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    Texting while crossing can be hazardous, but banning it can be hostile.

    That’s the logical speed trap people are falling into as politicians debate whether to make distracted walking a provincial offence. Suddenly, pedestrians are paying attention to the proposal — and taking great offence.

    The competing narratives go something like this:

    One camp has long raged about an imagined war on the car, taking umbrage whenever politicians try to dial down speed limits or ramp up bicycle paths. They point the finger at distracted pedestrians who put themselves in harm’s way without looking both ways.

    The other side bemoans the supposed victory of the vehicle, fuming over the encroachment of automobiles. And asks:

    How dare you fault people for dying while walking and talking? A law against texting while crosswalking amounts to victim shaming and blaming, critics say.

    Ontario’s legislature will soon debate a private member’s bill that would levy an initial $50 fine on pedestrians caught looking at their phones instead of looking both ways. Honolulu has just passed a similar law, Toronto councillors are keen, but critics won’t hear of it.

    In the resulting war of words, distracted walkers are dismissed as “zombies,” while meddling lawmakers are lumped in with the “nanny state.” And so the subtext of any anti-texting law is this:

    Do zombies need nannies?

    Setting aside the name-calling, most of us know the limits of texting while multi-tasking. You can lose situational awareness within seconds — whether behind the wheel or in front of a speeding vehicle.

    We know that distracted driving has eclipsed drunk driving as the greatest peril on our roadways. That’s why stiff fines have been imposed in recent years with little pushback.

    Why are pedestrians so defensive about being required to look up from their phones before crossing the street? A frequent argument is that they do no harm, because they aren’t the ones driving a speeding mass of steel into an intersection.

    But that overlooks the risk to cyclists who might collide with a pedestrian stepping into the road without looking. Or the evasive manoeuvres they take, causing a deadly chain reaction with other vehicles.

    In any case, there’s nothing wrong with the state protecting us from ourselves. Remember that motorcycle helmets are imposed on bikers to protect themselves from harm, not others. Similarly, seatbelt laws are compulsory for drivers, sometimes to guard against their own folly.

    As such, those self-protective seatbelt and helmet laws are the ultimate expression of the nanny state in action. A law that protects distracted pedestrians from self-inflicted peril is little different.

    Critics point to statistics showing mobile phones are rarely a factor in pedestrian deaths. But those figures aren’t the full story, for they don’t tell us how often mobiles are a factor in non-fatal injuries, nor do they describe the close calls that are never recorded but can’t be denied.

    The absence of data doesn’t mean we can close our eyes to accidents waiting to happen.

    “If you are distracted as a pedestrian, you are more likely to get hurt,” said Yvan Baker, a Liberal MPP (Etobicoke Centre) behind the legislation. “If even one death could be prevented by this bill, then it’s a death that should be avoided.”

    No one is expecting police officers at every corner ticketing distracted walkers, just as we don’t expect the cops to blitz jaywalkers every day. Yet we keep jaywalking laws on the books as a way of encouraging people to obey the rules at crosswalks.

    The difficulties of enforcement need not deter us from enacting laws that have a useful deterrent value.

    Just as jaywalking laws are aspirational (and barely enforceable) so too a ban on distracted crosswalking could be educational (and rarely adversarial). The alternative is to keep playing the victim card — cars bad, pedestrians good; your fault, not mine.

    Yes, drivers wield an imbalance of power and must yield the right of way. But pedestrians who walk without looking are looking for trouble — right or wrong.

    If that’s the law, so much the better.

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


    Texting while walking: why ‘zombies’ need nannies: CohnTexting while walking: why ‘zombies’ need nannies: Cohn

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    OTTAWA—Canada is stepping up efforts to put gender issues front and centre in conflict zones, including the deployment of more women soldiers on peace support missions, elements of a strategy that will be part of long-awaited peacekeeping initiatives expected in the coming weeks.

    In a possible preview of the priorities for that peace mission, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled Ottawa’s action plan on women, peace and security Wednesday, saying that a “feminist foreign policy” is needed now more than ever in the face of “angry reactionary movements.”

    “We must take courageous action towards gender equality, especially where women are most vulnerable,’ Freeland said.

    The foreign affairs minister denied that such an agenda was about political correctness or “virtue signaling.” Rather, she said that putting such a focus on foreign issues has practical impacts that bring changes on the ground.

    “It matters because where women, in all their diversity, are included in our collective security, everyone is safer,” she said.

    The plan earmarks a total of $17.1 million in all for gender initiatives to encourage the participation of women and girls in efforts to prevent and resolve conflict.

    It includes funding to help train female police officers for UN peace missions, improve gender equality in UN operations and promote the inclusion of women in peace building.

    The investments support initiatives in places such as Mali, Colombia and Haiti, which have been named as possible locales for Canada’s peace deployment.

    Elements of the plan, a follow-up to a strategy first rolled out by the Conservatives in 2011, also include cracking down on abuse and sexual assaults by security personnel and peacekeepers.

    “There can be no impunity for these crimes. Not for soldiers. Not for civilians. Not for those sent to keep the peace or provide assistance,” Freeland said.

    In a strong show of support for the policy, four of Freeland cabinet colleagues were on hand, including International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef, and several foreign diplomats, among them Kelly Craft, the new U.S. ambassador to Canada.

    It comes as Ottawa is closing in on a decision to deploy up to 600 soldiers and 150 police officers on a peace support mission. During the 2015 election, Justin Trudeau pledged that a Liberal government would return Canada to United Nations peacekeeping but his government has dragged its feet on making a decision.

    Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, met with cabinet ministers on Tuesday and it’s believed that the peace mission was the focus of that discussion.

    The Star had reported that while Mali was one likely destination for the deployment it’s possible that Canada’s peace mission — comprising trainers and support, such as transport aircraft and helicopters — will be spread among several countries.

    Vance, who was present for Wednesday’s announcement, would only say that the government “will announce its decision when it’s made its decision.”

    But he said that elements of Wednesday’s strategy are a priority for the Canadian Armed Forces.

    “The military deployments that will occur as part of peace-support operations will be announced in due course and will be consistent with exactly what has been briefed today,” Vance told reporters.

    As the Star has previously reported, Ottawa has committed to deploy more women on the upcoming peace mission and Vance said that can be “critical” to the success of such operations.

    “There are clearly instances when a high percentage of women is very valuable in terms of accessing populations, putting in place the kind of measures necessary to protection the population but also to find out what is going on,” he said.

    “But it’s more than that and I think Canada’s ambitions will be higher than that, in terms of how to make peacekeeping more effective overall,” Vance said.

    Some form of an announcement is now expected before Canada plays host to a UN peacekeeping summit in Vancouver in mid-November.

    During an appearance at the Senate earlier in the week, Sajjan cited changing conditions on the ground as one reason for the delayed announcement of a peace mission.

    “When I talk about the changes on the ground, we’re talking about the different radical groups, different events, how the corruption are impacting things, the elections as well,” he said Wednesday.

    But Sajjan said too that Canada’s approach to the coming peace mission will involve more than just the military.

    “While we look at the military role of what they can do, that we also have to keep in mind that this is not just a strictly a military solution and should not just be a military question,” Sajjan said.

    “We have to be looking at it from a whole-of-government perspective and those are some of the initiatives that have been ongoing,’ he said.


    Canada to send more women soldiers to conflict zones to help tackle gender issuesCanada to send more women soldiers to conflict zones to help tackle gender issues

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    The Yukon government has spent $2.5 million on settling approximately 40 sexual abuse lawsuits since 2000, the territory’s justice minister revealed in a statement.

    The statement from Justice Minister Tracy McPhee comes weeks after two Toronto Star stories, also published in the Yukon News, revealed that the territorial government has been quietly settling lawsuits over sexual abuse by a former school principal identified only as “J.V.” Reporter Jesse Winter uncovered at least seven lawsuits involving J.V. and found that the settlements often involved confidentiality agreements preventing the victims from talking about the settlements.

    The Yukon News has since identified at least one more sexual abuse case involving another government-affiliated official settled in a similar fashion.

    “Some cases have been dismissed or discontinued, and most have been settled.… Settlements are tailored to the individual circumstances of each case, therefore not all settlement amounts are the same,” McPhee said.

    The payouts would include the territorial government’s payments, money paid by insurers and, in some cases, the plaintiff’s legal costs, the statement says.

    The territorial government had previously told Winter — before his stories were published — that it could not disclose how many sexual abuse cases existed or how much it has spent settling them.

    The Yukon government and justice department declined to comment on how many of the “approximately” 40 cases had actually been settled, dismissed or discontinued, if any cases are still active, the range of settlement payouts and how many cases, if any, were launched before 2000.

    In an emailed statement, the communications director for the minister’s office said McPhee is “committed to reviewing the available information and providing as much information as possible to the public.”

    In the Oct. 30 statement, McPhee said lawyers for the government have “never insisted on non-disclosure clauses that would prevent a victim from disclosing their personal circumstances, including any details about any abuse they suffered.”

