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    The union for 700 striking workers at Canada’s busiest airport says the strike caused significant baggage handling delays Friday evening.

    Friday’s delays lasted anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours, because experienced ground crew were walking the picket line, said Harjinder Badial, a spokesman for the Teamsters local representing the workers.

    “There were significant delays,” said Badial. “The [Greater Toronto Airport Authority] hasn’t been reporting it, but we have been watching the tarmac as well.”

    Swissport handles ground crew for 30 of Pearson’s 74 airlines, including Air Transat, Air France, and Sunwing, but WestJet and Air Canada are not serviced by the company.

    Read more: Pearson airport ground crew workers on strike

    700 baggage handlers, ground crew at Pearson Airport on strike

    The Greater Toronto Airports Authority said in a statement Saturday that there were “some early departures and some delays with scheduled flights” on Friday.

    Swissport promised passengers in a statement issued Friday night that it has brought in properly trained staff to keep its operations moving at Pearson during the strike.

    “So far, it is business as usual and we will be keeping a close watch to ensure that it remains this way,” the company said.

    But Badial predicted that Sunday could see greater delays than Friday, noting that all of Swissport’s contracted airlines will have flights landing at Pearson.

    “It’s a challenging day for our members when they’re on the job on a Sunday,” Badial said. “We’ll see what happens with these guys.”

    Badial said Swissport had reached out to him on Friday and offered to continue talking, but wouldn’t budge from its latest offer.

    The workers walked off the job Thursday evening after rejecting Swissport’s latest proposal.

    Among their concerns are pay and benefits cuts, as well as Swissport’s hiring of 250 temporary workers last May.

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    CAMP HUMPHREYS, SOUTH KOREA—This small American city has four schools and five churches, an Arby’s, a Taco Bell and a Burger King. The grocery store is offering a deal on Budweiser as the temperature soars, and out front there’s a promotion for Ford Mustangs.

    But for all its invocations of the American heartland, this growing town is in the middle of the South Korean countryside, in an area that was famous for growing huge grapes.

    “We built an entire city from scratch,” said Col. Scott W. Mueller, garrison commander of Camp Humphreys, one of the U.S. military’s largest overseas construction projects. If it were laid across Washington, the 3,454-acre base would stretch from Key Bridge to Nationals Park, from Arlington National Cemetery to the Capitol.

    Read more: North Korea’s latest missile test puts Toronto, much of U.S. within range, experts say

    “New York has been a city for 100-some years and they’re still doing construction. But the majority of construction here will be done by 2021,” Mueller said. (New York was actually founded nearly 400 years ago.)

    The U.S. military has been trying for 30 years to move its headquarters in South Korea out of Seoul and out of North Korean artillery range.

    Since the end of World War II, the military has been based at Yongsan, a garrison that had been the Imperial Japanese Army’s main base during Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula. It is in the middle of Seoul and just 40 miles from the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas.

    The South Korean and American governments have been talking since 1987 about moving the base away from Yongsan, but political and funding issues had slowed the process. Protests broke out a little over a decade ago when the Pyeongtaek, a sleepy rural city 40 miles south of Yongsan, was chosen as the new base site.

    Now, the $11 billion base is beginning to look like the garrison that military planners envisaged decades ago.

    The Eighth Army moved its headquarters here this month and there are about 25,000 people based here, including family members and contractors.

    There are apartment buildings, sports fields, playgrounds and a water park, and an 18- hole golf course with the generals’ houses overlooking the greens. There is a “warrior zone” with Xboxes and Playstations, pool tables and dart boards, and a tavern for those old enough to drink.

    Starting this August, there will be two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. A new, 68-bed military hospital to replace the one at Yongsan is close to completion.

    That is in addition to the airfield, the tank training areas and firing ranges.

    When it is finished, the base will be able to house precisely 1,111 families and a total of about 45,500 people.

    But it’s not just bigger; it’s much more modern than the garrison at Yongsan, Mueller said. It has state-of-the-art communications technology and is a more “hardened” site to protect against a possible North Korean attack.

    “Down here we’re a little bit further from the action, and that helps buy us some strategic decision space should anything happen,” Mueller said. “We’ve been able to create the facilities needed to keep up with the pace of modern warfare and modern communications technology.”

    Although the recent concerns about North Korea have centred on its rapidly evolving ballistic missile capability, the Kim regime has a huge amount of conventional artillery lined up on its side of the border that would be able to inflict significant damage on Seoul in a short space of time. It is this concern that has restrained American presidential administrations from launching a pre-emptive strike on North Korea’s nuclear weapons facilities.

    But the new Camp Humphreys is out of range of North Korea’s multiple rocket launchers, although that hasn’t stopped the North Koreans from making threats.

    “The larger the U.S. military base is, the more effectively our military can hit its targets,” a North Korean military spokesman said this month after the Eighth Army moved here, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency.

    Under an agreement with the South Korean military, one U.S. Army brigade will remain at Camp Casey, right near the DMZ, even after the Yongsan garrison has closed.

    The construction of Camp Humphreys had raised hopes for the local economy, which had not exactly been flourishing before the area was selected for the base.

    Local authorities have built a $13 million train station and a new four-lane highway bridge, and invested $55 million in a new substation to deliver power to the base. The main roads in Pyeongtaek are lined with new apartment towers.

    Immediately outside the base, local businesses are vying to prove how pro-American they are. There are dozens of real estate agencies with American flags on their windows and names such as “Komerican Realty,” while two of the new housing developments outside the base are called “Lincoln Palace” and “Capitolium.” The parking spaces in the developments are bigger, to fit American cars.

    There are restaurants offering all-you-can-eat Korean meat dinner buffets for $11, Tex- Mex joints and even a Hooters rip-off. The barbershop offers flat-tops and “skin fade” cuts, and there are other services you don’t find in an average South Korean town, such as “All African American Caribbean style” hair braiding.

    Because soldiers below the rank of staff sergeant are not allowed to drive in South Korea, even off base, young Americans on bicycles rigged up with small motors sputter through the streets.

    But there is a sense of frustration that the base hasn’t produced a gold rush.

    “Business is so-so,” said Suh Hee-yeon, the owner of one U.S. Forces Korea-approved real estate agency on the main drag, which offers housing for those who will live off base. She has been here for a decade and doesn’t welcome the new firms that have arrived as the base gets closer to completion. “There’s too much competition now and we have to share the limited amount of business,” she said.

    Some here worry about increased crime and that American soldiers will be on the prowl for local women. The U.S. Army has developed an app so troops can check which bars have been deemed off-limits, either because they’ve been caught serving drinks to minors or because they’re selling sex.

    Others complain that the new arrivals don’t learn Korean and expect local store owners to speak English.

    But worse than that is the fear that the soldiers just won’t patronize their businesses.

    “They rarely come out from their bases,” said Park Jong-ho, who has run a shoe shop here for the past three years. “They have everything they need there on the base.”

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    Unlike the roadside attractions he catalogued, Ed Solonyka was not attention-seeking. He worked for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, was slightly taller than the national average, and had a moustache from the time he could grow one.

    During a family vacation in the early 1990s, the Sudbury geologist became fascinated with the monuments that interrupted the Canadian landscape. The internet was young and Ed, then in his 40s, made a website chronicling roadside attractions, like the big nickel in his hometown. People sent along their photos, and it became a never-ending census that captured monuments like the Wawa goose, and more obscure finds like the “World’s Largest Endangered Ferruginous Hawk,” in Leader, Sask.

    In January 2015, I emailed Solonyka, believing his site could be a way into a series about small towns: “That sounds like a dream project,” he replied promptly. “Unfortunately I have a cold presently, however perhaps sometime later this week or next week I’ll be in touch to arrange a time.”

    The series didn’t happen, and this summer, I noticed Solonyka’s website had changed. It looked modern, and there was a note:

    “For more than 17 years, Ed regularly maintained and updated the site, which is now the authoritative list of large roadside attractions in Canada … For some of us, the challenge was to find a roadside attraction not yet listed on the site — take the photo and send it to Ed to be added to the list. And it was fascinating to keep track of the expanding list of roadside attractions — even, and perhaps especially, those that we weren’t likely to see in real life.

    “On December 19, 2015, Ed passed away.

    “This website will go on, in memory of Ed.”

    When people travelled by rail and stage coach in the 1890s, “roadside attractions” were lakes, villages, and even a patch of finely cut grass. One of the earliest references in the age of the automobile was a pile of stones stacked in an Illinois field and noted in Bloomington’s Pantagraph newspaper in 1924. By the time Ed Solonyka was born in Winnipeg in 1946, the car was king, and communities throughout North America were building more showy displays of local pride, using concrete, wood and steel.

    David Stymeist, a retired anthropology professor from the University of Manitoba, spent many summers in the ’90s living in his van as he drove across Canada to research the folk art phenomenon, speaking to people about their town’s giant coffee cup or Plexiglas mosquito. He often turned to Solonyka’s site. “I found things I didn’t know about or wouldn’t have ever found,” he says.

    He found monuments weren’t as abundant in southern Ontario, but they appeared more frequently on the edge of the Canadian Shield, and into northern Ontario. The “true heartland” was the prairies. Some were made by professional artists, others by locals, and they were a part of the Canadian consciousness in a way that hadn’t happened in the U.S. They were affirmations — a sign of settlement, history, economy and achievement, but sometimes they were contested symbols, and occasionally people got mad about all the money being spent.

    Take the pysanka in Vegreville, Alta., for instance. Its construction in the 1970s was delayed and people began to criticize the cost. “There were rumours that some local youth were planning to blow up the partially constructed statue with dynamite, and the project’s designer began to spend nights at the site to ward off an attack,” Stymeist wrote in the Journal of Canadian Studies in 2012.

