, essentially rendering the case moot, the Supreme Court could decide to get involved as a way to clarify the law.
However, continuing the fight would not only add to Vice’s already stiff legal bills, it would also risk further entrenching the precedent set by the Ontario Court of Appeal, which ruled it would be wrong to interfere with court-approved police access to evidence relevant to an investigation.
Media organizations, which intervened in the Ontario appeal and would likely ask to intervene if the case does end up in the Supreme Court, have warned the upheld production order creates a “chill” that would make sources reluctant to speak to journalists.
“The best outcome...would be the RCMP drop the production order and the Supreme Court still agrees to hear it, and then strikes down the production order so that precedent isn’t set for future cases,” said Duncan Pike, with the group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
At the same time, Pike said he would understand if Vice abandoned its challenge given that Makuch has already been through a long ordeal.
Regardless, Pike said, media organizations might push for legislative changes aimed at enhancing protections for journalists’ sources.
Vice urges RCMP to drop demand for materials after reports stating accused terrorist is dead
OTTAWA—As promised, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer brought the battle against the Liberals’ fiscal reform plan to Parliament Hill this week.
With the prime minister present on Monday, Scheer himself rose a dozen times to launch verbal volleys at the government. On the first day of the fall sitting of the House of Commons, the tax changes were the sole issue on the Conservative radar.
On Tuesday, every official opposition question again dealt with the proposal to curtail some of the tax benefits enjoyed by individuals who set up private corporations. But in that instance the Conservatives set their sights on the half-dozen ministers whose departments deal with constituencies that could be affected by the changes. Wednesday featured variations on the same theme.
To put the Conservative single-minded focus on tax reform in perspective, on the day in 2003 when then-prime minister Jean Chrétien declined to have Canada join the U.S.-led offensive on Iraq the official opposition did not devote its entire question period time to the issue.
As a rule, it takes more than a few weeks in any given sitting of the House of Commons for opposition attacks on the government to reach fever pitch. In this case that level has already been reached. The next few months promise to test the vocal chords of the Conservative caucus, and the nerves of everyone else.
But if Scheer’s hope was to fan the flames of discontent within Liberal ranks the results are inconclusive. And if the plan was to ignite a public opinion firestorm against the government, it may be backfiring.
There is discomfort with Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s proposed plan on the government benches. A handful of MPs have gone public with their reservations.
But for all the Conservative prodding there has so far been little evidence of the kind of cracks that once surfaced on the Conservative cabinet frontline on policy matters such as — for instance — the wisdom of pursuing Stephen Harper’s election promise of extending income splitting to families with children or the need to put the future of the senate to a referendum.
Some of Harper’s most senior ministers and not his backbenchers were the main protagonists in those public rifts.
Until the House opened this week, the Conservative narrative along with that of the many constituencies that oppose the Liberal plan dominated the air war. There were times when it seemed they owned the battlefield.
In spite of that, the polls done since the controversy erupted all concur: the Liberals are well ahead of the federal pack and enjoy a double-digit lead on the Conservatives. Worse, from the Conservative perspective, there are more Canadians who profess to support Trudeau’s party than at the time of his election victory two years ago.
That begs the question of whether Scheer has engaged in a losing battle.
For, along with the return of Parliament, other voices are joining the government chorus.
Take Quebec where the Conservatives will be testing their post-Harper strength in a by-election involving their Lac-St-Jean seat next month.
The Front de Solidarité FTQ supports more than 2,000 small businesses in the province. It is one of Quebec’s biggest economic players. On Wednesday, Its president Gaétan Morin signed an open letter in support of Morneau’s fiscal reform. So did Alexandre Taillefer — one of Quebec’s rising entrepreneurial stars and economist Jean-Martin Aussant. He is a former Parti Québécois MNA who is often seen as former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau’s spiritual heir.
These are not Quebec names one usually associates with the federal Liberals. Ditto on the national scene in the case of the Broadbent Institute. The progressive think-tank that many New Democrats see as an extension of their party is backing Morneau in this battle against the Conservatives.
It was Ed Broadbent in his days as federal leader of the NDP who cast the choice between his party and its two main rivals as one between Main Street and Bay Street. Then as now the former tended to be more crowded with voters than the latter.
So far polls have found that most Canadians have been giving the fiscal reform debate a pass. That may change as more and more so-called influencers engage in the debate. Scheer may come to regret having gotten their attention.
Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Tory leader Andrew Scheer may regret wading into the tax reform debate: Hébert
Police have released a video showing the suspect in the fatal shooting of a real estate agent at a Toronto restaurant on Saturday.
Simon Giannini, 54, was sitting at a table in Michael’s restaurant on Simcoe St. when a man in a hoodie came into the restaurant just before 9 p.m.
Restaurant owner Michael Dabic said the shooter told his manager he was there “looking for a friend.”
When the manager confronted him again, the man bolted towards Giannini’s table and opened fire.
