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    Some, like François-Philippe Champagne and Chrystia Freeland, are proving their worth, while others, such as Bill Morneau, are becoming liabilities.

    Two years in, Trudeau’s rookie ministers have accounted for much of the government’s grief: HébertTwo years in, Trudeau’s rookie ministers have accounted for much of the government’s grief: Hébert

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    Even non-fans can hum more of the late Downie’s Tragically Hip songs than they might suspect, but losing his prod to our conscience might be an even greater tragedy, writes Vinay Menon.

    Gord Downie made us want to fix Canada: MenonGord Downie made us want to fix Canada: Menon

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    WASHINGTON—It’s known as some of the saddest ground in America, a six-hectare plot of Arlington National Cemetery called Section 60 where many U.S. personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are interred. On Memorial Day this year, U.S. President Donald Trump and the man who would be his chief of staff visited Grave 9480, the final resting place of Robert Kelly, a Marine killed Nov. 9, 2010, in Afghanistan.

    “We grieve with you. We honour you. And we pledge to you that we will always remember Robert and what he did for all of us,” Trump said, singling out the Kelly family during his remarks to the nation that day. Turning to Robert’s father, then the secretary of homeland security, Trump added, “Thank you, John.”

    The quiet tribute contrasts with Trump’s messy brawl this week with critics of his handling of condolences to Gold Star families who, like Kelly, have lost people to recent warfare. Trump brought up the loss of Kelly’s son as part of an attack on former president Barack Obama, dragging the family’s searing loss into a political fight over who has consoled grieving families better. Kelly has not commented on the controversy, but it was exactly the sort of public attention to a personal tragedy that the reserved, retired Marine general would abhor.

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged Kelly was “disgusted” that the condolence calls had been politicized, but said she was not certain if the chief of staff knew Trump was going to talk about his son publicly.

    Trump sparked the controversy during an interview Tuesday with Fox News Radio. Asked whether he’d called the families of Americans killed in Niger nearly two weeks before, Trump replied, “You could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?”

    On Wednesday, a CNN report citing multiple unnamed White House officials said Kelly was caught off guard by Trump’s comment. Kelly had told Trump that Obama did not call, but had never thought the president would raise that information publicly, the report said.

    Trump’s remark set many in the military community seething. Kelly is the most senior U.S. military officer to lose a child in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    “I would be surprised if he comes in and starts allowing people to use his family as a tool,” said Charles C. Krulak, a former Marine Corps commandant who has known John Kelly since the mid-1990s.

    There was a sense among some that Trump’s words were not an appropriate part of the national political dialogue.

    “If there is one sacred ground in politics it should be the ultimate sacrifices made by our military,” wrote Chuck Hagel, a defence secretary under Obama and before that, a Republican U.S. senator. In an email to The Associated Press, Hagel added: “To use General Kelly and his family in this disgusting political way is sickening and beneath every shred of decency of presidential leadership.”

    Trump has had a fraught relationship with grieving Gold Star families since the 2016 campaign, when he feuded with the parents of slain Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

    Now the commander in chief, Trump ranked himself above his predecessors on such matters, insisting this week that he’s “called every family of someone who’s died,” while past presidents didn’t place such calls. But The Associated Press found relatives of soldiers who died overseas during Trump’s presidency who said they never received calls from him, and more who said they did not receive letters.

    As for whether Obama called Kelly, White House officials said later that Obama did not call Kelly, but White House visitor logs show that Kelly and his wife attended the Obamas’ lunch with Gold Star families.

    The public controversy has to have been painful for Kelly, whose son had been awarded the Purple Heart. The White House chief of staff is a military veteran of more than four decades who has rarely discussed his son’s death and refused to politicize it.

    Robert Kelly, 29, was killed when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan’s remote Helmand province. His father, aware that Robert Kelly accompanied almost every patrol with his men through mine-filled battlefields, had just days before warned the family of the potential danger, according to a report in The Washington Post. When Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. rang the elder Kelly’s doorbell at 6:10 a.m. on November 9, 2010, John Kelly knew Robert was dead, according to the report.

    Four days later, the grieving father with the four-decade military career asked a Marine Corps officer not to mention Robert’s death during an event in St. Louis. There, without mentioning Robert, John Kelly delivered an impassioned speech about the disconnect between military personnel and members of American society who do not support their mission.

    “Their struggle is your struggle,” Kelly said.

    “We are only one of 5,500 American families who have suffered the loss of a child in this war,” Kelly wrote to The Post in an email. “The death of my boy simply cannot be made to seem any more tragic than the others.”

    In March 2011, Kelly accompanied his boss, Defence Secretary Bob Gates, on a visit to the Sangin district, in Helmand province — the scene of some of the most intense fighting of the war and where Robert Kelly had been killed.

    As Gates’ senior military assistant, Kelly stood silently among young Marines gathering under a harsh sun as Gates applauded what they had accomplished.

    “Your success, obviously, has come at an extraordinary price,” Gates said without mentioning names.

    Ahead of Trump and Kelly’s visit to Robert’s grave on Memorial Day, Kelly’s voice caught when he was asked on Fox & Friends to describe his son.

    “He’s the finest man I ever knew,” Kelly said. Asked to elaborate, Kelly struggled at first. “Just is. Finest guy. Wonderful guy. Wonderful husband, wonderful son, wonderful brother. Brave beyond all get out. His men still correspond with us. They still mourn him as we do.”


    John Kelly kept his own tragedy out of politics. Then Donald Trump brought it upJohn Kelly kept his own tragedy out of politics. Then Donald Trump brought it up

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    An Ontario Superior Court has issued an interim injunction allowing the city of Toronto to close down Canna Clinic pot dispensaries for contravening zoning bylaws.

    “Not only did it grant the order effectively directing that the operations close at those locations, but it also prohibits Canna Clinic and its directors from continuing to operate or sell marijuana in the city of Toronto,” said Mark Sraga, director of investigation services for the city’s municipal licensing and standards division.

    The injunction also orders that the property owners are prohibited from allowing the use of their property for any person to sell, store or distribute marijuana.

    The city and Toronto police have tried to shut down illegal pot shops, including the B.C.-based Canna Clinic chain, in a series of raids across the city over the last 18 months. Shop owners and clerks have faced criminal and bylaw charges.

    Canna Clinic has had as many as seven storefronts operating in Toronto. Its two remaining sites operating in Toronto have now closed, Sraga said.

    “Our legal department is still reviewing the decision then we’ll determine what next steps need to be taken should they not comply with the order.

    Canna Clinic opposed Toronto’s application to shut them down so their dispensaries could continue providing reasonable access for patients needing cannabis for medical purposes.

    A hearing for a permanent injunction is scheduled for December 2018 – almost six months after recreational marijuana is set to be legalized in Canada.

    Toronto pot lawyer Paul Lewin, representing Canna Clinic, said Thursday he had “no instructions to provide comment” about the court ruling released Monday.


    Toronto given the go-ahead to shut down Canna Clinic pot dispensariesToronto given the go-ahead to shut down Canna Clinic pot dispensaries

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    A Brampton man is charged with six counts of fraud after he allegedly scammed a woman looking for an apartment online.

    Toronto police say a 27-year-old woman responded to an online advertisement to rent an apartment on Sept. 29. It is alleged that she met with a man, signed a lease and handed over a cash deposit.

    Police say the woman later realized that she had been scammed.

    On Tuesday, responding to another online advertisement, police arrested the man, 33.

    Police say he allegedly posted online advertisements using an alias. (The details are not being disclosed as the investigation is continuing.)

    Goran Drozdek is charged with two counts of fraud under $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime under $5,000 and three counts of failing to comply with probation.

    Drozdek was scheduled to appear in a Toronto court on Wednesday.