    Ed Solonyka, who grew up in a Ukrainian family, had a soft spot for that big Ukrainian Easter egg, decorated with equilateral triangles and stars. (“The first computer modelling of an egg,” the town website notes, calling it one of the “premier tourist attractions on the Yellowhead Highway.”)

    Solonyka studied at the University of Manitoba before moving to Toronto to work in geology and mining. That’s where he met Phil Hum, who would steer him toward the world of web design when the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines relocated to Sudbury in the 1990s.

    Because he owned a computer and knew how to use it, Hum became the ministry’s webmaster in those innocent days of chat rooms and page counters. With a limited budget, Hum asked each department for a “champion” who wouldn’t mind learning HTML. Solonyka was a joiner, and of course, he was in.

    Together, the friends experimented on the ministry’s internal development site, copying and pasting bits of code they admired. They found a graphic of Indiana Jones in a mine car that was tantalizingly on brand, but “we can’t put cartoons on a government of Ontario site,” Hum recalls from his Sudbury home, laughing.

    They enjoyed a good laugh, but they were analytical types who thought things through.

    “When we were in the office, even on casual days, we still wore office casual attire,” he says.

    Hum passed the exciting graphics to Solonyka, who had created two websites at home. The first honoured his uncle, Ukrainian-Canadian poet Volodimir Barabash, and the second was dedicated to roadside attractions. It had two spinning maple leaves and a Canadian flag blowing in the breeze of the information superhighway. In the beginning, there were two dozen photos from his family vacations.

    In the pictures, Tanya Solonyka, now 35, can watch herself grow up beside objects she will never reach in height. The earliest photo is pixilated, but she must be 11, standing under a moose, wearing a striped T-shirt and pink shorts. She remembers how her dad stopped the minivan where the Trans-Canada jogs north outside of Dryden, Ont., on a family trip to Winnipeg.

    Stymeist visited the same moose during one of his research trips. They are a popular animal in the roadside attraction game, with about 30 statues across Canada.

    “Some kid chiselled off his genitals, which was remarked to me as being a terrible thing to have happened,” Stymeist says. “They were kind of outraged by this.”

    (A town official told the anthropologist that while Moose Jaw, Sask., may have a bigger moose, Dryden’s was more realistic. “It’s true,” says Stymeist, which is big of him, as a Moose Jaw resident.)

    Tanya Solonyka remembers how her dad would sit at the oak desk in their living room for hours. When the computer whirred to life, he marvelled at the questions and photos in his inbox. He categorized the attractions by location, alphabet and type, and had a special group for “planes on pedestals.”

    “Anytime he’d be driving somewhere for work, he’d always have to detour to go find those planes,” his daughter says.

    He kept the site immaculate, like the backyard garden he nurtured with his wife. The couple were private people, and the website became this “weird social activity for him,” Tanya says. He liked the connections.

    Dale Redekopp, a retired air force pilot from Alberta, was a frequent correspondent. He liked documenting ghost towns and grain elevators, and during his drives on the prairie back roads he often came across oddities like the giant fibreglass man, “out standing in his field” near Moose Jaw.

    “We call him Bob,” says Gord Gadd, who owns Mid Prairie Body Centre. “In the ’90s, there was a Doritos commercial, and it was, ‘Where’s Bob?’ So we named him Bob.”

    Gadd found the giant in an auto wrecking yard, smashed and broken, a relic of a fibreglass moulding process that created muscular men as advertising gimmicks. Gadd sculpted him back into shape and set him up in the field in the 1990s. In Saskatchewan, where people often navigate by landmark, Bob is helpful to locals.

    When Redekopp saw Bob, he pulled over, walked into the field, and stood beside the man’s legs for scale. Then he sent the photo to Ed.

    Lorraine Hirning, who lives in British Columbia, bought her first digital camera in the early days of the site so she could do the same thing.

    “It’s awesome to just go wander,” she says. “A lot of people wander to museums, to art galleries. I tend to wander to the smaller towns.”

    Like early cartographers, Solonyka’s internet friends fanned out across the country to create their new map. Hirning planned her vacations around the task and emailed the last of her photos each fall with a cheery “see you next year.”

    It was like a family without the baggage, “because nobody threw much baggage out there,” Hirning says.

    Like Redekopp, Hirning only communicated with Ed by email. She invited him and his wife to Melita, Man., for the unveiling of the town’s big banana in 2010, but Ed wrote back to say they wouldn’t make it. (It was another divisive landmark: “I guess some people think maybe money could be spent on health care or roads and streets instead of building bananas,” Mayor Bob Walker told the Winnipeg Free Press, “I think anything that attracts people to the town of Melita is good for the town of Melita.”)

    When Solonyka was diagnosed with leukemia the following year, he didn’t tell many people. He didn’t want people to treat him differently. The doctors said it wasn’t an aggressive form and he didn’t need treatment until 2015. Chemotherapy went well and Hum would often pick him up for the weekly lunch with his coworkers.

    Solonyka enjoyed work, but looked forward to more free time in retirement. He wanted to modernize the site, and drive an RV across Canada to every attraction. His wife laughed; not for her. Tanya said sure. She’d go and see “all those crazy things.”

    Her favourite was the “Happy Rock” in Gladstone, Man. Back when she was a kid, they would pass it on the way to visit her cousins: a smiling fibreglass rock wearing a top hat, giving the thumbs-up on a neatly manicured lawn.

    In November 2015, her father rang the remission bell. He was back at work, and happy to have a powerful new computer at home. He emailed Redekopp to ask about the exact location of a dragon and a Minion statue, and added a few new photos.

    In mid-December, he didn’t feel well. His children rushed home as his cancer became very aggressive very quickly. Everybody was shocked by the change, including Ed. He died less than a week before Christmas.

    Amid the grief, Canada’s supply of roadside attractions was unceasing. Nobody knew Solonyka was unwell. Some learned he had died when his wife emailed them for the first time.

    Redekopp, who learned about Ed’s death from Hirning, had never heard Ed’s voice. The webmaster was a mystery. “I had no idea what he had done before,” he says. “I assumed he was retired. I’m not even sure where he lived.”

    He had a sense from years of respectful, prompt emails: Ed was a real nice guy.

    “He was following his dream, and allowing many of us to live it with him,” Hirning says.

    Redekopp sends photos of grain elevators to a man in Nova Scotia for a different website, and they banter back and forth about grandchildren. But Ed didn’t veer off track from his solution-oriented correspondence. Redekopp once spotted a homemade plane in his travels in Alberta. A man had built it, he died, and his widow didn’t know what to do, so a friend raised it high on a pedestal. He emailed the details to Ed.

    Ed had a separate category for “planes on pedestals,” but they had to be planes with real flight hours.

    “I said, well, let’s put it on large roadside attractions — and he did,” Redekopp says.

    Lorraine Hirning didn’t have the time or skills to take over the site. Worried it would disappear, she printed a full copy.

    Mira and Mike van Bodegom noticed the site was stale in the winter of 2016, and they too found out what had happened. They had been followers since 2002, when they were a couple of newlyweds looking for adventure. Back then, they hit the road in their Ford Tempo to see an old plane and police car on the roof of the Cainsville, Ont., flea market. The site had been the source of countless road trips.

    They didn’t want it to disappear. With the Solonykas’ support, the van Bodegoms agreed to take over. Their 12-year-old son, Smith (Smitty), is a computer programming whiz, and it has become a family project. This summer, they added the site’s 1,500th attraction: a silver maple key in Cambridge.

    Ed Solonyka would have been humbled and honoured. He had been so proud of his website that, in a rare instance of self-promotion, he ordered a red baseball cap with “Large Roadside Canadian Attractions,” embroidered in white thread. It was his favourite hat.

    His daughter would tease him. “This is going to be your claim to fame,” she’d say, and he’d stick his tongue out. But she was right. It was noted in his obituary, alongside his love of gardening and his volunteer work with the Out of the Cold program. For a small but passionate segment of the Canadian population, it is impossible to see a roadside attraction without thinking of Ed Solonyka.

    He didn’t get the chance to take his final road trip, but he laid the groundwork in more than 1,000 co-ordinates that dot the country like a bad case of chicken pox on the site’s new map. Maybe you’ll remember him if you find yourself in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. It’s between the flagpole and the gazebo in Montmartre, Sask.

    Ed Solonyka’s favourites

    • Wawa goose (Wawa, Ont.)

    • Big Nickel (Sudbury, Ont.)

    • World’s largest pysanka (Vegreville, Alta.)

    • 12.8-metre sausage (Mundare, Alta.)

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    Police leaders across the country moved quickly to distance themselves from — or to outright condemn — U.S. President Trump’s statements about “roughing up” people who’ve been arrested.

    The swift public denunciations came as departments are under intense pressure to stamp out brutality and excessive force that can erode the relationship between officers and the people they police — and cost police chiefs their jobs.

    Some police leaders worried that three sentences uttered by the president during a Long Island, N.Y., speech could upend nearly three decades of fence-mending since the 1991 Los Angeles Police Department beating of Rodney King ushered in an era of distrust of police.

    “It’s the wrong message,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told Washington radio station WTOP while speaking of the trust-building work that departments have undertaken since King’s beating. “The last thing we need is a green light from the president of the United States for officers to use unnecessary force.”

    Read more:‘Please don’t be too nice’ . . . Trump tells cops it’s fine if suspects hit their heads

    Trump made the comments at a gathering of law enforcement officers at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

    “When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” Trump said, miming the physical motion of an officer shielding a suspect’s head to keep it from bumping against the squad car.