    “Our focus has always been on ensuring that the actual settlement negotiations and settlement details remain confidential. This is not to deter victims from coming forward but to encourage settlement by allowing for detailed discussions about themerits of each case by all parties,” the statement says. “We believe that coming to a settlement is always a better alternative for those involved but in particular for the victim.”

    Whitehorse lawyer Dan Shier, who has represented clients in cases involving J.V., said he thought McPhee’s statement was a “positive step.”

    He disagreed, however, that confidentiality clauses “encourage settlement.”

    “It just doesn’t work,” Shier said. “So what (McPhee is) saying is that they’ve never tried to stop people talking about their experience and that’s fine, that’s never been part of a confidentiality agreement that I know of.”


    The Yukon government has spent $2.5 million settling sexual abuse cases since 2000The Yukon government has spent $2.5 million settling sexual abuse cases since 2000The Yukon government has spent $2.5 million settling sexual abuse cases since 2000The Yukon government has spent $2.5 million settling sexual abuse cases since 2000

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    NEW YORK—Federal prosecutors brought terrorism charges Wednesday against the man accused in the truck rampage that left eight people dead, saying he carried out the attack in response to Daesh’s online calls to action and picked Halloween because he knew more people would be out on the streets.

    Even as he lay wounded in the hospital from police gunfire, 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov asked to display the Daesh, also known as ISIS, flag in his room and said “he felt good about what he had done,” prosecutors said in court papers.

    Meanwhile, the FBI said a second Uzbek — 32-year-old Mukhammadzoir Kadirov — is wanted for questioning in connection with the bloodshed.

    The bureau on Wednesday issued a poster saying it is seeking the public’s help with information about Kadirov. The poster doesn’t say why investigators want to know more about the man.

    Saipov, accused of driving the rented Home Depot pickup truck that lurched down a bike path near the World Trade Center memorial on Tuesday, was charged with providing material support to a terrorist group and committing violence and destruction of motor vehicles, resulting in death.

    The charges can bring the death penalty.

    His lawyers did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

    Saipov left behind knives and a note, handwritten in Arabic, that included Islamic religious references and said “it will endure” — a phrase that commonly refers to Daesh, FBI agent Amber Tyree said in court papers.

    Read more:

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    Mangled school bus, bikes and bodies everywhere in the aftermath of New York City attack

    Trump orders Homeland Security to ‘step up’ its vetting program after New York City attack

    Questioned in his hospital bed, Saipov said he had been inspired by Daesh videos that he watched on his cellphone and began plotting an attack about a year ago, deciding to use a truck about two months ago, Tyree said.

    During the last few weeks, Saipov searched the internet for information on Halloween in New York City and for truck rentals, the agent said. Saipov even rented a truck on Oct. 22 to practice making turns, Tyree said.

    He even considering displaying Daesh flags on the truck during the attack but decided against it because he did not want to draw the attention, authorities said.

    John Miller, deputy New York police commissioner for intelligence, said Saipov “appears to have followed, almost exactly to a T, the instructions that ISIS has put out.”

    In the past few years, Daesh has exhorted followers online to use vehicles, knives or other close-at-hand means of killing people in their home countries. England, France and Germany have all seen deadly vehicle attacks since mid-2016.

    A November 2016 issue of the group’s online magazine detailed features that an attack truck or van should have, suggested renting such a vehicle and recommended targeting crowded streets and outdoor gatherings, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a militant-monitoring agency.

    Carlos Batista, a neighbour of Saipov’s in Paterson, New Jersey, said he had seen the suspect and two friends using the same model of rented truck several times in the past three weeks.

    It was not clear whether Saipov had been on authorities’ radar. Miller said Saipov had never been the subject of a criminal investigation but appears to have links to people who have been investigated.

    In Tuesday’s attack, Saipov drove his speeding truck for nearly a mile along a bike path, running down cyclists and pedestrians, then crashed into a school bus, authorities said. He was shot in the abdomen after he jumped out of the vehicle brandishing two air guns, one in each hand, and yelling “God is great!” in Arabic, they said.

    In addition to those killed, 12 people were injured.

    The aftermath took a political turn Wednesday when U.S. President Donald Trump slammed the visa lottery program that Saipov used to come to the U.S. in 2010. Trump called the program “a Chuck Schumer beauty,” a reference to the Senate’s top Democrat.

    The program dates to 1990, when then-president George H.W. Bush signed it as part of a bipartisan immigration bill. Trump called on Congress to eliminate it, saying, “We have to get much tougher, much smarter and less politically correct.”

    Schumer, who represents New York, said in a statement that he has always believed that immigration “is good for America,” and he accused the president of “politicizing and dividing” the country.

    Assailants in a number of other recent extremist attacks around the world were found to have been “lone wolves” — inspired but not actually directed by Daesh. In some cases, they never even made contact with the group.

    On the morning after the bloodshed, city leaders vowed New York would not be intimidated, and they commended New Yorkers for going ahead with Halloween festivities on Tuesday night.

    They also said Sunday’s New York City Marathon, with 50,000 participants and some 2 million spectators anticipated, will go on as scheduled.

    “We will not be cowed. We will not be thrown off by anything,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

    While the mayor said there have been no credible threats of any additional attacks, police said they were adding more sniper teams, bomb-sniffing dogs, helicopters, sand-truck barricades and other security measures along the marathon route, in the subways and at other sites.

    The attack killed five people from Argentina, one from Belgium and two Americans, authorities said. Nine people remained hospitalized in serious or critical condition, with injuries that included lost limbs and wounds to the head, chest and neck.

    A roughly two-mile stretch of highway in lower Manhattan was closed for much of the day for the investigation. Authorities also converged on Saipov’s New Jersey apartment building and a van in a parking lot at a New Jersey Home Depot.

    Runners and cyclists who use the popular bike path were diverted from the crime scene by officers at barricades.

    “It’s the messed-up world we live in these days,” said Dave Hartie, 57, who works in finance and rides his bike along the path every morning. “Part of me is surprised it doesn’t happen more often.”

    The slight, bearded Saipov is a legal, permanent U.S. resident. He lived in Ohio and Florida before moving to New Jersey around June, authorities said.

    Birth records show he and his wife had two daughters in Ohio, and a neighbour in New Jersey said they recently had a baby boy.

    Saipov was a commercial truck driver in Ohio. More recently, he was an Uber driver.

    In Ohio, Saipov was an argumentative young man whose career was falling apart and who was “not happy with his life,” said Mirrakhmat Muminov, a fellow truck driver from heavily Muslim Uzbekistan.

    Saipov lost his insurance on his truck after his rates shot up because of a few traffic tickets, and companies stopped hiring him, said Muminov, 38, of Stow, Ohio. Muminov said he heard from Saipov’s friends that Saipov’s truck engine blew a few months ago in New Jersey.

    Muminov said Saipov would get into arguments with friends and family, tangling over even small things, such as going to a picnic with the Uzbek community.

    “He had the habit of disagreeing with everybody,” Muminov said.

    He said he and Saipov would sometimes argue about politics and world affairs, including Israel and Palestine. He said Saipov never spoke about Daesh, but he could tell his friend held radical views.


    FBI seeking 2nd suspect in connection with New York City truck attack FBI seeking 2nd suspect in connection with New York City truck attack FBI seeking 2nd suspect in connection with New York City truck attackFBI seeking 2nd suspect in connection with New York City truck attack FBI seeking 2nd suspect in connection with New York City truck attack FBI seeking 2nd suspect in connection with New York City truck attack

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    This week, as we count down to the Star’s 125th anniversary, we revisit stories that have inspired readers and changed lives.

    For Phillipa Lue, the death of her 6-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, was not in vain.

    Nearly three decades have passed since the plight of the terminally ill Toronto girl, in need of a bone marrow donor, spurred strangers in this city to come forward and assist in extraordinary ways.

    In March 1990, a frantic four-month campaign was launched to try to save Elizabeth. The brave girl with long hair and short bangs suffered from aplastic anemia, a very rare disorder caused by the failure of her bone marrow to make blood cells.

    Elizabeth required marrow from a stranger, so her normally shy mother put her HR job on hold and reached out for help to launch a massive drive in search of a matching donor.

    As the Save Elizabeth Lue campaign began, the Star was the first news outlet to write about it, and did dozens more stories, as other media joined in. Her face was all over the news.

    But no match was found. Elizabeth died that August.

    Her mother, and those who were close to the campaign at the time, say her legacy lives on. As a result of the campaign, Canada’s registry of potential bone marrow and stem cell donors was bolstered by thousands of new names, particularly those from the Chinese community and other Asian communities.

    In memory of her daughter, Phillipa Lue is encouraging more visible minorities to sign up as potential donors, to improve the chances of survival for people from diverse communities who need bone marrow and stem cell transplants. Lives have been saved.

    Just over $1 million was donated by the public to help pay for the testing needed in the search for a matching donor for Elizabeth. And remaining money in the foundation set up in her name has since been used to support bone marrow and stem cell drives for more than a dozen other people.

