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TOPSTORIES

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    MONTREAL—Pro- and anti- immigration protesters faced off in duelling rallies Saturday.

    Members of the right-wing group Storm Alliance announced a series of rallies outside border crossing points and government buildings to protest what they call the destructive policies of Justin Trudeau’s government.

    In turn, many pro-refugee organizations have announced their own gatherings to counter Storm Alliance’s message, which they say is hostile to immigrants and refugees.

    In Quebec, about 200 members of Storm Alliance traded insults across a police line with a group of pro-refugee protesters outside the St-Bernard-de-Lacolle border station.

    Authorities announced the border crossing, which has been a processing point for thousands of refugee claimants who have walked across the Canada-U.S. border in recent months, was temporarily closed on Saturday.

    Other gatherings were planned in Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and British Columbia.


    Protests erupt on immigration issues in QuebecProtests erupt on immigration issues in Quebec

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    It’s a mystery out of a John le Carré novel: For the past several months, U.S. diplomats in Cuba have suffered unexplainable symptoms, from hearing loss and vertigo to nausea and concussions. Some say they’re struggling to concentrate and recall even common words.

    Equally strange: While some victims said they felt vibrations or heard loud noises audible only in parts of a room, others experienced nothing.

    So far, 21 Americans have reported symptoms, and Canadian diplomats are suffering as well. It’s become so bad that the United States decided this week to yank all non-essential personnel from its Havana embassy. Americans are being warned against visiting the country for their own safety until investigators can figure out what’s happening.

    Read more:

    U.S. cuts embassy staff, warns against travel to Cuba: sources

    Mysterious sonic attacks in Cuba target Canadian and U.S. diplomats

    What is going on? For months, experts have struggled to explain what kind of weapon could cause such a wide variety of symptoms. Investigators on the scene have uncovered few clues. In the absence of hard proof, there are lots and lots of theories. Here are some of the main ones:

    The perpetrators are using sound as a weapon

    The sonic attack theory is a popular one, especially because some of the diplomats are reporting hearing loss, sounds and vibrations.

    And it is possible to use sound waves to cause problems. Ultrasonic frequencies, which are high-pitched, can be harnessed and directed. As Tim Leighton, professor of ultrasonics and underwater acoustics at University of Southampton, told the Guardian: “If you want to produce a tight beam of energy that you can point at someone, ultrasound is the one to go for.” Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to ultrasonic sound can result in hearing loss and human tissue damage.

    It’s also not hard, professors say, to build a device that emits this kind of noise. “You can buy transducers on the internet that emit these frequencies,” Robin Cleveland, a professor of engineering science at the University of Oxford, told the Guardian. “Anybody with a bit of engineering background could put one together.” It would take a device about a size of a matchbox to produce noise that could, at close range, induce feelings of anxiety or difficulty concentrating.

    But high frequency sound doesn’t travel well through any kind of barrier, like a wall or even a curtain. It’s even hard for it to pass through human skin. To create a sound that could travel through windows, you’d need something more like the size of a suitcase. To affect people 150 feet away, the device would have to be the size of a car.

    Scientists are also skeptical about ultrasonic sound’s potential to cause permanent brain damage. (According to U.S. officials, some Cuban diplomats had been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury.) “That’s a little harder for me to believe,” Cleveland told the Guardian. “The sound would have to enter the brain tissue itself, but if you’ve ever had an ultrasound scan you’ll know they put gel on. If there’s even a tiny bit of air between the sound and your body it doesn’t get through.”

    In short: Weaponizing sound is a glamorous theory, but experts don’t think that’s what’s going here. “It sounds very appealing and interesting, but I find it hard to believe that there actually is such a device,” hearing expert John Oghalai, who chairs the Caruso Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Southern California, told the Verge.

    OK. So, maybe it’s an electromagnetic device?

    Maybe!

    The case for: Electromagnetic waves can be easily directed, like a laser. They can also travel through walls, and could plausibly be concealed from afar. (In the 1960s, the Soviet Union bombarded the U.S. Embassy in Moscow with microwaves; it’s not clear why or whether that had any impact.) Electromagnetic pulses, when sent out in short, intense blasts, can also cause people to “hear” clicking sounds.

    But electromagnetic waves usually cause physical damage by heating body tissue. And the diplomats haven’t reported burning sensations.

    So maybe it’s a poisoning? Could it be a chemical weapon?

    Yes. There are several chemicals that can cause hearing damage, including mercury and lead, along with some industrial solvents.

    But what about the other symptoms?

    Writing in USA Today, Director of Medicine at the American Council on Science and Health Jamie Wells and microbiologist Alex Berezow explain that it’s possible, particularly “if the diplomats share meals together, it is a distinct possibility that somebody poisoned their food.”

    “Does chemical poisoning explain all the known symptoms, even for those victims who heard noises in the middle of the night?” they write. “Possibly. Chemical solvents can cause nerve damage, which can manifest in different ways. With auditory nerve damage, some people might experience ringing (tinnitus), and others might find certain noise frequencies excruciatingly intolerable while others barely notice.”

    Or maybe the diplomats just got sick?

    Respiratory and ear infections can sometimes cause hearing loss. One inner-ear inflammation called labyrinthitis can lead to vertigo, hearing loss, bad balance, nausea and ringing in the ears — all symptoms experienced by the diplomats. Of course, the victims have been tested for the obvious diseases, but maybe they’re suffering some kind of new or mutated illness that doctors don’t know to look for yet.

    One reason to be skeptical: Though American diplomats work closely with Cuban staff at the embassy, only Americans got sick. If the victims were suffering from a contagious disease, you’d expect it to have spread more widely.

    Is Cuba to blame?

    We don’t know for sure, obviously.

    But experts say the Cuban government has been working closely with the United States to figure out what’s going on. The Cuban president met with the top U.S. envoy in the country to express his grave concern and confusion about what’s going on. Cuban officials even let the FBI come down to Havana to investigate, an extraordinary level of access. (Also, Cuba has no obvious beef with Canada.)

    Some U.S. officials are still skeptical. But investigators have begun to wonder whether this is the work of a rogue faction of Cuba’s security forces. Or maybe it’s another country, like Russia or North Korea. Perhaps Moscow is trying to drive a wedge between communist Cuba and the West? (As the AP reports, “Russia also has advanced, hard-to-detect weaponry that much of the world lacks and might not even know about.”)

    Or, most unsatisfying: Maybe it’s no one at all? It’s possible that the diplomats were exposed accidentally to the chemical that’s now wreaking havoc. Or maybe the culprit is testing out some new surveillance system that’s gone awry?

    No one knows for sure. Unlike the best spy capers, we’re so far stuck without a satisfying ending.


    Illnesses among diplomats in Cuba have no known cause: AnalysisIllnesses among diplomats in Cuba have no known cause: Analysis

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    A Sudanese man on track to become a permanent resident with his family has been granted a last-minute reprieve from his scheduled deportation.

    Nasreldin Ali Akad Himad, 49, was to be deported Saturday morning. But Federal Court Justice Douglas Campbell ordered a review of the Canada Border Service Agency denial to defer his deportation, while his permanent resident application with his wife and three children was under way.

    The family crossed into Canada in January from Saudi Arabia via the United States in January. Although they were all on the same claim, a refugee judge granted asylum to all except the father because she found him not credible.

    Himad’s lawyer said the man is almost certain he will receive his permanent status with the rest of his family given he has already had security and medical clearance. But the border agency insisted on deporting him, tearing the family apart while the application is in process.

    “The judge found that removing Mr. Himad would constitute irreparable harm to both Mr. Himad and his family,” said his lawyer Ashley Fisch, after an emergency request to court to suspend her client’s removal.

    “It’s unfortunate and disappointing that we had to take it all the way to the court because there were opportunities for the Government of Canada to have intervened beforehand. Nevertheless justice prevailed.”

    The judge felt there were serious legal issues raised by the border officer’s decision to refuse the deferral request and the court will hear about that in due course, Fisch said.


    Sudanese man gets last-minute reprieve from deportation orderSudanese man gets last-minute reprieve from deportation order

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    Suze and Trevor Morrison stationed themselves at the corner of Regent and Cole St. in preparation for their community block party — just over three months after the two performed CPR on Lemard Champagnie, a 30-year-old Toronto man who was shot and killed at that same intersection.

    On Saturday, hundreds of community members gathered to remember those who have died in Regent Park and receive free CPR training from Red Cross.

    “It’s a really symbolic way to reclaim (the neighbourhood) after the violence on our streets,” said Morrison, adding that she made a point to host the event at the intersection, rather than in the park where events are typically held.

    Present at the block party were Toronto groups including Regent Park Mothers of Peace, as well as Toronto Community Housing and the Muslim Welfare Centre.

    Morrison said that the support she and her husband received for the event was “incredible.” All of the food for the event was donated by the Salvation Army, Fresh Co. and the Muslim Welfare Centre.

    The day after Champagnie’s death, Morrison said dozens of neighbours came out to the streets, offering support for one another.

    “Watching the community come out to the street and hold each other up in that moment, that’s what Regent Park is really, really good at,” she said. “I think we get a bad rap — all people ever hear about coming out of Regent Park is the violence. They don’t see all of this really great community support.”

    Most recently, 54-year-old Everone Paul Mitchell was shot near Regent Park after visiting the Area. He was pronounced dead on scene.

    Sureya Ibrahim, a co-organizer of the event, arrived on scene within two minutes of the shooting.

    “We are bigger than this, fear won’t hold us back,” she said, adding that the people responsible for these deaths are “leaving behind orphans.”

    She added that Mitchell had two children.

    Morrison and her team have planned for events following the block party, including full-day CPR training scheduled for October and November, as well as a talk hosted by the Toronto Police’s 51 Division.


    Regent Park residents come together to remember victims of multiple shootingsRegent Park residents come together to remember victims of multiple shootings

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    An Air France flight bound for Los Angeles from Paris made an emergency landing in Canada on Saturday after one of the jumbo jet’s four engines exploded in midair, passengers said.

    Passengers aboard the double-decker Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner, described hearing a loud noise about five hours into the flight. The plane, which had just crossed the southern tip of Greenland, vibrated for several minutes.

    About two hours later, the plane landed at Goose Bay Airport in Labrador, on the far northeast edge of Canada.