The shooter fled amid the chaos, driving west along Pearl St. in a white SUV. A waiter dashed outside to write down its license plate number.
At a news conference Wednesday, Det. Shannon Dawson asked the public for help in identifying the suspect, who was wearing jogging pants and a hoodie with a large “B” on it.
“Witnesses have described the suspect as male, black, medium build, approximately 5 ft. 7 to 5 ft. 1,” said Dawson.
She mentioned that there was no indication Giannini was involved in anything suspicious to cause the shooting, and that it appears he has no affiliation to his brother, who is a “well-known criminal over seas.”
Two years prior, a shooting took place within Michael’s restaurant, however Dawson stated that police have no reason to believe the two shootings are related.
“We’re contacting all of the people that worked at the restaurant, all of the members of staff that night,” she said.
Giannini died in hospital, becoming Toronto’s 41st homicide victim of 2017.
Video shows suspect in Michael's restaurant shooting
WASHINGTON—Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has asked the White House for documents about some of President Trump’s most scrutinized actions since taking office, including the firing of his national security adviser and FBI director, according to White House officials.
Mueller is also interested in an Oval Office meeting Trump had with Russian officials in which he said the dismissal of the FBI director had relieved “great pressure” on him.
The document requests provide the most details to date about the breadth of Mueller’s investigation, and show that several aspects of his inquiry are focused squarely on Trump’s behaviour in the White House.
In recent weeks, Mueller’s office sent a document to the White House that detailed 13 different areas that investigators want more information about. Since then, administration lawyers have been scouring White House emails and asking officials whether they have other documents or notes that may pertain to Mueller’s requests.
One of the requests is about a meeting Trump had in May with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after James Comey, the FBI director, was fired. That day, Trump met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, along with other Russian officials. The New York Times reported that in the meeting Trump had said that firing Comey relieved “great pressure” on him.
Mueller has also requested documents about the circumstances of the firing of Michael Flynn, who was Trump’s first national security adviser. Additionally, the special counsel has asked for documents about how the White House responded to questions from The Times about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. That meeting was set up by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, to get derogatory information from Russians about Hillary Clinton.
Ty Cobb, the lawyer Trump hired to provide materials related to the Russia investigation to the special counsel and Congress, has told Mueller’s office that he will turn over many of the documents this week.
“We can’t comment on any specific requests being made or our conversations with the special counsel,’’ he said.
Russia inquiry special counsel asks for documents on Trump’s actions in the White HouseRussia inquiry special counsel asks for documents on Trump’s actions in the White House
Another unlawful strip search, another crumbling criminal case.
A Toronto judge has thrown out all drug evidence seized from Stuart MacPherson, finding Toronto police had no reasonable grounds to pull back his pants and boxer shorts at the scene of his arrest to locate concealed drugs near his tail bone.
Ontario Court Justice Sheila Ray also noted in her ruling released last week that at least one of the officers did not seem to even be aware that there was a Toronto police policy on strip searches, and that both officers thought what they did was entirely appropriate.
“The officers were ignorant of the law,” the judge wrote. “They thought that exigent circumstances justified what they did, and that what they did was not a strip search. They were wrong, and this should not have happened.”
The judge excluded the drug evidence, finding MacPherson’s charter right to unreasonable search and seizure had been violated.
Strip-searching is “inherently humiliating and degrading,” the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a landmark case 17 years ago known as R v. Golden, and should only be done when there are reasonable grounds, such as looking for weapons or evidence related to the arrest.
A person should also not be strip-searched outside of a police station unless there are exceptional circumstances, Ray said.
It’s the latest case of a criminal matter put in jeopardy because police failed to follow the case law and their own policies on strip-searching. Toronto police, in particular, have faced repeated criticism on the issue, as other court cases have also shown that officers are not always aware of the various types of strip searches and when and how they can be conducted.
“It is disheartening to learn that Toronto’s front line officers are still not aware of legal precedents and internal policies governing the limits on strip searches that have been in place for well over a decade,” said criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown, who was not involved in the case.
“This is especially so given the sheer volume of serious criminal cases that are withdrawn or dismissed each year due to non-compliance with this constitutional protection.”
The province-wide problem has gotten so serious that the Office of the Independent Police Review Director is currently conducting a systemic review of police strip search practices.
Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said the officers involved would not be commenting, and that Ray’s ruling will be the subject of a professional standards investigation.
She said the police service does have a policy on Level 3 searches — which is the removal of some or all of a person’s clothing and a visual inspection of the body — and that it describes when and how such a search can be performed.
It is the most intrusive search of a person with the exception of a body cavity search, known as a Level 4 search.
MacPherson’s next court date is Oct. 10. His lawyer, G.J. Partington, told the Star it would be “most improbable” for the Crown to proceed on a drug case that no longer has any admissible drug evidence.
He said he expects his client to be found not guilty on charges that include possession of crack cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and simple possession of marijuana.
