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    When it comes to political scandals, Ontario’s Liberals have made legal history.

    Not just not guilty. Not even close.

    An extremely rare “directed verdict” from a judge throwing out the prosecution’s unfounded case before the defence needed to even defend itself. Because “no reasonable jury” could possibly fathom a conviction in this three-year-old case that the Ontario Provincial Police, the opposition parties and some pundits had described as a slam dunk from the first.

    And so for the first time in the 27-year history of Ontario’s Election Act, a judge has said, in so many words, that the law is an ass. Especially in the hands of the OPP and Crown prosecutors who surely should have known better.

    Read more:

    Judge dismisses charges in Sudbury byelection trial

    PC leader Patrick Brown fires back at Wynne’s libel threat

    Judge questions merits of charge against former top Wynne staffer in Sudbury byelection trial

    Two Liberal party warhorses — one working in the premier’s office, the other a Sudbury kingpin — faced bizarre allegations of bribery and influence-peddling merely for playing politics in a local byelection. Their supposed crimes?

    Persuading and dissuading.

    They tried to persuade Glenn Thibeault, a star candidate from the federal NDP caucus in Ottawa, to run for the Liberals in a provincial byelection. And they tried to dissuade a local aspirant with a far dimmer star — Andrew Olivier lost in the previous general election — from fracturing party unity, instead urging him to go off quietly (because the premier would never sign his nomination papers anyway).

    In a dramatic judgment delivered Tuesday, a judge tried to explain to OPP investigators and Crown prosecutors what they never learned in police college and law school:

    That there’s a difference between wooing and bribing a star candidate.

    And that pacifying a disappointed aspirant — urging him to remain active and involved — can’t be twisted into influence-peddling.

    That may be too nuanced for our opposition parties, who now understand their jobs to be forever opposing everything, even if always overreaching. Smelling blood, it was the New Democratic Party that first called in the cops as part of their continuing campaign, in league with the Progressive Conservatives, to criminalize the governing Liberals.

    When a judge called it all off this week, the NDP and Tories still wouldn’t give up. They claimed the Liberals had gotten off on a “technicality” — if that’s what you call the absurdity that the judge methodically laid out in his decision.

    This was never a complicated case, despite feverish attempts by the NDP, OPP, and Crown to raise it to a higher level. Like many perceived transgressions, this one first went viral on social media, when a disgruntled Olivier revealed in a Facebook posting that he’d recorded Premier Kathleen Wynne’s deputy chief of staff, Patricia Sorbara, and local Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed, offering him volunteer or paid positions if he would play ball.

    It is in the nature of most Ontarians to ignore provincial politics most of the time. Even when people pay attention, it’s usually from a distance.

    The big eye-catching headline was Sudbury bribery. But there less to the case than met the eye.

    Volunteer party jobs aren’t exactly bribery. Being invited to apply for a job as a constituency assistant — which typically pays $35,000 to $45,000 a year — hardly qualifies as big money.

    The tape recordings were certainly awkward, as most private conversations can be when aired in public — just ask the Tories, for example, if they’d be OK with transcripts of their own conversations being released. Out of context, anything can sound like everything, but police and prosecutors are meant to dig deeper than Facebook postings.

    Instead, they laid criminal charges against Lougheed — a prominent fundraiser in Sudbury for the Liberals, but also a famously generous donor to local medical facilities — before having second thoughts and downgrading the allegations to provincial offences under the loose language of the Election Act. They also roped in Sorbara, accusing her of inducing Thibeault to quit the NDP and join the Liberals for the price of a couple of short-term jobs for old staffers that amounted to a few thousand dollars.

    As I wrote last year, when the police were still in hot pursuit: “It’s easy to confuse democracy with criminality, and to conflate take-no-prisoners campaigning with bribery and skulduggery. But any informed reading of the Elections Act makes it clear that it was written to guard against influence peddlers trying to pervert the course of democracy by buying off corrupt politicians, not political operators trying to recruit winning talent to their team (while ridding themselves of losers).”

    By dragging it out for years, the police did undeniable damage to the reputations of Lougheed, Sorbara and Thibeault (who was never charged despite being sullied). And tarnished the Liberal party in the process.

    In so doing, the OPP did the work of the NDP and the PCs — not deliberately, but inadvertently. And the Crown did a disservice to us all by failing to exercise its prosecutorial discretion to crumple up the charge sheet before their case crumbled in court.

    Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday., Twitter: @reggcohn

    Ontario’s Liberals make legal history in Sudbury bribery trial: CohnOntario’s Liberals make legal history in Sudbury bribery trial: Cohn

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    Justin Trudeau’s Liberals added the Quebec seat of Lac-Saint-Jean to their ranks on Monday for the same reason Stephen Harper did in a byelection a decade ago. In both instances, a plurality of Lac-Saint-Jean voters wanted one of their own at the federal government table. And so they returned the riding to the Liberal fold after a 33-year absence.

    Lac-Saint-Jean used to be a Bloc Québécois stronghold. Lucien Bouchard held it for as long as he was in the federal arena and then ran provincially under the Parti Québécois banner in the same region. If the BQ were even going to come back to a position of pre-eminence in Quebec this is one of the first ridings it would normally win back.

    But on Monday, the party — despite the support of a strong Parti Québécois local organization and a viable candidate — received less than one in four votes, up only marginally from its last election finish of 18 per cent.

    Read more:

    Trudeau, Scheer and Singh do the math in Quebec and none champion an anti-racist stance: Tim Harper

    Quebec justice minister explains how ‘niqab ban’ would be applied after widespread criticism

    Lower deficits, better growth mean breaks for families, federal government says

    That would suggest that Quebecers — even in the province’s nationalist heartland — are mostly done with voting for a permanent federal opposition party.

    The Conservatives and the New Democrats could hardly have hoped for better byelection timing than Monday’s. The ruling Liberals literally spent the campaign tripping over their shoelaces on and off Parliament Hill.

    The small business tax reform brouhaha; the controversy over Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s less than arm’s-length disposal of his personal wealth; the spectacle of Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly falling flat on her face on the much-watched Tout le monde en parle talk show over her deal with Netflix, all provided fodder for the opposition parties to exploit on the hustings.

    Polls show widespread concern among Quebecers over the imminent legalization of marijuana. The Conservatives played hard on those fears. The New Democrats used a visit to the riding by their new leader, Jagmeet Singh, to highlight their continued willingness to play by made-in-Quebec referendum rules.

    Trudeau landed in the riding last week on the day after the national assembly adopted the controversial law that prescribes provincial and municipal services be dispensed and received with one’s face uncovered. During his visit, the prime minister was dogged by questions as to whether he would fight Quebec in court over Bill 62. He eventually left the door open for his government to do so.

    Based on Monday’s outcome, voters did not hold that against his party. So far, being consistently offside with what pollsters purport to be a Quebec consensus on religious wear has not hurt Trudeau in his home province. Back in 2015, his opposition to the proposed Conservative ban on niqabs at citizenship ceremonies had not stood in the way of the Liberals winning a majority of Quebec seats.

    The religious accommodation issue may have a lot of traction in the polls, but the ballot box payoff of state-enforced secularism remains elusive. (As an aside, on Tuesday Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée walked back much of her talk about forcing individuals — whether they wear sunglasses or face-covering Muslim-veils — to remove them to use a vast array of public services. In her latest take on her own bill, people would — at least in the case of public transit or local libraries — have to uncover their faces for identification purposes only.)

    It would be tempting to sum up the Lac-Saint-Jean results as a failed introductory test for the rookie leaders of the Bloc Québécois, the Conservative party and the NDP. But the opposition weaknesses the byelection exposed were already in place on the night of the last general election.

    In 2015, only a favourable division of the Quebec vote accounted for the seat gains of the BQ and the Harper-led Conservatives. The NDP has been in decline since its massive Quebec breakthrough in 2011. That decline has been accelerated by the decision to oust Thomas Mulcair from the leadership.

    By way of consolation for Singh, the party under one of his leadership rivals would not have fared much better than it did Monday.

    Andrew Scheer lost the Lac-Saint-Jean seat, but the Conservatives’ main concern should be the poor performance of the New Democrats. Their support dropped 16 points to 12 per cent on Monday.

    Shave a few percentage points off the NDP across the board in Quebec and 20 more seats are within the reach of the Trudeau Liberals in 2019 — leaving the other three parties to divvy up electoral crumbs in Canada’s second-largest province.

    Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

    Liberals byelection win in Quebec spells trouble for other federal parties: HébertLiberals byelection win in Quebec spells trouble for other federal parties: Hébert

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    A federal judge has slammed the Canadian government for not responding faster to a lawsuit launched by five intelligence officers and analysts who allege that they were bullied and harassed while working at Canada’s spy service because they are gay, Muslim or Black.

    “You can’t act as if the Court is not there,” Justice Simon Noël told Department of Justice lawyers during a September teleconference call regarding the case.

    The Star obtained a redacted transcript of the call, which was filed with the federal court this week.

    “(T)here is a course of action to be followed and you are no different from any other parties in Canada,” Noël said. “It is not because you are the Attorney General of Canada that you can act as if the Rules do no apply. This is not acceptable.”

    At issue is the government’s delay in filing a statement of defence regarding the $35-million lawsuit, which provided detailed accusations from inside one of the country’s most secretive organizations.

    The 54-page statement claim was filed in July and alleges that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is run like an “old boys’ club,” creating a toxic work environment. One email cited in the claim, allegedly sent by a manager to a Toronto intelligence officer reads: “Careful your Muslim in-laws don’t behead you in your sleep for being homo.” The complainant, who goes by the pseudonym “Alex,” is gay and has a Muslim partner.

    Read more:Five CSIS employees are accusing the spy agency of Islamophobia, racism and homophobia in a $35-million lawsuit

    A statement of defence is usually filed after 30 days unless an extension is granted. Department of Justice lawyer Gillian Patterson told the judge that there was a misunderstanding about filing deadlines.