    Photographs and videos shared by passengers on social media showed tattered metal surrounding the exposed interior of an engine, its white covering blown away. One fragment, dangling from the main body of the engine, bobbed in the wind.

    Air France said in a statement that the engine had suffered “serious damage” but that the plane landed safely. “The regularly trained pilots and cabin crew handled this serious incident perfectly,” the statement said.

    The company did not address a possible cause for what happened.

    A passenger, John Birkhead, said he and his wife had just stood up to stretch when they heard the explosion.

    “We were just stretching and talking, and suddenly there was an enormous bang, and the whole plane shook,” said Birkhead, 59, who was returning home to California after a two-week vacation. “We were lucky we weren’t tossed to the ground.”

    Sarah Eamigh, another passenger, said she had been dozing when she felt her stomach plunge as the plane momentarily dropped, then lurched back up.

    Eamigh, 37, who was returning from a business trip, described the sensation that followed as a pervasive humming feeling, entirely unlike the side-to-side motion of turbulence.

    “Of course, we were all anxious,” she said. “We had a quick drop, and that obviously made someone yell, and we were white-knuckling our chairs.” The cabin remained relatively calm, she said.

    Pamela Adams, a travel writer and family therapist from southern California, said she and her husband were on their way home from a trip in France, when six hours into the flight, they got up in the aisle to stretch their limbs.

    “We heard this tremendous bang. It was like the plane hit a Jeep at 35,000 feet,” Adams said in a phone interview. “It was a whiplash moment. We grabbed onto something and then we sat down, and the plane righted itself fairly soon.”

    Passengers nervously joked to one another as they tried to make sense of the commotion, Adams said. She figured the plane had struck a bird, but then, it became clear that the situation was more “dramatic.”

    The pilot came on over the loudspeaker and said the plane had “lost” one of its engines and would be attempting to land in Canada, said Adams.

    About 20 minutes after the disturbance, the captain, whom Eamigh described as sounding shaken, announced that an engine had exploded.

    Several hours after landing at Goose Bay Airport, passengers were just getting off the plane.

    Birkhead said he had heard the reason for the delay was that the small airport — which is home to three air carriers, a coffee shop, a gift shop and three car rental agencies — was not prepared to accommodate the number of passengers on a jet the size of an A380. (Even the world’s biggest airport, in Atlanta, has had trouble accommodating planes of that model.)

    “Nobody’s told us why, but the speculation is they’ve got nowhere to put 500-plus people — that’s probably the whole population of Goose Bay,” he said in an interview.

    Air France said it was working to reroute passengers through one of its connecting sites in North America.

    Eamigh said she was content, for the time being, on the tarmac.

    “You make friends in a situation like this,” she said.

    She added, with a laugh: “It looks pretty cold outside, so we’re actually OK here.”

    With files from The Canadian Press


    Exploding engine forces Air France flight to make emergency landing in LabradorExploding engine forces Air France flight to make emergency landing in Labrador

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    TOKYO—Backroom negotiations, ministerial meetings, shuttle diplomacy, all in hopes of getting agreement on a sweeping trade pact by year’s end.

    No, it’s not NAFTA.

    While the spotlight has focused on trade talks between Canada, Mexico and the United States, efforts are quietly underway on another sweeping trade pact — the Trans-Pacific Partnership — that would give Canada preferred access to Asian markets.

    The agreement, left for dead after Washington’s exit in January, has come back to life.

    And the 11 remaining nations in the partnership are hoping that by moving forward on the agreement — possibly in the coming months — they can entice the U.S. to rejoin the initiative abandoned by President Donald Trump immediately after he took office.

    “Entry into force of TPP 11 is the highest immediate priority for us,” said Sadaaki Numata, a former Japanese ambassador to Canada who now chairs the honorary board of advisers for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

    “We do see it as a means of inducing the United States to come back to TPP. You could call it a lever.”

    There’s optimism that negotiators could have a rejigged agreement ready by November when political leaders from the TPP nations — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — gather in Da Nang, Vietnam for an Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) summit.

    “There is a degree of momentum behind that now and I think there is a recognition, especially in today’s trade policy environment, that having a successful negotiation would have broader implications,” Ian Burney, Canada’s ambassador to Japan, told the Star in an interview.

    Trump’s withdrawal from the partnership had put its future in limbo. “At that time, it seems we lost a path, a way as to what we should do,” Nobutka Sawada, of the Economic Affairs Bureau in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in an interview.

    “But after a lot of consultations and discussions, we found that the significance of the TPP remains. So TPP is still important.”

    Japan, joined by Australia and New Zealand, is leading the effort to see the agreement become a reality. Canada is supportive of the pact that also includes Mexico, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

    The push for liberalized trade is part of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts at economic reforms and a focus on liberalized trade that includes the TPP as well as an agreement with the European Union and ongoing negotiations with Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which would cover 16 Asian countries including China and India.

    Officials on both sides of the Pacific say the TPP would unlock trade between Canada and Japan — two G7 nations — which now stands at about $27 billion annually, an amount that has been largely stagnant in recent years.

    Five years ago, the Conservative government under prime minister Stephen Harper attempted free trade negotiations with Japan, backed by estimates it could boost Canada’s GDP by more than $4 billion.

    But Japan abandoned those discussions two years later in favour of pursuing liberalized trade through the TPP. While Canada holds out some hope of achieving a bilateral deal, too, that doesn’t look likely.

    “We have been trying to revive the bilateral process but have not succeeded. There is a strong preference on the Japanese side to focus on the TPP process,” Burney said.

    “Japan has always been relatively clear with us that TPP probably reflects the high-water mark in terms of what they are prepared to offer in terms of concessions,” he said.

    “I think from the standpoint of what’s in the agreement, that probably is the best that can be achievable.”

    That view is shared in Japan, too, especially because the TPP goes beyond trade to also include topics such as labour, intellectual property, digital trade and government procurement.

    “We do see great potential to be developed,” said Ichiro Hara, director international affairs bureau at Keidanren, the Japanese business federation.

    “I think that either TPP 11 or 12 will be very beneficial framework to reinforce the trade relationship between Japan and Canada,” he said, via an interpreter.

    Negotiators from the remaining TPP countries recently met in Tokyo and will meet again in Japan in October. But potential roadblocks remain. With the U.S. out of the equation — and with it the opportunities of favoured access to the American market — there’s concern that the agreement has become less attractive for some nations.

    “I believe the biggest hurdle might be to overcome the resistance or hesitation on the part of developing countries (that) made great compromises in order to accommodate the U.S. requests and demands on the assumption that the U.S. market would be open,” Hara said.

    There’s also the concern that some nations may seek to renegotiate parts of the agreement. “Every country has agreed that modifications should be minimal but what is minimal for each country differs significantly.”

    And so a question mark hangs over the Trump administration as the U.S. risks being isolated on the trade front. Trump has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He has threatened to withdraw from NAFTA, even as U.S. officials try to bargain a modernized pact with Canada and Mexico. He has mused about ending America’s trade deal with South Korea.

    “That the largest and most influential country in the world is turning to that kind of attitude is very dangerous,” said Shujiro Urata, dean of the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies at Tokyo’s Waseda University.

    “That would make the U.S. the isolated country. I hope that they realize that kind of situation will be very harmful to the U.S. economy.”

    “But again I guess Mr. Trump and his advisers have to change their views towards multilateralism versus U.S.-first policy.”

    Experts like Urata and Hara say the best way to counter to protectionist sentiments is to move ahead on trade deals and hope that the U.S. — seeing American corporate interests increasingly disadvantaged on the world stage — returns to the pact.

    “Trade and investments are globalized and connected these days. I hope the U.S. can see that it would be to their disadvantage not to be part of this global movement,” Hara said.

    “We hope domestic business leaders in the U.S. will raise their voices saying that the U.S. should be back in TPP.”


    Canada working to make Pacific trade deal a realityCanada working to make Pacific trade deal a reality

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    Lisa Simone knows that, for the addicted, the bottom can be a hard, cold, lonely place — a crushing moment of inescapable truth about a life going to hell.

    She also knows that, as painful as that is, the alternative is worse.

    The Calgary native started using alcohol and drugs at 13. Seventeen years ago, she woke up in Houston, where she was living, to find her first husband dead of a drug overdose.

    She was 26 and also addicted. Her son was 2.

    “It didn’t get me sober,” she told the Star on Saturday at the annual Recovery Day celebration at David Pecaut Square. “It broke my soul.”

    Inexplicably to the unaddicted, the capacity of addicts to keep using alcohol or drugs in the face of the worst kind of trauma, or the most overwhelming evidence of the harm being done, is almost limitless.

    So Simone carried on. Until she couldn’t any longer.

    She had gone home to Calgary. She remarried, blended families, and found herself parenting four children. She tried to get clean.

    She attended 12-step meetings, stayed sober for two years, but began drinking again. She started using opioids.

    “For those of us in addiction, none of us thinks it’s going to happen to us,” she said. “Until it does.”

    The pain and self-loathing got worse.

    Until, through the haze of a dozen pills and as many beers a day, came one of those moments of surrender and clarity.

    On Aug. 20, Simone celebrated eight years clean and sober. She now lives in Chippewa, Ont., with her husband and family. She works in recovery.

    Still, that doesn’t promise a life free of pain and challenge. Sobriety offers only the chance to cope, with some courage and dignity, with whatever comes one’s way.

    This summer, Lisa Simone got blindsided again. Two days before her sobriety anniversary, she held a memorial service for her brother.

    Scott Williams died in August of an opioid overdose in Calgary. His mother had found his body several days after his death.

    Williams was an educated professional, a husband and father. Like most battling addiction, Simone said, he was a far cry from the caricature many have of addicts as irredeemably down and out, reeking, raving and living under bridges.

    Seventy-five per of alcoholics have a job,” she said. And even those on skid row are “somebody’s son, or brother, someone’s father. They’re loved by someone.”

    Scott Williams should have been celebrating his 46th birthday on Saturday. Instead, his sister was — by “making my mess my message” — serving as a walking, talking example of hope to addicts and alcoholics.

    Under sunny skies at Pecaut Square, with music, performance and stories of recovery, Simone helped celebrate “Sober in the 6ix.”

    “My brother never reached out for help,” she said. “I think he found it incredibly hard to ask for help. It’s the only disease that tells you you don’t have it.”