    “Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head,” Trump continued. “I said, you can take the hand away, OK?”

    Trump’s remarks came after he spoke about local towns ravaged by gang violence.

    Across the country, police department leaders said the president’s words didn’t reflect their views.

    A tweet from the Gainesville Police Department read: The @POTUS made remarks today that endorsed and condoned police brutality. GPD rejects these remarks and continues to serve with respect.

    “The Suffolk County Police Department has strict rules and procedures relating to the handling of prisoners, and violations of those rules and procedures are treated extremely seriously,” the department said in an emailed statement. “As a department, we do not and will not tolerate ‘rough(ing)’ up prisoners.”

    Trump’s comments also drew a rebuke from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. In a statement Friday, the group did not specifically mention Trump by name but appeared to respond to his speech by stressing the importance of treating all people, including suspects, with respect.

    Statements from other police leaders followed.

    In a statement to, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said:

    “Seattle’s police officers have embraced reform and have worked incredibly hard to build community trust. We do not intend to go backwards. It is truly unfortunate that in today’s toxic environment, politicians at both ends of the spectrum have sought to inflame passions by politicizing what we do. We remain committed to our principles and reject irresponsible statements that threaten to undermine our relationship with the community.”

    Police departments are under increased scrutiny for violent, often fatal interactions with suspects. So far this year, 574 people have been shot and killed by police, according to The Washington Post’s Fatal Force database. Last year, police shot and killed 963 people.

    This year’s killings included the Minneapolis Police shooting of Justine Damond, an Australian woman who called 911 to report a possible rape in the alley near her home and ended up being shot dead by the responding officers.

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    Electronic patient records in doctors’ offices across the country are being used by brand name drug companies looking to muscle market share away from generic competitors, a Star investigation has found.

    Concerned physicians say a clinical tool they use to write prescriptions and care for patients is being co-opted, and they fear health records are being tapped so drug companies can increase profits.

    In the battle for pharmaceutical dominance, this new tactic, deployed in software used by doctors, has allowed brand-name companies to capitalize on the moment a prescription is written.

    Here’s how it works:

    The patient records are found in EMRs, or electronic medical record software, owned by Telus Health, a subsidiary of the telecom giant. The software is used by thousands of Canadian doctors to take notes during patient visits and to create a prescription to be filled by the patient’s pharmacy.

    To drive business their way, brand-name drug companies have paid Telus to digitally insert vouchers so that the prescription is filled with their product instead of the lower-cost generic competitor that pharmacists normally reach for.

    The vouchers are known in the industry as “patient-assistance programs.” It works like a coupon: If a patient’s insurance does not cover the full cost of the pricier brand name drug, the drug’s manufacturer will cover part or all of the cost difference from its generic equivalent.

    The voucher feature is offered in a number of other electronic medical record systems, Telus said.

    Doctors had to agree to the new feature in the Telus software before it was enabled on their systems, and physicians can opt out at any time.

    But some physicians may not realize the implications of the vouchers when they click to accept the software’s updated features, said Dr. Antony Gagnon, manager of the pharmacy program with the Hamilton Family Health Team.

    “The brand name companies are basically using physicians to redirect their prescriptions of generic drugs to the companies’ brand drugs,” Gagnon said.

    In an internal document obtained by the Star, the head of Ontario’s doctor regulator, speaking generally, said vouchers being included on a prescription is “not appropriate” as they may lead patients to think their physicians favour brand drugs over generics.

    Generics contain the same medical ingredients and can cost as little as one-fifth of the brand price. A former assistant deputy health minister, Helen Stevenson, said the vouchers can pile unnecessary costs on to private drug plans. These costs could ultimately be passed to the patient through higher premiums.

    In an interview, Telus Health President Paul Lepage defended the program, saying thatelectronic vouchers streamline payment assistance programs already “used by millions of Canadians who really use them to reduce the cost of their medication.”

    In the past, drug company reps gave paper vouchers to physicians who in turn could hand them out to the patient.

    With the updated software, the voucher can be printed right on the patient’s prescription.

    “Our physician customers who use these programs have asked us if we can simplify the process,” said Lepage of Telus. “We’re focused on offering cost-effective solutions to physicians and patients.”

    The voucher function has been “very positively received by the majority of our physician users,” a Telus spokesperson said.

    Why do brand name companies offer these vouchers?

    In an effort to keep costs down, many drug plans encourage pharmacists to substitute a cheaper generic drug when filling a prescription for a brand drug, unless the prescribing doctor specifically requests otherwise. Without the voucher, even if a doctor uses the brand name on a prescription, pharmacists may substitute the cheaper generic.

    But when enabled, the Telus software feature detects when a doctor is prescribing a drug by its brand name, such as cholesterol medication Crestor. The voucher is printed on the prescription and the pharmacist takes that as a specific instruction to dispense the brand name. The voucher is not offered if the doctor enters the generic name (rosuvastatin, in Crestor’s case), Telus said.

    The brand companies say the payment assistance vouchers are about giving the patient choice between brand and generic drugs without having to spend more money.

    But for Gagnon, the vouchers are manipulating physicians’ prescribing practices, adding that many physicians use a drug’s brand name when writing a prescription out of habit and aren’t necessarily instructing that a drug be dispensed over its generic.

    The vouchers also reinforce a false premise that generics are inferior in quality to the original brand name drugs, say doctors critical of the program.

    The first time Toronto physician Nav Persaud logged on to Telus’ PS Suite after its recent update, a text box popped up notifying him of the new feature that could “lead to greater choice and lower cost for your patients.”

    But Persaud questioned how much his patients would get out of the vouchers.

    “It wasn’t clear to me who was going to benefit from it. Was it going to further the marketing of brand name products, which I think are prescribed without any clear reason, given that they have the same effects (as generics), and they cost more?” said Persaud, a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital.

    He disabled the feature.

    A Telus spokesperson said the voucher is offered only after a physician chooses a specific brand name drug to prescribe “so there is no influence on what drug the physician selects.”

    “As a technology provider, we are careful not to influence or restrict the clinical choices made by medical professionals.”

    Telus Health is a dominant player in Canada’s electronic medical record industry. Its seven EMR systems impact more than 25 million patient-physician interactions each year.

    Two of those programs — PS Suite and Nightingale — have the feature offering payment assistance vouchers. Telus plans to expand the feature to all of its EMR programs.

    Brand companies pay on a “fixed-fee basis” for their vouchers being included, Telus officials said, but they refused to discuss the details of their agreement with drug companies, saying it was “subject to commercial confidentiality.”

    About 7,000 doctors across Canada use PS Suite, and roughly two-thirds have chosen to use the voucher function. The company said doctors were involved in designing the feature.

    In the medical practices of the Hamilton Family Health Team, a network of 165 physicians, some doctors were unaware of the voucher feature — nor were they aware that information about those vouchers was being shared with drug companies.

    Some of those doctors send the prescriptions directly from their computers to the pharmacy fax machine and never saw the voucher that was included on the printout, said lead physician Dr. Monica De Benedetti.

    Without the doctors being fully aware, they could not tell their patients about the program, De Benedetti said.

    The health team encouraged its members to turn off the voucher feature. In 2016, De Benedetti, along with Gagnon and the Health Team’s executive director, wrote a complaint letter to Telus Health.

    “There will certainly be a number of physicians who will be concerned that they are inadvertently participating in contributing data to pharmaceutical companies,” the letter read.

    Telus said all doctors had to enable the new voucher feature by clicking “accept” in a pop-up text box.

    Drug manufacturers paying to have their vouchers in the EMR receive “aggregated and anonymized, province-level statistics” on the total number of vouchers printed off for their products, the company said.

    No patient or physician information is shared, Telus said.

    Telus said payment-assistance vouchers are offered in a number of other electronic medical record systems offered by other companies.

    The company behind one of those systems, however, says it will be ditching the vouchers from its software.

    When Loblaw Companies Ltd. purchased B.C.-based QHR and its Accuro software in 2016, it already included a voucher feature, spokesperson Kevin Groh said in a statement. He said they plan to remove the function in the coming months.

    “While some discount vouchers — commonly called ‘brand cards’ — offer valuable financial assistance to patients, many keep patients on higher-priced brand products when more cost-effective generic medications are available,” he said.

    “Brand cards can create confusion for patients, often leading to the perception that generic medications are inferior,” Groh added. “This is a problem for a system reliant on savings from generics.”

    In an internal letter obtained by the Star, Dr. Rocco Gerace, registrar of Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons said vouchers, in general, should not be printed on prescriptions as they “may lead some patients to perceive that the physician is in a conflict of interest, or that they are recommending or endorsing the name-brand formulation of a drug instead of a generic or other alternative.”

    Gerace’s comments were in a July 2016 response to the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, an industry group that contacted the College asking for the regulator’s view on brand vouchers being included on prescriptions, which it says “appears to be increasing in frequency.”

    Telus says its voucher feature was not introduced until August 2016. That was after Gerace’s comments. A Telus spokesperson said its software follows ethical principles not present in all EMR systems with voucher features, adding that the company sets “the gold standard on how things should be done.”

    In summer 2016, after learning about the voucher feature for Telus’ EMR, clinical pharmacist Cora Van Zutphen crunched the numbers. She estimates that a regular patient with diabetes and heart problems could be billing his private drug plan nearly $3,000 a year in unnecessary costs by using the brand name drugs over their generic equivalents.

    Van Zutphen wrote a letter to her colleagues with the Upper Grand Family Health Team, advising the network of doctors in communities north of Guelph to turn off the vouchers.

    “When insurance companies pay for brand-name drugs over lower-cost generics, billions of dollars are added to the costs of private drug plans,” she wrote to her colleagues. “Ultimately, those costs are passed on to employers and employees.”