    Brampton man hit with six charges in alleged online rental scamBrampton man hit with six charges in alleged online rental scam

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    In a rare show of unity, all three major Ontario political parties have denounced Quebec’s controversial new law, which targets Muslim women.

    One day after Quebec’s Liberal government passed a law prohibiting anyone from getting or performing a public service with their face covered, MPPs at Queen’s Park expressed their collective outrage.

    “We have a very close working relationship with Quebec. But on this issue, we fundamentally do not agree,” Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday.

    “Forcing people to show their faces when they ride the bus, banning women from wearing a niqab when they pick up a book from the library will only divide us,” Wynne told the hushed chamber.

    “Sometimes life in a diverse society is uncomfortable and that is exactly when it is even more important that we work to understand each other. Religious freedom is part of our identity,” she said.

    “Every one of us should be able to live our lives and go about our days and practice what we believe without discrimination and without fear. This is the kind of actions that drives wedges in communities.”

    Although Wynne is close to Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, she said his province’s Bill 62 “would disproportionately affect women, who are sometimes already at the margins, and push them into further isolation.”

    “They are our neighbours — the grandmother who, if she lived in Quebec, would no longer be able to drop off her granddaughter at a city-run daycare or a mother who would not be able to bring her children to a hospital to see the doctor. That is not the kind of society that we stand for in Ontario.”

    Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) said her party stands shoulder to shoulder with Ontario’s governing Liberals on this issue.

    “The law brought in by the Liberal government in Quebec has no place in Ontario — indeed, it has no place in Canada,” MacLeod said.

    “All Canadians have a legal right to their religious beliefs, including in the province of Quebec,” she said.

    MacLeod emphasized that “there is no place for two-tiered citizenship in Canada.”

    “Whether you wear a cross, a turban, a hijab, a kippah or any other religious symbol, you should never be denied any public service in the province of Ontario or anywhere else in Canada.”

    NDP MPP Peggy Sattler (London West) called the Quebec law “an unprecedented action in Canada.”

    “Many academics and legal scholars across the country have raised concerns that Bill 62 is a fundamental violation of human rights that will be found to be unconstitutional under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” she said.

    Sattler said the law is misogynistic and undermines “women’s rights to autonomy over their own bodies.”

    “There is no circumstance in Ontario in which anyone should ever be able to tell a woman what she can or cannot wear, whether high heels at work or a veil on a bus,” she said.

    “Despite the guise of religious neutrality, Quebec’s legislation appears to be targeted primarily at Muslim women wearing the niqab or burka. This is a dangerous law that compromises rather than protects public safety.”

    Officially, Bill 62 is the Quebec Liberals’ bid to underscore that that province is a secular place that does not promote any religion.

    That ignores the fact that there is a massive Catholic cross hanging in the National Assembly chamber in Quebec City where the legislation was passed.


    Ontario MPPs denounce Quebec law targeting Muslim womenOntario MPPs denounce Quebec law targeting Muslim women

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    OTTAWA—Finance Minister Bill Morneau has committed to sell off all his shares in his former company and says he will place the assets in a blind trust to go “above and beyond” Parliament’s ethics rules to avoid any conflict of interest.

    The declaration comes after days of accusations from Conservatives and New Democrats that he stood to potentially profit from his government’s pension reform bill, which could create business for his family company, Morneau Shepell. He was also criticized for not placing his assets in a blind trust, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done with his personal wealth, and his belated disclosure that he co-owns a French company with his wife.

    “I need to do more,” Morneau told reporters in Ottawa on Thursday.

    “This is a way to ensure Canadians, with the highest level of confidence, that there are no conflicts of interest.”

    Morneau also repeated what he said during an earlier news conference Thursday: that he feels the controversy about his personal wealth has been a “distraction” when he is trying to roll out changes to controversial tax proposals.

    Morneau maintained that he hasn’t broken any rules by not having a blind trust, but outlined three steps he will take nonetheless. He said that he will place his assets in a blind trust. He will also sell off his and his family’s assets in the company founded by his father in 1966, Morneau Shepell.

    After his office declined repeatedly to say how many shares Morneau has in that company, the finance minister revealed that he has “about a million” shares that he will now sell. As of Thursday afternoon, Morneau Shepell shares were selling for roughly $21 each on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

    According to regulatory filings for corporate insider, Morneau had more than 2 million Morneau Shepell shares when he resigned from the company after the 2015 election.

    The third step he committed to taking was to maintain the conflict of interest “screen” recommended by the ethics commissioner when he was elected, so that he is not involved in how his existing shares are sold off.

    At the earlier news conference Thursday morning, Morneau insisted that he followed the advice of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson “to the letter” and is not in a conflict of interest, as alleged by the opposition.

    However he refused to answer more questions about the handling of his personal wealth at a news conference in Erinsville, Ont. Thursday morning, suggesting he will make an announcement about the controversy later in the day.

    “I’m happy to say that we have a system that allows people to come into public life having already had careers outside public life. And it allows us to go through that system to make sure that we put ourselves in a position where we don’t have conflicts of interest. And I am going to have more to say about this later today, so stay tuned.”

    Read more: Trudeau defends Morneau over failure to put assets in blind trusts

    Morneau walks himself into a political crisis: Tim Harper

    Morneau open to changing financial affairs as Conservatives, NDP demand ethics investigation

    Shortly after his announcement, Morneau entered the House of Commons for this first time this week, and was grilled repeatedly by Opposition MPs during Question Period.

    Conservatives Maxime Bernier and Candice Bergen asked why he didn’t recuse himself from cabinet discussions on Bill C-27, a pension bill that Morneau sponsored which will allow the sale of “target benefit pensions” in federal jurisdictions.

    Guy Caron, the NDP’s leader in the House, said Morneau Shepell’s share price jumped after that bill was introduced last year. Caron asked in French, “Does he not find, as an intelligent person, that there is here an appearance of conflict of interest, that he was in a position to benefit from his own actions?”

    Morneau responded that he has gone a “step further” that what the ethics commissioner asked him to do, by committing Thursday to sell his Morneau Shepell shares and place his assets in a blind trust.

    The Morneau Shepell share price has gone up by roughly $5 per share since the 2015 election. That means, with about 1 million shares, the value of Morneau’s current assets in the company has jumped by roughly $5 million since he was elected.

    Dawson and Morneau said this week she originally told the finance minister that because he does not directly hold shares — valued now at an estimated $20 million — he was not required to either sell them or put them in a blind trust.

    Dawson told reporters that only “controlled” assets must be sold or put in a blind trust under the Conflict of Interest Act, and recommendations she set out in 2013 to close that loophole — to cover both direct and indirect holdings — were never adopted.

    Morneau said Thursday, “I followed the rules, I followed her opinion and I can explain thus that I am not in a conflict. But I will be talking about this later today to ensure that everyone fully understands the situation.”

    “I set forth my assets, I followed the advice of the ethics commissioner to the letter, and I think what that does is it allows us to continue with the work we’re going to do free of conflicts.”

    Democracy Watch’s Duff Conacher said he believes Morneau will only be out of his ethical quagmire if he sells all his assets “in any company” and puts his money in a bank deposit or government bonds.

    Conacher also pointed out — as did several Opposition MPs this week — that Morneau appears to be violating Justin Trudeau’s directive to his ministers that states their conduct should void even “the appearance” of a conflict of interest.

    However, Conacher said he’s mostly concerned about Canada’s conflict of interest and ethics law, which he dismisses as the “Almost-Impossible-To-Be-In-A-Conflict-Of-Interest Act.” He said the has a “general application” loophole that means Morneau can propose a law like Bill C-27, which affects the pension industry in general, even while owning millions of dollars in shares in a particular pension company (in this case Morneau Shepell).

    “This is legal under the federal law. That’s how bad the federal law is,” Conacher said.

    He also criticized ethics commissioner Mary Dawson for her interpretation of the law, which allowed Morneau to keep his family company shares without setting up a blind trust. Donacher said he plans to pursue a court case to close this “loophole” in the rules.