    And in her little family — her only sibling gone — was the story of addiction writ large, she said.

    “One dies, one lives.”

    Who can say why?

    Five years ago, Simone and Annie McCullough started a national non-profit called Faces and Voices Recovery Canada in hopes of reducing the shame and stigma around addiction.

    Around the same time, McCullough helped found Recovery Day, which this year was held in 36 municipalities across the country.

    To Simone, the opioid crisis has made awareness even more important.

    While the axiomatic destination of alcoholics is “jails, institutions or death,” opioids leave fewer options and deliver a quicker and more certain end.

    “It’s only a matter of time,” she said. “It’s only death.”

    Simone began her career in recovery counselling with Fresh Start Recovery Centre in Calgary, and now runs a satellite office in Chippewa.

    Though alternating between tears and laughter in an interview with the Star on Saturday, she glowed with well-being and purpose.

    “Recovery is happy, joyous and it’s free,” she said.

    “I woke up two mornings ago, and my husband’s beside me and my dog’s beside me and the window’s open and in Chippewa you can hear the crickets.

    “And I wanted to weep for how grateful I was and how much I love my life.”


    Sober in the 6ix and happy to tell the tale for Recovery Day in T.O.Sober in the 6ix and happy to tell the tale for Recovery Day in T.O.

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    The race to be leader of the New Democratic Party has rumbled down a long road since it quietly kicked off in January. There have been twists, but the course of the contest has generally followed a familiar route. Candidates came, candidates dropped out, policies were debated, French proficiency was scrutinized, and reporters speculated about who would win and by how much.

    Now, finally, it is coming to an end.

    Maybe.

    Party members have been voting by mail and online since Sept. 18. On Sunday, the fruits of that effort will be revealed at a hotel on the Toronto waterfront. Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Guy Caron or Jagmeet Singh may become leader.

    Or we may have to wait another week or two to find out who wins.

    Chalk it up to the voting process installed by the party for the contest to replace Tom Mulcair as federal leader.

    The NDP is voting by ranked ballot, which means each member will rank the candidates in order of preference from one to four. To win, a candidate must have the support of at least 50 per cent of voters. If nobody hits that threshold in the results unveiled Sunday, the fourth-place candidate will be eliminated, and voting will reopen Monday for a second ballot.

    That process will repeat until somebody wins 50 per cent plus one vote.

    The campaign, in part, has been a referendum on what went wrong in 2015, when hopes of forming government were dashed by Trudeau’s Liberals, and the NDP was relegated back to its traditional slot as a third-place party. The result was deflating for the party and its supporters given the massive success of the Orange Wave in the 2011 election, when the late Jack Layton led the NDP to its historic zenith: 103 seats and status as the official Opposition in the House of Commons.

    Each candidate in this race has presented a different version of how to get back to that level of success. Ashton has argued the key is to veer left and win youthful voters who were seduced by the Liberals in 2015. Angus says the NDP became too cautious and bureaucratic, and believes it needs to reconnect with its grassroots base to regain the trust of working people.

    Caron, a Quebec MP and economist by training, has pitched himself as the man with the policy chops who can bring in the most Quebec seats, thus preserving the 59-seat beachhead from the 2011 election that was reduced to 16 seats in 2015.

    And then there is Jagmeet Singh, the perceived front-runner. His campaign boasts that it brought 47,000 people into the NDP during the leadership race. He has also raised more money than his opponents. The Ontario MPP from Brampton blatantly asserts he will win the race, and has said he is best positioned to expand party ranks by bringing in new members from areas — such as his suburban GTA enclave — where the NDP has traditionally been sidelined.

    Karl Belanger, a former close adviser to Layton and Mulcair, said in a recent interview that each candidate has tried to frame their campaign around their “genuine” personality strengths.

    He pointed out that the NDP — and its socialist precursor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation — has never shrunk its seat count in consecutive national elections.

    “Ultimately winning is what this is all about,” he said. “That is something that is obvious to me.”

    Whether that’s possible against Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party remains to be seen. But David Coletto, a political observer and CEO of Abacus Data in Ottawa, said his firm’s polling shows it is at least possible.

    Yes, the NDP has fallen from its historic heights under Layton and Mulcair, but many Canadians seem willing to countenance the idea of voting for the social-democratic party.

    “You look at the fundamentals and it says to me the NDP is down, but I don’t think they’re out,” Coletto said.

    Speaking to reporters outside the House of Commons last week, in what may be one of his last interactions with the media before his successor is announced, Mulcair praised all four candidates in the race.

    “I’m expecting us all to pull together and make sure that we support (the next leader) in everything they do, because whatever else happened in the last campaign, we’ve got 44 outstanding Members of Parliament now, really bringing the fight to the Trudeau Liberals,” he said.

    Sunday’s first ballot event begins in Toronto at 2:30 p.m.


    NDP leadership race nears the end — maybeNDP leadership race nears the end — maybe

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    It was a week of hard fought competition, inspiring displays of strength, and for many, an important milestone in a challenging road to recovery.

    As the 2017 Invictus Games drew to a close Saturday evening, families, dignitaries and hundreds of spectators gathered to celebrate the triumph of the 550 wounded service people and veterans who travelled from 17 countries to compete over the past week.

    “Right now, you’re on a high — at the summit of a mountain many of you thought was too high to climb,” said Prince Harry.

    “You have done it. This is the moment, right here, right now, shoulder to shoulder: You are Invictus.”

    Read more:

    Kelly Clarkson, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and The Boss: Photos from the Invictus Games closing ceremonies

    Invictus Games an awe-inspiring pleasure: Keenan

    Invictus Games a modern day celebration for the modern day soldier

    It’s a sentiment that echoed throughout the evening.

    “The road here was not easy for any of you, but you were determined to take it,” said Premier Kathleen Wynne. “You proved something to all of us.”

    “You showed us what it means to be unconquered,” said Michael Burns, the CEO of the Toronto games.

    Saturday’s closing ceremonies, which featured performances by Bruce Springsteen, Bachman and Turner, Bryan Adams, and Kelly Clarkson were a fitting tribute to the competitors.

    After a week of pushing to their limits, Invictus athletes, who filled the floor seats of the Air Canada Centre, clapped and stomped and sang along as the Boss belted “You can’t start a fire, you can’t start a fire without a spark.”

    Later the crowd happily shared lead vocals with Bryan Adams as he rocked “Summer of ’69.”

    But nothing’s better than two rock icons sharing the stage singing Adams’ “Cuts Like a Knife” and Springsteen’s “Badlands.”

    Inspired by his own military service to advocate for service people, Prince Harry founded the Invictus Games as a way to help those wounded in war with their recovery. Harry served in Afghanistan in 2008 and in the early 2010s.

    Invictus, which means “unconquered” in Latin, is an ode to a poem of the same name by British poet William Ernest Henley, whose leg was amputated below the knee after he became ill with bone tuberculosis.

    Over the course of the nine-day event athletes from around the world — including 90 from Canada — competed in 12 sports, among them archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and land rover driving challenges.

    Founded with an eye to rehabilitation, the games are about much more than winning, Harry said.

    “They’re about the journey that you and your families have made to the start line,” he told the competitors.

    It was an understanding that created a unique spirit of camaraderie among competitors.

    “It’s the first games I saw that you cheer more for the person that finishes last than first,” Maj. Simon Mailloux, co-captain of the Canadian team, told the Star.

    “You know they went through a lot just to be there.”

    As the 2017 games came to close, Harry challenged the competitors, families, and spectators to carry the Invictus spirit with them.

    “Let the examples of service and resilience that you have seen, inspire you to take action to improve something — big or small — in your life, for your family, or in your community,” he said.

    “Let’s create a ripple effect of the Invictus spirit across our nations, that will be the real legacy of this extraordinary week.”

    With files from Kerry Gillespie, Jaren Kerr and Victoria Gibson


    ‘Shoulder to shoulder — you are Invictus,’ Prince Harry tells athletes at closing ceremonies‘Shoulder to shoulder — you are Invictus,’ Prince Harry tells athletes at closing ceremonies

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    From coffee grounds, to leftover fettuccine alfredo, to the slimy, brown head of lettuce forgotten at the back of your fridge, the Ontario government is aiming to keep all organic waste away from landfills.

    It’s an ambitious target for a province that generates nearly 12 million tonnes of waste a year — more than 850 kilograms per person — and only recycles about a quarter of that amount.

    If improvements aren’t made, the province’s landfills could run out of capacity within the next 20 years, the government warns.

    In 2004, the Liberal government promised to boost the rate of waste diversion — through recycling and composting programs for example — to 60 per cent in four years. But 13 years later, the rate hasn’t changed. Now, the government has set its sights on an even more distant target of 100 per cent.

    Hence the Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario, which aims to create a “circular economy,” where waste is considered a resource that can be recovered, reused and reintegrated.

    One area of focus is organic waste, which decomposes in landfills producing gases, such as methane, that contribute to global warming. Ontarians generate 3.7 million tonnes of organic waste per year, and greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector — mostly organics in landfill — account for six per cent of the province’s total emissions.

    The government’s organics action plan, to be implemented next year, includes the possibility of a ban on sending organics to landfills.

    More than half the food waste in the province is generated at home, but the residential sector has steadily improved how much of that is diverted from landfills, with a rate now just over 50 per cent. In contrast, only a quarter of the food waste produced by the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors is diverted.

    Fundamental changes are required in how people think of and treat organic waste, said Environment Minister Chris Ballard.

    “Tinkering isn’t working,” he said. “This is as revolutionary, I believe, a plan as the original (recycling) blue box when we rolled it out and got everybody excited.”

    Organics should be the next target on the waste frontier, experts say.

    “We’re at a bit of a plateau in terms of diverting that waste,” said food and organic waste consultant Paul van der Werf. “We’ve probably tapped out just about everything that people will do on a voluntary basis.”

    Zero waste sounds like an “aspirational goal,” but Ontarians have to decide if that’s something worth aspiring to, van der Werf said.

    “If we (do), then we need to put some pretty strong measures in place to change what we’re presently doing and change our behaviours,” he said. “If we kept the status quo in our system and just tinkered a little bit, would we get to zero waste? No, not in a million years.”

    While nearly all households in the province have access to recycling programs, not all municipalities have organic waste programs. Most of the larger ones — covering around two-thirds of the population — have green bin programs, but not everyone is using them properly.