    The effort to find a match for Elizabeth also brought forward Torontonians, Canadians and people around the world — not just of Chinese descent.

    “I underestimated the passion and generosity of Canadians,” said Dr. Joseph Wong, a family physician and one of the key organizers of the Elizabeth Lue drive 27 years ago.

    The campaign began after Phillipa and her husband, Gary, got the news from doctors Dec. 29, 1989, that Elizabeth was terminally ill with aplastic anemia.

    “Then you watch her just waste away in front of your eyes and you’re not able to help her to bear the pain and suffering she’s going through,” Phillipa, who lives in Markham, said in a recent interview.

    Neither Phillipa nor Gary nor Elizabeth’s brother Michael were suitable matches for a bone marrow donation. Nor were there matches on the Canadian Red Cross registry (now Canadian Blood Services). To get on the registry at that time, you had to be a blood donor.

    One possible solution emerged: mount a campaign to find a stranger to donate marrow.

    The chances of finding a suitable match for Elizabeth in the Chinese community were better at 1 in 4,000 — due to genetic similarities. But that meant people had to put their names on the bone marrow registry. They had to have blood drawn and consent to donate marrow if their blood test revealed a match.

    Marrow is in our bones and produces oxygen-carrying red cells, white cells used to ward off infection and platelets that clot blood and stop bleeding. Aplastic anemia halts production of these cells. To treat it, damaged bone marrow is destroyed, then replaced by a donor’s healthy marrow.

    Matching donors provide marrow through a process in which doctors stick a needle into the donor’s pelvic bone to draw the jellylike bone marrow out.

    But there were challenges in trying to rescue Elizabeth. For one thing doctors gave her only a few months to live after the diagnosis. There were the logistics of rallying volunteers to help launch the drive. And there would be costs to test people who came to the drive — $75 (U.S.) a person.

    What’s more, in parts of the Chinese community, giving blood was not something done readily. According to cultural beliefs held by some, bones, blood, human tissue and organs are considered sacred because they are passed down from one’s parents.

    Phillipa called Dr. Wong, a leader in Toronto’s Chinese community, for help to find a donor.

    Busy with his medical practice and other commitments, he was reluctant. He knew that about 120 volunteers would be needed to launch the search. And where would the money come from for the testing?

    “I agreed after agonizing consideration that I could not bear to see a 6-year-old girl die due to the excuse I’m too busy,” Wong, 69, said in a recent interview.

    He assembled a team including Lue’s parents and some of their relatives. There were also volunteers such as Pauline Tong, who was active in the Chinese community; Dr. Marshall Deltoff, a Toronto chiropractor; and Helen Cox, a lab company executive who helped organize IV nurses, lab technicians and people experienced in taking blood.

    Dr. Wong contacted Star reporter Tony Wong (no relation) to get some exposure. Tony met Elizabeth at the Hospital for Sick Children.

    “I saw Elizabeth and my heart broke,” Tony Wong, now a television critic for the Star, said recently. “I knew we (the Star) had to do something.”

    The Star carried its first story March 16, 1990, with the headline “Right donor could save life of 6-year-old with anemia.”

    Clinics were set up in Scarborough, Toronto, Markham and other locations for potential donors to give blood. Dr. Wong arrived at the Toronto clinic in Grange Park at 8:30 a.m. on April 1 to get ready for the 10 a.m. opening, and was shocked by what he saw: 100 people already in line.

    A total of 1,800 people showed up at the clinics that first day. And financial donations from across the country would soon pour in through banks.

    “Donations from places I’d never heard of in Canada — the response was so amazing, not just from the Chinese community,” Dr. Wong recalled.

    Added Pauline Tong, 68, a key volunteer: “I think a lot of people really identified” with Elizabeth.

    Helped by some friends, Dr. Wong secured a $150,000 line of credit — money needed to send the blood collected to a U.S. lab for testing, to get marrow data.

    Potential donors were tested for human leukocyte antigens, which are immune system recognition signals. Six antigens needed to be identical to the recipient.

    By early June 1990, more than 5,300 people had been tested in clinics, costing nearly $450,000. No match was found.

    As interest in the story spread, the registry grew and the search expanded overseas. In June two potential donors were found in Taiwan. But they were soon deemed not close enough a match for Elizabeth.

    Elizabeth’s tissue type was sent to Singapore, and officials in China and Hong Kong — along with Jamaica, where Elizabeth’s family comes from — were contacted, with no success.

    By early July 1990, 10,000 people had been tested in Canada, their names added to the registry. The number of Asians on registries in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan had also increased.

    But by late July the search for a donor for Elizabeth was abandoned. Her condition had worsened to the point she wouldn’t survive a transplant. On Aug. 31 she died in her mother’s arms.

    For Phillipa and the family, anniversaries of her death, birthdays and holidays are painful. But she knows some good also came from the tragedy.

    Among the people helped by the bolstered registry was a New Jersey woman named Cammy Lee.

    Lee, 44, is alive thanks to a bone marrow transplant from Virginia Lau of Richmond Hill in 1992. That operation was performed to treat Lee’s leukemia. Shortly afterward, Lee received four life-saving doses of Lau’s fresh T cells from her blood, a procedure used to treat Lee’s lymphoma. Lee has been cancer-free ever since.

    Lee met Lau in Toronto in 1994 — along with Elizabeth’s parents, who came face to face with a woman saved by the campaign for Elizabeth.

    On the phone from New Jersey, Lee said “Virginia saved my life.” She is also grateful to Elizabeth.

    Lee would become a recruiter for the National Marrow Donor Program in the U.S. She sought out Asian Americans, and encouraged them to become marrow and stem cell donors.

    Stem cell transplants are now the more common method because donors only lose the stem cells in their peripheral blood — a tiny fraction of one’s whole blood.

    According to a recent statement from Canadian Blood Services, almost 420,000 volunteer donors are registered with the service’s OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network to help any patient in need. OneMatch is also part of an international network of 75 registries and 53 (umbilical) cord blood banks that are part of a global database.

    Currently 32 per cent of the OneMatch registry is non-Caucasian, Canadian Blood Services says. When Elizabeth was seeking a donor it was 2 per cent.

    Elizabeth Lue’s mother wants to see further increases.

    “If you’re a patient and you’re a racial minority, your chances (of finding a bone marrow/stem cell donor) are slim. Most of the banks in the world are Caucasian and our bank in Canada is about (70 per cent) Caucasian,” said Lue.

    Looking back, Lue says her daughter “really didn’t stand a chance” during the 1990 donor drive because the pool was just too small.

    “Time ran out . . . it’s a numbers game. That’s just the way it is.”

    Read more on the Star’s 125th anniversary in Saturday’s special Insight section and athttps://www.thestar.com/anniversary.html


    Little Elizabeth Lue left a legacy that has helped save livesLittle Elizabeth Lue left a legacy that has helped save lives

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    TORONTO—A murder trial has heard that the final cellphone call from a Toronto woman who vanished five years ago connected with a cell tower near the home of a man accused of killing her.

    Danielle Fortier, who works with Rogers Communications, says that call was made at 7:03 p.m on July 3, 2012, and no texts or messages have been sent from the phone since then.

    Dellen Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Mark Smich, 30 of Oakville, Ont., are facing first-degree murder charges in the presumed death of Laura Babcock, whose body has not been found.

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

    Court has heard that Millard was sleeping with several women at the time of Babcock’s disappearance and didn’t care much about the animosity between Babcock and his girlfriend.

    Both Millard and Smich have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

    Read more:

    Laura Babcock had an intense fear of death since childhood, court hears in murder trial for Dellen Millard and Mark Smich

    Accused killer Dellen Millard appears to be getting comfortable acting as his own lawyer: DiManno

    Trial into Laura Babcock's murder hears of bitter text message exchange: DiManno


    Laura Babcock’s final cellphone call connected with cell tower near Dellen Millard’s home, court hearsLaura Babcock’s final cellphone call connected with cell tower near Dellen Millard’s home, court hears

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    OTTAWA—The number of cabinet ministers in the same boat as Finance Minister Bill Morneau — who hung onto publicly traded shares in a numbered corporation — is “fewer than five” and “could be one, two, three or four,” says the federal ethics watchdog.

    It was an astonishingly vague statement that prompted mockery on Twitter and fuelled theatric outrage in the Commons.

    Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer taunted the finance minister about how many of his colleagues had squirreled away assets: “Am I getting warmer or colder? It is more than one, but less than five. Is it four? Is it three? Is it two? Why cannot this minister just answer simple questions? Who are the other ministers and how many are there?”

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and now Morneau, say the number is two: Morneau, who said he has now “divested” his Morneau Shepell shares and put other assets into a blind trust; and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, whose assets held by her and her husband’s investment management company were sold off in April 2016.

    But Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson — who says those assets are nonetheless legally held — refuses to be precise.

    Not about this government, nor about the last.

    Dawson now says that “fewer than five” cabinet ministers in the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper also did the same thing as Morneau — held controlled assets indirectly.