    “The law is a joke and the ethics commissioner makes it more of a joke,” he said.


    ‘I need to do more’: Morneau says he’ll sell off shares in his former company to avoid conflict‘I need to do more’: Morneau says he’ll sell off shares in his former company to avoid conflict

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    “I don’t think I’ve been down here before,” Bill Morneau said as he strode to the podium Thursday afternoon,

    He was talking about a subterranean news conference room on Parliament Hill, but he might as well have been talking about his political fortunes.

    Morneau had been everywhere this week — Stouffville, Erinsville, and Markham, Ont., Montreal and Hampton, N.B., — everywhere but where he should have been, in Ottawa, taking action and answering questions if the Liberal government had proved more adept at desperately needed damage control on a burgeoning conflict-of-interest crisis.

    Morneau finally did the right thing, placing his substantial assets in a blind trust and announcing he would begin divesting his interest in the family business, Morneau Shepell.

    Except this was 2017.

    This should have been done a couple of years ago, because, to paraphrase Justin Trudeau, it was 2015.

    That was the year Morneau was named the country’s finance minister and Thursday’s decision doesn’t erase the previous two years.

    So, Morneau still had some uncomfortable questions hanging, even as he embarked on his divestment strategy.

    Why now? One is left with the unmistakeable sense that he got caught by some enterprising reporting. What if the Globe and Mail had not found that Morneau’s substantial holdings were not in a blind trust?

    One could easily believe that Morneau would have continued on his path, using a loophole in the conflict-of-interest legislation allowing him to hold shares in the family company through an arm’s-length holding company.

    Why did he tell the CBC shortly after his election that he was going to put his assets in a blind trust? And why did Morneau Shepell believe his assets were in a blind trust?

    It must have been tough to counter that impression when you put it out there yourself.

    He said he expected the blind trust was the way to go, but he agreed to accept Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson’s advice that there were other options, including the conflict-of-interest screen he put in place.

    When he left Morneau Shepell, he held 2.2 million shares in the company, but Thursday said he had about a million shares. But when did he unload the other 1.2 million shares?

    Here’s the nub of the conflict charge, as raised by New Democrat Nathan Cullen, an unproven allegation that nonetheless brings some smoke.

    When Morneau introduced Bill C-27, legislation to make it easier for federal employees to move to a targeted benefit pension, a move which would benefit Morneau Shepell, the company’s stock went up 4.8 per cent within days, Cullen says. Morneau, he said, would have made $2 million in five days from that jump. But it’s not known that Morneau was holding or selling stock at that time.

    The prime minister’s office would have been well-advised to let Morneau climb down from his tax reform package in a single day, hustle him back to Ottawa, and try to put a lid on this sooner.

    Perhaps referring to this matter as “a distraction” is not the word you want to use to demonstrate an understanding of the severity of the matter.

    A day earlier, Trudeau seemed to wilt while taking 30 questions on Morneau, falling back on familiar tropes — referring to opposition questions as “mud-slinging,’’ accusing Conservatives of trying to sully Morneau’s good name, of “shrieking,’’ and playing “petty politics.’’

    Accusing opponents of getting down in the mud doesn’t work here — the charges against Morneau were sufficiently serious that they deserved more substantive answers.

    Morneau said he believed, perhaps “naively,’’ that following the rules and following the advice of an officer of Parliament would be enough.

    Naïve? That’s a hard sell, whether the minister was a political neophyte or not. He certainly knows business and commerce and you don’t get where he got by carting around a bunch of naivete.

    He has done nothing illegal, but has badly sullied his own reputation, pushed his government far off message at mid-term and played into a dangerous narrative for the Liberals, that they are not only out of touch, but also not above of using numbered companies to exploit loopholes for their advantage.

    As he wrapped up a media event in the morning in Erinsville, Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay was heard to tell Morneau: “I can’t imagine they (reporters) weren’t interested in the (tax) measures. Go figure.’’

    One can only assume that was a minister who has been around the block a few times slyly telling the rookie he was in deep.

    Tim Harper writes on national affairs. tjharper77@gmail.com, Twitter: @nutgraf1


    Bill Morneau does the right thing two years too late: Tim HarperBill Morneau does the right thing two years too late: Tim Harper

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    It’s natural to look at the last act of Gord Downie’s life and bow your head in admiration. Given a terminal brain cancer diagnosis in 2016, the great Canadian rock star spent his remaining time putting a crown on his life’s work, doing the things he loved doing, and that he was beloved for: touring one last time, writing and recording more new music, publishing a book that told an important and overlooked Canadian Indigenous story, nudging us and our prime minister to start righting our collective wrongs. We could all only wish that when our time comes, we’d be armed with the will and determination to go out like that. And grace, too.

    Forgive me. The song references come too easy, and maybe seem too pat in the raw days of grief after his death. But these are the words he gave us — the perfect words, so often — a gift that is always there, on the radio or our iPods or just bubbling up in our memories to the tips of our tongues, seemingly unprompted. A soundtrack to so many Canadian lives. A part of who we are.

    A lot of other people have already written about what he meant to Canada, trying to get a finger on it, or on a part of it. I recommend pieces by the Star’s Vinay Menon and Ben Rayner published immediately after we learned he’d died, and what is likely the authoritative obituary from Michael Barclay of Maclean’s. I don’t know that I have anything big to add to the collective understanding except personal impressions, because his death seems oddly like a personal loss.

    Odder still because there was never a point in my life when I would have described myself as a Tragically Hip fan. I liked them, owned a few albums, but I was never into them, in the way I got into bands and compulsively listened to them and read up on them over the years. And yet there was never a time since the early 1990s when I went a week — or even a few days — without a Hip lyric popping into my mind, a melody getting caught in my head. There is probably no other band — except maybe the Beatles — who have so many songs I can sing from memory. There was no need to be a fan. Since I was a teenager, the Hip were just there. Like a member of the family. Or a childhood friend.

    In 1993, when Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark’s Leafs went deep in the playoffs — as close as they’ve come to winning the Cup in my lifetime — some longtime close friends and I went to a cottage in Wasaga Beach to watch the last two make-or-break games of the drive. It was a stage of our lives, poised on the edge of adulthood and all of its responsibilities, when everything was going to change but when the games we were watching could still seem to mean everything in the world. We listened to “Fifty Mission Cap,” Downie’s tale of the disappearance of Leafs hero Bill Barilko, on repeat, over and over again, for hours and hours — firing up the CD player even during intermissions, as if that story, told in Downie’s voice, might act as a prayer.

    Maybe it is some kind of mediocre whitebread Canadian cliché that the memory of that series — ultimately it ended in a betrayal by Wayne Gretzky, and with the kind of heartbreak Leafs fans know too well — should seem formative to me, but it is no less true that I recall it as sacred. And the words to the hymn are Downie’s, from that song, inseparable from the rest of it in my mind.

    There are memories like that for so many Hip songs and albums: A dancefloor full of people singing along in full voice to “New Orleans is Sinking.” A friend suddenly brought to tears by “Fiddlers Green.” A summer where everyone seemed to suddenly be memorizing and reciting the Ry Cooder monologue part of “Hundredth Meridian.” Cruising a highway at night across the American rockies listening to “Day for Night” over and over in the dark.

    Name a Hip song, there’s probably a memory to go with it. This is our life, and Downie was there for it, helping define it.

    As a writer, I always admired Downie’s ability to sketch a sense of place, to set a scene, in a few words or lines. The pattern on the table, clock on the wall. The checkerboard floor. The high school walls “yellow, grey, and sinister / hung with pictures of our parent’s prime ministers.” Famously, he took us across the country with these lyrics, to Bobcaygeon “where I saw the constellations / reveal themselves one star at a time,” to the “smudge of moon over Glenora / Ferry’s spotlight on the ice ahead,” to the “coffee coloured ice and peeling birch bark” of Springside Park.