    Noël shot back, “give me a break,” later stating, “I think there is something unusual happening here, and I am polite in my language.”

    While the Department of Justice may be slow to respond, reaction from CSIS’s director to the allegations was swift.

    David Vigneault had only been on the job leading the spy service for a few weeks when news broke about the lawsuit. He quickly issued a statement saying CSIS does “not tolerate harassment.”

    Soon after, he invited the five complainants and their lawyer to his office.

    According to those who attended, he listened intently for nearly three hours, as boxes of Kleenex were shared around the table.

    “It was unprecedented quite frankly for us to be invited in to talk,” said “Alex,” one of the five complainants, who alleges he had tried unsuccessfully for nearly four years to have his concerns addressed. “He listened. It was very heartfelt.”

    Alex and “Bahira,” a Muslim intelligence officer with more than a decade of experience who is also part of the claim against CSIS, agreed to speak with the Star on the condition that their identities were not revealed. In both court documents, and during the interview last month, they used pseudonyms.

    Under Canada’s Security of Information Act, identifying a spy can be considered an offence.

    All five of the complainants are still CSIS employees, but are on medical leave due to mental and physical conditions.

    “Some of them are not being paid anymore; they were on disability, some are no longer being paid their disability amounts,” their lawyer John Phillips told Justice Noël on the conference call. “And I know things don’t move at a quick pace in litigation, but they need to have a resolution of this case.”

    None of the allegations against CSIS, which was recognized by Mediacorp Canada Inc. as one of Canada’s top 100 employers for 2017, have been proven in court.

    Justice Noël has given the government until Friday to submit a statement of defence. According to the transcript of the Sept. 13 call with Noël, the government is attempting to “resolve the claim.”

    Alex and Bahira said the stress of suing CSIS and the publicity it has generated has taken a toll. In the only interviews they have given, they said they felt they had no choice but to sue in order to get the attention of the government.

    Both said they were optimistic after their meeting this summer with the director. “That was our hope. He’s going to take care of this. He’s a new fresh face, hopefully not supportive of the managers who refuse to do anything about this,” Bahira said. “So we had hope and we waited week after week.”

    “I’ve worked hard in the last 15 years and I’ve done some incredible work for them,” Bahira said as she began to cry. “I wanted my legacy to be the first Muslim hijabi who fought for her country and contributed. They robbed me of that. My legacy is Bahira, the discriminated, the victim … I feel betrayed; I feel angry. Something is wrong when someone like me can’t walk into that building.”

    Bahira said she was often praised during her performance evaluations for having “unique access” in the Muslim communities where she worked. “I understood the culture, I understood the background. I know a lot about religion and can talk about it with credibility,” she said about her work on the counterterrorism file concerning extremist groups recruiting Muslims. “I was able to build trust and credibility, to have a son report on a father, and a father report on his son, or a mother compel her son to sit down and talk to me.”

    But inside CSIS, she claims managers regarded her with suspicion once she began wearing a hijab in 2004. “I still remember going home and wanting to cry my eyes out at time, thinking, ‘Why is this so hard because it’s not me, I get along with people … colleagues seem to have respect for me,’ ” she told the Star. “It’s what I represented and I knew I couldn’t do anything about it … no senior manager is going to stand up for me.”

    Alex alleges that he had tried since 2013 to get his concerns addressed inside CSIS and never wanted to go public. In 2016, he launched a formal complaint that resulted in a “third-party” investigation. According to the statement of claim, the investigation noted that CSIS was “old school” and that employee complaints about managers were “dismissed and disregarded.”

    But Alex said no action was taken about the report’s findings and his situation got worse. “So who was punished? No one. Come back to work now, and by the way, you get to report back to your accused. Oh, and you’re not going to be in your plum position anymore,” he said. “My career was done by that point.”

    Read more:Read the explosive allegations of Islamophobia, racism and homophobia levelled against Canada’s spy agency

    Judge slams Ottawa for delays over $35-million CSIS lawsuit alleging workplace Islamophobia, racism and homophobiaJudge slams Ottawa for delays over $35-million CSIS lawsuit alleging workplace Islamophobia, racism and homophobia

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    SUDBURY—‎The byelection bribery trial of two Liberals came to an abrupt end Tuesday as a judge took the rare step of dismissing Election Act charges against them for lack of evidence.

    The acquittal lifts a cloud of suspicion hanging over Patricia Sorbara — former deputy chief of staff to Premier Kathleen Wynne — and local Liberal organizer Gerry Lougheed for more than two years.

    “One who seeks to be a party’s nominee is not running in a general election,” Judge Howard Borenstein ruled in a 40-minute decision read to the court.

    Read more:

    Ontario’s Liberals make legal history in Sudbury bribery trial: Cohn

    PC leader Patrick Brown fires back at Wynne’s libel threat

    Judge questions merits of charge against former top Wynne staffer in Sudbury byelection trial

    Sorbara and Lougheed were accused of offering prospective candidate Andrew Olivier jobs or posts to quit his push for the Liberal nomination in a 2015 byelection, making way for Wynne’s choice, defecting New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault, who is now her energy minister.

    Sorbara faced an additional charge of offering paid campaign jobs to two of Thibeault’s NDP office staff as an inducement for Thibeault to leave federal politics and join Wynne’s team.

    She was acquitted on that because Borenstein said he “cannot see how employing two entrusted staff” violates the act when bribery is commonly described as “an element of dishonesty.”

    Sorbara cried and hugged her legal team after the verdict, and Lougheed was visibly relieved at the decision.

    Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told the Star he was pleased by the verdict.

    “It’s great news,” said Thibeault, adding he will more to say Wednesday.

    The dramatic ruling followed an application from defence lawyers Michael Lacy, Brian Greenspan and Erin Dann for a directed verdict after the Crown finished presenting its case. No defence witnesses had been called pending the judge’s decision.

    The defence argued evidence from witnesses in court last month showed Thibeault had agreed to become the candidate before Sorbara and Lougheed approached Olivier with opportunities to stay involved in the party after he was passed over, meaning there was no official nomination race.

    They also maintained the Election Act does not apply to “private” nomination races governed by the constitutions of political parties.

    Sorbara and Lougheed faced fines of up to $25,000 and maximum jail time of two years less a day under the charges, which were not criminal.

    It’s the second time Lougheed has been cleared following an Ontario Provincial Police investigation.

    Criminal charges against the wealthy local funeral homeowner and philanthropist were stayed in 2016, several months before the lesser Election Act charges were laid against him and Sorbara. She had not been charged previously.

    Moments after the verdict, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, whose party has been airing attack ads on the Sudbury trial, said “this whole episode is but one part of a consistent pattern of political corruption.”

    “We’re worried about what they’ve been able to keep hidden and are fearful of what scandal will come next,” said Brown, who was recently served with a notice of libel from Wynne for claiming she was on “trial” in Sudbury.

    NDP House leader Gilles Bisson, who attended parts of the trial, complained that the Liberals “got off on a technicality.”

    “I don’t see this as a great news story for the government,” Bisson told reporters at the legislature.

    “They can wrap this as a victory if they want,” he said, adding the Liberals lost “in the court of public opinion.”

    The probes by the OPP and Elections Ontario began after Bisson and his Progressive Conservative counterpart Steve Clark called on authorities to investigate allegations from Olivier.

    Olivier released tapes of recorded conversations with Lougheed and Sorbara, accusing them of trying to reward him for not contesting the February 2015 byelection called after New Democrat MPP Joe Cimino unexpectedly quit five months into his term.

    Olivier ran for the Liberals in the June 2014 provincial election but placed second to Cimino, who won the seat held for 19 years by retired Liberal MPP and cabinet minister Rick Bartolucci.

    “I will not be bullied, I will not be bought,” a spurned Olivier told a Sudbury news conference after revealing he had talked with Wynne, Sorbara and Lougheed and was told he would not be the candidate.

    Wynne testified at the trial that Olivier had not been a “strong” flag-bearer for the Liberals in 2014 after losing the party stronghold to the NDP.

    In one recording, Lougheed said: “The premier wants to talk. They would like to present you options in terms of appointments, jobs, whatever, that you and her and Pat Sorbara could talk about.”

    Another is of Sorbara telling Olivier: “We should have the broader discussion about what is it that you’d be most interested in doing . . . whether it’s a full-time or part-time job in a (constituency) office, whether it is appointments, supports or commissions . . . .”

    Olivier, a successful mortgage broker, who was injured playing hockey years ago and became a quadriplegic, records conversations because he cannot take notes.

    According to the Election Act, “no person shall, directly or indirectly, give, procure or promise or agree to procure an office or employment to induce a person to become a candidate, refrain from becoming a candidate or withdraw his or her candidacy.”

    With files from Robert Benzie

    Judge dismisses charges against Liberals in Sudbury byelection trialJudge dismisses charges against Liberals in Sudbury byelection trial

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    “You don’t like me, do you?”

    It probably would not have required being under oath for Shawn Lerner to give an honest answer.


    Lawyers don’t give a fig whether witnesses under cross-examination like them or not. It’s an adversarial process.

    But Dellen Millard, who is representing himself in court, is one of the two defendants on trial for first-degree murder in the death of Laura Babcock, whose remains have never been found.

    Read more: Laura Babcock murder trial hears of her struggles with drugs, mental health

    Dreadful details come fast and furious on Day 1 of trial into Laura Babcock's murder: DiManno

    Laura Babcock killed for being odd woman out in love triangle, court hears

    The prosecution says Millard and Mark Smich killed her five years ago, then disposed of the young woman’s body in an incinerator.

    “You find me sketchy.”

    More a declaration than a question but Lerner responded. Yes, he does.

    When Babcock went missing in early July, 2012, it was Lerner, her former boyfriend, who raised the alarm.

    Just as it had been Lerner, still fond of his ex in a close friend way, who put Babcock up in a west end Toronto motel for a couple of nights, just before her vanishing, because she had nowhere to stay, had been couch-surfing and quarrelling with her parents. And, as Lerner discovered when they met for dinner at a food court — the last time he saw the 23-year-old alive, their final texts exchanged on July 1 — had been working for an escort service.