    That stands in contrast to the number 21 cited by Morneau Tuesday when he tried to turn tables on his Opposition critics and challenged whether “21 members on the other side of the House who have private corporations” had disclosed all their assets to Dawson, as he claimed he had done.

    Yet Morneau admitted he has paid the $200 fine Dawson levied for belated disclosure of his ownership of a French company that holds his family villa in Provence, calling it an “administrative error.”

    And Morneau dropped any talk of what previous Conservative MPs may or may not have done.

    Dawson’s office — whose job it is to parse the personal portfolios of every MP to ensure ethical rules are not broken — will not identify either Liberals or Conservatives, saying their asset declarations to her are confidential.

    Her office tried — in vain — to set the record straight after the Globe and Mail said Dawson was “at odds with” the PMO over the number of Liberal ministers who currently hold controlled assets indirectly.

    That’s what got Morneau in hot water when it was revealed he’d never put those assets in a blind trust — as many had assumed — because Dawson had told him the law did not require it.

    On Thursday, Dawson’s spokesperson Jocelyne Brisebois said the commissioner “did not wish to give an exact number” of who else is using what the Opposition calls the Morneau loophole.

    Pressed by the Star to clarify what authority prevented the ethics commissioner from being more precise, Brisebois said the information “is not required to be made public.”

    “Confidential disclosures are kept confidential as contemplated by the Conflict of Interest Act. Providing a range rather than a precise number provides some information, but is as far as we feel it is appropriate to go.”

    Instead, the ethics watchdog took refuge in obscurity, saying the number was “fewer than five, giving a general sense of an upper limit to the number, meaning it could be one, two, three or four.”

    The statement triggered hilarity on Twitter. CBC’s parliamentary writer Aaron Wherry tweeted “Ethics commissioner's office confirms that numbers fewer than five include four, three, two and one…. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has not yet commented.”

    But it prompted the NDP to claim Dawson has said “up to five” ministers used the loophole.

    As for the number of Conservatives who ever used it, the Ottawa Citizen previously reported that former Conservative finance minister Joe Oliver was “sole owner of a private corporation which owns investment accounts” and his wife had a locked-in retirement account composed of publicly traded securities, that were not considered directly controlled because they were in pooled accounts. Oliver himself tweeted Wednesday that after his appointment to cabinet he sold all his publicly traded shares, and all his investments “were in open ended funds as permitted by conflict act.” He said all decisions for fund portfolios were made by third party fund managers, and his only other assets were his home, personal effects and bank accounts.

    As well, the newspaper had reported Oliver’s predecessor Jim Flaherty’s wife Christine Elliott, held a portfolio of Canadian equities while her husband was in cabinet.

    Dawson had urged the previous Conservative government close the loophole allowing indirect holdings of controlled assets when the act was under review in 2013. The Commons ethics committee says it will take a new look at the provisions, and summon Dawson to testify.


    Ethics watchdog cagey over who holds whatEthics watchdog cagey over who holds what

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    Canada’s democratic institutions minister is considering tougher digital political advertising rules after social media giants detailed how Kremlin-linked operators harnessed their platforms to rile Americans over divisive issues in the 2016 U.S. election.

    “I am actively thinking and working on ways to ensure that (the Elections) Act is up to date with regard to new technology,” Minister Karina Gould said in a phone interview Thursday.

    “I’m looking (at the act) to ensure the mechanisms we have in place are strong enough, and if they’re not, to ensure we’re doing what we can so that’s not an area that can be exploited.”

    Her remarks come a day after hotly anticipated back-to-back hearings on Capitol Hill in which representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google provided the most detailed account thus far of how foreign groups used the sites in an attempt to meddle in the presidential election.

    The three tech giants previously admitted Russian groups, including a St Petersburg-based troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, placed thousands of ads and used fake accounts and automated bots to sow false information and discord.

    Dozens of examples released by congressional investigators Wednesday show the posts extended well beyond favouring then-candidate, now-president Donald Trump, but had more to do with incendiary issues such as gun laws, LGBT rights, race relations and immigration. Some targeted swing states and people as young as 13. Others may have confused and suppressed voters.

    Gould said she is paying close attention to what transpired in the U.S. and that securing Canada’s next vote from the rapidly evolving threat of foreign and malicious interference is top priority.

    She didn’t rule out stricter laws for digital advertising — something the Chief Electoral Officer and Senate have urged. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also included a review of the third-party spending regime during and between elections in his latest marching orders to the minister.

    “That obviously includes any advertising that would be done online, and so I’m certainly thinking about what the possible changes are to the Canada Elections Act,” Gould said.

    “We do need to think critically because we do regulate other media platforms in Canada, in terms of how they share election advertising (and) with regards to outside influence . . . I think social media platforms do fall under that,” she said.

    She added the review is “actively underway” but could not commit to a timeline beyond “relatively soon.”

    Elections Canada has already indicated any changes must be enacted by spring 2018 in order to be implemented in time for the 2019 federal election.

    Currently it’s illegal in Canada for foreign entities to “induce” voters to cast their ballots a certain way — but the chief electoral officer has said that language is vague and difficult to enforce.

    The chief electoral officer was backed up earlier this year by a Senate committee that also poked holes in the law that could allow foreign actors to bankroll third parties — such as associations, unions, advocacy groups — to undermine the democratic process.

    Foreign entities aren’t allowed to fund third parties for the purpose of election advertising. But third parties aren’t required to disclose contributions they receive beyond the six months before the writ drops and during the campaign period.

    So it’s plausible a foreign entity could give a third party money outside that window to buy political ads, and no one would know.

    There have also been cries to update the definition of election advertising, which includes paid print, radio, TV and internet spots. It doesn’t include text, email or social media messages posted for free, such as a tweet or YouTube video.

    Facebook and Twitter executives told U.S. Congress the Russia-linked posts in question weren’t limited to paid content.

    The chief electoral officer also wants to make is a specific offence to spread false or misleading information about a candidate or political campaign online.

    Sen. Linda Frum has introduced a private member’s bill to close the gaps in Canadian elections law. U.S. lawmakers are having a mirror debate with the recently proposed Honest Ads Act.

    In the meantime Facebook and Twitter have introduced measures to improve political ad transparency on their platforms and to crack down on fake and automated accounts. Facebook and Google have also launched digital media literacy campaigns in Canada to combat the scourge of so-called fake news. The companies have all pledged to continue to co-operate with congressional investigators as well.

    Gould lauded the platforms for self-policing but said it’s only a first step.

    “Social media platforms need to be thinking about their internal processes to ensure that we avoid these types of campaigns in the future.”


    Federal government eyeing tougher rules for digital election advertisingFederal government eyeing tougher rules for digital election advertising

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    NEW YORK—A seething U.S. President Donald Trump is placing blame for the current state of the widening Russia investigation on his son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to a report Wednesday.

    As indictments were unsealed against former Trump campaign staff and special counsel Robert Mueller revealed Monday that at least one former Trump campaign adviser has pleaded guilty to federal charges, Trump’s frustration with Kushner has grown exponentially, Vanity Fair reported.

    The charges against former campaign chairperson Paul Manafort, which Trump himself said happened “long before” he joined the eventual GOP nominee’s team, should also worry the president, according to former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg.

    Read more:

    Donald Trump handily survives latest Russia revelations: Walkom

    Upstairs at the White House, fuming with the TV on: How Donald Trump digested the Russia indictments

    Papadopoulos claims Trump campaign officials agreed to pre-election meeting with Russia

    “Here’s what Manafort’s indictment tells me: Mueller is going to go over every financial dealing of Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization,” Nunberg said. “Trump is at 33 per cent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s f ---ed.”

    Manafort and business associate Rick Gates face 12 felony counts, including money laundering, conspiracy and acting as unregistered foreign agents.

    In a call Tuesday with former White House Chief strategist Stephen Bannon, Trump laid the blame for the expanding scandal surrounding Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference squarely on Kushner’s shoulders, Nunberg told Vanity Fair.

    “Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.”

    Bannon, back at his old role as the head of conservative news site Breitbart, has reportedly advised the president to shake up his legal team and do all he can to pressure Congress to defund Mueller’s investigation, sources told Vanity Fair.

    “Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to be a clean shot on goal,” a Bannon confidant told the magazine. “He must be contested and checked. Right now he has unchecked power.”

    In an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Trump insisted he wasn’t upset about Mueller’s moves.

    “It has nothing to do with us,” Trump said.

    Asked about another report that he’s been “angry at everybody,” Trump told the paper, “Actually, I’m not angry with anybody.”


    Trump blames son-in-law Jared Kushner for Mueller’s widening Russia probe, report saysTrump blames son-in-law Jared Kushner for Mueller’s widening Russia probe, report says

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    A coalition of unions is using Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown own campaign commercial in a new attack ad against him.

    Working Families — funded by public- and private-sector unions — released its latest TV spot Thursday, entitled “Can You Believe Patrick Brown?”

    The 30-second commercial hacks Brown’s slick ad from earlier this year that was designed to showcase the Tories’ moderate direction.