    Voucher programs are not designed to add costs to private plans, a Telus spokesperson said. “Private plans choose what costs they will and will not cover,” she said.

    But in some cases, if the patient’s private drug plan doesn’t cover the full cost of the brand drug, then the patient’s spouse’s health plan is tapped as the next payer — not the drug company, an industry expert said.

    “The brand manufacturer is typically the last payer. The claims system looks for every other payer first. It’s a brilliant strategy for brands looking to grab market share but not for drug plans — it can unnecessarily raise costs,” said Stevenson, former head of Ontario Public Drug Programs and CEO of Reformulary Group, a drug plan management company.

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    A Toronto man has admitted in court that he killed his mother and two of his brothers out of fear of losing his fiancée three weeks before their wedding.

    Brett Ryan, 36, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of his oldest brother Christopher and two counts of second-degree murder in the death of his mother Susan and his younger brother Alexander. He also pleaded guilty to attempting to murder his older brother Leigh.

    He was sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for 25 years.

    Ryan’s guilty plea Friday puts an end to the mystery of why a man on the verge of his wedding day would instead commit the grisly killings of three family members with crossbow bolts at their family home in Scarborough on Aug. 25, 2016.

    According to an agreed statement of facts submitted to court, Ryan planned to kill his mother, 66, out of fear she would expose the lies he had told his fiancée, and that his fiancée would then call off the wedding.

    Back in 2009, Ryan pleaded guilty to committing eight bank robberies. He was sentenced to five years in prison but due to pretrial custody, only served three years and nine months.

    In June 2016, Ryan got a job at an IT company, but before he could start he was fired after his employer found out he had a criminal record.

    Days before the murders took place, Ryan admitted to his mother that he didn’t have a job and that he was lying about it to his fiancée, telling her he was working from home while he stayed inside their Queens Quay condo throughout the summer.

    According to the statement of facts, Susan Ryan told her son to admit the truth to his fiancée and that if he did so, she would continue to financially support him for a short time. However, Ryan was worried that his fiancée would break off the relationship if she found out.

    As part of his plan, Ryan placed a crossbow in the garage of their family home on 10 Lawndale Rd. Then he set up electronic devices in the apartment he shared with his fiancée. The devices, a laptop and an iPad and an iPhone, were setup to be activated to create an internet footprint that would serve as an alibi.

    Police later said that they were never activated.

    On Aug. 25, 2016, Ryan arrived at the family home before 1 p.m. to confront his mother.

    According to the statement of facts, Ryan only intended to confront his mother about the threats of exposing him and to convince her to continue supporting him financially until the wedding and until he got a job.

    However, the argument between the two became heated quickly. Susan called her son Christopher, 42, to come and help her. During the argument, Ryan retrieved the crossbow and crossbow bolts from the garage.

    Susan followed him to the garage. As the argument continued, Ryan stabbed his mother with a crossbow bolt and strangled her to death using a yellow nylon rope.

    When Christopher arrived, Ryan shot him in the back of his neck using the crossbow. He moved their bodies into the garage and hid them under a tarp.

    As Ryan exited the garage, he was confronted by Alexander, 29, who had arrived at the house. As the brothers fought, Ryan fatally stabbed Alexander with a crossbow bolt.

    Leigh, 38, who was at home in his bedroom during the altercation, came outside to see what was happening. After seeing Ryan standing over Alexander’s body, Leigh ran back inside the house and called for help.

    Ryan followed Leigh into the house where he assaulted Leigh in an attempt to stop him from calling police. After managing to escape, Leigh ran to a home across the street, where the residents called 911.

    Police arrived at the scene around 1:03 p.m. They found Ryan standing near the steps of the home covered in blood. Ryan told police where his mother and three siblings were. He was later charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

    Autopsy reports say Susan died of ligature strangulation, while one of the brothers, Christopher, died from a perforating trauma of head and neck caused by a crossbow bolt and the other brother, Alexander, died from trauma of the neck by a crossbow bolt.

    On top of the life sentence for first-degree murder, Ryan was sentenced to life in prison in the second-degree murders of his mother and his brother Alexander and a 10-year sentence for the attempted murder of his brother Leigh. The sentences will run concurrently.

    With Star files

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    Ontarians are increasingly worried their job skills will be outdated in the changing economy, says a new report from the chamber of commerce that warns of a mismatch between what workers are trained for and what employers need.

    “For many businesses — 82 per cent can’t find (workers) with proper qualifications,” said Richard Koroscil, interim president of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

    “We are seeing this big skills mismatch. And we are also hearing, not just from employers, but a recent poll of the general population found that half of Ontarians feel their skills will have less value in the next decade. Unless this is fixed, it is going to have a significant impact on the future growth of Ontario, especially as we move into a knowledge-based economy.”

    Koroscil said the skilled trades are in demand, but it’s tough to fill jobs. Businesses would like to see that system modernized — with more flexible journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios — as well as fewer barriers to get into programs. Trades also need to be better promoted as potential careers.

    “These are good jobs,” he added. “These are good jobs that pay very good salaries.”

    Ontario’s education ministry continues to boost funding for “high skills major” programs in secondary schools, giving students a chance to earn real-world experiences in specialized areas. What’s needed, says the College Student Alliance, is better promotion of the skilled trades to teens.

    “The conversation should start in high school — or earlier — so students can understand and know what their options are other than university,” said president Joel Willett.

    The alliance would like to see the government create a website for youth that provides labour market information, such as where jobs are, what jobs are available, what skills are needed and what skills colleges provide.

    “We have strongly supported in the past the career pathways in the skilled trades, and we have advocated for stronger supports for college students for quite (a long) time now,” he said.

    Deb Matthews, minister of advanced education and skills development, said “Ontario’s employment and training programs are helping Ontarians skill up for the jobs of the future. The economy is changing and our government is determined to see that no one is left behind. To do this, we need to ensure that people in Ontario of all ages and at all stages of their lives are able to easily access high-quality training that will prepare them for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

    She said from apprenticeships to skills upgrading “or working more closely with employers and educators to better match students with new jobs, we will make sure Ontarians are ready.”

    Matthews also noted that for the first time, mature students are eligible for student assistance under OSAP, to return to school or improve their skills.

    Koroscil said artificial intelligence will have a huge impact on the workplace, “and we need to be preparing for that.”

    “We need to be anticipating what is going to be coming, instead of reacting,” he added.

    On Friday at St. Clair College, Premier Kathleen Wynne said the province will “continue to lead in terms of our highly skilled workforce, in terms of our innovation. I think the mayor was talking today here in Windsor about artificial intelligence. You know, the investments that we are making and the support that we are giving to the innovative sector here in Ontario, that’s where the future lies.”

    “And I don’t have enough of a crystal ball to be able to say where we’re going to be in 20 years. But, what we want to do is make sure that we’re graduating young people who are going to be able to take us to that to that new vision.”

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    The Ontario Provincial Police have identified the victim of a fatal stabbing in Bolton early Saturday as a 36-year-old Toronto man.

    Around 2:33 a.m. police responded to the corner of Highway 50 and Ellwood Dr. for a report of a stabbing near a gas station.

    When officers arrived, they found a man in obvious trauma. He was taken to an area hospital where he later died of his injuries. He has been identified as Alexander Lemon, 36, of Toronto.

    A post-mortem is scheduled for Sunday in Toronto.

    Police said the preliminary investigation revealed that the victim and four people, two men and two women, were involved in a physical altercation before the stabbing.

    Two men and one woman are in custody and police are still looking for the other woman involved.

    Police ask that anyone with information regarding this homicide is being asked to contact the Caledon OPP or Crime Stoppers.

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    “There it is! Mommy, I see it!” yells one young boy, screaming around the bend of Charity Cres. ahead of his younger sisters Friday morning.

    “I can see the cow!”

    Across the park, Theresa Pacariem holds her daughter in her arms on the front steps of her house, watching groups of people on bicycles and in cars come and go from her once-quiet street near Woodbine Ave. and Elgin Mills Rd. E.

    Less than two weeks after Charity was installed eight metres — or three storeys — above the centre of the crescent’s parkette, Markham’s giant stainless steel cow on stilts has become a tourist attraction.

    As soon as you turn the corner at the end of the street that boasts her namesake, she’s there, staring down at you. You can’t mistake her, with her bronze-leafed wreath, towering over the trees.

    The city has now put up a fence barricade to protect Charity from the crowds. A sign has also been installed, telling the famous cow’s story (she was a nine-time all-Canadian or all-American show cow, said to be the most productive milking cow in the world in the 1980s) and advising that the landscaping around it will be completed in September.

    “There was probably 200 people here yesterday taking selfies and pictures. They walk their children here and they’re in their strollers,” Pacariem says. “My angle isn’t as bad as some people. The people right in front of it have it even worse.”

    “This morning there was two big groups of women out here taking pictures,” chimes in her partner, Thomas Servellon, stepping out from the house to join her on the steps and watch.

    “Every few minutes you’ll see cars going by and people getting out to take pictures.”

    Around the bend, Lita Santiago plays with her granddaughter outside one of the 19 other homes that look directly at Charity.

    “It’s crazy, it’s crazy. It’s a tourist attraction now! Everyone comes over here,” she says, shaking her head and laughing.

    Tom Phillips told his partner Gayle they were going for lunch and an afternoon drive when he brought her to see the controversial monument.

    “If there’s any reason I would be pissed off here, it’s because idiots like us who live in Aurora who came down to see it,” he says, laughing about their 25-minute trek.

    After decades in the area, he’s familiar with the Roman family — who donated the $1.2-million cow statue to the site after developing the Cathedraltown neighbourhood and insisting it remain there despite local complaints.