    It was Lerner, too, who loaned Babcock an iPad that night — the same device on which investigators would later find rap lyrics which appear to allude to her murder. “The bitch started off all skin and bone, now the bitch lay on some ashy stone . . . ” In a brief video segment shown to the jury earlier this week, Smich is seen singing that repugnant ditty.

    Both Smich and Millard have pleaded not guilty.

    The last eight phone calls Babcock made on her phone were to Millard, Lerner told court. He learned this when examining the phone bill that Babcock’s mother had given them after family and friends became deeply worried about her unknown whereabouts. After those calls to Millard’s number, there was no further activity on her phone.

    In the early days of Babcock’s disappearance, Lerner testified, police seemed not to take the matter seriously. Just another missing adult — most of them show up eventually. When Lerner provided details of Babcock’s life — the escort connection, her drug use, the bizarre behaviour over recent months — police interest waned further.

    But Lerner, who’d dated Babcock for about 18 months — they’d broken up around Christmas, 2011 — would not let it rest. Indeed, he ended up making a formal complaint about the investigation to the Office of Independent Police Review Director.

    If there is an admirable individual in the whole sordid and grim mess that has been unfolding in court, it’s Lerner.

    He cared.

    A 27-year-old businessman by profession, he turned himself into an amateur sleuth.

    Lerner knew Babcock’s phone password so he accessed it for messages, a clue. He created a group page on her Facebook account to share information with friends — he’d retrieved their names — anything to assemble a trail. Nobody had heard from her. Babcock, who had been keenly active on social media, had gone silent.

    Crucially, Lerner called Millard. “I’m not looking to point a finger at anyone,” Lerner texted, “but we’re concerned about Laura and it looks like you were the last person to correspond with her.”

    After ignoring the first few texts, Millard answered that he’d “heard” about Babcock being missing. “Don’t know where she is.”

    Not accepting the brush-off, Lerner urged they meet to talk.

    They did so, at a Starbucks, on July 27.

    During that conversation, as Lerner recalled under direct examination earlier, Millard told him that Babcock had been using drugs, developed a cocaine addition and had been bugging him to get her drugs, which he’d “vehemently” refused. “He implied she’s gone,” said Lerner. “She got mixed up with the wrong people. And I should have no reasonable expectation of finding her.”

    It was not the first time Lerner and Millard had met. In February, 2011, Lerner had planned a surprise birthday party for Babcock. Millard — whom he did not personally know — was invited. Afterwards, a group of them went back to Millard’s condo.

    This was one of the areas Millard pursued in his cross-examination Tuesday; his assertion that Lerner found him “sketchy” dated back to that evening.

    “I don’t recall if I found you sketchy immediately upon leaving (the party). But by the time I left that evening I certainly did find you sketchy.”

    Lerner recounted that, in their conversation at his condo, Millard had given inconsistent details about what he did for a living. He also observed Millard giving drugs to Babcock that night — he thought it was ecstasy.

    “You’re against the use of hard drugs?” Millard asked.

    Lerner: “I was against her getting her getting pills from you, unsolicited by her. You made it clear that it was a birthday present.”

    Why should Lerner care, Millard continued.

    “Because she (was) my girlfriend and I cared about her and I loved her.”

    Millard asked whether, at their Starbucks meeting, he’d informed Lerner that Babcock had been working as a prostitute.

    “No. I had to that point understood that she was working as an escort.”

    He’d admittedly not been thrilled when Babcock told him about that, at their dinner. “She did say there was no sex involved. She seemed brand new to the business. The way she explained it to me, it was sort of . . . men looking to have a pretty girl on their arm. She may have believed it. I was obviously not convinced that might be all there was to it.”

    Had he, Millard, not expressly stated, at Starbucks, that he wasn’t providing drugs to Babcock? “I had witnessed you giving her drugs in the past,” said Lerner.

    Millard: “You asked if I was having sex with Laura at that time. I said no and that I have a girlfriend.”

    Babcock and Millard had dated briefly several years earlier, court has heard. It is unclear when or how their paths crossed again. The prosecution theory is that Babcock had boasted to Millard’s current girlfriend that she was still sleeping with him. The woman became upset. In the opening address on Monday, Crown attorney Jill Cameron quoted from texts Millard had sent his girlfriend in April: “First I am going to hurt her. Then I’ll make her leave.” And: “I will remove her from our lives.”

    It was at that point, the prosecution maintains, that Millard set about getting an incinerator. The Crown believes Babcock was killed July 3 or 4.

    Millard suggested to the witness that Babcock had “a number of strange men in her life” at the time she disappeared.

    Millard: “Are you trying to shift the case one way or another?

    Lerner: “No, absolutely not.”

    Millard: “Are you trying to shift suspicion on to me?”

    Lerner: “No, I’m trying to answer your questions.”

    And this exchange:

    Millard: “How do you feel about Laura today?”

    Lerner: “I miss her.”

    The trial continues.

    Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

    A good guy emerges at grim trial into Laura Babcock’s murder: DiMannoA good guy emerges at grim trial into Laura Babcock’s murder: DiManno

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump talks about terminating NAFTA as if that would be as easy for him to do as firing off a tweet or ordering a second scoop of ice cream.

    Some experts agree with him. But a bunch don’t.

    These experts say it is only Congress, not the president, that has the authority to kill the North American trade pact. If Trump tried, in other words, they believe he could be blocked by pro-NAFTA legislators.

    The vigorous debate is taking place in corporate boardrooms, legal offices and think tanks across the continent. Once a matter of mere academic interest, it may now have huge stakes for Canada. And everybody involved agrees on just one thing: it will probably be decided by judges.

    “I think the only certainty is that if Trump were to go ahead and withdraw, or purport to withdraw, there would be lawsuits immediately. And probably injunctions. And this thing will be tied up in courts for a while,” said Matthew Kronby, a Toronto trade lawyer with Bennett Jones and former director general of Canada’s Trade Law Bureau.

    “I have spoken as recently as yesterday with a lawyer at a prominent U.S. law firm where one lawyer has looked at it and had a particular view — he thought the president did have the authority to do so unilaterally — but he acknowledged that there were several other people in his firm that came to the opposite conclusion,” Kronby said.

    The question is especially important because of the vast gulf between the views of Trump and many of his Republican colleagues on the subject. As Trump has derided NAFTA as the worst trade deal in world history, several senior Republicans have been outspokenly supportive of the agreement.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers have courted American legislators, but they say they aren’t counting on Congress to save the day. The government’s read of the situation, an official said on condition of anonymity, is that Trump could probably dump the deal with a stroke of his pen.

    “That is obviously just completely uncharted legal territory. So it’s difficult to know what would exactly happen … But for our purposes, we do kind of believe there’s a pretty good chance that he could just do this,” the Canadian official said.

    Read more:Thousands of Canadians live in the U.S. on NAFTA permits. So what happens if Trump kills the treaty?

    There is yet more disagreement on a related subject: what would happen next if the agreement were indeed terminated in one way or another.

    The official said the Canadian government has concluded that the old Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which contained many of the same provisions as NAFTA, would snap back into force if NAFTA went away. They point out that the Canada-U.S. agreement was merely suspended with an exchange of diplomatic notes, rather than deleted, when NAFTA was created.

    Jon Johnson, a C.D. Howe Institute senior fellow who worked for Canada on both agreements, agreed that the old deal would snap back automatically if NAFTA vanished — but he said “it would be a mess” requiring further action, since some important provisions, such as those on auto manufacturing, are different. Kronby, meanwhile, said he was not convinced the snap-back would be automatic; Trump, he said, might have to issue some sort of executive order to make it happen.

    And then there’s a third possibility.

    “Obviously, I guess (Trump) could theoretically withdraw from both at the same time,” the Canadian official said.

    The unresolved questions have taken on increasing urgency as NAFTA talks have faltered on account of Trump demands the Canadian and Mexican governments consider unreasonable. Canada and the U.S. traded public criticism at the end of the fourth round in Washington last week.

    Trump has consistently promised to terminate the agreement if he cannot secure a new deal. In a television interview on Sunday, he sounded slightly less enthused than usual about the possibility of termination, saying: “It will probably be renegotiated. But if it’s not successfully renegotiated so it’s fair for the United States, it will be terminated.”

    Trump regularly makes dramatic threats he does not plan to carry out. But he has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to make sharp breaks with existing international agreements. In his first nine months, he has abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate accord while taking steps to weaken the Iran nuclear deal.

    The confusion over his threat to kill NAFTA is a product of the uniqueness of the situation. No court has ruled on the powers involved in terminating trade deals because the first and only time the U.S. terminated a deal was in 1866, the year before Canada came into existence.

    The issue is so complicated because it involves the U.S. Constitution and multiple ambiguous laws.

    NAFTA itself says “a party” can withdraw from the agreement after giving the other countries six months of notice. But it does not say whether the president himself counts as the U.S. “party” or whether he needs the endorsement of Congress.

    The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.” (Point: Congress.) It also gives the president various powers over foreign affairs more generally. (Point: Trump.) Section 125 of the 1974 Trade Act, in which Congress grants various trade powers to the president, says “every trade agreement … shall be subject to termination” — but that sentence, unlike others, does not specifically identify the president as the person who can do the terminating. (Point: who knows.)

    The only thing that seems certain in the event Trump begins the six-month notice period is the kind of uncertainty businesses hate.

    “Companies are going to become much more conservative in their business planning. And we’ll see those impacts all the way down the supply chains,” said Dan Ujczo, an Ohio trade lawyer with Dickinson Wright. “Uncertainty equals conservative business planning.”

    Can Donald Trump actually kill NAFTA? You’re not the only one who’s unsure: AnalysisCan Donald Trump actually kill NAFTA? You’re not the only one who’s unsure: Analysis

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    OTTAWA—Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he “of course” participated in government discussions around the decision to give Bombardier’s C Series and Global 7000 aircraft programs a $372.5-million repayable loan last winter.