    “It doesn’t matter who you are; it doesn’t matter where you’re from; it doesn’t matter who you love,” says Brown, as a Working Families graphic splashes across the screen reminding viewers that “Patrick Brown Opposed Marriage Equality” as a Conservative MP in Ottawa.

    “It doesn’t matter if you belong to a union,” he says, as the words “Patrick Brown Voted To Restrict Unions” are superimposed over his photograph.

    “It doesn’t matter how much you make,” Brown intones, as “Patrick Brown Wants Minimum-Wage Hike Delayed” appears on screen, a reference to his concerns over the $11.60 hourly wage jumping to $14 in January and $15 in 2019.

    “It doesn’t matter where you worship,” he continues, as “Patrick Brown Supported A Burka Ban” is emblazoned across footage of him at a temple and marching with Sikhs in the Khalsa Day parade.

    “You have a home in the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario,” the PC leader concludes.

    It’s the second ad targetting Brown by Working Families, an influential coalition that has helped swing the last four Ontario elections to the Liberals with attack ads against the Tories.

    With voters headed to the polls on June 7, 2018, the unions have been hammering the Tory leader on his voting record as an MP in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government between 2006 and 2015.

    Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) suggested Working Families is just doing the Liberal premier’s bidding.

    “Life is good for Kathleen Wynne’s well-connected friends and they’ll do and say anything to keep it that way,” said MacLeod, who has also been critical of Working Ontario Women, a similar anti-Tory group bankrolled by the Service Employees International Union.

    Last week, Working Families depicted Brown as a cartoon weathervane atop the legislative assembly whose views on major issues constantly change.

    “Patrick Brown will say anything to get elected. He now says he’s pro-choice, but when it counted Patrick Brown had a 100 per cent pro-life voting record,” said the announcer.

    “He now says he supports equal marriage, but when it counted he voted against it,” he continued.

    “He now says he welcomes labour into his party, but when it counted his votes hurt working people. When it counts for us, Patrick Brown can’t be counted on. He just blows with the winds of political opportunity.”


    Unions using Patrick Brown's ad against himUnions using Patrick Brown's ad against him

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    A 50-year-old woman detained by Canadian immigration officials in a maximum-security jail in Milton died on Monday, according to a brief news release from the Canada Border Services Agency.

    The agency, which has the power to arrest and jail non-citizens, would not disclose the woman’s identity, country of origin or her cause of death, as per its usual protocol.

    The woman is the 10th person to die in immigration detention in the last five years and at least the sixteenth since 2000.

    Immigration detainees are not criminally charged, but are detained on an indefinite basis, either because they have been deemed a danger to the public, are unlikely to show up for their deportation or because their identity is in doubt.

    The average length of detention last year was 19.5 days, but there is no limit to how long someone can stay in detention and some cases drag on for months or years.

    In Ontario, immigration detainees are held either at the Immigration Holding Centre, a minimum-security facility in Etobicoke exclusive to immigration detainees, or in maximum-security provincial jails, where they are treated as sentenced criminals and those awaiting trial are.

    An immigration detainee’s detention is reviewed every 30 days by the quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board, but where the person is detained is at the sole discretion of CBSA officers and is not subject to any oversight.

    This aspect of the system was recently criticized by Superior Court Justice Alfred O’Marra, who ordered longtime immigration detainee Ebrahim Toure, who had spent four-and-a-half years in a maximum-security jail, to be transferred immediately to the less-restrictive Immigration Holding Centre.

    The woman who died on Monday was detained at the Vanier Centre for Women, where she was apparently “found in medical distress and immediately taken to hospital,” according to the agency’s release.

    She died “shortly thereafter.”

    The CBSA did not clarify whether she died at, or on the way to, the hospital, nor did it say to which hospital she was taken.

    It also had not responded at press time to the Star’s questions on how long the woman had been detained nor the grounds for her detention.

    Canada’s immigration detention system has come under increased scrutiny this year, in the wake of a number of high-profile court challenges.

    In April, Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer released Kashif Ali, who had spent seven years in maximum-security jail because immigration officials were unable to deport him, saying Canada could not “purport to hold someone in detention forever.”

    In August, Justice Edward Morgan ordered the immediate release of an immigration detainee whom, he said, was jailed “for no real reason at all.”

    The Liberal government has vowed to improve the system, saying it intends to reduce the use of maximum-security jails and expand alternatives to detention. The Liberals are detaining fewer people for immigration purposes than the Conservatives did under Stephen Harper, according to the most recent statistics

    But they have not made any policy changes to a system that has been widely criticized by human rights organizations.

    “People keep dying in immigration holding centres and maximum-security prisons,” said Nisha Toomey, spokeswoman for the End Immigration Detention Network.

    “People will stop dying when the Canadian government stops leaving them there to die.”

    This latest immigration detention death is the fourth since March 2016, when Melkioro Gahunga and Francisco Astorga both died in a single week.

    Gahunga, a 64-year-old Burundian refugee, reportedly hanged himself at the Toronto East Detention Centre, while Astorga, a 39-year-old Chilean migrant, died after overdosing on fentanyl and methamphetamine, according to a coroner’s inquest into his death.

    A 24-year-old man died at the Edmonton Remand Centre in May 2016.

    His identity, country of origin and cause of death have never been disclosed.


    50-year-old woman dies in immigration detention50-year-old woman dies in immigration detention

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    A class-action lawsuit is not the best way for the thousands of families across Canada affected by Motherisk’s flawed drug and alcohol testing to fight for compensation in court, a Toronto judge has ruled.

    In his decision not to certify a proposed national class-action lawsuit related to the litany of problems uncovered at the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk lab, Superior Court Justice Paul Perell said that because of the “intensely individualistic” nature of the claims, individual lawsuits would be more “efficient and expeditious.”

    “The significant damages are caused not by the common unreliability of the tests, but by an individual’s test being wrong with sometimes tragic consequences,” he said. “Class members should not suffer the disappointment of a class action that will not take them far enough on the path to substantive justice.”

    Perell noted that there are already 328 named plaintiffs pursuing claims outside of the class-action lawsuit.

    The lawyers for the plaintiff said Thursday they plan to appeal the decision to Divisional Court.

    “The main thrust of the decision, that these individuals should proceed to soldier on in individual cases, we fundamentally disagree with,” lawyer Jody Brown said. “It would be uneconomical to have thousands of (people) litigating on the same issues and it would deny people access to the courts.”

    Brown said they also “strongly disagree” with Perell’s finding on punitive damages, which the plaintiff had asked him to certify on top of ordinary compensation, arguing that the defendants — who include Sick Kids, Motherisk founder Dr. Gideon Koren and former lab manager Joey Gareri — prioritized business interests over providing reliable test results.

    Perell said: “However egregious the conduct of Dr. Koren and Mr. Gareri in increasing the Hospital’s not-for-profit revenues and however egregious the failure of the administration of the hospital to supervise its Motherisk laboratory, and, however tragic and heartbreaking the outcomes in individual cases, a punitive award would ultimately not be visited on the defendants but rather would be inflicted on the sick children at the hospital.”

    But Brown said no entity should be “immune” from punitive damages simply because they do good work outside of the bounds of a court case.

    Perell’s ruling underscores the complexity of a national tragedy with no easy fix that was the product of failings across multiple systems, including the hospital, child protection and the courts, as the Star has reported.

    Sick Kids made millions from Motherisk’s hair-strand tests, which influenced criminal cases, private custody fights and thousands of child protection decisions, ranging from parents who briefly came under the scrutiny of a child welfare agency to cases where children were removed permanently.

    The proposed class-action sought compensation for the estimated 10,000 individuals who produced a positive Motherisk test from 2005 to 2015, the period during which a government-commissioned review deemed the lab’s testing to be “inadequate and unreliable” for use in legal proceedings.

    If it were certified, the class-action lawsuit would have included a common issues trial, where issues shared across the class could be decided, followed by individual issues trials, where the unique circumstances in individual cases could be determined.

    But even if the plaintiff in this case proved in a common issues trial that there was a class-wide breach of duty of care, the most substantive issues — whether Motherisk’s tests were “unreliable, false and adversely influential to the outcome of the individual’s court proceedings” — would still have to be decided individually, Perell said.

    This “truth about the causation of the harm” explains why the Motherisk Commission, which is probing affected child protection files in Ontario, established a process to pinpoint cases where the testing had a “significant impact” on the outcome, he said.

    “The Motherisk Commission recognized that an unreliable test that did not influence the result of the court proceedings does not occasion a harm for which there might be compensatory damages,” he said.

    Lawyer Darryl Cruz, who represents Koren, said Perell made the right decision.

    The “issues are simply too individualized to be decided across the entire population of people who were tested at Motherisk and this decision will allow issues to be litigated fairly through the regular court process,” he said.

    Queen’s Park appointed retired judge Susan Lang to probe Motherisk in late 2014 after a Star investigation exposed questions about the reliability of the lab’s hair tests. Sick Kids initially defended the reliability of Motherisk’s testing, but closed the lab in the spring of 2015 after learning it had been misled about Motherisk’s international proficiency testing results.