    Still, he doesn’t understand the cow.

    “There was a dynasty here. Roman was famous for spending a lot of money on livestock,” he adds, while Gayle gets closer for a picture on her phone. “A million bucks eh, good lord. Just to think if you had a million bucks, you’d spend it on something wiser.”

    Pacariem says she’d be fine with Charity in her front yard if she weren’t on stilts.

    “I can see it from my window,” she says, shaking her head.

    “People around here don’t like it. It’s sitting right on top of those houses. You look out you see a cow and it’s on stilts,” echoes Theresa Yu, who has lived in the neighbourhood for more than a decade.

    But the stilts, that’s the part Phillips gets.

    “You could imagine if it was down here people would be spray painting and climbing on it — she’s a realist if nothing else,” he says of Helen Roman-Barber, who is developing the neighbourhood in honour of her family’s deep history in the area.

    “She can do whatever the hell she wants.”

    Some Charity Crescent homeowners are concerned the “eyesore” will diminish the value of their homes.

    Longtime Markham real estate agent John Procenko says that’s a matter of buyer preference.

    “One person would say ‘Oh, I’ll never buy this house’ and another person could say ‘where do I sign? It doesn’t bother me.’ It’s 50/50 really,” says Porchenko, who has sold homes in the area for 31 years.

    Still, eyesores often affect the value of a house, from cell phone and water towers to backing onto retail dumpsters, he says.

    “It’s not something you can put a dollar value on, maybe someone else loves it,” he says. “The neighbours don’t like it that are currently there.”

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    Hello, I’m Rob Refsynder.

    And so it went for Toronto’s newest Blue Jay. While the utility infielder didn’t exactly wear a nametag in the dugout, he did spend much of Saturday afternoon introducing himself to his new teammates.

    Made it to the ballpark from Buffalo barely in time for the first pitch, after a 90-minute cross-border stall, given the third degree by customs agents.

    “They were pretty tough. A lot more questions than I was anticipating.”

    Only when the work permit was confirmed was the 26-year-old — born in South Korea, adopted as a baby by California parents — allowed to step foot in Canada.

    A sellout crowd at the Rogers Centre got their first gander at Refsnyder when he trotted out to pinch run for catcher Miguel Montero in the bottom of the ninth. Never got beyond second base, though, when Jose Bautista grounded into a game-ending double play.

    “It was nice to get in and get the jitters out of the way a little bit.”

    A little bit of speed on the bases would be nice for the phlegmatic Jays, too. Sluggish sluggers might best describe them this season.

    With Troy Tulowitzki starting another stint on the DL after crumbling across first base Friday night — made bad contact both with the bag and first baseman C.J. Cron — Refsnyder was summoned from the Triple-A Bisons.

    A one-time highly regarded prospect with the Yankees, then designated for assignment, Refsnyder is hoping to rekindle his major-league dreams with the Jays, acquired from New York last Sunday in a low-risk trade that sent minor-leaguer Ryan McBroom the other way.

    He’d spent time with the Yankees in each of the past two seasons — 20 games this year — but had clearly fallen out of their long-term plans. In 41 Triple-A games this year, he has a slash line of .318/.398/.459.

    The Jays have no shortage of utility players but Refsnyder has recently seen service all over the infield, and with Tulowitzki on the 10-day DL (for now) he’s getting an opportune shot in Toronto.

    “It was pretty exciting,” Refsnyder said about learning that he’d become Jays property. “I was at my in-laws’ in Illinois, kind of just relaxing and trying to stay in shape. Wasn’t really anticipating another AL East team, to be honest. Obviously I’d played in Buffalo a couple of times throughout the year (in the Yankees’ minor-league system). It seemed like a better opportunity than what I was getting the past couple of years in New York.”

    Upon reporting to the Bisons, Refsnyder liked what he heard from the Jays about his immediate future.

    Versatile, which made him attractive to Toronto. Hard-pressed to say where he feels most comfortable, though it’s been mostly at second. “Man, I can’t even dial down where exactly I was playing. I was more of an insurance policy, if somebody got hurt or something like that. I was bouncing around a lot.”

    Savouring his return to The Show, even if Saturday was a brief cameo appearance.

    “Coming here, late in the season, electric atmosphere. I look at players I’ve admired from the other dugout for a couple of years. I’ll see where I kind of fit in. Right now I just want to be one of the guys, put the work in, get here early, stay late, all the clichés.’’

    He got chatting with Aaron Sanchez in the dugout and, if nothing else, was relieved that he won’t have to face him from the mound.

    “Man, I think I’m 0-for-30 against Sanchez.”

    Toronto also optioned reliever Chris Smith to Buffalo, swapping him for Mike Bolsinger, who would have started if Francisco Liriano had been traded by game time. Which he wasn’t. Stay tuned.

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    Toronto police have issued a public safety alert after four deaths likely caused by fentanyl overdose in the past three days in downtown Toronto.

    Police said there have been four fatalities and 20 overdose incidents since Thursday.

    The most recent incident was on Saturday when a woman was found dead in a stairwell near Queen St. E and Trefann St.

    A 27-year-old man died on Thursday in the area of Queen St. W. and Bathurst St., where he allegedly overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl, a powerful opioid that’s about 50 times stronger than heroin.

    Police said they believed the substance was bought in the area of Yonge St. and Dundas St.

    “It’s definitely worrisome to see these clusters of overdose deaths in Toronto, and I think we will see even more,” said Tara Gomes, epidemiologist and principal investigator of the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network.

    “What we’re seeing is the increase of fentanyl contamination of drugs sold on the street, like fentanyl pressed into OxyContin pills, and heroine.”

    Another man was found Friday without vital signs near Bathurst St. and Dundas St. W. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. Police say his death might have been due to a fentanyl overdose.

    “We continue to be extremely concerned about the number of people we are losing to overdoses,” Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, told the Star in an email.

    “These deaths are preventable and this issue is having a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities.”

    Toronto’s Overdose Action Plan, launched in March, provides a list of measuresthe city will be taking on, including the launch of supervised injection sites this fall.

    In Ontario, 734 people died of opioid-related causes in 2015, according to a report by researchers with the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

    Gomes, who is also a scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, said the most effective ways to respond to the increase of fentanyl contamination includes increased access to supervised injection sites and naloxone kits.

    Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opiod overdose, is available at various pharmacies and health centres across Toronto.

    Despite Toronto police’s public safety alert, there still no urgency in equipping officers with naloxone.

    “As far as right now, officers are not equipped with naloxone and I haven’t been made aware of any plans for that,” said Const. Craig Brister.

    Toronto paramedics carry naxolone.

    Dr. David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Toronto, said he thinks it’s a “mistake” for police to not have naloxone on hand.

    “All first-responders should have it on them. That’s an easy method of precaution.”

    “The appetite and the street market for opioids has gone through the roof. Fentanyl is so potent that you don’t need much to get high or to ward of withdrawal symptoms.”

    Juurlink believes the spike in overdose deaths is a result of a surge of doctors prescribing opioids, which if not done responsibly, can lead to addiction.

    “Every month that goes by, we’re losing more and more people to opiod overdose. And I think it’s fair to say that we will lose more than 3,000 people in Canada this year.”

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    A 62-year-old man is dead after a fire broke out in a home in Toronto’s Junction Triangle neighbourhood early Sunday morning.

    Approximately 40 firefighters responded to a 911 call about a fire at a three-storey home on Sarnia Ave., near Dupont St. and Symington Ave., at 3:30 a.m., according to Toronto Fire Services spokesperson Capt. David Eckerman.

    Apparently one of the tenants had made the call after the smoke alarm went off.

    Toronto fire says they arrived at the scene and found two of the three tenants waiting outside for emergency crews.

    Firefighters found the third, a 62-year-old man, on the second floor in critical condition. Toronto paramedics transported him to the hospital where he died from his injuries, Eckerman said.

    According to investigators, the three occupants in the home are related.

    The fire, which possibly originated in a third-floor bedroom, was knocked down quickly by 3:48 a.m., according to Toronto fire.

    Investigators are looking into the cause of the blaze.

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    A battle is brewing just south of James Bay between Moose Cree First Nation and a resource company that wants to develop the world’s next niobium mine in the heart of its traditional territory.

    For now, NioBay Metal Inc. wants a drilling permit to confirm the results of an exploration program undertaken in the 1960s. Down the road, the company has plans to develop an underground mine to produce niobium, a metal that helps make lighter, stronger steel.

    NioBay says the mine will cause minimal environmental damage and offers big benefits for Moose Cree, but the First Nation fears otherwise. The proposed mine site sits near the shore of the South Bluff Creek, a culturally significant area for Moose Cree members that borders the North French River Watershed, a region they consider protected. Now, they want the province to protect it too.

    The company’s President and CEO Claude Dufresne, meanwhile, said Moose Cree members aren’t in a position to make a decision about the project because NioBay hasn’t been allowed to make its pitch in the community.

    From a global economic perspective niobium is critical, he said.

    The metal is used in the construction of cars, high rises, bridges, jet engines, and MRIs, but most of the production comes from only three mines in the world – one in Quebec and two in Brazil. Its significance to the U.S. became clear in 2010, when it appeared more than once in a diplomatic cable, leaked by WikiLeaks, outlining 300 foreign infrastructure and resource sites considered critical to U.S. interests.

    If NioBay’s James Bay project proceeds the mine will be built in the heart of Moose Cree’s homeland.

    To date, the province has protected 1,583 sq. km of the North French River Watershed from development. Moose Cree wants that protection extended to cover the remaining 5,080 sq. km of watershed still open to mining as well as the South Bluff Creek Watershed, which lies right next door.