    They are there, like memories, places vivid in my mind. With characters equally well and quickly drawn. Summoned by enigmatic phrases that resonate even if their straightforward meaning is often a puzzle.

    Downie was memorable for more than just the lyrics, of course. The rockstar frontman charisma and the endearing, unmistakable hint of hoser in his accent. The principles he wore on his sleeve and wove into his work, without seeming sanctimonious, instead coming across as the voice of obvious common conscience. The impulse to reach down the ladder to elevate his Canadian musical peers. The manic dancing.

    American obituaries struggled to find analogies to summarize the place Downie and the Hip occupied in mainstream Canadian culture. Even for a Canadian, it can be hard to put it into words. The relationship many of us felt with him through his music and performances transcends fandom — even for those of us who were never really fans. He was one of us, part of us, with us: rocking out at parties, telling stories in moments of quiet reflection, or just on the sound system at the mall. Just there. Until he wasn’t.

    What an ending to a life. What a life. What a friend we’ve lost. What a body of work he left woven into our culture. All that music. “Oh isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish, eh,” he sang. “Oh this one thing doesn’t have to go away.” Amen.

    Edward Keenan writes on city issues ekeenan@thestar.ca. Follow: @thekeenanwire


    Downie was one of us, part of us, with us, even for those of us who were never really fans: KeenanDownie was one of us, part of us, with us, even for those of us who were never really fans: Keenan

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    A Toronto police task force investigation into missing men Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen has been extended after police received over 150 leads and interviewed over two dozen people—but they still can’t find a link to the two disappearances.

    Police said they will continue to keep an open mind to any possibilities of connections to the disappearances and a tip line for the investigation dubbed “Project Houston” has been set up.

    “It’s excruciating to know there’s more information I don’t know and that there’s an explanation for the most confusing and alarming experience of my life,” Kinsman’s housemate Meaghan Marian told the Star.

    “I’m super grateful for the task force and I’m more confident that we’re finally going to get some answers into the disappearances.”

    She said she met with two task force officers Thursday morning and that she’s grateful to the officers’ dedication to the search and the continuation of the extensive community outreach.

    Kinsman was last seen in June near Winchester and Parliament streets and Esen was last seen in April near Bloor and Yonge streets. A task force was created to investigate any links between the two disappearances after police met with over 200 concerned community members in August.

    Peter Code, lead inspector on Kinsman’s case, told the Star that the community’s concern and outreach initiatives “brought a lot of crucial information and tips flooded in to police” but there’s still nothing that suggests foul play.

    Marian first noticed Kinsman’s disappearance when she woke up to a “strangely quiet” house one morning back in June. She said she didn’t hear Kinsman’s loud footsteps, the banging of pots and pans or him talking to himself as he usually does every morning in their house that is shared with 12 other occupants.

    After he wasn’t replying to her texts or showing up for work at the People With AIDS Foundation, Marian called 51 division.

    Since Kinsman’s disappearance, his friends, family and members of his Cabbagetown neighbourhood have scheduled regular searches and have updated the community in a Facebook group of over 500 members—and they don’t plan on stopping.

    “My way of coping is to mobilize. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to,” said Marian.

    Dwight Ferguson met Kinsman about 20 years ago in Hamilton, Ont. That’s also when Ferguson’s brother went missing in Texas.

    “I was miles away so I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t fly home until my brother had been found, which was a week later. He was dead. He drowned.”

    So when Ferguson got a call that Kinsman was missing, his feelings were all too familiar. Except this time he could take action. “I had a big break down early on because I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. But doing something helps me deal with my brother’s loss a lot more,” he said.

    Marian said the focus now is organizing community outreach initiatives during Halloween when the Cabbagetown and Church and Wellesley areas are busy.

    “There’s only one way that this resolves, and that’s finding Andrew,” said Marian.

    Toronto police are asking anyone with information to call 416-808-2021.


    Toronto police continue search for two menToronto police continue search for two men

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    Trustees at the Toronto District School Board want a say on the location of shops that sell marijuana to make they’re “as far away from schools as possible.”

    With legalization less than a year away, they’re seeking assurances from Mayor John Tory and the province that the school board will be consulted in all discussions about regulations concerning retail stores and medicinal marijuana dispensaries in the city, and their proximity to students.

    The request, outlined in a motion passed unanimously at a board meeting this week, comes as school boards across the country start to wrestle with the implications of cannabis legalization, which the federal government is aiming for next July.

    “We need to have some of this information,” says trustee Ken Lister, who moved the motion after hearing concerns from parents, particularly about the possibility that stores near their children’s schools might sell the substance.

    “We need to be consulted at the very least to have some say in terms of where these locations are,” he said. “If it’s too close to a school, we need to be able to say that’s not appropriate and that location will not be allowed.”

    In Ontario, only those 19 and older will be permitted to purchase or possess marijuana, as is the case for alcohol. Pot consumption will be limited to private homes, and the purchase for recreational use will only be through 150 LCBO-run stores.

    But the new law still has implications for schools on everything from codes of conduct to student safety and curriculum in such courses as health and phys-ed, social sciences and law.

    Wednesday’s motion also calls for a TDSB report on how the changes will affect the board and its rules, along with recommendations to address the new landscape.

    “The worry for parents is easy access and it being in front of their children when children are easily distracted and looking to take a break or skip school,” said Lister.

    North York mother Nesrin Berrak says one of the biggest issues in her neighbourhood is lack of knowledge about legalization, how it might affect kids’ access to marijuana and proximity of sales sites.

    That’s compounded by language barriers for many newcomer families, which leads to misinformation and fear, she said.

    “It’s most important that we have regular meetings and that parents’ concerns are addressed,” says Berrak, who has three teenaged sons and is former parent council chair at Cherokee Public School in North York.

    Information “is the biggest ally we have” when it comes to changes that affect communities, she added.

    Consultations have been taking place this fall between the provincial Ministry of Education and the group representing many of Ontario’s boards about the impact on schools and students.

    “I think we’re all grappling with the short timelines for legalization,” says Laurie French, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association.

    “If (the province) is explicitly looking at a policy about proximity to schools … we need to be involved in that. I think that’s really what (the) TDSB (motion) is proactively looking at.”

    French said adapting curriculum and providing resources to teach topics related to legalization such as safe use, health risks and mental health will be among the biggest challenges to get in place.

    Other key concerns identified by her group include the marketing of marijuana, police and school board protocols and how principals respond to possession or use on the premises, she said.

    “This is not just about a school-only responsibility, this needs to be a community response and an inter-ministerial response.”

    Ministry spokesperson Heather Irwin said the safety and well-being of students is “our top priority.”

    Staff are working with other ministries, educators and school boards “to ensure that the new regulatory framework for cannabis legalization addresses education-related and public health impacts,” she said, adding they will be consulted on development of any new policies.

    “We are examining elements of the curriculum which need to be revised as well as working to develop educational resources which will support students, educators and parents.”

    The province is also working closely with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario on issues related to sites where cannabis will be sold — such as proximity to schools — and on preventing illegal storefronts.

    “Our focus is to work with our partners to ensure sales of cannabis are delivered in a manner that prioritizes social responsibility and public safety.”


    TDSB trustees want marijuana sales kept away from schools TDSB trustees want marijuana sales kept away from schoolsTDSB trustees want marijuana sales kept away from schools TDSB trustees want marijuana sales kept away from schools

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    America’s turbulent political climate could doom — or potentially boost — the Toronto region’s shot at landing a mammoth new headquarters of the world’s biggest online retailer.

    “When you look at just the pure political situation in the United States, Amazon has to make a major decision,” Janet Ecker, vice chair of the Toronto Global inter-government agency that crafted the regional bid, told reporters Thursday — Amazon’s deadline for bid submissions.