    Sick Kids CEO Michael Apkon issued a public apology in October 2015. Koren retired in June of 2015, and is now working in Israel.

    Led by retired judge Judy Beaman, the Motherisk Commission has so far identified 50 cases where Motherisk testing had a significant impact on decisions to remove children from their families.

    Rachel Mendleson can be reached at rmendleson@thestar.ca.


    Judge rejects proposed class-action over Motherisk drug-testing scandalJudge rejects proposed class-action over Motherisk drug-testing scandal

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    A veteran truck driver and father of nine who worked tirelessly to support his family in northeastern Ontario was one of three people killed in a pileup that set off a massive fireball on a highway north of Toronto, his grieving wife said Thursday.

    Nikiyah Mulak-Dunn said she first feared the worst for her husband Benjamin Dunn after a friend pointed out images in the media of what appeared to be his truck engulfed in flames.

    Related story:At least three people dead following collision, explosion on Hwy. 400

    Provincial police later confirmed the grim news, plunging the family into despair and uncertainty, she said. Grief counsellors have been at the family's North Bay home to help Mulak-Dunn talk to her children, who are between one and 16 years old, about the loss of their father, she said.

    “It's just been devastating,” she said. “I don't know where we're at right now, we're just trying to process and we're all in shock and disbelief and just pretty traumatized, I'd say, so it's going to have to be day by day.”

    She said her husband — who was the family's sole breadwinner — had been working as a trucker for at least a decade and drove that same route regularly. He also juggled two other jobs as a miner and a welder, she said.

    “He was just a devoted and hardworking husband and father and he would just do anything for anyone if they asked and even if they didn't ask, he was a very caring, intuitive person. He loved people and cared about them a lot.”

    Friends have rallied behind the grieving family, organizing meal trains and offering to plow their driveway all winter, Mulak-Dunn said. Others have launched online fundraising campaigns.

    Police have not publicly identified those killed Tuesday night in the multi-vehicle crash on Hwy. 400 that set off a massive fireball and sent motorists running for their lives.

    That stretch of highway south of Barrie was closed for more than 24 hours after the crash, which police have said involved at least four transport trucks and two fuel tankers that spilled thousands of litres of fuel on the road.

    Police said the impact sent a wave of fuel and flames rushing down the highway, leaving behind charred, twisted metal and debris. One lane of the northbound highway will be closed again sometime Thursday for an environmental cleanup, they said.

    The cause of the crash remains under investigation but police suggested the blame may lie with the driver of a transport truck they say crashed into slowing traffic.

    Just days earlier, provincial police had sounded the alarm about fatal collisions caused by distracted truck drivers.

    The force said last week that since Jan. 1, its officers have tracked more than 5,000 transport truck-related collisions that have left 67 people dead.

    The Ontario Trucking Association has said the industry is committed to road safety, noting that there has been a 66 per cent decrease in the fatality rate from large truck collisions between 1995 and 2014 despite a 75 per cent rise in large truck vehicle registrations.


    ‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash

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    Toronto city council has appointed Lucy Troisi to replace the late Pam McConnell as the councillor for Ward 28, rejecting the McConnell family’s pick.

    Troisi, executive director of the Cabbagetown Youth Centre, got the votes of council’s right-leaning allies of Mayor John Tory although Tory himself voted for Mike Creek, an anti-poverty activist the McConnell family wanted to succeed her.

    In an interview after the close vote, which went to a second ballot, Troisi did not hide her support for Tory’s agenda including low property taxes and the Scarborough subway.

    “I don’t know if that made the difference but absolutely I like the mayor’s agenda and I’ll be supporting that,” on council, Troisi told reporters.

    McConnell was Tory’s anti-poverty advocate, but also a leader of council’s left wing who regularly voted against the mayor on issues including budget reductions, the Scarborough subway and keeping the east Gardiner expressway elevated instead of turning into a ground-level boulevard.

    But Troisi, who worked with McConnell on initiatives when Troisi was a manager in the city parks department, said she can fulfill McConnell’s legacy in the year that she will hold the seat. Troisi, like most of the candidates, vowed not to use the appointment as a springboard to running in the 2018 election.

    “Absolutely, I’ll be pushing the poverty-equity agenda for sure,” she said, adding council needed another female voice on council.

    Her priorities, she said, will include Regent Park redevelopment and protecting Toronto islands from flooding.

    Ward 28, including the east downtown waterfront and from Sherbourne St. to the Don Valley Parkway north to Bloor St., is one of the busiest in the city, with booming development and wealth, but also significant poverty.

    Longtime representative McConnell died in July at age 71. Her council allies argued strongly for the appointment of Creek, a longtime anti-poverty activist who worked closely with McConnell on many projects including Regent Park, where he was also her neighbour.

    Creek, who was once homeless and is openly gay, told council he hoped to continue his mentor’s work. “I spoke with Pam every day,” he said, promising to be a non-partisan, collaborative voice at council.

    Creek, director of strategic initiatives at the non-profit Working for Change, would give the ward “the collaborative, engaging and respectful approach that characterized Pam and which led to her success as a political leader,” McConnell’s husband and children said in a letter to councillors.

    Councillor Joe Mihevc, another Creek supporter, tabled four pages of endorsements for him from a host of Ward 28 activists and community group leaders, as well as former mayor Barbara Hall.

    Many of Troisi’s council supporters said they appreciated her roots in a big family with a disabled father, growing up in Regent Park, as well as the need to have more women on council plus her familiarity with city hall that should help her “hit the ground running.”

    Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, however, said Troisi got his vote for other reasons, noting city council will soon head into tough budget deliberations.

    “We’re going to be asked to make some tough decisions and I would like someone on this council who actually votes the way that I think this council should be going,” Minnan-Wong told council, adding Troisi had assured him she supports Tory’s agenda — “holding the line on taxes”, supporting the Scarborough subway and keeping the Gardiner aloft.

    Some of McConnell’s former council allies looked shaken after the vote.

    “Council’s right wing, despite the endorsements of 150 community leaders, has denied Ward 28 a vote at council,” said Councillor Mike Layton.


    Toronto council selects Tory supporter to replace Pam McConnellToronto council selects Tory supporter to replace Pam McConnell

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    Canada’s Indigenous population, Statistics Canada has recently reminded us, is growing at a rate that dwarfs that of the country’s non-Indigenous population.

    It is also a younger population. Close to 30 per cent of the Indigenous population is under 15, almost double the non-Indigenous percentage in that age group.

    And that youth too often starts behind.

    Canadian children who identify as First Nations, Metis or Inuit make up about 8 per cent of all Canadians aged 4 years and younger, yet they make up more than half the pre-schoolers in foster care.

    Of all children in foster care in this country, more than four in 10 are Indigenous.

    Children only get one childhood, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Thursday. So there must be some urgency in righting wrongs.

    But official Ottawa is where urgency goes to die.

    Two of the most vital measures of Indigenous reconciliation, the gap in child welfare funding and the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, have returned to centre stage this week.

    To listen to those seeking change in recent days is to hear the quintessential Canadian laments about stifling bureaucracy, overlapping jurisdictions and work being done at cross purposes.

    Bellegarde was in the capital Thursday for a “day of action” to press the government on a gnawing wound for Indigenous leaders, the continued foot-dragging by the Liberals who have been ordered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to stop discriminating against Indigenous on-reserve children on funding for health and welfare.

    Cindy Blackstock of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the AFN won a ruling against the government in January, 2016, and Ottawa has not moved despite three binding orders of non-compliance.

    It is a case of discrimination, nothing less.

    “Everybody gets it,” Bellegarde said. “Let’s get it done.’’

    Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott wants to move and she will convene an emergency meeting with the provinces in early 2018 to deal with the “crisis-level’’ rates of Indigenous children in care.

    The status quo is not working and reform of the child welfare system is immediately needed, she wrote in a letter to the provinces released this week.

    Philpott pledges Ottawa will step up and she concedes that much provincial work is already being done.

    As recently as June, Philpott was being accused of trying to quash provisions of the tribunal ruling, even as she maintained the government was merely trying to “clarify” provisions in an application for a judicial review.

    The provincial involvement is needed, but it raises the jurisdictional mess of 13 bilateral agreements.

    Ottawa, however, could move immediately and comply with the tribunal. The AFN has calculated $155 million is needed immediately to close the gap with off-reserve spending.

    A day earlier, more frustration was aired, this time from the national inquiry, a key to the Liberal reconciliation endeavour, but now an inquiry which has drawn national attention only for its false starts, postponed hearings, firings and resignations.

    It too is straddling jurisdictional lines legally, simultaneously holding 14 joint inquiries because each province and territory allowed it to probe within their jurisdiction.

    It is also trying to do things differently, de-colonizing the system on the go, as it put it in its interim report. The inquiry system it is working under is unable to respond quickly or flexibly based on “Indigenous worldviews.”

    It bared its list of frustrations.

    Federal privacy laws mean that Ottawa would not give the inquiry the contact information for victims’ families and survivors who were involved in the pre-inquiry period.