    “In Toronto, audits consistently show that even though people use their green bins, 40 per cent of what they’re putting in the garbage actually should have gone in the green bin,” said Emily Alfred of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

    The City of Kingston consistently has one of the best organic diversion rates, but still battles resistance, said its manager of solid waste.

    “Most of the reasons why people don’t want to use it is this perception that it smells and that it’s gross or it attracts rodents,” Heather Roberts said. “(But) consider that all of the things that would go into your green bin would still go into your garbage bag.”

    Kingston is also one of just nine municipalities that has extended green bin programs to condos and apartment buildings, but it’s not mandated, so there isn’t a lot of uptake, Roberts said.

    Read more:Toronto chefs look at how to make the most of food waste

    The City of Toronto offers organic collection at about 65 per cent of its multi-residential buildings, and a few receive private pickup, officials said. But most Ontario municipalities still send their food waste from multi-residential buildings to landfill.

    Municipalities with more than 50,000 people are required to have a leaf and yard waste program, but there is no such requirement yet for green bins.

    Mandating collection of food and organic waste is another tool Ontario is considering, but smaller municipalities say that’s not feasible.

    Dan Finnigan, environmental services manager for the town of Mattawa, said his community would need provincial support for a composting program.

    “For the Town of Mattawa itself it would be a great program, but to be quite honest I think I would need some assistance from the government to maybe get it going and get it started up,” he said.

    As Ontario considers a disposal ban on organics, it is looking to the examples of Nova Scotia and Metro Vancouver, which already have them in place.

    Nova Scotia banned organics from landfills two decades ago. Even with a disposal rate much lower than the Canadian average, about half of what’s in the waste stream is still banned material, said Robert Kenney, the province’s recycling development officer.

    “A disposal ban is ... an incentive for municipalities and the private sector to act,” he said. “You don’t get everything. You can’t get everything.”

    Metro Vancouver’s recent ban was eased in, with inspectors targeting only loads with more than 25 per cent visible food waste and issuing surcharges, said Andrew Marr, the director of solid waste planning.

    “What we were trying to target was, if you will, the worst offenders right off the bat,” he said. “We weren’t so concerned with getting every single apple core that somebody might be throwing out.”

    It has been successful so far, Marr said. In the first year, 60,000 more tonnes of organics were diverted away from landfills and the garbage stream dropped from 36 per cent organics to 28 per cent.

    On the commercial side, just a quarter of restaurants diverted organics before the ban, and now that figure is about three quarters, Marr said. But that represents an added cost, which isn’t easy for all to absorb.

    “The line you have to cross is: is it more cost effective to compost this material or to throw it in the trash?” said James Rilett, the Ontario vice-president of Restaurants Canada.

    The cost for the industrial, commercial and institutional sector to dispose of waste is $118 per tonne to the U.S. and $134 per tonne in Ontario, but $205 per tonne to divert.

    The Provision Coalition works with food and beverage manufacturers to integrate sustainability into their business model, aiming to save businesses money by preventing food waste in the first place.

    It’s common for food producers to turn waste into animal feed, but Cher Mereweather of the Provision Coalition said her organization will point out the energy, labour, water and raw ingredient costs that went into making that product.

    “We really need to move away from this concept of, ‘Well, it’s OK, it gets composted,’ because there’s a significant cost and environmental impact of that wasted food in the first place,” she said.

    Some manufacturers send product that won’t sell or is mislabelled to food banks, which is where organizations such as Second Harvest come in.

    The food rescue charity picks up the food and delivers it to social service agencies, to the tune of about 4.7 million kilograms this year. But they won’t pick up anything less than 45 kilograms worth of food, said executive director Debra Lawson.

    To ensure smaller food donors can participate in similar programs, Second Harvest is developing a web-based platform that would connect them to the closest agencies in need. Lawson said it’s hoped a pilot can be running next spring.

    The Retail Council of Canada said grocery stores have a number of initiatives for trying to prevent food waste, including partnering with food banks, selling blemished fruit at a discount, and educating customers.

    The restaurant industry points to customer behaviour as a major challenge as well.

    Luc Erjavec, the Atlantic vice-president of Restaurants Canada, said Ontario should focus its attention on restaurants’ kitchens. In Nova Scotia, owners found it easier to control the back-of-house waste stream.

    “When you get on the customer side it gets very different,” he said. “We can’t start tipping over garbage cans and trying to sort through the waste to make sure it’s not contaminated.”

    Universities face the same dilemma too, said Dave Cano, the sustainability manager at Western University.

    “If there’s no proper signage or proper education around how to use a composting program, then you most likely will find people putting things in the wrong stream,” Cano said.

    Ballard said he sees a large role in the waste-free plan for the private sector, which can come up with innovative solutions and create jobs.

    “We need to turn it into an industry,” he said. “Let’s not look at it like waste. Let’s look at it like a resource and treat it like a resource like anything else we pull out of the ground or from the air.”


    Ontario considers ban on sending organic waste to landfillsOntario considers ban on sending organic waste to landfills

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    MARSEILLE, FRANCE—A man with a knife stabbed two women to death Sunday at the main train station in the southern French city of Marseille as he reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar!” — an attack Daesh claimed was the work of one its “soldiers.”

    French soldiers shot the man to death after the attacks and authorities were working to determine if he had links to Islamic extremism.

    Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, who went to Marseille to meet with local authorities and troops on the scene, said police have video that shows the man attacking a woman and running away, then coming back and attacking a second woman.

    The video shows the man running toward soldiers who were rushing to Marseille’s Saint Charles train station. The soldiers fatally shot him and both women died of their injuries, Collomb said.

    Some witnesses reported hearing the assailant shout “Allahu akbar!” Arabic for “God is great,” Collomb said.

    The Paris prosecutor’s office, which oversees all terror cases in France, said it had opened a counterterrorism investigation into the Marseille attack.

    The Daesh-linked Aamaq news agency said in a statement Sunday night that the assailant was acting in response to Daesh calls to target countries in the U.S.-led coalition fighting Daesh extremists in Syria and Iraq.

    The statement did not provide details or evidence of a direct link to the attacker. France has been part of the anti-Daesh coalition since 2014 and has been repeatedly targeted by Daesh attacks.

    Police sources told The Associated Press that one of the victims was stabbed and one had her throat slit. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

    Collomb declined to provide any details about the suspect or identify the victims.

    Earlier this month, four American college students were attacked with acid at the same Marseille train station. French authorities said the female assailant who doused the four Boston College students was suffering from a mental illness.

    French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “deeply outraged” by Sunday’s “barbarous” knife attack. In a tweet, Macron paid tribute to the French soldiers who responded “with cool heads and efficiency.”

    The French government this month decided to maintain the military force of 7,000 soldiers that was created to protect sensitive sites after the deadly extremist attacks of 2015.

    The Saint Charles train station was evacuated and closed for several hours after the attack, and Marseille police warned people to avoid the area. The train station was partially reopened in the late afternoon.


    Daesh claims credit for Marseille stabbing that killed 2 womenDaesh claims credit for Marseille stabbing that killed 2 women

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    Fifteen months after Metrolinx approved two controversial new GO Transit stations, the agency has released the internal report that recommended against building the stops.

    The study, which was prepared by consultants, ranked new stations Metrolinx considered for addition to the GO network last year.

    As the Star previously reported, it determined Kirby and Lawrence East stations shouldn’t be considered for another decade. Despite that evidence, the Metrolinx board voted in June 2016 to proceed with the stops.

    Kirby is in the Vaughan riding of Liberal MPP and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, and Lawrence East in Scarborough is part of Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” plan. Internal documents show the board initially decided not to support the stations, but changed course after being pressured by Del Duca’s ministry.

    A draft version of the report was leaked to the Star in June, but on Friday the agency posted it on its website, making the analysis public for the first time.

    Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins confirmed board members, who are appointed on the recommendation of the minister, were provided with a draft of the report before the vote “to aid with their decision making.”

    Although the version the board saw was not substantially different from the one posted Friday, Aikins said Metrolinx didn’t make the report public until now because it “was a work in progress and needed revisions before it was considered final.”

    The report’s conclusions and data weren’t altered, according to Aikins. Instead “the revisions focused on grammar changes, readability and factual errors or overstatements.”

    Ontario PC transportation critic Michael Harris said it shouldn’t have taken so long for Metrolinx to make those revisions. He argued the report should have been ready to publish at the time of the vote.

    “I would hope that when a board like Metrolinx is about to render a decision on hundreds and millions of dollars worth of taxpayers’ money, that they would have a report that contained all of the facts, and that would be in its final form,” he said.

    Kirby would cost an estimated $100 million to build, while Lawrence East is expected to cost $23 million. They were among 12 new stations the board approved as part of Metrolinx’s $13.5-billion regional express rail expansion program.

    Harris, who represents Kitchener-Conestoga, said if the report had been published before the vote, Metrolinx would have had to explain to the public why it was rejecting analysis it had commissioned.

    “I still don’t think we’ve had that explanation yet from Metrolinx or the minister on why the decision was made, other than political interference,” he said.

    As a result of the Star’s ongoing investigation into the station approval process, Metrolinx said earlier this month that from now on it will publish reports about projects before they are put to a vote.

    The report released Friday was prepared by the AECOM engineering firm. It analyzed the business cases for 24 proposed stations and ranked them from best to lowest performing.

    Criteria used to rank the stops included whether stations would provide benefits that exceeded their costs, meet strategic objectives, contribute to the overall fit of the network, and allow GO to maintain rapid express rail service.

    The report also considered how certain “sensitivity scenarios” — including the proposed redevelopment of the Unilever site and allowing passengers to board at Toronto stops for the same price as a TTC fare — would impact stations’ performance.

    After being put through the analysis, Kirby ranked last out of seven potential new stations on GO’s Barrie line. Although the Metrolinx board approved Kirby, it rejected two stations that ranked above it, St. Clair West and Highway 7 Concord.

    Lawrence East ranked fourth out of five proposed stops on the Stouffville line. The three stops ahead of it were also approved.

    Emails obtained by the Star show that in June 2016, the Metrolinx board met in private and approved a list of 10 stations that didn’t include Kirby or Lawrence East. The following day, Del Duca’s ministry sent the agency news releases showing he planned to announce stops the board hadn’t supported. Twelve days later the board reconvened in public and voted to approve Kirby and Lawrence East.