    Morneau dismissed as absurd comments made to the Star by Opposition critics that he should have recused himself from those discussions since he continued to hold shares in Morneau Shepell, which has the contract to run some, but not all, of Bombardier’s pension regimes.

    Morneau Shepell, the company the finance minister used to run, is one of Canada’s largest administrators of pension and benefits plans, a point underlined by Morneau.

    Read More:

    Why it’s wrong to villainize Morneau

    Morneau Shepell ties to Bombardier flag ‘minefield’ for finance minister: Opposition critics

    Morneau commits to selling off 1 million shares in his former company

    In brief comments to the Star in a lockup for reporters on his fall economic update, Morneau said that when he stepped down as executive chairman of the company after he was elected in November 2015, Morneau Shepell had some 20,000 clients across Canada.

    He suggested he didn’t know all of the corporate clients, and a communications adviser standing with him added that in any event the conflict of interest screen that Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson had urged upon him was in place.

    That screen, Morneau’s office said on Monday, “protects against conflicts arising from dealings specifically with or related to Morneau Shepell, and each instance is reported directly to the Ethics commissioner.”

    A source told the Star that Bombardier’s contract with Morneau Shepell to administer benefits for some of its workers has been in place for more than a decade and there has been no substantial change since the 2015 election.

    Neither Morneau Shepell nor Bombardier would discuss their contract.

    Morneau says he remembered “at least two times” being taken out of meetings, and was unaware of any requirement to report the recusals. Dawson’s office confirmed to the Star Tuesday that Morneau’s office has reported no recusals to it.

    Dawson only publishes “recusals” or instances when the screen fails to work in advance to prevent the minister’s participation in a discussion in which he could have a conflict of interest — and he has to step out of, or recuse, from the discussion.

    Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said in an interview Tuesday Morneau “exposed himself to a long list of real or perceived conflicts of interest” in hanging onto his $20 million in Morneau Shepell shares, and the Bombardier loan raises concerns in his view.

    “When a finance minister forks over $372 million to a corporation like Bombardier, Canadians deserve to know he’s doing it in their interests, not because of some other unknown reason.”

    “The Bombardier bailout has turned into an absolute disaster,” Poilievre said. “Since it was announced, the executives have given themselves pay increases and they’re laying off 14,000 people. Now, we learn that their most cherished plane is being sold off to European investors.” (Airbus is taking a controlling interest in Bombardier’s C Series program, with no money or debt exchanging hands.)

    “It’s very hard to see how all of this handout to Bombardier was in the public interest. So whose interests were involved in this terrible decision?”

    NDP ethics critic Nathan Cullen echoed similar concerns.

    “I’m not sure what’s worse: the transgression or refusing to admit there was a problem in the first place.”

    “When it appears to be a conflict to everybody else except the person involved, you know you have a problem with the person involved and with the so-called ethical screen you could drive a truck through. He receives benefit from the decisions he’s making. He’s involved in conversations that he should not be involved in,” said Cullen, adding Morneau refuses to answer whether he was recused on C27 (a pension reform bill).

    Last week, Morneau announced he would place his all his assets in a blind trust and move to sell some one million Morneau-Shepell shares — worth about $20.6 million and held by an Alberta numbered corporation — in an arm’s length transaction under the guidance of Dawson.

    He meets with her Wednesday to discuss his next steps in that process, he told CBC.

    Bill Morneau dismisses objections to his participation in Bombardier loan discussionsBill Morneau dismisses objections to his participation in Bombardier loan discussions

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    An Uber driver is facing a sexual assault charge after a customer said she was touched inappropriately in Courtice.

    Durham Region police said they were called to a home near Prestonvale Rd. and Bloor St. at around 4 a.m. for a report of a sexual assault.

    A 24-year-old woman called an Uber to pick her up from a Whitby restaurant, police said. Once they reached her home, the driver allegedly touched the woman inappropriately.

    Rahmanuddin Safi, 30, of Whitby, has been charged with sexual assault.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact Durham police investigators or Crime Stoppers.

    Uber driver in Durham Region charged with sexual assaultUber driver in Durham Region charged with sexual assault

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    Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman wanted to pay tribute to late Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie after learning of his death.

    And so the directors of Choir! Choir! Choir!, a Toronto-based singalong collective, invited fans to Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday night to honour Downie the best way they could — through his music.

    “When we lose some of the great ones, if we can provide a space where people can come together and share the music and feel connected in a difficult time, then we’ll do it,” Adilman said. “It just felt like the right thing to do and I feel like these tributes are happening all over the country and big or small, they all matter.”

    Downie died last Tuesday at age 53. Nearly two years ago, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an invasive brain tumour with one of the poorest survival rates of any cancer.

    More than a thousand people gathered to sing about a dozen songs from the Hip as their tribute to the legendary Canadian band.

    People braved the brisk, windy, 10 C weather to belt out songs such as “Wheat Kings,” “Bobcaygeon” and “Courage.” Downie’s “The Stranger,” off his solo album “Secret Path,” was also played.

    Stylish suit jackets and hats similar to the ones Downie wore on the Hip’s “Man Machine Poem” tour in 2016 were worn. There were also people sporting hockey jerseys bearing the Hip’s name.

    Children were placed on their parents shoulders to get a better view, while others lit candles in honour of the late musician.

    Downie’s older brother, Mike, made an appearance on stage near the end of the set to thank those in attendance, which was met with a rousing applause from the crowd.

    “I have to say that over the last week, the outpouring of emotion, grief and love has been overwhelming,” Mike said. “And my family and I have felt it and its made things easier and its made things harder.

    “Made it easier because you showed how much you loved our brother and harder because we realized how many people were hurting and how many people were really affected by this.”

    Mike also took the opportunity to talk about the Secret Path project, which he and his brother worked on. Choir! Choir! Choir! had asked that those in attendance to make a minimum donation of $5 to the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund.

    Mike said that “it’s up to all of us” to help the reconciliation efforts.

    “I don’t think the government can fix it, I don’t think there’s a program big enough to fix it, I think it’s going to take everybody doing their part,” he said.

    “We think we’re a young country, but we’re not. We think we’re 150 years old, but we’re not. If we tried a little harder, if we brought in the Indigenous people that have been here for 12,000 years, we could be something so much different. And we would be better for it and I think we would be the envy of the world.”

    Choir! Choir! Choir! capped off the show with some audience members onstage to sing “Ahead by a Century.”

    “Gord Downie has meant so much to this country, he’s given so much and we just wanted to celebrate him and his music,” Adilman said.

    Mike Downie says fan support has 'made things easier' at choir tribute to late Tragically Hip frontmanMike Downie says fan support has 'made things easier' at choir tribute to late Tragically Hip frontmanMike Downie says fan support has 'made things easier' at choir tribute to late Tragically Hip frontmanMike Downie says fan support has 'made things easier' at choir tribute to late Tragically Hip frontmanMike Downie says fan support has 'made things easier' at choir tribute to late Tragically Hip frontmanMike Downie says fan support has 'made things easier' at choir tribute to late Tragically Hip frontmanMike Downie says fan support has 'made things easier' at choir tribute to late Tragically Hip frontmanMike Downie says fan support has 'made things easier' at choir tribute to late Tragically Hip frontman

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    DALLAS—Hugh Aynesworth, a reporter for The Dallas Morning News, was watching the presidential motorcade downtown when he heard the shots that killed then-president John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. Since then, much of his career has been devoted to investigating the events of that day.

    Over the years, Aynesworth figures he’s explored dozens, maybe hundreds, of different conspiracy theories about the assassination. His work will continue on Thursday when the government releases the latest batch of files kept classified for 54 years.

    One thing’s for certain: The new information won’t put an end to the conspiracy theories, said Aynesworth, who is firmly in the camp that only one shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, was responsible for Kennedy’s murder.

    Read more:Trump plans to release last cache of secret JFK assassination files

    “What will come out of this is something that should have come out years and years ago,” said Aynesworth, 86, who lives in Dallas.

    He expects the files to produce more information about how much the CIA and FBI knew about Oswald before the assassination. In particular, the files could reveal how much the CIA knew about a trip Oswald made to Mexico City a month or so before the assassination.

    “There’s been a lot of speculation over the years about Oswald’s trip to Mexico,” said Aynesworth. While there, Oswald met with Cubans and Russians, he said.

    The CIA had both the Russian and Cuban embassies bugged, said Aynesworth, author of November 22, 1963: Witness to History. “So they knew exactly what he said, who he met with, and they’ve kept this secret,” he said.

    The files may raise even more questions than they answer.

    “It will never stop the conspiracy crowd,” Aynesworth said. “They want to be somebody and make money. And there’s an awful lot of money involved.

    “There are over 200 conspiracy books — that ought to tell you something.”

    Reporter who witnessed JFK assassination says new files will fuel conspiracy theoriesReporter who witnessed JFK assassination says new files will fuel conspiracy theories

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    About three years ago, a married Portuguese woman began seeing another man. The affair was brief — and after two months, the woman wanted to end it.

    In response, the woman’s former lover turned to her husband, telling him his wife had been unfaithful, according to Portuguese media outlets. The couple divorced. But the two men, both enraged, worked together to plan an attack on the woman.

    In June 2015, the former paramour kidnapped the woman and held her down while the ex-husband beat her viciously with a nail-spiked club, leaving bruises and lashes all over her body.

    After charges were filed in the assault, the ex-husband was given a 15-month suspended sentence and a fine of about $2,000, according to The Associated Press. A prosecutor thought he deserved a harsher sentence, and asked an appeals court in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, for prison time of three years and six months.

    But the appeals judges decided against it.

    Why? Because the judges felt it was somewhat understandable that a husband in a “depressive state” would act out against a wife who had betrayed him.

    In a written ruling that harked back to the 19th century, Judges Neto de Moura and Maria Luisa Abrantes justified the lighter sentence with biblical references that condemn adultery.