    Federal insistence on security clearances means it takes on average four months to hire someone and procurement policies mean it can take eight months to open an office. Even then, the inquiry said in its interim report, the offices opened without the telephones, computers and Internet service needed because of foot-dragging by bureaucrats.

    And Ottawa’s contract policies have meant it has been slow to pay cultural advisors or elders at the hearings or make timely payments for travel or out-of-pocket expenses. That makes it difficult to hire and keep Fire Keepers or Knowledge Keepers, positions that need to be filled if the inquiry is to deliver a family-first, non-colonial process.

    This government may have its heart in the right place when it comes to Indigenous reconciliation. But muscling aside an entrenched bureaucracy that slows, rather than speeds, action, will take more than that.

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


    Ottawa’s all talk and no action on Indigenous reconciliation: Tim HarperOttawa’s all talk and no action on Indigenous reconciliation: Tim Harper

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    The creation of an inspector general to monitor police services, penalties for officers who fail to co-operate in police watchdog investigations, and the ability to suspend officers without pay were part of an announcement Thursday to revamp policing and the police oversight system in Ontario.

    “The changes we are proposing today represent the largest transformation to Ontario's policing and community safety in over 25 years,” said Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Marie-France Lalonde, along with Attorney General Yasir Naqvi.

    The ability for chiefs to suspend officers without pay has been called upon for years, including by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. Ontario is currently the sole province in Canada that requires suspension with pay except when an officer is sentenced to jail time.

    Read more:

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    Circumstances in which an officer can now be suspended without pay in Ontario include when the officer is in custody or the subject of bail or other court conditions that prevent them from performing their usual police duties, as well as if charged with a serious offence that was not committed in the course of their duties.

    Changes to police oversight announced by the government Thursday include establishing penalties for officers who don't comply with oversight investigations, as well as setting timelines for investigations and reporting the results to the public.

    The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the arm's-length agency that probes police-involved death, serious injury and allegations of sexual assault, has often faced criticism for taking too long with its investigations. Naqvi also said Thursday the SIU, which falls under the jurisdiction of the attorney general, would be rebranded as the Ontario Special Investigations Unit.

    Other proposed changes include:

    Greater SIU powers of investigation: The changes give greater strength to the SIU, expanding its powers to launch investigations not only into the behaviour of on-duty current police officers, but former officers, special constables (such as those working for universities) and in certain circumstances, off-duty officers and members of First Nations police services

    Expanded SIU powers to lay criminal charges: The watchdog would be able to lay any criminal charge uncovered during an investigation — regardless of whether it is directly related to the death, serious injury or allegation of sexual assault that triggered the probe.

    Independent police complaints province-wide by 2022: Within the next five years the Ontario Policing Complaints Agency (formerly the Office of the Independent Police Review Director) would no longer refer its complaints back to police service where the complaint originated for an investigation. The agency would instead investigate almost all of these complaints itself.

    Penalties for non-cooperation: Both the SIU and the newly named Ontario Policing Complaints Agency would also be able to impose penalties for officers who fail to co-operate with its investigations. A non-cooperative officer could face a $50,000 fine, a year in jail, or both.

    Limiting police officers working for watchdogs: The legislation would give the government the ability to put a cap on the number of former police officers who could work within an investigative team on the SIU or who could be employed by the newly named OPCA.

    The new office of the inspector general would have the power to oversee and monitor police services and police services boards, the government said Thursday, and would be able to review complaints, including against board members and chiefs of police.

    “I want that person's name immediately, because I will be the first one reaching out to that person,” Joanne MacIsaac, whose brother Michael was shot and killed by Durham police in 2013, told the Star.

    Many of the oversight recommendations were in response to an independent review conducted by Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch.

    Last spring, the judge recommended major changes to Ontario's police watchdogs, including the SIU, which probes deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault involving police.

    The same day Tulloch released his comprehensive report to improve police oversight, Naqvi announced action on some of the key recommendations, including more transparency and the collection of race-based statistics by the SIU and the two other watchdogs.

    Naqvi reiterated the government's commitment Thursday to comply with another key Tulloch recommendation, saying the government is working toward posting previously secret SIU investigation reports.

    Many of the policing changes will form part of the Safer Ontario Act, which replaces the current Police Services Act. Changes to police oversight will be included in the new Police Oversight Act and Ontario Policing Discipline Tribunal Act.

    Currently, police oversight forms just a small part of the Police Services Act. Another Tulloch recommendation was that oversight should be in a separate piece of legislation.


    ‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’

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    The usual seasonal bounce in re-sale homes between September and October was more pronounced than usual this year in the Toronto region, growing 12 per cent.

    But there were still 2,597 — about 27 per cent — fewer sales this October compared to the same month last year.

    Home prices also rose 2.3 per cent year over year in October, but new numbers from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) on Thursday showed some areas are doing better than others.

    Read More:The Star looks at the present and future of Toronto housing

    The average price of a home — including all housing types from apartments to detached houses with yards — rose 2.3 per cent to $780,104, compared to $762,691 last year.

    But detached house prices were down 2.5 per cent across the region — a 4 per cent decline in the 905 area to an average price of $910,488 and, a 1.1 per cent drop in Toronto to about $1.3 million.

    Condos, however, continued to perform well, up 21.8 per cent across the region to an average price of $523,041.

    The divide between the City of Toronto and the surrounding region is a function of the housing stock that's on the market, said Jason Mercer, TREB's director of market analysis.

    In the 905 there are more detached homes on the market, he said, "so you haven't seen as much upward pressure on prices there."

    TREB's annual survey will show how the new mortgage stress tests introduced last month are impacting consumers' buying attitudes, said Mercer.

    "While the number of transactions was still down relative to last year's record pace, it certainly does appear that sales momentum is picking up," board president Tim Syrianos said in a press release.

    Royal LePage agent Elli Davis, said the number of homes she sold last month was almost identical to the same period last year. After a lull in the summer, buyers are starting to come back to the market, she said.

    "Condos under $500,000 are flying," said Davis.

    There is also scarce supply to feed the demand from downsizing buyers for condos priced between $1 million and $3 million.

    "We have very little supply, so when a listing comes out everybody's running to it," she said.

    Some sellers still haven't adjusted to the new market realities and are pricing their properties in the expectation of selling for the prices their neighbours garnered earlier this year or last year, she said.

    Some are struggling with whether to sell their home before buying another.

    "A lot of people are still buying first, but they have to be cognizant of what their property will sell for so they can be realistic when we get to that point," said Davis.

    South of Bloor St., from Etobicoke to the Beaches, houses are still selling in multiple offers and two- and three-bedroom condos are being snapped up, said Ara Mamourian broker-partner at Property.ca in Leslieville.

    "But what's really going nuts is the rental market right now," he said. "We can't keep a rental property on the market for more than 24 hours without at least two or three applications on it."

    Some consumers have been priced out of the home ownership market, said Mamourian.

    "They don't have the down payment money, but they certainly do have the monthly cash flow to float a nice, high-quality rental. That's why we're seeing the $3,000- to $4,000-a-month rental market really do well," he said, adding that it's difficult to find a one-bedroom apartment for under $2,000 a month.

    "We're seeing folks double up, taking on roommates, taking on two-bedroom apartments for $1,200 to $1,300 each, versus a one-bedroom that would cost them $2,000," he said.

    In Oakville, where ground-level housing comprises the largest share of the market, things are slower, said Century 21 Miller agent Jamie Vieira.

    "Everybody assumed that we'd get busy because of the mortgage rules coming in effect Jan. 1, so there would be some rush to buy but that doesn't seem to be happening," he said.

    "We have a lot of inventory sitting around and (sellers) trying to wrap their heads around the price. September was slow too," said Vieira, adding that prices are nowhere near what they were in March and April when the Toronto region housing market peaked.

    TREB reported 888 active listings this October compared to only 400 last year. While the average Oakville home price of about $1.09 million is up about $43,000 year over year, the median price fell $67,500.

    "We're up at the peak inventory we had at the end of June and sales are 45 per cent down. Take those two things combined and it's not a good market," said Vieira.

    In April Toronto region home prices peaked at 33 per cent above the previous year. But the provincial government's Fair Housing policies, including a foreign buyers tax, immediately cooled the market.

    That was followed by two hikes in the Bank of Canada rate and, more recently, more mortgage stress testing rules by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

    The CHMC warned last month that the country's hottest housing markets remain “highly vulnerable” with evidence of moderate overvaluation and price acceleration in Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, Victoria and Saskatoon.


    Detached Toronto home prices fall, while condo prices soar in OctoberDetached Toronto home prices fall, while condo prices soar in October

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    NEW YORK—CNN is reporting that eight current or former House of Cards workers claim that Kevin Spacey made the production a “toxic” workplace and one ex-employee alleges the actor sexually assaulted him.

    The workers’ identities were withheld from Thursday’s report because they fear professional fallout, the cable news channel said.