    Del Duca has said he provided “input” into the station approval process, but has declined to answer specific questions about his role, dismissing the events as “historical details.”

    He has said he believes “several significant residential and employment developments” planned around the Kirby site will justify a new GO station there.

    Earlier this month Metrolinx announced it would review the two stations, and the agency and Del Duca have both stated neither will be built if the additional analysis doesn’t support them. The review is expected to be completed by February. It will not examine the role political interference played in the approval process.

    On Wednesday, the all-party public accounts committee at Queen’s Park voted to ask the auditor general to perform a “value-for-money” audit of Kirby and Lawrence East. She is expected to include the review in her 2018 annual report, which will be released around November.


    Metrolinx finally releases report on controversial GO stationsMetrolinx finally releases report on controversial GO stations

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    An elderly couple has died after their Etobicoke home was found to have a high level of carbon monoxide.

    Toronto Fire Services said at 9:26 p.m. at a house on Bywood Dr. and Remington Dr. near Kipling Ave., the man and woman were found in the garage and CPR was performed on scene. They are both in their 80s.

    Carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas that is common in household appliances such as heating systems and some cooking appliances. A running vehicle engine can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Large exposure to it can cause loss of consciousness and death.

    Toronto police said it is too early in the investigation to consider the incident as suspicious or not.

    Toronto Fire Services said the carbon monoxide will not affect any of the surrounding homes.


    Elderly couple dead after high levels of carbon monoxide found in Etobicoke homeElderly couple dead after high levels of carbon monoxide found in Etobicoke home

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    Within days of opening her new bar in west-end Toronto, Carmen Elle had equipped the venue with what she considers a key piece of equipment: a naloxone kit.

    Elle, who is also a musician, said it took time to find a pharmacy that carried the free kits, which are used to temporarily reverse overdoses from opioids including the deadly drug fentanyl.

    But having one on hand — and making sure staff know how to use it — is crucial to ensure the venue, named Less Bar, is a safe space for all patrons, she said.

    Read more:

    Public health board members call on Ontario to declare opioid crisis state of emergency

    ER visits for opioid overdoses skyrocket

    Toronto Public Library to offer staff naloxone training for overdoses in branches

    “Any possible way to avoid somebody seriously OD-ing and possibly dying, I think it’s the responsibility of everybody who manages and runs these spaces (to do it),” Elle said. “Why wouldn’t we all just do that? It’s so easy.”

    As public health officials across Canada seek ways to tackle what they’ve called a growing opioid crisis, some in the nightlife industry are taking steps of their own.

    Several bars and music venues in Toronto now stock naloxone kits, and while the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association does not have a policy on the opioid antidote, its president Tony Elenis said members are taking precautions nonetheless.

    The bar owners association of Quebec, meanwhile, said it was weighing a policy on naloxone kits, with a decision expected in the coming weeks. The Alliance of Beverage Licensees of British Columbia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Lee’s Palace, a popular music venue in Toronto, got a kit earlier this year after its assistant manager, Norm Maschke, was advised to do so by a friend who is an outreach worker.

    Since then, Maschke has encouraged others to follow suit, saying the kits are “a must, not just a want.”

    “People do like to party late at night at bars and music clubs and elsewhere and it would be in our best interest to make sure that if somebody does end up in a compromising position that we can at least help them as best we can. To not do it is negligent,” he said.

    So far, there have been no fentanyl-related incidents at Lee’s, Maschke said. Still, he said, “I feel like it’s inevitable and I don’t want to just push it off and then be met with a situation and then I’m not prepared.”

    Toronto Public Health said there are no downsides to having access to the kits in bars and other venues.

    “Naloxone should be available at any location where there may be people at risk of overdose,” the agency said. “Additionally, anyone who needs access to naloxone should be allowed to carry and administer it, including people who use drugs, their friends and family, or others who may be in a position to administer this life-saving medicine.”

    At least 2,816 Canadians died from opioid-related causes in 2016 and the country’s chief public health officer predicts that number will surpass 3,000 this year.

    Naloxone is available without a prescription at pharmacies in several provinces, including Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

    The number of kits distributed through Toronto pharmacies has increased since they were made available by the province in July of last year, according to public health officials.

    Close to 1,400 were handed out by Toronto pharmacies between January and March of this year, with another 1,039 distributed by Toronto Public Health during that time, the agency said.

    One hurdle for those interested in having a kit is that pharmacies can run out, said Elle, who said it took some searching to find one.

    “It’s available but it doesn’t seem to be in great enough supply that you can just go into any Shoppers Drug Mart and grab one,” she said.

    What’s more, obtaining one can be an intimidating process, she said, noting that she received what she called strange looks from those giving out the kit. It felt awful to experience even a fraction of the stigma that people who use substances must face, she said.

    “I don’t want that to happen at Less Bar and I’m looking to create an atmosphere where that doesn’t really happen.”


    Toronto bars, music venues begin stocking naloxone kits in face of opioid crisisToronto bars, music venues begin stocking naloxone kits in face of opioid crisis

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    A battle over bike lanes is boiling over in Toronto’s east end.

    Just three weeks after the city installed separated cycle tracks on a 3.7-kilometre stretch of Woodbine Ave., more than 3,000 people have signed a petition demanding Mayor John Tory have them removed.

    Critics complain that the project has caused increased traffic congestion on Woodbine, and drivers are darting dangerously onto side streets to avoid it.

    They also charge that the city didn’t adequately consult the community about the plans, and they claim there aren’t enough cyclists on Woodbine to justify designated lanes. According to cycling counts from May 2016, daytime cyclist volume on the street was between 150 and 200 cyclists per day.

    Read more:New Woodbine bike lanes just the beginning, councillors say

    Among the more outspoken critics is Warren Kinsella, the former federal Liberal strategist, who lives on a residential street off Woodbine. He’s likened the backlash to “a citizen’s revolt.”

    “My street’s turned into a speedway,” he told a talk radio station recently. “And the concern, obviously, is a kid might get hit or hurt, or worse. It’s really created quite a mess of the neighbourhood.”

    Proponents of the lanes say such concerns are overblown.

    “It’s a knee-jerk reaction. It’s a NIMBY response,” said Mary Ann Neary, a leader of local cycling advocacy group 32 Spokes. She’s one of nearly 2,000 people who have signed a competing petition urging city hall to keep the lanes.

    She argued that the cycle tracks have made the community safer for children, not more dangerous.

    “I now actually see kids riding their bikes on the Woodbine bike lane... They now actually have a safe option to travel in the area,” she said.

    The Woodbine lanes, which run from O’Connor Dr. to Queen St. E., were identified as a key cycling route in the city’s 10-year cycling plan council passed in June 2016.

    They’re currently the only north-south separated bike lanes east of the downtown core, and they connect to key east-west cycling routes, as well as to bike lanes proposed on Danforth Ave.

    Although the lanes aren’t packed with cyclists yet, Neary argues that, as the connectivity of Toronto’s bike infrastructure improves, they will induce demand.

    “The whole thing we’re trying to do here is to get people who want to consider an alternate way to (get around the city) to be able to see themselves actually doing it in a safe way. That sometimes takes a little time,” she said.

    The Woodbine project, as well as two much shorter lanes proposed for Corley and Norway Aves., are projected to cost an estimated $400,000 to install.

    The configuration of the lanes varies; some sections of Woodbine incorporate a barrier in the form of flexi-post bollards, while others offer no more protection than painted “sharrows” on the pavement.

    In general, car traffic has been reduced to one lane in each direction, with dedicated left-turn lanes at major intersections.

    The design was “anticipated to provide sufficient capacity for accommodating traffic-flow,” according to a report that went before council. But longer traffic cues were expected at four major intersections, which staff have attempted to mitigate by retiming signals.

    Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, the city’s director of transportation infrastructure management, said her department is aware thousands of people oppose the bike lanes and “we’re working to mitigate their concerns.”

    She acknowledged city staff have observed congestion at the afternoon rush hour, but said some of the problem is a result of water-main work and streetcar track replacement at nearby Coxwell Ave. and Queen.

    Her department plans to conduct a traffic study on Woodbine next spring and “make additional changes, as deemed necessary,” Gulati said.

    “We’re not just slapping them down and walking away; we absolutely will monitor the situation,” said local Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32 Beaches-East York), a vocal proponent of the lanes.

    In response to claims that public consultation was inadequate, McMahon said the city sent out more than 35,000 flyers and held two public meetings, and she and the other councillor representing the project-area knocked on every door on Woodbine.

    “I can’t see what else we could have done besides actually sitting down for dinner with every resident,” said McMahon.

    While cities such as Montreal and New York have pursued new cycling infrastructure aggressively in recent years, there is precedent in Toronto for removing bike lanes; most famously, in 2012, under then mayor Rob Ford. the city spent about $300,000 to scrub out the Jarvis St. bike lanes. Under Ford, who campaigned against the “war on the car,” the city also removed bike lanes on Pharmacy Ave. and Birchmount Rd. in Scarborough.

    McMahon is adamant there won’t be a repeat on Woodbine; the new bike lanes are “locked and sealed into our 10-year cycling plan,” she said, which she added is key to improving bike safety and meeting the city’s climate change goals.

    “We’re not ripping anything out from the cycling plan,” said McMahon.

    “They’re going to stay put.”


    Woodbine bike lanes here to stay despite controversy, councillor saysWoodbine bike lanes here to stay despite controversy, councillor says

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    IQALUIT—There is, admittedly, rarely a perfect occasion for an unseasonable blizzard, but the storm that blew into Iqaluit with a vengeance on Saturday afternoon could not have picked a more unfortunate moment to shut down the entire town.

    The conference portion of the first-ever Nunavut Music Week had just ended on an emotional high note, with the intimate group of northern musicians and southern delegates who’d spent the previous four days sharing ideas, soaking up music and forging friendships embracing in a giant group hug after an appreciative post-mortem session that left most in the room with tears in their eyes.

    The stage was set for an explosive final night out on the town: ferocious Inuk rising star Tanya Tagaq would demolish the nearby Inuksuk High School with an early-evening performance, then everyone would move to Iqaluit’s Royal Canadian Legion hall for a second night of Nunavut Music Week showcases climaxing in a headlining performance by festival creator/curators the Jerry Cans.