    “Now, adultery by a woman is a very serious attack on a man’s honour and dignity,” the judges wrote. “Societies exist where the adulterous woman is stoned to death. In the Bible, we can read that the adulterous woman should be punished with death.”

    They argued that the “disloyalty and sexual immorality” of the woman caused her husband to fall into a “deep depression.” It was in this clouded mental state that the husband committed the act of aggression, the judges wrote.

    The judges cited a criminal law from 1886 that called for merely a symbolic penalty against a husband who, finding his wife committing adultery, killed her.

    “These references are merely intended to emphasize that society has always strongly condemned adultery by a woman and therefore sees the violence by a betrayed, vexed and humiliated man with some understanding,” the judges wrote.

    The written ruling was filed Oct. 11 but was not made public until Portuguese news outlet Jornal de Notícias reported the news earlier this week.

    The sentence has stunned women’s rights activists, legal experts and even religious authorities who saw it as an attempt to justify domestic violence with references to the Bible. Across social media, Portuguese commentators and feminist groups called out the ruling for perpetuating victim-blaming and “legitimizing” violence against women.

    Amnesty International Portugal said in a statement that citing the Old Testament in a court ruling presents a “manifest violation” of the separation of church and state, which is part of the Portugal’s constitution.

    UMAR, the Women’s Union for Alternative and Response, has called for a protest rally on Friday in downtown Lisbon in response to the ruling. In a statement, the group said the verdict was “perplexing,” “revolting” and violated the rights, freedoms and “dignity” of the individual.

    “Evoking the Bible does not combine with the rule of law in our country and discredits the judicial norms,” UMAR said in the statement. The group said the decision could lead to “serious consequences” for Portuguese society, particularly for women.

    “It also conveys a message, especially to younger generations, of total impunity,” it added.

    Even some religious authorities condemned the ruling. The Rev. Manuel Barbosa, secretary of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, told the religious news agency Ecclesia that the judges incorrectly referred to scriptures in their ruling. He said no one should “justify any kind of violence, in this case domestic violence, even in the case of adultery.”

    While Barbosa said adultery should not be accepted in his faith, he urged the importance of preserving the dignity of women. He cited teachings from Pope Francis on forgiveness and mercy.

    The woman could appeal the decision to Portugal’s higher courts, the Associated Press reported.

    “It is evident that no human being can be satisfied with this,” Erica Duraes, a lawyer representing the woman, told Portuguese news outlet Diario de Noticias. She said the victim is “very worn out and tired from all of this” but declined to say if she would be taking further legal action.

    Portugal’s Superior Magistrates Council, which oversees judges, acknowledged the public criticism but said it could not intervene in judicial matters, even in light of “archaic, inappropriate or unfortunate” remarks from judges, according to Diario de Notícias

    It does not appear to be the first time Judge Neto de Moura has turned to biblical teachings when preparing sentences for domestic violence cases, the BBC reported.

    In one example, last year, the judge overturned a previous sentence of two years in prison in an assault case, questioning the “reliability” of the female victim’s testimony.

    “A woman who commits adultery is a false, hypocritical, dishonest, disloyal, futile, immoral person,” he said at the time. “In short, a person who lacks moral credibility.”

    According to Reuters, “ultra-orthodox patriarchy,” still exists in parts of the country. Before Portugal’s 1974 revolution, it was one of the “cornerstones” of the regime of dictator Antonio Salazar.

    The deputy director of the Portuguese news outlet that first reported the news, Inês Cardoso, wrote commentary on Monday criticizing the court decision. Cardoso titled it: “She was asking for it.”

    “Is this an isolated case in the Portuguese courts?” she asked. “Perhaps not, because sentences with discriminatory and abusive references arise sporadically.”

    In a discussion that echoed recent commentary in the U.S. over sexual harassment and assault, Cardoso equated the judge’s ruling to victim-blaming.

    “Even when she is a victim of aggression, harassment or sexual abuse, she is often considered the cause of the crime,” Cardoso wrote. “Either because she dresses provocatively, or because she fails in her role as a dedicated wife, or because she acts with ‘sexual disloyalty and immorality.’”

    “We know that there is much to be done to combat marital violence and gender inequality,” she said. “But the courts, like the other organs of sovereignty, exist to promote justice and equality. Not to validate prejudice and discrimination.”

    Portuguese court says man who kidnapped, beat ex-wife won’t get jail time, ruling her affair insulted his ‘honour’Portuguese court says man who kidnapped, beat ex-wife won’t get jail time, ruling her affair insulted his ‘honour’

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    Police have charged a 76-year-old man who was pulled from the wreckage after an explosion caused his house to collapse on top of him in central Hamilton Tuesday afternoon.

    Police say Murdoch Campbell has been charged with arson in the aftermath of the explosion at 134 Gibson St.

    Emergency responders rescued Campbell from the rubble after a natural gas explosion levelled the two-storey home around 2:15 p.m.

    The blast caused damage to neighbouring houses and people had to evacuate their residences on Gibson, which just east of Birch Ave.

    Police said Wednesday they and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office executed a search warrant at 134 Gibson Ave., an investigation that led to the charge.

    Heavy equipment arrived Wednesday morning to clean up damage on the street.

    Witnesses described the force of the blast taking the home “straight up in the air” from its foundation.

    It took emergency crews about an hour to rescue a man — described by neighbours and family as blind and hard of hearing — from the rubble before taking him to Hamilton General Hospital at about 3:30 p.m. with what paramedics described as serious injuries.

    Campbell’s sister-in-law Helen Evans said Tuesday he had lived in the house for 30 or 40 years, with his wife, Grace, who died in August after a long battle with a liver disorder.

    The Hamilton Spectator reported earlier this month that the city named a public lane off Gibson Ave. after Grace, a well-known neighbourhood volunteer who spent more than 40 years helping keep the alley clean.

    The story said Murdoch is blind and hard of hearing, but still bowls, curls and walks five miles a day.

    More to come.

    Hamilton man, 76, charged with arson after house explosionHamilton man, 76, charged with arson after house explosion

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    The family of a mentally ill man who was shot dead by police is calling on Ontario’s Attorney General to ensure that all police officers receive thorough training on crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques to reduce the risk of fatalities to those with mental illnesses.

    “No one should die at the hands of police simply because they are not adequately trained,” said Joanne MacIsaac, the sister of Michael MacIsaac, a 47-year-old mentally ill man who was shot dead in Ajax by a Durham police officer in December 2013.

    On Tuesday morning, MacIsaac hand-delivered a letter to the Attorney General’s office at Queen’s Park; it asks for an immediate amendment to Section 44 of the Police Services Act. Presently Section 44 demands that a police officer complete an initial period of training within six months of his or her appointment.

    MacIsaac is demanding that the required training “include training with respect to crisis intervention and de-escalation of conflicts with individuals who are or may be mentally ill and individuals in crisis.”

    “I believe that if the officer who killed my brother had the type of training that we’re proposing today, Michael would still be alive,” said MacIsaac.

    On the day Isaac’s brother, Michael, was shot, he was experiencing the delirious aftermath effects of a seizure. While naked, he ran to a neighbour’s house and broke off the leg of a patio table. An officer, responding to the disturbance, asked him to drop his weapon. He shot at him after he refused to drop the table leg, in an interaction that lasted 12 seconds.

    Training might not have changed the outcome, said Karolina Visic, a caseworker with the Innocence Project at Osgoode Hall helping the MacIsaac family. “But what training does is gives you a mindset: ‘okay this man, he’s naked, it’s December, there’s snow, its cold. There’s probably something not right here’,” she said.

    “[The police officer] could’ve taken a step back, he could’ve gone around his car, he could’ve created space, created time,” said Visic. “Training would provide that mindset.”

    The Police Act has not been reformed in 27 years. To date, police recruits in Ontario are required to complete a 12-week basic training program; there is no standardized training after this. The Innocence Project found that much of this training focuses on “use of force” training.

    The Project also found that since 1978, 65 individuals who were mentally ill have died in an interaction with police Ontario. In 1999, the jury in the coroner’s inquest into the death of Edmond Wai-Kong Yu recommended that the Police Services Act should be amended to “require annual Crisis Resolution Training.” In the 43 coroner’s inquests that subsequently took place over 18 years, similar recommendations were also made, that included additional calls for creating crisis teams, non-lethal use of force tactics and employing mental health specialists.

    The inquest into Michael MacIsaac’s death earlier this year also recommended that “specific training should be provided…around effective (calming) communication and de-escalation…that such training focus on individuals with mental health issues.”

    Members of the government have also spoken about police reform on multiple occasions; earlier this year, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, announced that new legislation would be launched in the Fall of this year.

    Alan Young, Director of the Innocence Project, said that they are choosing not to litigate because they are asking the government to commit to something it has already promised. “The time has come for the government to take real measures to end the violence and devastation that often occurs in interactions with the mentally ill,” said Young. “Its time for the government to act with some courage and some will.”

    MacIsaac doesn’t understand the lack of action and instruction. “It causes you to question everything about your surroundings,” she said, who says she now gets nervous if she sees a police car in her rearview mirror.

    “We’re here four years later, and we’re still trying to prevent this happening to another family.”

    Family of mentally ill man shot dead by police asks AG for more police trainingFamily of mentally ill man shot dead by police asks AG for more police trainingFamily of mentally ill man shot dead by police asks AG for more police trainingFamily of mentally ill man shot dead by police asks AG for more police training

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    The colourful town square just got noisier.

    Toronto is a minority majority city at last, fully 51.5 per cent of us identify as visible minorities and almost half, or 48.8 per cent, do so in the GTA.

    “At last,” not because this fulfils a dire take-over-the-country prophecy by “foreigners,” but because in a capitalist society, this was inevitable.

    A census, like this latest 2016 data from Statistics Canada is rarely just about numbers, or about sorting and counting the people in statistically correct ways.