    Among them is a former production assistant who alleged that Spacey assaulted him during one of the Netflix show’s early seasons, and CNN reported that all of the people described Spacey’s behaviour as predatory.

    Read more:

    Kevin Spacey seeking ‘evaluation and treatment’ amid sexual assault accusations

    House of Cards producers press pause on filming in wake of Kevin Spacey allegations

    Actress Paz de la Huerta accuses Harvey Weinstein of raping her twice

    The report accuses Spacey of allegedly targeted staffers who were typically young and male with nonconsensual touching and crude comments.

    Netflix and Spacey’s publicist didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Production of House of Cards was previously suspended.

    The fallout stems from last weekend’s BuzzFeed News report in which actor Anthony Rapp said that Spacey attempted to seduce him in 1986, when Rapp was 14.

    Spacey apologized earlier this week for the incident but said he didn’t recall what might have been “drunken behaviour.” In a statement Wednesday, Spacey’s publicist said he’s seeking unspecified treatment.


    Eight ‘House of Cards’ workers accuse Kevin Spacey of harassment, report saysEight ‘House of Cards’ workers accuse Kevin Spacey of harassment, report says

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    The province has committed to new legislation that will require accreditation for forensic laboratories operating in Ontario in the wake of a Star investigation that revealed thousands of child protection cases across the country had relied on faulty evidence from the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk lab.

    The new Forensic Laboratories Act, announced Thursday as part of a broader government effort to modernize policing in Ontario, aims to create better oversight of forensic labs to ensure they meet mandated standards going forward and is the first legislation of its kind in Canada.

    It’s a move Toronto criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown called a “really great step forward,” but one that’s “long overdue.”

    Read more:Judge rejects proposed class-action over Motherisk drug-testing scandal

    “There was certainly a need for forensic lab accreditation and better controls over the evidence that’s being presented in criminal courts,” he said. “Hundreds of people have been impacted by faulty scientific evidence in the court rooms.”

    As revealed by a Star investigation thousands of child protection cases and at least eight criminal cases across Canada relied on the results of Motherisk’s discredited hair-strand drug and alcohol tests between the late 1990s and early 2015. At the same time, the lab was earning millions of dollars in revenue. The Hospital for Sick Children closed the Motherisk lab in 2015.

    The revelations followed another Sick Kids scandal, which also highlighted the risks of faulty science, involving disgraced pathologist Charles Smith, whose mistakes tainted more than a dozen criminal cases.

    Under the province’s new accreditation framework forensic labs will be subject to proficiency testing, annual audits, performance reports and surveillance visits.

    “Our government is committed to holding forensic laboratories in Ontario to a consistently high standard,” said Yanni Dagonas, a spokesperson for Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde, in a statement.

    It’s unclear how many labs will be affected by the new legislation given the current lack of oversight, but the government is proposing a transitional period of up to two years to give laboratories time to go through the accreditation process, which can take between 18 and 24 months, he said.

    Once the new accreditation standards come into force accreditation bodies would be able to issue warnings, suspend lab activities and revoke accreditation if labs fail to comply with the rules.

    The proposed legislation also says unaccredited labs that conduct testing covered by the act could be subject to fines of up to $30,000 for a first offence.

    Though Brown said most of his concerns regarding standards for forensic labs were addressed during government consultations earlier this year, he is concerned the new legislation won’t address the admissibility of evidence from labs that may not be accredited and instead leave it up to the courts’ discretion.

    “The problem in the past is that the courts have failed to properly scrutinize evidence from non-forensic lab sources,” he said, pointing to the case of Tamara Broomfield, who was tried in 2009 and convicted for breaking her son’s bones and feeding him cocaine, as an example.

    In that case, which blew the lid off the Motherisk scandal, Motherisk tests on her son’s hair, which claimed to show he had consumed high levels of cocaine over 15 months, were admitted by the court.

    “That was done by a lab that wasn’t forensically accredited and nobody raised that issue at her trial and part of the problem is that they lacked the scientific literacy to do that,” Brown said, adding, “we can’t simply rely on the word of experts because … sometimes the experts can lead the courts astray.”

    Brown, who is also a Toronto director with the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, tried to have Broomfield’s case reopened in 2010. Her cocaine-related conviction was eventually overturned in 2014, prompting the Star’s investigation.

    Many other cases that relied on Motherisk tests are now under review as well. Altogether, the disgraced lab performed tests on more than 25,000 people in Canada.

    Brown said he hopes to see the new rules enforced as soon as possible.

    “Cases are taking place everyday in the criminal court system and the family court system that are relying on forensic evidence and we want to make sure that the way this evidence is being presented in court and the standards that underlie the science are sound,” he said.

    With files from Rachel Mendleson


    New rules will require forensic labs to be accreditedNew rules will require forensic labs to be accredited

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    Alleged serial rapist Harvey Weinstein has been blacklisted by his peers and ousted from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But there remains one very exclusive group that will have him: the Edenbridge Bonfire Society.

    The EBS is world famous for lighting up enormous effigies of widely loathed figures on Guy Fawkes Day, such as U.S. President Donald Trump and disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter. The group recently announced that Weinstein’s image has been selected to burn in this weekend’s Guy Fawkes celebration, in what will be a demonstration of a career gone up in flames. Meanwhile, two other Hollywood big shots — director James Toback and producer Brett Ratner — stand accused of sexual misconduct, though neither one has had his likeness scorched in public. But tomorrow is another day.

    If I were a predatory Hollywood producer I’d be very afraid. Only a truly committed cynic could argue that attitudes have not shifted in favour of victims of sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry, in light of the recent allegations. And yet, despite this weekend’s symbolic burning at the stake, there is still great reason to be cynical about our culture’s attitudes toward victims of sexual assault. Even though we have made significant strides at condemning abuse in one area of entertainment, we remain virtually silent when it comes to condemning it in another area: the world of adult entertainment.

    Two of pornography’s mega stars — men who are arguably more famous internationally than Harvey Weinstein — are facing allegations of serial harassment and sexual assault. Ron Jeremy is a 64-year-old porn legend, and James Deen is a 31-year-old porn legend in the making. Both men have made appearances in mainstream entertainment: Deen starred alongside Lindsay Lohan in the 2013 Paul Schrader film, The Canyons, and Jeremy’s long-standing pop culture status needs no explanation.

    Both men are also alleged serial abusers. Multiple women, including a former partner, have accused Deen of sexual assault, and Jeremy faces multiple accusations of groping (in addition to an accusation of rape by a former co-star). Last year, a webcam model known as Miss Lollipop tweeted the following: “Not my 1st, but at a my 1st adult con, posing for a photo w ron jeremy — he slips his finger under my panties and into my vagina. #notokay”

    Former porn actress turned professional writer Aurora Snow outlined the well-known reality of allegations against Jeremy and Deen in a piece in the Daily Beast this week. Snow wondered, understandably, why the two stars (who deny the allegations against them) appear to have been spared the public evisceration their Hollywood counterparts are now enduring. Unlike Weinstein et al, porn industry insiders and fans have not excommunicated Jeremy and Deen nor burned their images in a gigantic bonfire.

    Nor has mainstream entertainment. In fact, Esquire magazine, a publication that has been critical of Weinstein in recent weeks, published a glowing interview with Jeremy in September, positioning the porn legend as a “feminist” who “cares deeply about animals.”

    Esquire editor Nate Erickson writes: “Social media has helped him (Jeremy) reveal another side: a guy who understands civil rights better than our own president.”

    He’s also a guy, Erickson fails to mention, who, like the president, stands accused of groping multiple women.

    So what gives? Why are we eager to burn a replica of a bathrobe-clad Weinstein but we appear content to let Jeremy and Deen go unscathed?

    The answer can’t be that in cases of sexual abuse, we believe the accused should be given the benefit of the doubt. After all, Weinstein certainly doesn’t have the benefit of the doubt. What he does have, however, is a lineup of sympathetic accusers. Weinstein’s accusers, many of them A-list actresses, are beautiful, intelligent, moneyed and seemingly trustworthy.

    Many of Jeremy and Deen’s accusers, on the other hand, have participated in the adult entertainment industry. They are exactly the kind of women about whom men have zero qualms making statements such as “She was asking for it” and “Well, what did she expect? Look what she does for a living.”

    Of course beautiful, “dignified” women, like Angelina Jolie and Lupita Nyong’o, are in no way immune to sexual predatory behaviour by powerful men. But their claims are, as evidenced by Weinstein’s fall, taken far more seriously than the claims of women who are paid to act in the buff.

    What this may mean is that despite all of the inspirational social media campaigns (#Metoo) and endless talk show chatter around the Weinstein allegations, our attitudes have not shifted in favour of victims of sexual assault. They’ve shifted, rather, in favour of sympathetic victims of assault: women who have done Shakespeare — not porn.

    This is a step, forward yes. But it’s a small one. And until we are prepared to issue sympathy to every kind of victim, and condemnation to every kind of creep, we won’t make it very far.


    Condemnation of sexual assaults can’t be selective: TeitelCondemnation of sexual assaults can’t be selective: Teitel

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