    “Are they serious about looking outside of the United States” for a second headquarters? “If they are, we think we have a very, very strong chance. If they’re not . . . ,” Ecker said with a shrug, adding the 185-page bid book, packed with statistics and flattering comparisons with U.S. tech hubs, will serve as Toronto Global’s “calling card” to other companies who could move or expand here.

    More than 100 bids, most of them from U.S. cities and regions, are expected to flood Amazon’s inbox in response to the company’s Sept. 7 call for “Amazon HQ2” proposals— a co-headquarters of equal stature with its Seattle complex. Amazon says the host could win, over time, investments of up to $5 billion and 50,000 jobs.

    Reuters reported Thursday that U.S. cities are offering Amazon a total of many billions of dollars in tax credits and incentives. New Jersey alone says its pitch for HQ2 in Newark could enrich the retail giant by as much as $7 billion in credits against state and city taxes.

    The Toronto region is taking a different tack. The bid offers “no secret promises or sweetheart incentives,” said Toronto Global chief executive Toby Lennox. “Frankly, we feel we don’t need to play that game.”

    The core of Toronto’s pitch is the Toronto-Kitchener corridor’s ability to grow tech talent with public education, attract foreign skilled workers, and keep them in the region with internationally recognized virtues including ethnic diversity, culture, sports, public safety, urban vitality and a clean environment.

    Mark Cohon, Toronto Global’s chair, pointed to a chart in the bid book showing 51 per cent of Torontonians are foreign-born, and 39 per cent of people across the region, as a huge benefit to a huge and growing company with an insatiable need for highly educated employees.

    “We welcome more new immigrants to the Toronto region than Chicago, New York and L.A. combined every year,” Cohon said.

    Lennox said the U.S. political climate and President Donald Trump’s immigration policies could work against U.S. cities’ talent capacity.

    “We know that Amazon’s issue, and question, over the next little while is their ability to grow their talent base,” he said. “Which is why they can’t do that in the United States, they’re having a hard time doing it which makes us (Amazon’s) logical choice. At the end of the day they’re looking for a pipeline for talent.”

    The Toronto region’s bid also argues that, while incentives are not on the table, the dollar difference and corporate tax rates could save Amazon $1.5 billion per year, plus another $600 million in foregone health costs thanks to universal health care.

    The bid document does not include a comparison of Toronto house prices to U.S. tech cities, or a map of the city’s subway system. Cohon conceded the city has some disadvantages, but noted Amazon workers could live outside Toronto and then transit expansion is underway.

    James Thomson, the Canadian ex-head of Amazon Services, called the Toronto region bid a persuasive document.

    “If you look at those numbers,” he said of the many statistics, “Toronto looks like it should be a top 3 contender, all other things being equal.

    “There are going to be two very different philosophies fighting against each other to make the choice for Amazon. ‘Do we take the money and run, or do we go somewhere that has a very sizable pipeline for future talent and growth? No city, I would argue, has offered both.

    “You can’t just take money and turn it into 1,000 extra engineers. Money doesn’t solve the head-count issue Amazon has right now.”


    Toronto’s tech talent being used to woo AmazonToronto’s tech talent being used to woo AmazonToronto’s tech talent being used to woo AmazonToronto’s tech talent being used to woo Amazon

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    WASHINGTON — Former president George W. Bush on Thursday delivered a scathing warning about Donald Trump, saying his “America first” philosophy portends a dangerous inward turn that is eroding democracy at home and threatening stability around the world.

    “The health of the democratic spirit is at issue,” the 43rd president said during a speech in New York. “And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand.”

    “Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of the free markets, from the strength of democratic alliance and from the advance of free societies,” Bush said. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.”

    He also warned of the dangers of a worldwide pattern of countries — including some in Europe —“turning inward.” And though Bush did not name Trump by name during his remarks, his warning about the current U.S. chief executive was clear.

    “America is not immune from these trends,” Bush said. “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

    Several hours before Bush spoke, Trump delivered a conspiracy theory via a remarkable tweet in which he suggested Russian officials, the FBI and the Democratic Party worked together to create a dossier of potentially incriminating information about him during the 2016 presidential election.

    One line of Bush’s speech appeared pointedly aimed at Trump: “And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed, it is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy.”

    It contained two words “preserving” and “protecting” that appear in the Oath of Office both he (twice) and Trump have taken.

    Read more:

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    ‘Somebody screwed up here’: Why did Trump take 12 days to address the deaths of four soldiers, and why did he attack Obama?

    (The opening of that pledge reads this way: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”)

    The former Texas governor and son of the 41st president, George H.W. Bush, also spoke of a “casual cruelty” that has seeped into American politics and culture. Trump’s critics have slammed him for what they view as cruel comments about individuals from Mexico, Central and South America, and African-Americans, as well as women and his political foes.

    “We’ve become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the colour of their skin but by the content of the character,” he said. “This means that people of every race, religion and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”

    The audience, which remained silent during most of the remarks, cheered after that portion. Trump has given cover to white supremacist groups that organized a rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August that turned violent and left one counterprotester dead, saying both sides were at fault and that among the white supremacists some were good people.

    Bush, a pro-trade and pro-immigration Republican, also went right after Trump on those policy issues.

    “We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade — forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism,” he said. “We’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair in distant places.

    “(Past) presidents of both parties believed American security and prosperity depended on success of freedom around the world. They knew that the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership,” Bush said, later adding: “We need to recall and recover our own identity. We only need to remember our values.”


    Former U.S. president George W. Bush slams Trump’s ‘America first’ policy in scathing speechFormer U.S. president George W. Bush slams Trump’s ‘America first’ policy in scathing speech

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    Sears Canada began its liquidation sales at its remaining stores across the country Thursday, but many shoppers found the deals to be underwhelming.

    While signs suggested discounts of 20 to 50 per cent off — with a note that exceptions apply — relatively few items at a Toronto store appeared to be offered at half off. Some big ticket items such as snowblowers and treadmills were only 10 per cent off.

    “For a close-out deal, I would have thought the sale would be a bit higher. And maybe it will be, as closing time approaches. And maybe by that time everything will be gone!” said 86-year-old Madeline Cameron, who said she had been shopping at Sears for 60 or 70 years.

    Read more:

    What to expect in a liquidation sale

    Sears Canada employees angered by bonus plan for key executives

    Sears Canada liquidation approved by court: ‘It’s the end of an era’

    After looking at the dozens of shoppers braving long, slow checkout lines she decided to leave without buying anything.

    “I can’t stand in lineups for a long time ... I might come early tomorrow morning. I’d say the lineups are maybe half an hour, an hour long.”

    A joint-venture group — which includes Hilco Global, Gordon Brothers Canada, Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group — is running the liquidation sales at 74 remaining department stores and eight Home stores, a step toward Sears Canada closing its doors for good after 65 years in business.

    Sears Canada gift cards will be honoured throughout the sale, but the company stopped honouring extended warranties as of Wednesday.

    “It’s rather sad. Sears could always be counted on to be a good competitor, and certainly I think the Kenmore brand is very reliable, and has been a staple in the Canadian market. It’s going to be a loss,” said shopper Karen Ottmann.

    At the Toronto Fairview Mall location, the appliance department was among the busiest, with many shoppers picking up vacuums, microwaves, blenders and other kitchen equipment.

    Some shoppers, like stay-at-home mom Elana Iordan, were happy to get a head start on Christmas shopping. But many, Iordan included, expressed regret about the company’s imminent closure.

    “We always came at Christmas. It was affordable,” Iordan said, noting there aren’t any similar stores in locations convenient for her. “We don’t have anything around us anymore.”

    Another shopper, Joan Challis, said she was angry at the way the closure has been handled by the company’s management.