    Read more:

    A majority of Torontonians now identify themselves as visible minorities, census shows

    Ontario now home to Canada’s largest Métis population, census shows

    Canada has more same-sex couples, one-person households, census shows

    Highlights from the 2016 census

    The data shows us who we are — not just what the colour of our skin is, or the faiths that we follow, but what values we truly cherish.

    The data tells us stories.

    It also casts light on how we understand race. In Toronto, for instance, should people of colour still be called visible minorities if they’re not a minority any more?

    This is a messy question with no easy answers. The largest minority group in the city, now, consists of people who identify as whites. The heterogenous rest are still a coalition of minority groups, a unifying factor being that they’re not white. (This group of minorities does not include Indigenous peoples.) Ideally, humans would have no labels, but discrimination based on these identities exist; not acknowledging that would erase those discriminatory experiences.

    On the Indigenous front, the data offered heartening evidence of resilience; the news that Indigenous populations are seeing an unprecedented boom in the modern history of this land. This is due to higher fertility rates, but also the willingness of more people to identify as one of the diverse Indigenous groups; either First Nation, Métis or Inuit.

    The data also draws a changing landscape. It used to be that big cities — Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal were the hubs for new immigrants, but that trend is changing, too, the data shows. The wave of recent immigrants to the Prairies more than doubled over the last 15 years.

    Immigrants are going where the jobs are and visible minorities could comprise fully one-third of Canadians by 2036.

    One in five people across the country are born outside it. This isn’t new. In the early 1900s, a similar proportion of people were immigrants to the country. The difference this time is in the vast heterogeneity of their origins.

    People come from 250 different ethnic origins across the country, the data shows. Asia is the biggest source of immigration, while newcomers from Africa placed ahead of Europe for the first time.

    You don’t need a crystal ball to predict future trends. People identifying as Black, Arab and Indigenous — in other words, some of the most maligned people — have the highest percentage of young people. The oldest group comes from those who identify as “not a visible minority,” “Chinese” and “Japanese.”

    This 2016 snapshot makes for a colourful portrait and, in these divisive times, offers an opportunity to reflect: how are we going to get along?

    Who gets to speak and how will voices at the margins of the town square move toward the centre? How will we make it work for everyone and not just to prop up a few?

    The data offers a clear pointer to our first priority.

    Non-Indigenous populations, or around 95 per cent of us, complicit in settler colonialism owe much to those whose lands we enrich ourselves from.

    While 1.7 million people identified as Indigenous in 2016, that number is projected to cross 2.5 million in the next 20 years.

    Twenty per cent of Indigenous people live in a dwelling in need of “major repairs,” compared with 6 per cent of the non-Indigenous population.

    Their median personal income is just $25,526, compared with $34,604 for non-Indigenous people, while nearly one-quarter live below Statistics Canada’s poverty threshold.

    First Nations child advocate Cindy Blackstock said the first numbers she honed in were that Indigenous children account for more than half the kids under 4 — a critical development age — who are in foster care. That number is rising.

    “When I looked at those numbers I thought of how vital it is that Canada moves with dispatch to comply with the four existing orders from the Human Rights Tribunal to end its discriminatory funding of First Nations child welfare agencies across the country,” she said.

    “One of the things that I’m calling on the government to do is to ask the parliamentary budget officer to cost out all the inequalities that First Nations children experience. Everything from child and maternal health to education to child welfare to juvenile justice. And then develop a public plan to eradicate those inequalities.”

    Fixing these gaps will take billions of dollars. If we’re serious about reconciliation, and long-term development, we have to focus on the children.

    As Blackstock says, “No level of discrimination of children by the government should be accepted by Canadians.”

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

    The census makes for a colourful portrait, now how do we get along?: ParadkarThe census makes for a colourful portrait, now how do we get along?: Paradkar

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    MONTREAL—With the law that prescribes that provincial and municipal services be rendered and received with one’s face uncovered, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has achieved the impossible. His Liberal government has reconciled the two opposite camps in the Quebec religious accommodation debate behind the notion that it is running a gong show.

    A week after the adoption of the controversial law, one would be hard-pressed to find a good word about the just-adopted Bill 62 anywhere in the province’s media.

    Even Quebec Liberal party insiders privately admit that they are flabbergasted by the improvisation that has attended the government foray into the religious accommodation minefield.

    Over the past few days, Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée has offered conflicting interpretations of her own law, convincing critics that she is making up the rules that pertain to its application as she goes along.

    Last week for instance, Vallée fended off allegations that her bill was discriminatory by arguing that the obligation to uncover one’s face to board a city bus would apply as equally to transit riders sporting large sunglasses as to the Muslim women who wear the niqab or burqa. They all would have to remove their face coverings for what she described as “the duration of the rendering of the public service.”

    On Tuesday, Vallée walked back her talk, insisting that the prescription to uncover one’s face applied only to “interaction” between a citizen and a public servant. On that basis, most people could presumably board a bus or presumably take out a library book without showing their faces.

    In Quebec, library cards do not feature photographs. Neither do transit passes except in the case of students and senior citizens who are expected to show proof of age to pay a reduced rate.

    In any event, the minister assured that no one would ever be thrown off a bus on account of Bill 62 because — she said — someone who did not comply with the law would be left at the bus stop.

    The minister’s convoluted explanations did little to reassure those who feel that the bill is a discriminatory solution in search of a problem. It is estimated that there are less than 300 Muslim women who wear a face-covering veil province-wide.

    Moreover, as elsewhere in Canada it is already impossible in Quebec to obtain government-issued ID cards such as a driver’s license or a health card without allowing one’s picture to be taken with one’s face uncovered

    Vallée’s latest take on her own bill also confirmed the fears of those who feel it is much too narrow

    The PQ opposition is working on a more muscular version of Bill 62. It will feature the imposition of a secular dress code on public servants in positions of authority such as judges or police officers. The party also wants to explore the notion of banning face-covering veils from all public places. A pequiste government would use the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution to shelter its law from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

    The Coalition Avenir Québec also has proposals that go well beyond the Liberal law. Both opposition parties will campaign on their proposals in next fall’s provincial election.

    Meanwhile, opponents and proponents of state-enforced restrictions on the rights of religious minorities are united in questioning the competence of the Liberal government.

    It is increasingly unclear what constituency Premier Couillard expected to satisfy with the government’s ill-conceived law.

    The premier does have a well-documented tendency to political tone-deafness. Earlier this month he seemed surprised and frustrated that a cabinet shuffle that left his ministerial frontline essentially unchanged did not elicit rave reviews about his government sporting a new face.

    At the time of the shuffle, Couillard maintained Vallée in her justice role even if she had consistently seemed to be in over her head in that portfolio.

    Over the past week there has been a chorus of calls for Bill 62 to be withdrawn in its entirety. It would be pretty unprecedented for a ruling party to shelf a law it has just used its majority to adopt.

    Until it is replaced by a government of a different stripe or possibly struck down by a court, Bill 62 will likely remain on the books where it primarily stands as a token of political turpitude.

    Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

    Quebec’s face-covering bill unites rivals who together question the government’s competence: HébertQuebec’s face-covering bill unites rivals who together question the government’s competence: Hébert

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    A senior Toronto police sergeant accused of twice picking up a woman in the Entertainment District while on duty then groping her while alone inside his police vehicle was found not guilty of two counts of sexual assault at a Scarborough court Wednesday.

    Sgt. Christopher Heard, a veteran Toronto police officer, stared straight ahead as Ontario Court Justice Russell Otter read out his lengthy decision in the judge-alone trial, then hugged his wife and supporters after Otter dismissed the charges against him.

    The judge’s ruling contained harsh criticism of Heard, a married father of three with 27 years on the Toronto force. Otter chastised him for “egregious” and “brazen” conduct that included failing to turn on his in-car camera both times he picked up the women to drive them home.

    Much of Heard’s evidence was not credible or reliable, Otter found, rejecting the senior officer’s “blunt and terse denials of inappropriate touching of both complainants.”

    But while noting that the two complainants had “strikingly similar” accounts and that there was no evidence of collusion, Otter nonetheless had sufficient doubts about each woman’s reliability, prompting him to dismiss the charges.

    Both complainants’ identities are covered by a publication ban.

    Otter found the testimony of the first complainant, who alleged Heard assaulted her on a drive home in September 2015, was inconsistent with her friend’s account of the night, including how much she had to drink. The judge also ruled that the a 27-year-old complainant had “antipathy” toward the police and “this strongly felt sentiment significantly, in my view, affected her overall credibility and reliability.”

    The young woman’s evidence was insufficient to find Heard guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge ruled.

    Otter came to the same conclusion concerning the second complainant, who alleged she was assaulted on November 1, 2015. Citing among his reasons phone records that directly contradict her evidence, the judge found the 25-year-old woman’s testimony inconsistent.

    “I find that I have reasonable doubt as to whether the sexual assault occurred,” he wrote.

    Heard left the courthouse Wednesday without comment. His lawyer, Gary Clewley, said his client is happy and relieved and called Otter’s judgment “lengthy and thorough.”

    Heard would no longer be picking up lone women and offering them rides home, Clewley said.

    “Those days are over,” he said.

    Heard had pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault stemming from the separate incidents in the fall of 2015, while on duty and on patrol. The charges were laid last year by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ontario’s civilian watchdog that investigates police.

    At that of the incidents, Heard was supervising a group of constables in downtown Toronto’s 52 Division, but had been working alone on the shifts in question.

    Heard’s June trial heard from both alleged victims, the second of whom went to authorities only after she saw news reports of Heard being charged with sexual assault. She says she recognized his photo, recalled that the officer who picked her up was named Chris, and realized she had been picked up in a similar spot.

    Both women testified that they had trusted Heard when they accepted his offer of a ride home, believing they were safe with a police officer.

    “I expected to trust an officer of the law,” said one of the alleged victims.

    Each of the women alleged Heard had touched her inner thigh, prompting her to immediately tell him to stop. One claimed she slapped Heard’s hand away.