    As it turns out, however, the power outage that had a couple of hours earlier briefly forced the conference’s media panel (of which this writer was a part) to conduct its discussions in semi-darkness at the Nunavut Francophone Association building was but a faint harbinger of things to come.

    Just as everyone was about to part ways and ready themselves for the fun to come, word came down that the Legion would not be opening that night due to the weather, cabs were being taken off the icy roads and Tagaq’s performance had been cancelled. A thick veil of windblown snow had descended upon the city, Frobisher Bay had been rendered invisible and a slick layer of ice underneath the drifts made walking nearly as treacherous as driving.

    Even in the north, such a whiteout in late September is uncommon. As frazzled Jerry Cans frontman Andrew Morrison put it: “This is unheard of.”

    Northerners are nothing if not resourceful, however, and within the hour it was decreed that the closing-night festivities would move to the home of genial Jerry Cans drummer Steve Rigby — a chap so generous with his time and energy that, after chauffeuring Nunavut Music Week guests around in his truck for much of the week, he still had it in him to whip around the dark, deserted streets on a snowmobile tugging a caribou-pelt-lined qamutik (or “sled,” if you prefer the less elegant expression) picking up those partygoers unwilling to risk cracking their skulls open on a walk to his place.

    Rigby’s living room became an impromptu stage, an assortment of instruments left over from his high-school days served as “gear,” disco lights were unleashed upon the ceiling, everyone piled whatever booze they had into a big bin by the door and … well … a proper rager ensued. Meanwhile, Tagaq and violinist/producer Jesse Zubot arrived with the very good news that they’d postponed their flights out of town and that their Iqaluit show would happen on Sunday instead. All was suddenly right with the world again.

    As it turns out, it was the perfect way to end Nunavut Music Week. Morrison and his partner and Jerry Cans co-vocalist Nancy Mike had said from the beginning that they wanted visitors to the conference to experience the northern way of life as much as they did the Inuktitut music they’ve been championing with their recently established Aakuluk Music label, and Nunavut certainly delivered that experience on Saturday, emphasizing in fine meteorological style just one of the many logistical barriers that make it so difficult for northern music to be heard in the rest of Canada and around the world.

    Mainly, though, the impromptu house party — which featured enjoyably loose performances by boffo local blues-rockers the Trade-Offs, most of Igloolik’s legendary Northern Haze and, of course, a thoroughly whiskey-soaked Jerry Cans, not to mention a demonstration of traditional competition throat singing between local singer/songwriter Riit and a young woman named Avery — fit the informal vibe of the small, friendly and unpretentious Nunavut Music Week gathering as a whole. “Northern hospitality” is a very real thing.

    Moreover, Saturday night’s joyous denouement demonstrated just how close-knit and resourceful this tiny yet mighty scene really is, and just how much talent has been able to thrive here against the odds.

    Five or 10 years from now, when Nunavut Music Week has grown into whatever it will grow into — and it will grow because there’s far too much world-class music being made up here for it not to grow — everyone in attendance will speak fondly of that almost-disastrous first year and the house party at “453” that saved it all.

    A musical conduit between north and south has been opened. I don’t see it closing.


    A snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party started A snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party started A snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party started A snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party startedA snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party started A snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party started A snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party started A snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party started

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    A Toronto man, who was held in immigration detention for five-and-a-half years, has launched a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Ottawa.

    Abdirahmaan Warssama, 54, was detained at two maximum security detention facilities, first in Toronto and later in Lindsay, Ont., from May 2010 to December 2015 while waiting for his deportation to Somalia.

    Over 2,042 days behind bars, he underwent more than 70 detention reviews but each time an independent panel sent him back to jail, convinced he was likely to flee and fail to appear for his removal — until a Federal Court judge overturned his continued detention and ordered Ottawa to explore the possibility of returning Warssama to Somalia and consider alternatives to detention.

    “The sole purpose of his detention was to facilitate his removal from Canada to Somalia. Yet for the totality of his detention, removal to Somalia was never attempted,” said Warssama’s statement of claim against the federal government filed with the court Thursday. He is seeking $55 million in damages.

    “Despite the fact (that) he suffered from mental health issues, his detention was solely administrative not punitive, and he was not considered a danger to the public, yet at all material times, Warssama was detained in a maximum-security prison.”

    The claims have not been proven in court. The Attorney General of Canada, the defendant, has declined to comment because of the ongoing court process. No statement of defence has yet been filed.

    While incarcerated, Warssama alleged in the lawsuit, he was subjected to “humiliating and degrading experiences,” including being strip-searched, physically assaulted, robbed, denied warm clothing and health care, forced to endure freezing temperatures, unsanitary living conditions and lengthy and numerous lockdowns.

    Warssama came to Canada for asylum in 1989 but the claim was denied in the same year. He was allowed to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds — partially due to his diagnosis with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, he kept moving around and never obtained his permanent residence status.

    In 2005 and 2006, he was arrested and charged with assault, failing to appear and uttering threats, for which he received a suspended sentence and 18 months’ probation, as well as a day in jail and 87 days pre-sentence custody. Since he’s neither a permanent resident nor citizen, his criminality made him inadmissible to Canada.

    Warssama’s lawyer, Subodh Bharati, said the Canada Border Services Agency had a policy of not forcibly removing people to Somalia and would only deport someone to African country if the person was willing to sign a “voluntary statutory declaration” indicating one’s genuine desire to return.

    “He is not the same person he used to. He is angry and upset . . . He still can’t sleep properly. When he is outside, he feels people are following him,” Bharati said in an interview.

    In his statement of claim, Warssama said his “unlawful” detention was the result of malicious prosecution by the border agency and negligence by the detention review tribunal that was under the Immigration and Refugee Board.

    “The Immigration and Refugee Board ignored evidence and used detention as a means to punish the plaintiff for not signing what it knew or ought to have known was a false statutory declaration,” according to the lawsuit.

    “The infringement of (Warssama’s) liberty became arbitrary and contrary to the principle of fundamental justice that prohibits limitations that are not related to the legislation’s purpose.”

    Due to repeated jail lockdowns, Warssama claimed in his lawsuit, he was unable to contact his family and lawyer or receive visitors. On two occasions — on May 20, 2014 and August 10, 2014 — he was assaulted by other inmates causing him injury and the loss of two teeth, the lawsuit claimed.

    Warssama, who now lives with his sister, said he still suffers from physical and psychological problems: headaches, nightmares, dizziness, shock, anxiety, depression, emotional trauma, chronic pain, insomnia and weakness.

    “I still have bad dreams from the detention. It’s hard to start your life again. You just can’t get your life back,” he told the Star in an interview. Warssama is still without status pending removal and must report to the border agency every three weeks.

    He has applied for permanent resident status based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, as well as an assessment of the risk he could face if removed to Somalia. Both decisions are pending.


    Asylum-seeker sues federal government over ‘humiliating’ 5-year imprisonmentAsylum-seeker sues federal government over ‘humiliating’ 5-year imprisonment

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    BRANCHBURG, N.J.—President Donald Trump on Sunday scoffed at “politically motivated ingrates” who had questioned his administration’s commitment to rebuilding Puerto Rico after a pulverizing hurricane and said the federal government had done “a great job with the almost impossible situation.”

    The tweets, from a president ensconced in his New Jersey golf club for the weekend and set to attend an international golf competition near New York City before returning to the White House, sought to defend Washington’s attentiveness to recovery efforts on a U.S. territory in dire straits almost two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck.

    San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz on Friday accused the Trump administration of “killing us with the inefficiency” after the storm. She begged the president, who is set to visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday, to “make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives,” and appealed for help “to save us from dying.”

    Cruz said Sunday that “there’s only one goal, and it’s saving lives,” adding that all she did “was ask for help.”

    “I know the good heart of the American people and I know that when a mayday sound goes off, they come to the rescue,” she said in a television interview.

    Read more:

    ‘They want everything to be done for them’: Trump lashes out at desperate Puerto Rico officials

    ‘He’s a racist president’: Mainland Puerto Ricans are furious over Donald Trump’s debt talk amid hurricane crisis

    Trump’s weekend tweets have shown him to be contemptuous of any complaints about a laggard U.S. response to the natural disaster that has imperiled the island’s future. He has repeatedly blamed the press for what he sees as unfair coverage of the situation on the ground, where power is out and many people are without food, water and fuel.

    “We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico. Outside of the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates ... people are now starting to recognize the amazing work” done by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the military, the president tweeted.

    The day before, Trump had lashed out at Cruz, deriding “poor leadership ability” by her and others in Puerto Rico “who are not able to get their workers to help.”

    He added, without elaboration: “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”

    In times of disasters, leaders often shelve partisan differences. But Trump has a penchant for punching back against critics, whatever the circumstances.

    “When the president gets attack, he attacks back,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, who adding that the mayor’s comments were “unfair, given what the federal government has done.”

    But to Sen. Bernie Sanders, Trump’s tweets were “unspeakable.”

    He characterized the president as “speaking from his fancy golf club, playing golf with his billionaire friends, attacking the mayor of San Juan, who is struggling” to bring electricity, food, water and gas to the island. “I don’t know what world Trump is living in.”

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who challenged Trump for the GOP presidential nomination last year, said “when people are in the middle of the disaster, you don’t start trying to criticizing them. I just — I don’t know what to say.”

    The Trump administration said it had more than 10,000 federal officials on the ground, and that urban search and rescue teams have covered the entire island, searching more than 2,649 structures. Fifty-nine hospitals are partially operational, and 45 per cent of customers have access to drinking water, officials said. Stores are also opening, with nearly half of grocery and big box stores, and more than 60 per cent of retail gas stations open for business.

    FEMA chief Brock Long said the agency has worked to fix roads, establish emergency power and deliver fuel to hospitals. He said telecommunications are available to about one-third of the island.

    “Oh, I believe the Puerto Ricans are pulling their weight. I mean, I think they’re doing what they can,” he said.

    Trump’s administration has tried in recent days to combat the perception that he failed to quickly grasp the magnitude of Maria’s destruction and has given the U.S. commonwealth less attention than he’d bestowed on Texas, Louisiana and Florida after they were hit by hurricanes.

    “The bottom line is at least for the first week and a half the effort has been slow-footed, disorganized, and not adequate,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said.