    “It’s nasty, what happened here ... I’m not happy about it. Neighbours of mine have extended warranties on appliances, so that’s going to hurt them,” she said.

    “The employees and the public, they’re all going to lose out. But head office, management, they’re not going to lose out, I don’t think. I think they’ll end out coming out fairly clean.”

    Liquidation sales at 49 Sears Hometown stores were expected to start Thursday, or sometime soon, but discounts there will vary, according to Sears Canada spokesman Joel Shaffer.

    Some items are also listed for clearance on the Sears Canada website, including a four-piece outdoor furniture set discounted from $499.99 to $299.95. However, not everything online has been marked down just yet.

    The sales are expected to last between 10 to 14 weeks. Sears Canada timed its liquidation sales to take advantage of the busy holiday shopping season to maximize the value it could attain for the inventory.

    The retailer has been in creditor protection since June, but was unable to find a buyer which would allow it to keep operating.

    Sears Canada received court approval to proceed with its liquidation sales last week. A group led by its executive chairman Brandon Stranzl had been in weeks-long discussions with Sears Canada to purchase the retailer and continue to operate it. However, no deal was reached.

    Stranzl resigned from Sears Canada’s board of directors on Monday.


    Deals scarce in Sears Canada liquidation saleDeals scarce in Sears Canada liquidation sale

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    In Parkdale’s red-hot rental market, four units in a seven-unit residential building at King Street West and Cowan Avenue sit empty.

    And they’ve been vacant for months — collateral in a dispute between tenants who don’t want to leave and a landlord who wants to renovate.

    The building is owned by Paval Kanagathurai, who according to property records, purchased it in August 2017 for $2.85 million. Three remaining tenants — occupying a two-bedroom and two bachelors — have received notice to end their tenancies, so the landlord can begin major renovations.

    The tenants told the Star they don’t intend to leave.

    Kanagathurai showed the Star the ground level and basement of the building, pointing out things he called unsafe — rotting pipes, cables to nowhere, wet walls. Repairmen and pest control were present when the Star visited, and construction and repairs are underway.

    He declined to speak further, while his tenants have been adamant about their determination to stay.

    “I don’t want to leave,” said Brandon Kennedy, who’s lived in the building for three years. “Right now we are organizing together and we’ve already held one demonstration against the landlord.”

    On Oct. 13, the tenants delivered a letter to their landlord’s store, stating that they don’t plan to vacate by the requested date of Dec. 31.

    Kennedy occupies a two-bedroom unit, but signed a lease for only one of the rooms. He pays $575 a month in rent. The occupants of two bachelor apartments, Phil Mac Innis and Kelly Goldfeder, pay $700 and $750 each a month, respectively. All utilities, except internet and cable, are included.

    Goldfeder said her unit’s heat didn’t turn on until March, and she’s encountered mice and roaches.

    The tenants live on the upper two stories of the building. The ground floor is commercial, and tenants say a restaurant is being constructed there.

    Toronto realtor April Williams called monthly rent payments at those rates very low, since a bachelor goes for $1,100 on average.

    A nearby residential building’s ‘for lease’ sign on the front lawn advertised a bachelor from $900 and a one bedroom from $1,300.

    Innis said he’s fighting the eviction because the apartment on King St. W. is his home.

    “If I lose this place, I’m homeless,” he said. Innis is an Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipient, and estimates that if he’s forced to move, 85 to 90 per cent of his monthly income will go directly to rent.

    Cole Webber, a legal worker at Parkdale Community Legal Services, is assisting the tenants.

    “What we’ve been seeing a lot of in Parkdale is small investors coming in and buying up the smaller buildings and houses, and then pushing out the longtime tenants in order to renovate and raise the rents on units,” he said.

    The N-13 eviction notice issued to the tenants and provided to the Star by Webber, outlines the planned renovations: replace electric panels and cables, replace smoke and fire alarms, replace the roof and windows, separate the hydro meters, construct a laundry facility accessible to tenants and completely renovate all the units, including the bathroom and kitchen.

    Major repairs or renovations — if they require a building permit and can’t be done unless the unit is empty — are a no-fault reason for ending a tenancy under the Residential Tenancies Act.

    Tenants that are evicted for renovations have the right to move back in once renovations are complete.

    Steven Love, a volunteer with neighbourhood advocacy group Parkdale Organize, said Parkdale is being “rebranded.”

    “We’re so close to Liberty Village that they’re trying to rebrand it as a Liberty Village West,” Love said.

    “There are a lot of landlords that are starting these renovations, they’re starting to jack the rent, they’re trying to get a new clientele — a different demographic,” Love said. “Not the demographic that’s here, that exists in Parkdale and has historically existed in Parkdale. It’s always been a working class neighbourhood.”

    Love said he’s paying $649 for a bachelor in a Parkdale apartment building he’s lived in for five years. Today, a renovated bachelor unit in his building is $1,049 a month.

    “Parkdale is just the last stand,” he said. “Once you take over Parkdale, there’s really not another affordable neighbourhood in Toronto.”


    ‘I don’t want to leave’: Parkdale tenants protest eviction as landlord says renovation is needed‘I don’t want to leave’: Parkdale tenants protest eviction as landlord says renovation is needed

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    WASHINGTON—CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday that North Korea is months away from perfecting its nuclear weapons capabilities.

    “They are close enough now in their capabilities that from a U.S. policy perspective we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving” their objective of being able to strike the United States, Pompeo told a national security forum in Washington.

    But he said there’s a difference between having the ability to fire a single nuclear missile and the capability of producing large amounts of fissile material and developing an arsenal of such weapons.

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    Speaking later at the same event, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said, “We are in a race to resolve this short of military action.”

    “We are not out of time,” he told the forum, organized by the Foundation for Defence of Democracies think-tank. “But we are running out of time.”

    North Korea, which started its nuclear program decades ago, has accelerated its weapons tests. Twice in July, it launched a long-range missile that could potentially reach the U.S. mainland. In September, it conducted its most powerful atomic explosion yet.

    Dire threats traded by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have further stoked fears of war.

    John Brennan, who was Pompeo’s predecessor as CIA chief, voiced concern late Wednesday about Trump’s tweets and said the prospects of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula “are greater than they have been in several decades.”

    “I don’t think it’s likely or probable, but if it’s a 1-in-4 or 1-in-5 chance, that’s too high,” Brennan said at Fordham University in New York.

    Both of the Trump administration officials stressed that while military force was a last resort, the president was prepared to use it if necessary to ensure Kim is not able to put America at risk with a nuclear weapon.

    Independent experts differ on just how advanced Pyongyang’s program is in miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile and in mastering how to make a missile re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and strike a target.

    Pompeo said intelligence on North Korea and the current state of its weapons capabilities is imperfect, and “when you’re now talking about months, our capacity to understand that at a detailed level is in some sense irrelevant.”

    “We are at a time where the president has concluded that we need a global effort to ensure Kim Jong Un doesn’t have that capacity,” Pompeo said.

    With tough international sanctions now in place, Pompeo said China has done more than expected to reduce trade with its wayward ally but can do more. Beijing has also communicated around the world it is intent on helping the U.S. resolve the issue, he said.

    McMaster said China has the vast majority of economic power over North Korea, controlling 90 per cent of its external trade, but Russia has considerable influence too.

    He urged Moscow to use that influence to convince Kim to move toward denuclearization “as a last chance to avoid severe consequences” against the North.


    North Korea months away from perfecting nuclear weapons capabilities, CIA director saysNorth Korea months away from perfecting nuclear weapons capabilities, CIA director says

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    A resident of a First Nations community in Sarnia filed an application Thursday asking the province to investigate an incident in which large flames billowed from an industrial plant for five hours.

    Clouds of fire and steam towered over the Imperial Oil plant in Sarnia the night of Feb. 23, 2017. Equipment had malfunctioned, the company said at the time. The application filed to the Ontario Environmental Commissioner Thursday by Vanessa Gray of Aamjiwnaang First Nation alleges the company violated provincial emission laws.