    Crown prosecutor Roger Shallow said the fact that both women, who are strangers to one another, gave similar accounts “obliterates any notion of coincidence.”

    Taking the stand in his own defence, Heard denied all allegations of inappropriate touching. He offered both women rides for their own safety, saying they were intoxicated.

    “At any time, when she was in that car, did you touch her thigh?” asked Heard’s defence lawyer, Clewley, in reference to the first complainant.

    “Not once,” Heard, 46, responded.

    Heard also denied inappropriately touching the second complainant, who alleges the assault occurred as she was about to exit the vehicle.

    Phone records show Heard and the complainant communicated after the drive. Heard said he took the woman’s number only to ensure she made it into her apartment safely because her neighbourhood was prone to “crack users” and people “doing other terrible things.”

    In both cases, Heard did not inform Toronto police dispatch that he was transporting a young woman home. “I should have. It just didn’t seem like a big thing . . . I wasn’t going to be gone for long.”

    Heard is still facing misconduct charges under the Ontario Police Services Act in connection to the alleged September assault, including failing to activate his in-car camera, a failure that means there is no audio or video evidence of his contact with the first complainant.

    During the trial, it was revealed that the SIU told Toronto police that Heard had become the subject of a sexual assault investigation three weeks before the second assault is alleged to have occurred.

    Lucille Chan, the lead SIU investigator on the case, testified that she informed the Toronto police chief’s office on Oct. 7, 2015 that Heard was being investigated in connection to a sexual assault allegation; the second alleged sexual assault occurred in the early hours of Nov. 1, 2015.

    Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray told the Star last year that, after the first charge was laid, Heard was initially suspended, but was later reinstated and “assigned to other duties.” He was suspended with pay after the second charge was laid, she said.

    Heard has been suspended with pay since the second charge was laid in May, 2016.

    Heard also faces a misconduct charge related to his failure to record all of his interaction with the 27-year-old woman in his police notes.

    Toronto police sergeant found not guilty on two counts of sexual assaultToronto police sergeant found not guilty on two counts of sexual assault

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    OTTAWA—Most people in Canada’s biggest city now identify as visible minorities, as new census data shows increasing diversity in Toronto and many of its neighbouring suburban areas.

    More than half of respondents to the 2016 census in the City of Toronto — 51.5 per cent — said they’re from visible minority communities, a milestone that was narrowly missed when 49 per cent identified that way in 2011.

    The news comes as part of a tranche of census data, released Wednesday, that paints a multifaceted portrait of a country where more than one in five people was born outside its borders. Canada is now home to millions of people who claim more than 250 distinct “ethnic origins,” with historical lineages through Indigenous groups and countries all over the world.

    “We’ve been seeing this for 20 years now, that Canada is becoming more and more diverse,” said Jean-Pierre Corbeil, Statistics Canada’s assistant director of social and Aboriginal statistics.

    “It’s not surprising that we see the share of people identified as visible minorities … increasing for sure,” he said.

    Almost 22 per cent of the Canadian population is foreign-born, while 1.2 million people immigrated here between 2011 and 2016, the census data shows. Forty-one per cent of Canadians, meanwhile, lay claim to more than a single ancestral group, the most frequent being English, Scottish, French or Irish.

    In Canada overall, more than 22 per cent of people reported being from visible minority communities in 2016, up from 16.3 per cent in 2006 and 4.7 per cent when the government started gathering this information in 1981. Statistics Canada attributes the increase in part to an increasing proportion of immigrants from non-European countries. For example, Africa surpassed Europe as the continent-of-origin for the second-highest number of immigrants between 2011 and 2016, the data shows.

    The release showed a similar trend for two groups: the largest overall increase in the Indigenous population was in western Canada over the last decade, while the share of recent immigrants to the Prairies more than doubled over the last 15 years.

    “Immigrants are diffusing across the country,” said Michael Haan, a sociology professor at Western University in London, Ont.

    “What it's forcing us to do, collectively, is think about our entire nation as being composed of immigrants, rather than just major cities.”

    Nearly half of major metropolitan areas are comprised of visible minorities, noticeably Toronto and Vancouver, said Doug Norris, chief demographer at Environics Analytics. But the figures are also on the rise in places like Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, and Calgary, he added.

    “Places that people didn't think were culturally diverse are becoming now culturally diverse.”

    The release is just the latest — and second-to-last — in a year-long series of statistical snapshots of Canada. It also marks the return of the long-form census for the first time in a decade.

    The data also shows a marked difference in diversity between the multicultural heartland of the Greater Toronto Area and the rest of the country. Twenty-nine per cent of Ontarians and 22 per cent of Canadians overall reported being visible minorities, versus a thin majority in the Big Smoke.

    Five of the suburban cities around Toronto — Ajax, Mississauga, Richmond Hill, Brampton and Markham — had majorities of people identify as visible minorities. Markham posted the highest proportion (77.9 per cent), followed by Brampton (73.3 per cent) and Richmond Hill (60 per cent).

    Across the GTA, almost half (48.8) per cent of census respondents identified as visible minorities.

    Read more:

    Toronto still top-choice for recent immigrants, as more people flock to the Prairies

    Home ownership rates drop as more young Canadians opt to rent: census

    Ontario now home to Canada’s largest Métis population, census shows

    But while diversity — in terms of visible minority populations — increased in every census division in the GTA from 2011 to 2016, the numbers vary widely. Burlington and Oshawa had the lowest proportion of visible minorities for cities with more than 100,000 people, at 16 per cent each in 2016, followed by Whitby at 25 per cent and Oakville at 31.

    The numbers also varied in the City of Toronto. The higher proportions of diversity — more than 50 per cent — were clumped in the inner suburbs of Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke.

    Several areas showed proportions of visible minority communities as high as 90 per cent, with concentrations of people who identified as Chinese, for example, in places like Scarborough’s Agincourt neighbourhood and the city of Markham. Two neighbouring Toronto census tracts with almost 4,000 residents off Steeles Ave. E. even showed a combined 99 per cent Chinese population, one of the highest proportions of a single visible minority in the GTA.

    In terms of ethnicity, the largest visible minority in the city of Toronto was South Asian, at 11.9 per cent of the population. That was followed closely by Chinese at 11.5 per cent. Blacks accounted for 8.1 per cent of the city population, and 5.6 per cent was Filipino, the data shows.

    In Canada overall, the largest visible minorities communities were South Asian (1.9 million people), Chinese (1.6 million) and Blacks (1.2 million).


    • In 2016, 7.5 million people — about 21.9 per cent of the total population — reported being foreign-born individuals who immigrated to Canada. In 1921, the census reported that proportion at 22.3 per cent, the highest since Confederation. Statistics Canada projects that proportion could reach between 25 and 30 per cent by 2036.

    • The census counted 1,212,075 new immigrants who permanently settled in Canada between 2011 and 2016, 3.5 per cent of the total population last year.

    • 60 per cent entered under the economic category, 26.8 per cent to join family already in Canada and 11.6 per cent as refugees. During the first four months of 2016, refugees accounted for one-quarter of all immigrants admitted to Canada, thanks to an influx of refugees from Syria.

    • Asia, including the Middle East, remains the largest source of recent immigrants to Canada at 61.8 per cent, followed by Africa at 13.4 per cent. Europe — once dominant in this category at 61.6 per cent in 1971 — ranked third at 11.6 per cent.

    • More immigrants have been settling in the Prairies. The percentage of new immigrants living in Alberta reached 17.1 per cent in 2016, compared with 6.9 per cent in 2001; In Manitoba, it went to 5.2 per cent, up from 1.8 per cent, and four per cent in Saskatchewan, up from one per cent in 2001.

    • Visible minorities numbered 7.7 million in 2016, 22.3 per cent of Canada's population. 30 per cent were born in Canada.

    • In 1921, more than 70 per cent of the foreign-born population reported English or French as a mother tongue, while fewer than 30 per cent reported a different language. In 2016, the precise opposite was true: more than 70 per cent reported a different mother tongue, compared to less than 30 per cent for English or French.

    • In 2016, nearly 2.2 million children under 15 — 37.5 per cent of all children in Canada — were either foreign-born themselves or had at least one foreign-born parent.

    • Some 1.9 million people reported being of South Asian heritage, fully one-quarter of the visible minority population. Chinese was the second-largest group at 1.6 million or 20.5 per cent of visible minorities, while blacks — surpassing the one-million mark for the first time — were third at 1.2 million, a share of about 15.6 per cent. Filipinos and Arabs rounded out the top five.

    • More than 9.5 million of the 14.1 million households in Canada owned their home in 2016, a rate of 67.8 per cent, down slightly from 69 per cent in 2011. However, rates varied widely depending on age: 70 per cent of homeowners in 2016 were aged 35-54, compared with 20- to 34-year-olds at just 43.6 per cent.

    • Condos are most popular in Vancouver, where they comprised 30.6 per cent of all local households. Calgary was second at 21.8 per cent, followed by Abbotsford-Mission, B.C., at 21.5 per cent, Kelowna at 21.3 per cent and Toronto at 20.9 per cent.

    • In 2016, 24.1 per cent of households — down from 24.4 per cent in 2006 — were spending 30 per cent or more of their average monthly total income on shelter costs, such as rent or mortgage payments, electricity, heat and property taxes or fees. Of those, the highest proportions were in Toronto (33.4 per cent) and Vancouver (32 per cent).

    • The census counted 1.67 million Indigenous people in Canada in 2016, accounting for 4.9 per cent of the total population — up from 3.8 per cent in 2006 for a growth rate of 42.5 per cent over the last 10 years, four times the rate of the non-Indigenous population.

    • The number of people who identified as First Nations reached 979,230 last year, up 39.3 per cent over 2006, while the Metis population grew by 51.2 per cent over the same period to 587,545 people. The census recorded 65,025 Inuit, 29.1 per cent higher than in 2006.