Officers Matthew Steele and James Doyle had received information that a car matching MacPherson’s had been driving erratically in the neighbourhood, Ray wrote in her ruling. She said they had good reason to speak with MacPherson at that point, in order to check his sobriety and documents, and if there was no issue, to let him continue on his way.
The officers testified that when they approached the car, they saw hand movements “that suggested Mr. MacPherson was concealing something down his pants,” Ray wrote, finding there was a legitimate concern that MacPherson could be hiding a weapon.
However, the judge said all that was necessary to determine if MacPherson had a weapon was a pat down search, which did not happen.
Ray disagreed with the officers that there was urgency in seeing what MacPherson had concealed in his boxer shorts. They pulled back his pants and boxers to find baggies of drugs at his tail bone, leaving MacPherson’s buttocks exposed for several seconds.
“It was totally unnecessary to verify in the field what exactly was being stuffed down the pants or underwear,” she said. “That could have waited. There was no urgency. Nothing in Mr. MacPherson’s pants was running away.”
The police believed that the search inside MacPherson’s clothing did not constitute a strip search, but Ray found otherwise.
“It involved the rearrangement of the boxer shorts and pants, that is, pulling them back. This permitted a visual inspection of a private area, the buttocks, and further exposed undergarments, which were already partially exposed. This is a strip search.”
Judge tosses drug evidence, finds Toronto cops were ‘ignorant’ of strip search law
A woman using a walker has died after she was hit by a vehicle in Toronto’s east end on Wednesday evening.
Toronto Police Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said the woman was hit just south of Broadview Ave. and Mortimer Ave. Police were called to the area around 7:50 p.m.
Paramedics said the woman was rushed to a trauma centre in critical condition. Acting Duty Insp. Keith Smith later confirmed the woman’s death to reporters at the scene.
He added that the driver of the vehicle that hit the woman was co-operating with police.
Broadview Ave. has been closed between Mortimer Ave. and Fulton Ave.
Woman using walker killed by vehicle in east end
Ontario’s biggest weed dealer is considering a retail price of around $10 a gram in a system that could bring a tax windfall of more than $100 million a year.
That $10 fee — estimated after New Brunswick signed deals with two suppliers last week — is on the radar as officials here determine a price for recreational marijuana when it becomes legal next July 1, says Finance Minister Charles Sousa.
“It’s certainly something we’re giving consideration to,” Sousa told reporters Wednesday.
“We’re trying to work with all of our colleagues across Canada,” Sousa said, noting federal and provincial finance ministers will meet later this year on pricing and taxation levels.
“The intent is to have some uniformity with these prices across Canada.”
It’s crucial to have prices in line with neighbouring jurisdictions and to “ensure it’s not overly expensive” to avoid fuelling illegal sales in the underground economy, Sousa added.
Critics have warned the government monopoly on pot sales will not kill the black market.
Sousa would not speculate on how much the sale of recreational cannabis could bring to provincial coffers.
That’s because the cost of a new LCBO-run system of standalone pot stores, public education about the impacts of marijuana, and the costs of enforcement and policing will have to be factored in.
But Sousa conceded gross revenues of more than $100 million annually are possible given that Ontario will have a larger customer base than many U.S. states with legalized marijuana.
“It’s not a ridiculous number to consider because, as you’ve seen in other parts of North America, the numbers have actually been even higher.”
Eight U.S. states, including California, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana.
CNN has reported that Colorado, for example, has brought in $506 million in taxes and fees since retail sales began in 2014, with $200 million last year alone.
The finance minister suggested sales will be brisk when the government’s shops and website begin filling orders for cannabis next summer.
“Demand across Canada is actually pretty high…you can see it by the number of shops that already are there illegally.”
The government has signalled those illegal shops will be shut down as the government opens 40 of its stores next July, rising to 150 within two years. The LCBO will get its cannabis products from medical marijuana producers licenced by Health Canada.
Ontarians will have to be 19 to purchase cannabis — the same age of majority as with alcohol — and can only consume it legally at home.
The government says it chose the LCBO to run the pot distribution system because it already has staff trained to refuse underage drinkers and has a tightly controlled distribution channel.
Earlier this week, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced tougher penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana.
There will be a “zero tolerance” policy toward young drivers 21 and under, novice drivers and truckers caught behind the wheel under the influence of cannabis or alcohol.
There will be three-day suspensions and $250 fines for young drivers and all G1, G2, M1 and M2 licence holders convicted of a first offence.
A second conviction comes with week-long suspensions and fines of $350, which rise to 30-day suspensions and $450 fines for subsequent convictions.
Commercial drivers will face three-day suspensions any time they are caught and fined up to $450.
The penalties are in addition to Criminal Code charges for impaired driving, which can include loss of licences, fines and jail sentences.
Cannabis impairment tests that measure THC levels in saliva are awaiting approval from the federal government, although their effectiveness in cold weather has been questioned. Most U.S. jurisdictions use blood tests.
Ontario considers pricing pot at $10 a gram when it's legalized next year