    He urged Trump “to stop calling names, stop downgrading the motives of people who are calling for help, but roll up his sleeves and get to work.”

    Cruz was on ABC’s This Week, Long and Mnuchin spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sanders was on CNN’s State of the Union and Schumer appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation.


    Trump calls his Puerto Rico critics ‘ingrates’Trump calls his Puerto Rico critics ‘ingrates’

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    Two men are dead following an early Sunday morning shooting in the Port Lands.

    Toronto police rushed to a parking lot outside Rebel nightclub, near Cherry and Polson Sts., around 3:10 a.m. for reports of a shooting.

    When emergency services arrived, they found two men in their 20s with gunshot wounds.

    Paramedics said one man was pronounced dead on scene. The second victim was rushed to a local hospital in life-threatening condition, where he later died from his injuries. Both men are believed to have been patrons of the nightclub.

    “There was an altercation that occurred in the parking lot of Rebel nightclub, and we believe that altercation is what led to the shooting,” said Detective Kathy Stephenson from Toronto’s homicide unit.

    She said a black vehicle was seen speeding away from the scene and last observed heading north on the Don Valley Parkway. No suspect information is available at this time, but Stephenson said they are speaking to witnesses and reviewing security footage provided by the nightclub.

    Forensics are on scene. Anyone who might have information about the shooting is encouraged to speak to police.


    Two men dead after shooting outside Rebel nightclub in the Port LandsTwo men dead after shooting outside Rebel nightclub in the Port Lands

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    OXBOW, SASK.—The two-storey cedar home where Shirley Galloway lives with her family was a solitary dot on the Saskatchewan prairie when they moved here 21 years ago.

    The view from the front porch, once a landscape of rolling hills, horse pastures and lush river valley, has been transformed.

    Today, Oxbow is surrounded by bobbing, black steel pump jacks and flare stacks burning off hydrogen sulphide and other dangerous gases that rise with the oil and trail off in ribbons of flame over green fields.

    Late in the afternoon of Oct. 30, 2012, Galloway, a 53-year-old registered nurse, heard screams from the front yard.

    Galloway dashed out to find a teenage family member vomiting and the air thick with the rotten-egg smell of sour gas — hydrogen sulphide (H2S).

    Galloway, who trains oil workers to survive these same events, knew what to do.

    She pulled the teen inside, grabbed an air monitor and held it out the door. The reading was off the dial — more than 100 parts per million — a level immediately dangerous to human health.

    Saskatchewan’s oil boom has brought jobs for many. For others, it has brought fear, injury and one death.

    The number of “fracked” wells in the Bakken shale oilfield alone increased from 75 in 2004 to nearly 3,000 in 2013, according to a 2016 paper by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The promise of prosperity, similar to its southern neighbour North Dakota’s Bakken boom, has been embraced by a province struggling to diversify its economy.

    A national investigation by the Toronto Star, the National Observer, Global News and journalism schools at Regina, Concordia, Ryerson and UBC has uncovered failures by industry and government to respond to — and warn the public about — the serious and sometimes deadly threat of H2S gas wafting across Saskatchewan.

    Read more:There’s no sense in speaking up despite deadly gas risks

    Documents obtained through freedom-of-information requests and from whistleblowers — internal correspondence, meeting minutes, presentations and inspection reports — disclose findings of failures in performance by oil and gas companies, including serious infractions, failed safety audits, daily H2S readings beyond provincial air quality standards and a death in 2014.

    Yet regulatory standards remain largely unchanged and H2S incidents and risks remain hidden from the public.

    The teen overcome in Galloway’s yard eventually recovered but missed school for several days with nausea and headaches.

    H2S can be an insidious killer.

    Heavier than air, it tends to settle in ravines and valleys.

    Just above the level Galloway’s monitor detected — 100 parts per million — H2S causes olfactory paralysis, leaving a victim unable to detect the rotten-egg smell. Continued exposure at that level may cause death within 48 hours.

    A person exposed to a highly concentrated plume of the gas — at 1,000 parts per million — may die rapidly from respiratory paralysis, or over the course of days, from an inflammatory reaction in the lungs.

    Victims effectively suffocate.

    The government issued no public warning after Galloway reported the plume at her home because “there was no evidence that this was a widespread failure.” But inside government and industry offices, documents indicate the seriousness of H2S issues that led to years of meetings, audits and proposed regulatory reforms.

    On April 7, 2014, government and industry officials deliberated about releasing data that showed H2S “hotspots” across southeastern Saskatchewan.

    “Government may be accused of hiding information,” the notes read. “Public will want to know: 1. What are the areas? 2. How is it managed? 3. How is the government making sure it’s managed?” one unnamed official told the meeting. “Are we creating a risk by not releasing this data immediately?”

    Despite acknowledging “significant” public health risks from H2S, at least some officials present expressed concern about “sensitivity in this data (because) there are residents living in these areas.”

    No release followed.

    Three weeks later, government-proposed fines for emission breaches — up to $1 million in penalties — were rejected by two major industry groups. In a letter to the ministry dated April 29, 2014, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and Explorers and Producers Association of Canada (EPAC) called the proposed penalties “unsuitable.”

    A former ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of losinghis current job in the industry, says “almost every amendment was being rejected.”

    EPAC officials declined comment.

    Terry Abel, CAPP’s spokesperson, said the letter was intended to explain that, “in some cases, fines aren’t appropriate at all … If there’s an unsafe operation, it should be shut down. It shouldn’t be operating. That’s the best way to ensure the public safety is protected.”

    The proposed fines were dropped.

    The next month, Michael Bunz, a 38-year-old salesman supplying chemicals to oil and gas facilities, lay in a shack 80 kilometres from the Galloway house, dead after being exposed to H2S.

    The official incident report filed with the Ministry of the Economy, which regulates Saskatchewan’s oilfields, makes no mention of Bunz’s death.

    These regulators “are really thinking about the economic health of the province,” says Emily Eaton, a professor at the University of Regina who has studied the relationship between the oil industry and the government. Eaton is a member of the Corporate Mapping Project.

    A shift in 2012 — from the Ministry of Energy and Resources to a new Ministry of the Economy tasked with regulating natural resource extraction and promoting economic development — changed the ministry’s role from watchdog to partner, she says.

    “They’re thinking about returns on investment … The industry should really be regulated by those that have the interests of the environment first.”

    Ministry field staff raised this concern at a meeting on July 1, 2015, between government and industry.

    “The role of the regulator needs to be adjusted,” the meeting’s minutes read. “The regulators are acting as consultants in some situations. The role of the regulator is to enforce the rules and if the rules are clear and if enforcement is consistent and clear then, ‘cultural’ changes can be made.”

    In its statement, the ministry rejects criticisms of conflict of interest or lax enforcement.

    “Within the Ministry of the Economy, the petroleum and natural gas division carries out industry regulation,” wrote the department’s spokeswoman, Deb Young. “It is not involved in investment attraction, royalty and tax assessment and land sales. It is solely focused on well, facility and pipeline regulation.”

    That regulation has not included fines or prosecutions.

    The ministry has not issued a single fine against any industry company “for well over a decade,” Doug MacKnight, assistant deputy minister responsible for petroleum and natural gas, said in an interview.

    “Generally, we don’t have to resort to that,” he said. “It’s usually just a notice to the operator to bring themselves into compliance.”

    Prosecutions have also not been part of the ministry’s enforcement practices because non-compliance was dealt with “through other enforcement actions,” reads the ministry’s statement.

    Other enforcement actions include increased inspections and staff, high-tech equipment for detecting emissions and a $69-million inspection reporting database (which can’t be accessed by the public).

    Still, complaints of illness from residents and workers continue.

    “I will sometimes get faint, like I will fall over and I have to find a seat quickly,” says Lori Erhardt, a United Church minister and musician living near Oxbow who believes her chronic illness is related toemissions.

    “I have had a variety of diagnoses, most of them end with “i-t-i-s,” which means inflammation … If something gets inflamed, if it’s blood vesicles, you feel it through your body.”

    Among the five years’ worth of documents obtained by this investigation is an April 2012 PowerPoint presentation to CAPP members by the director of the province’s petroleum and natural gas division. It includes a map of southeastern Saskatchewan showing a bloom of red and orange circles, labelled “critical sour gas locations.”

    Sources say ministry staff pushed to make the data public but senior government officials said “there’s no goddamn way that is going to be released,” according to the former ministry source.

    “There’s an institutional reluctance to make this information public,” he said. “The public should be able to see all the information that legislators have identified as public information such as sour gas and inspection reports.”

    The ministry statement says the map was never approved for release because some data was out of date, not comprehensive and “could provide the public and industry with a false understanding of risk associated with a particular well or facility.”


    After the Galloway incident, the ministry inspected 11 oil and gas facilities. All failed “with serious infractions,” including releasing H2S at lethal levels “that may be exceeding 150,000 (parts per million),” Brad Herald, CAPP’s Saskatchewan operations manager, wrote to the board of governors in December 2012.

    Those levels are 150 times the amount that could cause instant death.

    Among the causes: “It is believed that inadequate training on the installation and operation of equipment is … contributing to the air quality issues.”

    CAPP’s Abel said in an interview the “unsafe” facilities responsible for those breaches should not have been operating.

    “They should have been shut down,” he said. “When you follow the rules, processing and production of sour gas is absolutely safe. If you don’t follow the rules, it can pose a health risk. So ultimately, those operators at those facilities were responsible.”

    Neither CAPP nor its industry partners made the health risks public. And no ministry fines or prosecutions followed.

    Internally, CAPP quickly mobilized to develop a public relations and damage control plan:

    “There are growing public concerns regarding the air quality issues in southeast Saskatchewan,” Herald wrote, noting a petition and a Facebook page.

    “The Ministry fields one to two public complaints concerning odours per week and the issue is garnering increasing political attention . . . This has the potential to become a broader industry reputation/social license concern and warrants immediate attention by operators in the region . . . Communications is preparing key messages in the event that there is media profile.”

    CAPP received a warning the next month after consulting a scientist with expertise on managing toxic substances, internal emails show. The scientist expressed disappointment noting that H2S failures were “so easy to avoid.”

    The scientist urged the industry lobby group to develop and implement a new code of practice to control dangerous emissions and get ahead of the problem by publicly denouncing unacceptable practices. The scientist also recommended that the industry group pressure the province to step up inspections.