    Stuck in the middle, the Government of Ontario has put NioBay’s application on hold, leaving Moose Cree and NioBay to wait for a final decision.

    In a statement to the Star, Northern Development and Mines Minister Bill Mauro said his government “will continue to work with the company and Moose Cree First Nation regarding this exploration permit application. Any identified potential impacts will be considered in a future permitting decision.”

    Moose Cree Chief Patricia Faries says her community is united in its opposition to the project.

    “The South Bluff Creek is highly used by our members and has camps all along it. You can still drink the water from the creek and the sensitive wetland area supports brook trout, moose, black bear and boreal caribou,” Faries wrote in a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne in May.

    “Families that occupy the area are united in their opposition to this project. Its protection is also of paramount importance to our people,” she said.

    Her letter and a band council resolution rejecting the project have been posted on the First Nation’s website and Facebook page.

    In a statement Natural Resources and Forestry Minister Kathryn McGarry added that her ministry has met with Moose Cree First Nation and “recognizes the importance” of the two watersheds to the community.

    “The (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) supports the participation of Indigenous groups and communities in natural resource management which is why the ministry has taken steps to protect areas of interest to Moose Cree First Nation in the past and is interested in pursuing a dialogue with Moose Cree First Nation to further these opportunities in a balanced approach.”

    Meanwhile, Dufresne said the mine would bring more benefit than risk to Moose Cree First Nation – including jobs for Moose Cree members and a partnership agreement for the First Nation.

    The mining claim is about 40 km south of Moose Factory, where Moose Cree First Nation is based. Dufresne said the footprint of a future mine would be smaller than the Niobec niobium mine in Quebec and a fraction of the size of the Detour gold mine near the southeastern edge of Moose Cree’s traditional territory.

    “The risks associated with niobium processing are very, very low,” he added, noting the Niobec mine in Quebec has been operating for 40 years with no environmental issues.

    Niobium doesn’t require toxic chemicals for processing, unlike gold processing, which often involves cyanide, and the mine could recycle most of its water, limiting its discharge to close to zero, he told the Star

    When asked about effluent reports from the Quebec Niobec mine in 2013, which show it released some amount of arsenic, zinc, copper and nitrogen, though at levels below regulated limits, Dufresne said it’s “too early to say which elements will be discharged.”

    “However, I would like to note that even drinking water contained minerals,” he said.

    Right now, NioBay is focused on finalizing exploration work to validate the resource. But a presentation to investors on its website shows NioBay was hoping for mine construction by 2020 and production by 2021. The company is estimating a mine life of 25-30 years.

    “Obviously now everything will be postponed until we can get some support from the Moose Cree,” Dufresne said.

    “We obviously want to make sure that the project is well known and after that if the community as a whole is against it, well then, obviously we won’t be able to build a mine – but we haven’t reached that stage yet,” he said.

    Moose Cree First Nation, however, seems resolute.

    “It is not a matter of our community needing more time to better understand the economics of the project. Moose Cree will not allow any industrial development here ever,” Faries wrote in her letter to Wynne.

    “Our ancestors have lived on this land since time immemorial drawing the animals, fish and plants for our sustenance. We are charged by the Creator with the sacred duty of preserving and protecting the land including its waters for our future generations.”

    Moose Cree’s opposition to development in this area is nothing new and their right to reject the mine should be respected, said Anna Baggio, the director of conservation planning for Wildlands League, the Ontario chapter of CPAWS.

    Moose Cree declared the North French Watershed protected in 2002 and rejected a similar drilling proposal in the South Bluff Creek Watershed by the mining claim’s previous owner in 2003 – thirteen years before NioBay acquired the claim.

    “NioBay should have done their due diligence and checked with the community before they purchased that property because if they had checked with Moose Cree, Moose Cree could have told them that they had said no to drilling before,” Baggio said.

    Damage from the 1960’s exploration work, which was undertaken without Moose Cree’s consent, is still visible on the landscape and Baggio fears a mine will cause permanent damage to the ecosystem.

    “These are very sensitive wetlands, it’s cold and the growing season is very short, the land does not restore itself,” she said.

    “There are certain places where mining just shouldn’t happen and this is just one of those places.”

    Wildlands League and 11 other environmental organizations have thrown their weight behind Moose Cree First Nation’s call for protection of these lands and waterways.

    In an open letter to Wynne in June, they noted the watersheds not only provide critical habitat for migratory birds, fish, and threatened boreal caribou, the boreal forest serves as a vital carbon sink.

    Protecting these areas could help Canada meet its international climate and biodiversity targets, they said.

    Canada has committed to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and, under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, to protect 17 per cent of its lands and inland waters by 2020. With three years left to reach its goal Canada is lagging behind other G7 countries, a CPAWS report released last week said.

    Only Canada and the U.S. have not yet met the 17 per cent target, but the U.S., which has protected 13 per cent of its territory, is ahead of Canada, which has protected 11 per cent. Germany meanwhile is leading the pack with protection for 37.8 per cent of its lands and inland waters.

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    Two men are in serious condition after a shooting at a backyard party in Scarborough early Sunday.

    Paramedics were called to Commonwealth Ave. and Brussels Rd. just after midnight, where they found a man, 31, in serious and possibly life-threatening condition with a gunshot wound. A 30-year-old man was also seriously injured after being grazed by a bullet.

    Staff Sgt. Jim Giczi said the shooting took place at a “large party” in a residential backyard, and that “a number of shots (were) fired.”

    Although police have yet to confirm that the victims were targeted in the shooting, he said the circumstances mean there’s a “likelihood it wasn’t a random event.”

    Police found shell casings at the scene, but are still working to find information on possible suspects.

    Earlier this month, a similar setting for a shooting happened in Scarborough when two men were killed at a backyard birthday party.

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    ZAMBOANGA, PHILIPPINES—Police in the southern Philippines said they fatally shot 15 people Sunday, including a city mayor who was among the politicians President Rodrigo Duterte publicly linked to illegal drugs, in the bloodiest assault so far in Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown.

    Officers were to serve warrants to Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr. to search his houses for the suspected presence of unlicensed firearms when gunmen opened fire on the police, sparking clashes that killed the mayor and at least 14 other people, Ozamiz police chief Jovie Espenido said.

    “He’s a high-value target on illegal drugs,” Espenido, who oversaw the simultaneous, post-midnight raids on the mayor’s residence and three other houses, said at a news conference.

    “We enforce the law to protect the people who want peace in this country,” he said. “How can we enforce the law if ... we’re scared of the drug lords? That cannot be, they should be afraid of people who do good for all.”

    At least five people, including Parojinog’s daughter, who serves as vice mayor of Ozamiz, a port city, were arrested during the raids. Policemen were approaching the mayor’s house when his bodyguards opened fire and hit a police car and wounded a police officer, sparking a firefight amid a power outage, Espenido said.

    A grenade held by one of Parojinog’s bodyguards exploded during the clash inside his house and it remains unclear if he and his wife were killed by the blast or police gunfire or both, Espenido said, adding that assault rifles, grenades, suspected methamphetamine and cash were seized in the raids.

    “The administration vowed to intensify the drug campaign,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in connection with Sunday’s raids in Ozamiz. “The Parojinogs, if you would recall, are included in (Duterte’s) list of personalities involved in the illegal drug trade.”

    Read more:

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    Parojinog, who also faced corruption charges, had denied any links to illegal drugs. He was the third mayor to be killed under Duterte’s bloody crackdown on drugs, which has left more than 3,000 dead in reported gunfights with police and thousands of other unexplained deaths of suspects.

    Parojinog’s daughter, Vice Mayor Nova Echaves, was arrested and was to be flown to Manila for security reasons, regional police chief superintendent Timoteo Pacleb said.

    The drug killings have been widely criticized by Western governments and human rights groups that have called for an end to what they suspect were extrajudicial killings related to the anti-drug campaign.

    Last year, police officers shot dead Albuera town Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. inside a jail cell in the central province of Leyte, and a week before that, another mayor and his nine bodyguards were gunned down allegedly during a firefight on a road in the southern Philippines.

    Espenido was the Albuera police chief when the then-detained Espinosa was killed during a police raid in a jail in a nearby city in Leyte.

    Duterte has vowed to defend policemen who would face criminal and human rights charges while cracking down on illegal drugs. He recently ordered a police officer charged in connection with Espinosa’s death to be reinstated after briefly being charged and suspended following the jail killing.

    All three mayors were among more than 160 officials Duterte named publicly as being linked to illegal drugs in August last year as part of a shame campaign.

    Duterte has vowed not to stop until the last drug dealer in the country has been eliminated.

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    Mobsters are jostling to fill the vacuum left by the death of an organized crime mega-boss, resulting in about a dozen unsolved violent incidents this year in Ontario — shootings, explosions and killings.

    After Vito Rizzuto, considered by police to be Canada’s most powerful mobster, died in Montreal in December 2013 of reportedly natural causes, a vacancy at the top opened up. And the results have been bloody.

    “Everybody wants to be the next boss now that Rizzuto is gone,” said Paul Manning, a former undercover officer in Hamilton. “There’s a lot of infighting over who will be the next boss.”

    This evolving picture of organized crime in southern Ontario is drawn from interviews with a variety of sources — both investigators and those connected to organized crime — across southern Ontario and Quebec. Most declined to speak on the record for professional reasons.

    The leadership vacuum has attracted tech-savvy newcomers from Ontario and Quebec who are eager to challenge the old guard. It has also triggered vicious infighting inside what’s left of the old Rizzuto organization in Ontario.