    “If Imperial is going to continue to put our lives, our health, at risk, then they need to be held accountable,” Gray said.

    “This is my territory and I have the right to feel safe in my own environment.”

    A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment, Gary Wheeler, would not say Thursday if an investigation was underway, but said the ministry was aware of the incident when it happened.

    “Ministry staff are reviewing the company’s actions and are considering other compliance options, including a possible investigation that could lead to charges,” Wheeler said via email.

    Spokesperson Jon Harding of Imperial Oil said the company wasn’t aware of Gray’s complaint but will co-operate with any investigation.

    The application — filed with co-applicant Elaine MacDonald, a scientist with the environmental law charity Ecojustice — was submitted to Ontario environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe, who will forward it to the provincial environment ministry. The ministry then decides whether an investigation is needed.

    An investigation by the Star, Global News, National Observer, the Michener Awards Foundation and journalism schools at Ryerson and Concordia universities revealed a troubling pattern of secrecy and potentially toxic leaks in the area known as Chemical Valley.

    The investigation also raised questions about whether companies and the provincial government are properly warning residents of Sarnia and the Aamjiwnaang First Nation when potentially toxic substances — including benzene, known to cause cancer at high levels of long-term exposure — are leaked.

    The filing alleges that Imperial committed two violations under Ontario law: one for emitting contaminants that caused an adverse effect; another for causing discomfort and loss of enjoyment of property.

    The statute of limitations on such cases is two years. If the ministry decides to lay charges against Imperial and a court rules in the government’s favour, the company could be fined.

    Since January 2013, four incidents in the Sarnia area have resulted in ministry charges. The joint investigation revealed 500 incident reports for spills and leaks in the area between 2014 and 2015.

    The fire at Imperial on Feb. 23 erupted from the facility’s flares, generally used to burn off materials from the plant, at about 6:20 p.m., the company said in February.

    The sight of a small flame atop a flare is common in the Chemical Valley. Fifty-seven industrial polluters within 25 kilometres of Sarnia are registered with the Canadian and U.S. governments.

    Megan Hayden, who lives across the river in Port Huron, Mich., said noise from the plant made the windows in her home rattle. It sounded like a freighter going by, she said.

    “It literally looked like Canada was on fire,” Hayden said last July.

    Sarnia has a municipal warning system, but no alert was sent on Feb. 23, said Cal Gardner, Sarnia’s emergency management. Gardner said flaring is common and not considered an emergency. Information came instead from a notice posted by Imperial Oil to the Aamjiwnaang First Nation Emergency Planning Facebook page at 7:11 p.m., along with a press release from Imperial.

    Though Imperial gave the all-clear at about 8:30 that night, the flares continued for about three hours. Residents reported flares that were smaller, but still larger than normal, on and off for the next 10 days, according to Gray’s filing.

    Imperial and the ministry said at the time that air monitoring didn’t detect harmful levels of any potentially toxic substances.

    However, the wind on Feb. 23 was blowing away from air monitors on Aamjiwnaang and though Imperial Oil hired a third-party company to test downwind, the equipment used wasn’t sensitive enough to know if emissions exceeded provincial air standards, Gray’s filing alleges.

    The ministry said Imperial was flaring “volatile organic compounds,” which can include the carcinogen benzene, and sulphur compounds. The ministry said it didn’t do its own air monitoring at the time.

    “That’s not OK,” MacDonald said. “You have to be there at the moment to collect the data to show that there’s actual violations occurring, if they’re occurring.”

    One person complained to the Ministry of the Environment about a strong gasoline smell at 8:39 p.m., and the ministry noted a “slight odour” nearby soon after. Gray said she felt “burning” in her nose.

    After Feb. 23, residents of Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang expressed frustration and concern over what they say is a lack of communication about industrial leaks and spills.

    Another large flare was reported this week at the Suncor plant in Sarnia.

    Community members were alerted through the Aamjiwnaang emergency planning Facebook page, which posted a notice three hours after the event started and a message Suncor posted to an industry spills phone line. The company also notified the ministry. The City of Sarnia didn’t send out an official alert, Gardner said.

    Jennifer Johnson, a Suncor spokesperson, said the company was mostly flaring hydrogen, along with a small amount of hydrocarbons. The company is launching a full investigation into the event and will provide a report to the Ministry of the Environment about how it will prevent the situation from happening again, she said.

    Questioned about the issue at Queen’s Park Thursday, Ontario Environment Minister Chris Ballard said he’d “make some specific inquiries” in his ministry.

    “One of the things we heard was a need to better co-ordinate that information and I’ve instructed my officials to look into how we can do that,” he said.

    With files from Carolyn Jarvis, Global News


    Sarnia-area First Nation resident asks province to investigate flames at Chemical Valley plantSarnia-area First Nation resident asks province to investigate flames at Chemical Valley plant

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    A firefighter was whisked to the hospital in critical condition after crews brought down a five-alarm blaze at a Humber Bay condo unit Thursday night, paramedics said.

    Flames started spreading through the three-storey building at 2067 Waterfront Dr., near Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Park Lawn Rd. in Etobicoke, about 6:20 p.m. Although crews brought the fire under control, paramedics at the scene did CPR on the firefighter, a district chief.

    Speaking outside St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said the situation was “about the worst-case scenario for any fire chief” but he was proud of how his team responded.

    “This is what we train for,” Pegg said.

    “The crews did a magnificent job fighting this fire.”

    No one else was injured. About 10 p.m., Pegg said the hospitalized firefighter’s condition had been upgraded to stable.

    Toronto paramedics said they weren’t sure if the firefighter’s collapse was related to the fire. Pegg said the man suffered a “medical event” but wouldn’t speculate on the cause.

    Meanwhile, fire crews remained at the scene to ensure flames didn’t re-erupt.

    “We’re slowly doing our due diligence and making sure the fire’s out,” said Toronto Fire Services Capt. David Eckerman, adding that crews would remain overnight.

    The Office of the Fire Marshal and the Ontario Ministry of Labour will be notified, Eckerman said. The fire marshal will also be at the scene late Thursday or Friday morning to investigate.

    Paramedics said no other injuries were reported at the fire. Roads were blocked off in the area, and TTC buses were called to shelter residents that had been had to leave the building.


    Firefighter in critical but stable condition after five-alarm condo fire in Humber Bay Firefighter in critical but stable condition after five-alarm condo fire in Humber BayFirefighter in critical but stable condition after five-alarm condo fire in Humber Bay Firefighter in critical but stable condition after five-alarm condo fire in Humber Bay

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    Almost 70 per cent of refugees who illegally cross the U.S. border into Canada are granted asylum here, despite the widespread public view that these border-crossers are not real refugees in need of protection.

    The data was released this week by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

    Since January, The RCMP have intercepted more than 15,100 people entering through unguarded border entry points from the United States, after President Donald Trump came into power and issued a series of executive orders to expedite deportation of foreign nationals and ban immigration from certain countries.

    Of the 10,790 asylum claims received from March to September of this year, the refugee board has processed 592, or 5.4 per cent. Of those claims 69 per cent, or 408 cases, were granted asylum, while 141 were rejected. Forty-three other claims were either abandoned or withdrawn.

    The acceptance rate for the border-crossers is even higher than the 63-per-cent overall rate for asylum-seekers in 2016.

    One expert said the group’s high acceptance rate could be skewed if the refugee board is prioritizing cases from countries that tend to have stronger claims.

    However, academics and refugee advocates also emphasize the data show the border-crossers have a legitimate need for protection.

    “The numbers show that the majority of the so-called border-crossers have genuine asylum claims. The message I take is that the Canadian refugee system is working. It is doing its job,” said Queen’s University immigration and refugee law professor Sharry Aiken.