    The ministry, in meetings with industry, proposed similar reforms.

    In a letter sent in March 2013 then-energy minister Tim McMillan — now president and CEO of CAPP — warned companies to meet “compliance obligations” or face “escalated enforcement, penalty and/or prosecution.”

    Ministry and industry met four times between 2012 and 2014 to plot strategy, including emergency planning zones, a public communications document, a code of practice and a licensing regime for high-risk, single-well batteries.

    Those plans were never adopted, a ministry statement confirms.

    “Instead, the Ministry chose to take a risk-based approach to managing the sour gas issue that included increased field inspections and improved data collection.” Eighteen wells that had been venting sour gas were ordered to be “shut-in” in 2012/2013.

    From 2013 to the summer of 2014, the ministry began implementing “an aggressive inspection and enforcement schedule to reduce sour gas emission” that included suspension orders against 30 facilities owing to “H2S management issues,” the statement reads.

    During that effort, H2S would claim its most high-profile victim in Saskatchewan.


    Michael Bunz, a salesman for Nalco Champion, died on May 22, 2014, while taking samples in a shed located in a provincial park between Carlyle and Kipling. A valve on the tank broke and oil, water and H2S spewed into his face.

    An incident report submitted by the tank’s owner, Harvest Operations Corp., states simply: “Spill occurred as a result of a failed valve.”

    Nowhere does it mention Bunz’s death.

    Instead, his death is marked by a gravestone in a small cemetery near Wawota, where the father of two young daughters lived a few doors away from his parents, Dianne and Allan.

    The black, polished stone, with an image of Bunz wearing his Saskatchewan Roughriders jersey and hat, calls him “Bunzy” and reads: “In loving memory of Emma and Olivia’s Daddy.”

    “He didn’t really talk about those dangers,” Dianne says. “We knew what it’s like to work in the oil industry. My husband did for 20 years. We knew about H2S but I wasn’t aware that he was going on site and doing the testing.”

    The summer before he died, Allan drove his son to the Nalco office to quit. Michael’s brother-in-law, who had worked there, had left and “things had been pretty tough,” Michael said, marked by long days and heavy workload.

    “He was going to hand his company truck in, and his boss was there … he talked (Michael) out of it,” Allan says. “This company wanted him because he never ever phoned in sick or anything. He’d just go to work. And they offered him more money, so he stayed.”

    Nalco Champion is facing three charges under the province’s occupational health and safety legislation for failing to provide Bunz with a respirator and to ensure he entered a dangerous situation with a second worker. A conviction would result in a fine.

    The family says they were told by Nalco that the concentration of H2S in the fluids was estimated at 40,000 parts per million, more than enough to bring near-instant death.

    The company sent reporters a written statement, declining further comment.

    “We remain deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague, Michael Bunz. The safety of our associates, customers and communities is vitally important, and we remain committed to our robust safety policies, protocols and training programs, which include those related to hydrogen sulfide,” it reads.

    Allan, who spent most of his working life in the oil industry, says he learned more about H2S protection when he worked on a pig farm.

    “Every person had to wear an H2S monitor. And I’m talking about the pig industry,” he says. “To me, they were protecting us … more at this simple small hog operation in Saskatchewan than the oil industry ever did the entire time I was working out there.”

    The couple reviewed the records documenting years of discussions between government and industry about public health risks and failed audits that were never made public. The couple called it “devastating.”

    “I go to work every day and I drive down the highway and I talk to my son sitting beside me,” says Allan. “I say to him “tough day there, son” and I tell him how I feel . . . I feel him sitting there beside me.”


    How often H2S incidents happen or happened in Saskatchewan remains a mystery.

    Officially, ministry officials count one death and five “documented incidents where a member of the public was exposed to unsafe levels of sour gas near a well or facility site.”

    None of them triggered a public statement by the government.

    “There was no need for public notification since the incident was quickly dealt with at the site,” reads the ministry statement.

    But after dozens of interviews it is clear that H2S incidents involving residents are more common but go unreported or are not recorded properly. This is also true for workers in the oilfield.

    Only months after Bunz died, Trina Hansen, an oilfield worker and part-time voice actress, was clearing a pipeline near Carlyle, Sask.

    “I could have died,” she says. “It’s almost like you could feel like a heavy air hit your face. It’s a really weird feeling. Your first reaction is to inhale. When it hits your face, you breathe it in. It’s the weirdest thing. You don’t think to hold your breath. It happens so fast. I stumbled backwards. I was so shocked.”

    Disoriented, Hansen got back in her truck and drove a couple of kilometres until she noticed she was losing her peripheral vision.

    “There were white sparkles, iridescent, swirly, super-shiny and bright. I jumped out and started feeling nauseous and couldn’t breathe very well. I was trying to catch my breath and dry heaving. My head started pounding.”

    Hansen, suffering debilitating headaches, nausea and sickness, lost her voice for two weeks.

    “This happened three years ago and I still have a hard time catching my breath if I talk too fast. I’m very short of breath. I’ve never in my life felt like that. It was horrible.”

    Her voice has changed for good — it is far deeper and lower than before.

    “I do a cartoon on APTN network and they said my voice totally changed. It changed two octaves pretty much. It used to be high and now it cuts out.”

    Hansen never reported the incident, fearing she would lose her job.

    “Nobody wants to say anything. We know it’s bad and dangerous. But no one wants to raise a fuss. And being a woman and trying to prove yourself out there, I never claimed WCB (Workers Compensation Board). The economy went down and I have to pay off debt with my trucking money.”


    Four months after Bunz’s death, a secret ministry report listed 161 facilities “that may be in violation of (the ministry’s) sour gas emission control.”

    The catch: “time and resources required to investigate and verify violations would take all available field officers over a year.”

    In 2014, inspections of 60 suspicious wells in 2014 turned up 36 — more than half — that were leaking so badly they had to be shut down.

    Another audit found 11 out of 12 facilities failed inspection “due to H2S venting” and found 29 locations that are too close to facilities with high levels of H2S concentrations. Of the 1,352 active sour gas facilities, only 421 — 31 per cent — had “proper emission control systems.”

    “Almost every site had improper gas measurement,” the report reads. “Discovered major contamination at two facilities as a result of spill which were not reported” to the ministry.

    The ministry believes that the H2S issue is under control, saying air quality standards are being met and that inspections confirm that companies’ sour gas management practices have improved. Today 27 full-time inspectors are responsible for the province’s 126,000 wells and its estimated 118,000 kilometres of pipelines and flowlines, operating with a budget of $3.9 million.

    In 2016-17, ministry staff inspected 18,340 wells, facilities and pipelines.

    Last month, a team of researchers from Harvard and Northeastern Universities collected data in collaboration with this investigation using the same instruments employed by ministry inspectors to detect emissions invisible to the naked eye.

    “In my experience measuring oil and gas activities in Texas, what struck me was that about a third of the sites we looked at had what we believed to be fugitive emissions and the high density of pump jacks,” says Lourdes Vera, a doctoral student in environmental sociology at Northeastern University.

    Drew Michanowicz, a post-doctoral researcher at Harvard University’s School of Public Health who led the survey in Saskatchewan, said about one in five of the facilities they visited showed black smoke rising from the flaring stacks of production facilities.

    “If there is black smoke, there is particulate matter that if inhaled is certainly associated with human health effects,” he said. “If sources of these air pollutants are constantly impacting individuals where they live, work and play, there is the worry that they are experiencing health effects.”

    In interviews with landowners and records in the government database, this investigation has found recent H2S accidents, including three people who say they were sickened by H2S clouds near their homes in the past year. One said they required hospitalization after a near-fatal incident.

    In January, more than four years after the H2S incident in Galloway’s front yard, she and her husband were driving home when they encountered a plume of what she believes was H2S gas.

    She fell ill and stayed home for three days.

    “I’ve had arrhythmias, really wicked headaches … I’ve had bouts of nausea. I wake up at night and have heart palpitations.”

    Galloway wrote to public officials demanding a response.

    There were no consequences or fines as a result. And no official report of an incident anywhere near the Galloway property that day was filed.

    That, says Galloway, is just the way it works in Saskatchewan.

    “As a person living in the middle of the oilfield, you have no protection. The government doesn’t care. Your MLA doesn’t care. The oil companies don’t care.”

    Writers/reporters

    Robert Cribb, The Toronto Star

    Patti Sonntag, Michener Fellow

    P.W. Elliott, University of Regina

    Elizabeth McSheffrey, The National Observer

    Data and documentation journalist

    Michael Wrobel, Concordia University

    Researchers

    Jennifer Ackerman, University of Regina

    Madina Azizi, University of Regina

    Janelle Blakley, University of Regina

    Cory Coleman, University of Regina

    Mike De Souza, The National Observer

    Josh Diaz, University of Regina

    Brenna Engel, University of Regina

    Matthew Gilmour, Concordia University

    Celine Grimard, University of Regina

    Jared Gottselig, University of Regina

    Lauren Kaljur ,University of British Columbia

    Rebbeca Marroquin, University of Regina

    Matthew Parizot, Concordia University

    Katie Doke Sawatzky, University of Regina

    Michaela Solomon, University of Regina

    Kyrsten Stringer, University of Regina

    Caitlin Taylor, University of Regina

    Steph Wechsler, Ryerson University

    Faculty Supervisors

    P.W. Elliott, University of Regina

    Trevor Grant, University of Regina

    Series Producer

    Patti Sonntag, Michener Fellow, based at Concordia University

    Institutional Credits

    Concordia University, Department of Journalism

    Ryerson University, School of Journalism

    University of British Columbia, Graduate School of Journalism

    University of Regina, School of Journalism

    Global News

    The Michener Awards Foundation

    Corporate Mapping Project

    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

    Parkland Institute

    University of Victoria

    Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

    Watch the televised investigation: Sunday and Monday on Global National at 5:30 CT/MT/PT & 6:30 ET/AT. Robert Cribb can be reached at rcribb@thestar.ca


    That rotten stench in the air? It’s the smell of deadly gas and secrecyThat rotten stench in the air? It’s the smell of deadly gas and secrecyThat rotten stench in the air? It’s the smell of deadly gas and secrecyThat rotten stench in the air? It’s the smell of deadly gas and secrecy

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