    That infighting may explain the murder of Angelo (Ang) Musitano, 39, who was shot at close range May 2, 2017 in the driveway of his suburban Hamilton house in mid-afternoon with his wife and three young children inside.

    It was what Hamilton police Det.-Sgt. Peter Thom called “a very deliberate and targeted attack.”

    Before he went to jail, Musitano’s 49-year-old brother, Pat, was considered to be a long-standing Niagara Region associate of Rizzuto, with a keen interest in illegal gambling, according to a report by the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, a multi-jurisdictional police organization.

    Angelo Musitano reportedly found religion since he and Pat pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the 1997 gangland hit on Carmen Barillaro at the front door of his Niagara Falls home. They were both sentenced to 10 years in prison and were released on parole in October 2006 after serving two-thirds of their terms.

    Read more:

    Move over Tony Soprano, here comes Vito Rizzuto

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    Illegal gambling has been particularly contentious over the past few years since Rizzuto’s death and the 2013 dismantling of Platinum Sports Book, an illegal internet-based gambling network.

    “Everyone’s fighting for control of the sports book,” said a GTA police source who specializes in organized crime, but was not authorized to speak on the record.

    Early on the morning of June 27, someone opened fire on the Hamilton home of Pat Musitano.

    The gunman, or gunmen, apparently wanted to send a loud message, as there were about 20 shell casings found in front of the upscale home on St. Clair Blvd.

    Manning suspects it was a message to Pat Musitano that he should shelve any plans of avenging the murder of his younger brother.

    “It’s a warning to leave it there,” Manning said, adding that when Rizzuto was alive he would resolve such disagreements inside his organization like a stern but fair father.

    “Usually, there would be a sit-down, an apology.”

    Some of this year’s violence is blamed on an ongoing culture clash between the old and the new. On one side are the aggressive young computer-friendly newcomers from B.C. and Quebec allied to a gang called The Wolfpack Alliance. On the other side are the old guard — the GTA arm of the traditional ’Ndrangheta family of Cosimo (The Quail) Commisso of Siderno, Italy.

    The Wolfpack Alliance was formed in British Columbia about a decade ago. The alliance pulls together members of existing crime groups, some of which are organized along racial lines, according to Kash Heed, former B.C. solicitor general, minister of public safety and West Vancouver Police chief.

    It’s a rapidly evolving group of organized crime disrupters. Their members don’t have blood or ethnic ties or a code of conduct or a rigid hierarchy. They’re generally young and tech savvy. They have gold pendants with a wolf’s head gold medallion to show membership.

    “It’s a collective of very successful wealthy organized crime guys working together,” Heed said.

    By contrast, the ’Ndrangheta is steeped in a highly structured, quasi-religious criminal tradition that reaches back more than a century to the southern Italian region of Calabria.

    The ’Ndrangheta carries itself like a state within a state, with various councils and titles, like “capo-crimine” for minister of war and “contabile” for treasurer.

    While its titles may sound archaic, the ’Ndrangheta’s profits surpass those of many modern multinational corporations. Italian investigative journalist Giulio Rubino wrote earlier this month that the ’Ndrangheta made $70.41 billion (U.S.) worldwide in 2013.

    The violence between the newcomers aligned with the Wolfpack, and the old guard in the ’Ndrangheta, isn’t expected to end anytime soon, as the Wolfpack has aligned itself with enemies of the GTA ’Ndrangheta, sources say.

    The Star has learned that police have warned two York Region men who are considered to be senior members of Commisso’s family that there are credible threats on their lives. The warnings came over the past month and the men declined police protection.

    Two other men who investigators consider to be senior underworld figures in York Region have chosen to quietly leave town over the past month, sources say.

    One of those departing is related to Commisso. The other is related to Agostino Cuntrera, a former leading member of the Rizzuto crime family in Montreal who was murdered in 2010.

    There was enormous bad blood between the Rizzutos and local ’Ndrangheta at the time of Rizzuto’s death. They were on opposite sides of a mob war in the early 2000s that saw Rizzuto’s father and eldest son murdered.

    At the time of his death, Rizzuto was believed by police to have drafted a “black list” of men in the Commisso family he wanted killed.

    “People are watching their backs now,” the veteran investigator of organized crime said. “People aren’t being as open to meetings now. They’re getting nervous.”

    Newcomer Anastasios (Tassos) Leventis, 39, of Montreal may have been nervous when he was called to a mid-afternoon meeting on Jan. 30, but he went anyway.

    Leventis was connected to the Wolfpack Alliance, even if he wasn’t a member.

    Leventis moved to downtown Toronto from Montreal more than a year ago to collect drug debts owed to Montrealers, the police source says.

    Not long before his death, he had a confrontation with a York Region ’Ndrangheta Mafia boss connected to Commisso over a drug debt.

    On the afternoon of his death, Leventis realized something was horribly wrong almost immediately after stepping out of the condo complex on George St. near Adelaide St. E. in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood. He bolted in front of students, passersby, construction workers and area residents.

    Moments later, a gunman stood over him, pumping bullets into his body.

    “The victim knew his killers,” the police officer familiar with the case told the Star. “The killers were waiting for him outside his condo. He was chased down the street.”

    “He certainly got set up,” the police source said.

    Toronto police investigators declined several requests to comment on the case.

    Leventis was an enthusiastic gambler who trained as a computer programmer. Computer skills are vital as organized crime groups reach out across borders, journalist/ academic Luis Horacio Najera said in an interview.

    Mexican drug cartels connect with the new small aggressive groups like the Wolfpack Alliance with encrypted messaging systems as they push into Canada.

    “In today’s world, there’s a lot of resources as personal information, contacts, instant communications — even hiring a hit man, or buying guns — that you can access through the web,” said Najera, who worked as a journalist covering drug cartels in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico before he was forced to leave the country as a refugee.

    Domenic Triumbari, 58, of Woodbridge, was related to the Siderno ’Ndrangheta boss Commisso, which meant he wasn’t a man to be trifled with.

    Certainly, Triumbari didn’t appear to worry when he went out to play cards on the evening of March 31 in an industrial plaza that featured a social club and a banquet hall on Regina Road in Vaughan, less than five minutes drive from the Highway 7 and Martin Grove Road intersection.

    “He loved to play cards,” said a police officer who knew him. “He was involved in a whole series of games.”

    Despite all of the conflict around him, Triumbari seemed like a lucky man in the days before his murder.

    The longtime York Region resident was basking in the afterglow of a $150,000 win at Casino Niagara when a gunman rushed out from a parked car in the plaza and shot him dead.

    “He’s not a guy that you would just casually decide to take out,” a retired organized crime investigator said.

    Violence hasn’t abated since the murder of Leventis six months ago. Much of it has been in York Region, and includes the massive explosion early in the morning of June 29 that knocked a wall out of the Caffé Corretto on Winges Rd. near Highways 400 and 7.

    That blast showered brick and gaming machine bits down onto a nearby black BMW.

    The café had been targeted in a police sweep of illegal gaming machines in January 2016.

    This violence appears to be directed against the Commisso network, but no clear victor has emerged in the conflict, which isn’t expected to end any time soon.

    Both sides are strong and motivated and there’s no one with the power of Rizzuto to order a cease fire.

    “Everybody’s taking a hit,” the veteran police office said. “It was never like this.”

    Peter Edwards is the author 10 books on organized crime and writes regularly on the topic for the Toronto Star.

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    Hooked to an artificial respirator, Khaldoun Senjab has been identified by the United Nations as a Syrian refugee for priority resettlement.

    A Canadian official who interviewed the computer systems programmer in Lebanon last year noted on the refugee sponsorship application for Senjab, his wife and two children: “Beautiful family that will settle well.”

    That’s why the family was shocked to receive a rejection letter from the Canadian visa post in Beirut in April, saying Senjab was inadmissible because of his work with the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, an opposition umbrella group recognized by the United States, as well as countries in the Middle East and Europe, as Syria’s legitimate representative.

    “We escaped death and war in Syria to face a very difficult situation in Lebanon. Just imagine the situation for a woman with her ventilator-dependent quadriplegic husband,” said a frustrated Senjab, who is restricted to lying in bed after a serious diving accident in 1994.

    “The decision of the Canadian visa officer was absolutely unfair. They treated me like a criminal. I did nothing wrong. They didn’t only break my heart but they broke the heart of my tiny little family.”

    According to the Immigration Department, visa officials have rejected 381 cases, or 3 per cent, of the 11,333 Syrian private sponsorship applications received between Nov. 4, 2015, and July 20 this year. Of those, nine cases were refused due to the applicants’ alleged association with a group “engaged in or instigating the subversion” of a government.

    The Syrian opposition coalition was launched in 2012 with the goal of “overthrowing” the regime of Bashar Assad and building a democratic, pluralistic Syria. It works with the Free Syrian Army — made up of defected Syrian Armed Forces and supported by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — to protect civilians. Canada has not recognized the Syrian opposition coalition as the country’s legitimate representative.

    “Although we cannot comment on a case, we can say that applications are considered on a case-by-case basis on the specific facts presented by the applicant,” said Immigration Department spokesperson Nancy Caron.

    “Admissibility decisions are made by trained officers in accordance with the criteria set out in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.”

    Since the Syrian civil war started in 2011, five million Syrians have fled the country, with another 6.2 million internally displaced, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. The death toll is estimated at over 400,000.

    The Assad regime has been condemned by the international community for its brutal attacks on its own people and use of chemical weapons.

    Critics said supporters of the Syrian opposition are particularly at risk of torture and persecution if returned to the country from temporary shelter abroad.

    “It is preposterous that the Canadian government is refusing urgent refugee cases like Senjab’s, for any kind of remote connection to the Syrian opposition,” said Toronto lawyer Tim Wichert, who represents the family in asking the Federal Court of Canada to review the government decision.