    Aiken and others are concerned that only a small fraction of the claims have been processed so far.

    “The refugee board is under-resourced despite the spike in the number of claims. With the U.S. temporary protection of the Haitians in the country ending in January, Canada will see another spike of border-crossers and we need to be ready for it,” she said.

    The experts also question the validity of the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which is based on the assumption the two countries have comparable asylum systems and bans refugees from seeking asylum in both.

    The agreement doesn’t apply to those who cross into Canada at unmarked points along the border, which critics say encourages asylum-seekers to make dangerous treks through no man’s land, most commonly in Quebec, B.C. and in Manitoba.

    A recent Ipsos poll found many Canadians doubted if border-crossers are legitimate refugees, with 67 per cent saying these migrants were trying to bypass the legal immigration process.

    A separate poll by Angus Reid found that 57 per cent of respondents disapproved of Ottawa’s handling of the border-crossers, with 53 per cent of the participants in the survey saying Canada was being “too generous” to the asylum-seekers.

    In recent months the majority of the border-crossers have been Haitians, who have been staying in the U.S. under a special immigration designation by the Department of Homeland Security. However, their special status is due to expire by the end of the year and the 58,000 Haitians there must leave the U.S.

    The refugee board has been pushing for additional resources to deal with surge in claimants, a request that so far has been ignored by Ottawa. On Wednesday the board took the unusual step of publicizing the processing data of the “irregular” border claims.

    “Whether a refugee is admitted at a border crossing or makes a refugee claim after having entered Canada is irrelevant to whether she is in danger in her country,” said Raoul Boulakia of the Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario.

    “It is troubling that public discourse has fallen into discussing these refugee claimants as if they are different. They are refugee claimants. That means the refugee claimant’s case must be adjudicated fairly and impartially, and the question for the refugee board to answer is whether she is at risk in her country.”

    According to the refugee board, 160 of the 10,790 border-crossers have been detained because they are deemed a danger to the public, are unlikely to appear for examination or are “inadmissible” on grounds of security and criminality, or simply for failing to provide proper identification.

    Among the 61 people who were deemed inadmissible, 34 have been ordered to be removed from Canada; one was prohibited from seeking asylum; three were allowed to stay in the country; and six withdrew their claims. One person failed to show up for the admissibility hearing. The rest are awaiting a final decision.

    Janet Dench, of the Canadian Council for Refugees, believes the relatively high acceptance rate is likely the result of the refugee board’s policy to expedite claims from certain priority countries, including Afghanistan, Burundi, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

    However, so far, the data do seem to the vindicate border-crossers, who are viewed as illegal economic migrants by some Canadians. “The statistics highlight the fact that the majority of those crossing the border for asylum need our protection,” Dench said.

    Critics have been calling on Ottawa to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, which was introduced in 2004 to limit refugees to making an asylum claim in the first of the two countries they arrive in, in order to avoid duplicate claims that would clog both systems.

    “The agreement is not functional. Guarding irregular border-crossing is straining our resources,” said Queen’s University’s Aiken. “If the government wants to have a grip of the (refugee) flow, they should suspend the agreement and have people come through the regular port of entry.”

    Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The refugee board declined to comment about the Safe Third Country Agreement, but said it currently has 40,800 claims in the backlog, in addition to 5,300 pending cases filed under the old rules before December 2012. Claimants are expected to wait 17 months for an asylum hearing.


    New data show 69% of illegal border-crossers are being granted asylumNew data show 69% of illegal border-crossers are being granted asylum

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    It would have been nice to start the season against an NBA team, but you work with what you have. The Toronto Raptors opened their season against the Chicago Bulls, or some reasonable facsimile, and the result was promising if you didn’t look too close. The Raptors killed ’em. Everything worked.

    Well, almost everything. Jonas Valanciunas was a horse. Norm Powell gunned. The bench was an amusement park. Easy win, though they dithered over a precise final score, which was 117-101 at press time.

    Most everyone looked comfortable, really, except for Toronto’s two all-stars. They did combine for 14 of Toronto’s 25 assists, but also nine of their 17 turnovers. DeRozan’s first field goal came with two minutes left in the third quarter, and he overpassed at times. He finished with a quiet 11 points, six rebounds, and five assists on 2-for-9 shooting. Lowry played an easy game we’ve seen before from him: 12 points, nine assists, four rebounds, seven shot attempts. They didn’t carry the weight, but this is OK. It’s an adjustment.

    “It’s fine for me,” Lowry said. “I had the opportunity to sit on the bench and watch, cheer, have fun, and get a win. It was a game for me to see what type of things . . . can happen. But every game will be a different game. Next game will be a different game. So maybe I need to shoot more, maybe DeMar will have to shoot more. We’ll have to figure it out. But a game like tonight was fun to be a part of, because everyone was involved, and everyone did their job.”

    “The second unit has to play that way,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of his team’s approach. “If you’ve got that one-on-one ability, and you’ve done that for your whole career, three-time all-star, Olympian, we’re asking (DeRozan) to do something that’s against his nature, which he’s trying to do for the team. Where other guys, they have to play that way.

    “So we may have two different styles, or semi-styles. I love the way we’re playing, we’ve got to play that way, but we’ve got to find a niche for (DeRozan), to find his scoring niche. Kyle is a great three-point shooter, so it’s easier for him.”

    The bench was what made it a blowout. Veteran C.J. Miles made three-pointers like he was alone in the gym; backup point guard Delon Wright slithered around, inventing passes, playing like the game was slow; rookie OG Anunoby showing that he is more than a bouncing superball. Backup Fred Van Vleet said the new system would be more challenging for Toronto’s stars than anybody else, and he appeared to be right.

    In fairness, it was hard to read too much into this because the Bulls are running out a team that was clearly signed out of a hobo basketball league. Seriously, you can see why some of their players are punching other ones and getting suspended. It’s like shooting off your own toe in wartime.

    Lowry, for his part, says the Raptors’ adjustment is not much of a change for him, really.

    “I mean, you think about it, the first four, five years of my career I was a role player, trying to figure it out and make a difference,” said Lowry, who counted seven separate NBA systems in his career. “I played in a system under Rick Adelman (in Houston) where it was all cutting and movement, so it’s nothing new to me.

    “People think I’m an iso, ball-dominant (player) — that was the system that we were put in. Me and DeMar have been put in this situation the last couple years to be what we’ve been. And now they want to do something different, so we’ll adjust and be what they want us to be.”

    It’s true that Lowry wasn’t always a star. Neither was DeRozan. They became stars, and now are being asked to become different kinds of stars. Lowry was asked why he was embracing it, and he said, “We got to be better. We want to get wins, we want to win big, and we don’t want to keep losing in the first, second, third round. We want to go to the championship.”

    He didn’t say win the championship, which you can take as either casual wording or a realistic appraisal. Golden State owns the league. Cleveland owns the East. That’s how it’s been, and barring some dramatic changes, how it is.

    So what’s left? Self-improvement. Building for a better future. Trying a new path in the present. Sure.

    “It’s a fine line,” said Casey. “Because we’re not Golden State, we’re not Houston, and we’re not trying to be. We’re trying to be the best Toronto Raptor team that our skill set allows us to be, if that makes sense.”

    So there are two intersecting tracks for this season. The veterans — Lowry and DeRozan most of all, but the glaciating Valanciunas as well — becoming different sorts of veterans, or stars. That’s one.

    And the other is the kids seizing opportunity and becoming real assets, real players. The future of this team depends on it. And maybe the kids can hit on something and evolve into the next stars who will find out how big they can become, how high they can fly, how rich they can get, how many accolades they can accumulate, before they too realize they have to change and evolve and reshape themselves, to find another way to win.


    Raptors taking another route up the mountain: ArthurRaptors taking another route up the mountain: Arthur

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