    • Winnipeg (92,810), Edmonton (76,205), Vancouver (61,460) and Toronto (46,315) reported the largest Indigenous populations, while the highest proportion of Aboriginal people were in Thunder Bay (12.7 per cent), Winnipeg (12.2 per cent) and Saskatoon (10.9 per cent).

    With files from Canadian Press

    A majority of Torontonians now identify themselves as visible minorities, census showsA majority of Torontonians now identify themselves as visible minorities, census shows

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    A witness in the trial of two men accused of murder is testifying that one of the defendants confessed to him about burning a woman’s body and tossing it in a lake.

    Desi Liberatore has told court that Mark Smich performed a rap in 2012 in which he described “torching a body.”

    After the song, Liberatore says Smich told him that he did, in fact, burn a girl and dump her body and a cellphone in a lake.

    Read more:A good guy emerges at grim trial into Laura Babcock’s murder: DiManno

    Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., and Dellen Millard, 32, of Toronto, have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Toronto woman Laura Babcock.

    The Crown alleges the pair killed the 23-year-old at Millard’s Toronto home then burned her remains in a commercial incinerator found on Millard’s farm near Waterloo, Ont.

    Liberatore says he was in Smich’s mother’s garage in 2012 smoking marijuana with a few friends when he says Smich confessed to a killing.

    The Crown then played a video where Smich is seen rapping.

    In the video, Smich is looking at an iPad with music playing in the background.

    “The b---h started off all skin and bone, now the b---h lay on some ashy stone,” Smich sings in the video. “Last time I saw her she was outside the home. If you go swimming you can find her phone.”

    Liberatore said he had never seen the video, but the rap Smich performed for him in the garage was “something like that.”

    After Smich performed the rap, he asked his girlfriend to leave, Liberatore said.

    Then Smich told Liberatore and two others: “Yeah, we burned a girl and threw her in the lake. We killed someone.”

    “Did he say he killed somebody?” Crown lawyer Jill Cameron asked Liberatore.

    “I don’t think he said it exactly like that,” Liberatore said. “He said ‘we burned a body and threw it in the lake.’”

    The Crown contends Babcock was killed for being the odd woman out in a love triangle with Millard and his girlfriend.

    Babcock vanished in the summer of 2012 and her body has never been found.

    ‘We burned a body and threw it in the lake,’ Laura Babcock’s murder trial hears‘We burned a body and threw it in the lake,’ Laura Babcock’s murder trial hears

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    Ontario’s post-secondary minister says it is “very troubling” that the province’s colleges and the union representing 12,000 striking faculty are not even trying to reach a deal.

    “I’m very worried about the impact the strike is having on students,” Deb Matthews, minister of advanced education and skills development, said Wednesday at Queen’s Park. “There’s a lot of anxiety, a lot of unanswered questions, and it’s very disappointing that the two parties have not yet found their way back to the table. I’m urging everybody to think of the students … why the parties aren’t bargaining is beyond me.”

    The strike by full-time and partial-load instructors at Ontario’s 24 colleges — now well into its second week— has left more than 300,000 students out of class.

    A petition calling on both sides to return to the table that also demands a tuition refund should the strike be prolonged, now has more than 108,000 signatures.

    Matthews met with petition organizers and Humber College students Greg Kung and Amir Allana on Wednesday, where they were told student loan funds “should not be a problem” and that the province has been reassured by the federal government that international students’ visas will not be affected by the strike.

    “Students have a lot of unanswered questions, they certainly have a lot of anxiety,” Matthews also told reporters. “This is really unfortunate that this is dragging on as long without them actually talking to each other.

    “If they were at the table, if they were hammering out the issues, I’d have a different opinion,” she added. “But the fact that they are not even finding a way to get to the table is very troubling.”

    Don Sinclair, CEO of the College Employer Council which bargains for the institutions, said he understands the minister’s frustrations as “the colleges are also frustrated because we believe this is an unnecessary strike that’s disrupted hundreds of thousands of students. Our faculty should be in the classroom teaching their students.”

    He said the union “has created this mess, they know where the settlement zone is in this, but refuse to seek it.”

    The union has previously said it modified its offer before hitting the picket lines. It is seeking about 9 per cent over three years, more academic control and a guarantee that at least 50 per cent of positions are full-time.

    The colleges raised their salary offer to 7.75 per cent over four years, and Sinclair said there is “language that gives preference” to full-time hiring.

    “Quite frankly, we need them to come back to the table with practical proposals — ones that are affordable to our system and will not be harmful to the quality of programs,” Sinclair added.

    As it stands now, the two sides are about $250 million apart on salary and staffing costs, something union bargaining lead J.P. Hornick has said is not a lot when spread out among the 24 colleges.

    At Queen’s Park, opposition PC Leader Patrick Brown said he wants the government to put pressure on the union and colleges, saying “the premier has lots of tools at her disposal … the hands-off approach isn’t working.”

    NDP MPP Peter Tabuns blamed underfunding for the labour strife, saying the Liberals “have neglected this sector. They have caused this problem. Maybe they are going to have to look at bailing out the students” by refunding tuition.

    Kung and Allana said they are counting on the provincial government to take some “tangible action to bring both parties to the table.

    “From where we stand, we don’t see them doing it on their own,” said Allana. “We respect the process, we want bargaining to happen, but it won’t happen with the two sides not talking at all.”

    They are particularly worried about students losing apprenticeship hours that may not be recoverable when the strike is over.

    On Tuesday during Question Period, NDP MPP Cindy Forster asked Premier Kathleen Wynne about the strike, saying the “overuse of part-time faculty has ballooned to a shocking 81 per cent at colleges across Ontario. Instructors are forced to string together multiple contracts across multiple colleges, and many are required to find additional employment just to make ends meet.” She said impending labour legislation that will mandate equal pay for equal work “means nothing if the government refuses to support more full-time faculty positions.”

    Wynne said “let me just say that we want to see students back in college classrooms as soon as humanly possible … I have committed to them and to all who have asked me that we’ll do everything we can to encourage both sides to get back to the table.”

    Minister ‘very troubled’ by lack of talks between colleges, union Minister ‘very troubled’ by lack of talks between colleges, unionMinister ‘very troubled’ by lack of talks between colleges, union Minister ‘very troubled’ by lack of talks between colleges, union

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump and fellow Republicans latched onto revelations tying Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to a dossier of allegations about his ties to Russia, saying Wednesday that it was a “disgrace” that Democrats had helped pay for research that produced the document.

    “It’s just really — it’s a very sad commentary on politics in this country,” Trump said in addressing reporters one day after news reports revealed that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, for several months last year, helped fund research that ultimately ended up in the dossier.

    The document, compiled by a former British spy and alleging a compromised relationship between Trump and the Kremlin, has emerged this year as a political flashpoint. Law enforcement officials have worked to corroborate its claims. James Comey, FBI director at the time, advised Trump about the existence of the allegations, and the ex-spy who helped assemble the document, Christopher Steele, has been questioned as part of an ongoing probe of possible co-ordination between Russia and the Trump camp,

    Read more:

    Clinton campaign, DNC helped fund research that produced Trump-Russia dossier, source says

    Trump suggests FBI may have ‘paid for’ dossier alleging Russia ties

    U.S. Senate probe into possible Trump-Russia collusion ‘still open,’ panel says

    Trump has derided the document as “phoney stuff” and “fake news” and portrayed himself Wednesday as an aggrieved party, posting on Twitter a quote he said was from Fox News that referred to him as “the victim.” The new disclosure about the dossier’s origins is likely to fuel complaints by Trump and his supporters that the document is merely a collection of salacious and uncorroborated claims.

    “Well, I think it’s very sad what they’ve done with this fake dossier,” Trump said Wednesday, adding without elaboration that “they paid a tremendous amount of money.” He contended that Democrats had initially denied any connection to the document, but now, “they admitted it, and they’re embarrassed by it.”

    A person familiar with the newly disclosed dossier matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential client matters, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the funding arrangement was brokered in the spring of 2016 by a law firm representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC and that it lasted until right before Election Day.

    In March of that year, the person said, the law firm of Perkins Coie was approached by Fusion GPS, a political research firm behind the dossier that had already been doing research work for Trump on behalf of an unidentified client during the GOP primary. Fusion GPS expressed interest in continuing to create opposition research on Trump, and Perkins Coie then engaged it in April 2016 “to perform a variety of research services during the 2016 election cycle,” according to a letter obtained by AP.

    The identity of the original client has not been revealed, though Trump hinted Wednesday that it could eventually become public.

    “I have one name in mind,” the president said.

    It’s unclear what Fusion GPS had dug up by the time the law firm hired it, or how much money was involved in the transaction. The attorney who helped create the arrangement, Marc Elias, did not immediately return an email seeking comment, and representatives of Fusion GPS declined to comment. The Washington Post first reported the funding deal.

    The new disclosure placed fresh attention on the world of opposition research and the techniques that political campaigns employ. Trump Jr.’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., received public scrutiny when it was revealed in July that he had met one year earlier with Russians at Trump Tower after being told he would be receiving damaging information on Clinton. In that case, publicly released emails show that Trump Jr. had been told the information was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father.

    That meeting is being investigated by Robert Mueller, the Justice Department’s special counsel leading an investigation into whether Trump campaign aides co-ordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the election.

    In a statement, a DNC spokeswoman said the party chairman, Tom Perez, was not part of the decision-making and was unaware that Perkins Coie was working with Fusion GPS.

    “But let’s be clear, there is a serious federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and the American public deserves to know what happened,” the statement said.

    Former Clinton campaign spokesperson Brian Fallon said on Twitter that he regretted not knowing about Steele’s hiring before the election, and that had he known, “I would have volunteered to go to Europe and try to help him.”

    “I have no idea what Fusion or Steele were paid, but if even a shred of that dossier ends up helping Mueller, it will prove money well spent,” he wrote in another tweet.

    Trump calls Clinton campaign’s funding for Russia info a ‘disgrace'Trump calls Clinton campaign’s funding for Russia info a ‘disgrace'

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