    In his client’s case, Senjab said he worked as a freelancer through a friend on the web server for the website of the coalition, providing defence against web security attacks. He said neither was he a member of the group nor did he endorse any violent activities with or against the Assad regime.

    As of the end of March, almost 46,000 Syrian refugees had settled in Canada, including 23,975 sponsored by Canadian government, 17,705 by private faith and community groups and some 4,210 in the mixed stream.

    However, there are still 14,972 Syrians in 5,652 private sponsorship applications in process. Wichert fears immigration officials are trying to “find a simple solution to clear their caseloads” by using the inadmissibility on security grounds to refuse applications.

    “Immigration’s position seems to be that anyone who worked or volunteered with the coalition is inadmissible to Canada on security grounds for engaging in the subversion of a government by force or being a member of an organization that has engaged in the subversion,” said lawyer Pierre-Andre Theriault, who is aware of at least three such cases in recent months.

    “Over 80 countries around the world, including the European Union and the United States, recognize the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The discretionary, and discriminatory, application of inadmissibility provisions seems problematic to me.”

    Theriault’s client, Mohammad Waleed Taleb, received a “fairness letter” in June from the Canadian visa post in Turkey raising concerns that the Syrian refugee could be inadmissible “due to your past activities and past employment” with the coalition.

    Taleb, 32, said he volunteered to help with creating the media office for the opposition in October 2011, advocating for human rights and democracy for a new Syria.

    “I created the websites, social media, branding and e-marketing channels. I felt it was important to be involved in the movement for democracy in Syria because of the ongoing violence in Syria being committed by the al-Assad regime against civilians,” said Taleb, who is in exile in Turkey with his wife, Duaa Khiti, and children, Khaled, 7, and Lana, 4.

    “My role was very specific within the media office and I was not directly or indirectly involved in the promotion or implementation of any violence or war crimes.”

    Taleb said life has been tough for his family as they only have temporary residence status in Turkey and he fears for their lives there because he is known to members of Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL, in the country and has received threats.

    “Duaa and I are terrified to return to Syria. We know that the situation in Syria has deteriorated significantly and we believe that our lives would be at risk,” said Taleb. “There is no place in Syria that my family and I can be safe.”

    Jennifer Raine, of the People of the East End Refugee Support Group that is sponsoring Taleb and his family, said she understands the needs to properly screen newcomers for security threats but Ottawa’s broad stroke against anyone associated with the Syrian opposition does not make sense.

    “It’s not that hard to tell the difference between those who work behind the desk promoting democracy and those who have weapons in their hands,” said Raine, whose group was matched with the family in December 2015.

    “These guys can’t go back to Syria. Their status in Turkey is tenuous. What are they supposed to do?”

    0 0

    Mayor John Tory has called four overdose deaths over the weekend tragic but preventable as advocates call on the city to do more.

    “It’s such a tragedy to see this number of people dying,” Tory said Monday during a trip to Toronto Island for its official re-opening.

    Toronto police put out a safety alert on Saturday as the city saw four deaths and 20 overdoses since Thursday.

    Tory said the city is moving forward with its overdose action plan, but warned that those using drugs and those around them need to be “vigilant” during an ongoing fentanyl crisis.

    “These are preventable deaths,” he said. “I’m troubled by it because it is a devastation to families, to communities.”

    Fentanyl is a powerful opioid which experts across the country say is being cut into other drugs with frequency, often unbeknownst to those using them.

    There were 730 opioid-related deaths in Ontario in 2015, the most recent provincial data available, 137 of which were in Toronto. That number has risen steadily since 2012 when there were 585 deaths in Ontario, 85 of which were in Toronto.

    Toronto police have faced recent criticism because there are no plans for frontline officers to carry the powerful antidote naloxone. Toronto paramedics already carry the drug proven to save lives in the event of an overdose and distribution to firefighters is planned this fall.

    Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash has said it is their policy that officers can only administer the epiPen medication.

    Naloxone blocks the effect of opioids in the brain, reversing the effects of an overdose.

    Related story: Sherbourne Health Centre latest to offer naloxone in midst of opiate crisis

    The mayor said the city’s first responders are “doing their part” when it comes to the deadly drug’s toll on the city.

    “We have relied on the advice of all of these different people, including public health, first responders and others,” Tory said of the city’s response. “I’m willing to consider anything that those people who know more than I do about this are willing to think are reasonable and is going to save lives.”

    Two of the recent victims died within steps of the Queen West Central Toronto Community Health Centre, one of three locations that will see supervised injection services opened this year.

    Advocates have been pushing for such sites for the past decade. Necessary federal approval and provincial funding were finalized last month.

    With files from David Rider

    0 0

    REGINA—A Canadian Tire staff member who physically removed an Indigenous man from a store in Regina is no longer with the company, a spokesperson said Sunday.

    Kamao Cappo of the Muscowpetung First Nation posted a video to social media last week that appears to show him being pushed by a store employee who accused him of shoplifting.

    A spokeswoman for Canadian Tire said the employee in the video “has not been working in the store since the time of the incident and he is no longer with (the company).”

    Cappo, 53, said he was relieved to hear the news.

    “I feel that Canadian Tire is starting to make some movements in the right direction,” he said.

    “At least it sends a message to other people who think they can manhandle their customers.”

    The incident sparked online outrage and about 40 people staged a demonstration outside of the store Friday to show support for Cappo, who has said he was discriminated against because he is Indigenous.

    Read more: Indigenous man live-streams altercation with Canadian Tire employee

    Cappo was in the store buying a chainsaw, an extra chain and oil. But when he was at the checkout, he realized he had the wrong model and took the goods to customer service where he put the chain and oil inside the saw box for ease of handling by the clerk.

    Cappo has said that when he went to look for the right model he was approached by an employee who accused him of trying to shoplift, pushed him against some shelves and physically removed him from the store when he wouldn’t leave.

    He said he has a heart condition and was injured in the confrontation. He said he filed a complaint with police and is hoping the employee will be charged.

    Cappo said he’ll continue to press the issue in the hopes of making a difference for other Indigenous people.

    “Do you know how damaging it is to our children to be treated in this manner? And nobody’s doing anything about it,” he said. “We need to start doing something.”

    Bobby Cameron, the chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, says racial profiling against Indigenous people still happens regularly.

    “It happens every day,” Cameron said in a phone interview. “The second a First Nation walks into a door, there’s eyes on them — accusing eyes.”

    While he’s happy the Canadian Tire employee is no longer with the company, he says all sectors of society need more cross-cultural awareness training to address wider issues of profiling and discrimination.

    “We need all those customer outlets such as Canadian Tire, (as well as) gas stations, hotels, police, health, education, the justice system — all those people and individuals need a serious crash course on First Nation traditions and protocols,” he said.

    0 0

    OTTAWA—It’s the plan the federal government doesn’t want you to see and doesn’t want to talk about.

    Details of Canada’s special forces operations in Iraq? Nope. The inside scoop on Canada’s negotiating strategy for upcoming trade talks with the United States? Not that, either.

    Instead, the document kept under wraps outlines some of the planning for how the Canadian government will respond to the death of Queen Elizabeth.

    Yet the Privy Council Office — the bureaucrats who support the Prime Minister’s Office and cabinet — has refused to reveal the internal plan meant to guide the government’s actions in the hours and days after the Queen dies.

    That plan is a cabinet confidence, reserved for the eyes of cabinet ministers and senior advisers, the office said in response to an access to information request by the Star.

    The office even refused to discuss whether bureaucrats have been meeting to discuss the topic. Asked for details about any committee established to oversee the planning, the Privy Council Office delayed its response, saying it needed four months to consult “other government institutions.”

    The Star appealed the office’s decision to withhold all records to the information commissioner of Canada. But after a review, commission investigators deemed that the documents are indeed cabinet confidences that will be kept under wraps.

    It’s no secret that the health of the Queen, age 91, has been on the minds of Canadian bureaucrats and politicians.

    In announcing in April that Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, would be visiting Canada for July 1 celebrations, Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said the Queen’s health did not allow her to make the trip.

    “I understand that, of course, the Queen is ill,” Joly told CTV’s Power Play. She then clarified to say, “Well, not necessarily ill, but doesn’t have the capacity, the health, to come to Canada.”

    Documents obtained from the Canadian Heritage Department reveal that backroom planning for the Queen’s death has been underway for several years, with broad consultations that have included the Canadian Armed Forces, Rideau Hall, the Privy Council Office, Buckingham Palace and Canada’s High Commission in London.

    In 2012, Kevin MacLeod, at the time the Canadian secretary to the Queen, reviewed the “Succession of the Crown Plans.” In an email to Stephen Wallace, the secretary to the Governor General, MacLeod said he was “most impressed with its thoroughness.”

    MacLeod passed along several suggestions to Wallace — all of them censored from the material released to the Star — but said, “all in all, this is a very strong document and, again, congratulations on a great effort.”

    That planning has continued, with meetings and email exchanges, including several in 2016 with the subject line “Succession to the Throne” that included officials in the Heritage Department responsible for major events and commemorations.

    Emails were also exchanged with the office of the Earl Marshal, who has a role in planning state ceremonies in the United Kingdom, including organizing the funeral of a monarch and the coronation of the new one.

    Exact details of all those discussions and decisions were kept from the Star’s view. Dozens of pages provided under access to information were censored in their entirety on the grounds that their contents constituted advice to a cabinet minister.

    The Privy Council Office declined to comment Friday on any of the planning, saying only that arrangements “concerning succession to the throne will be announced at an appropriate time” and conveying a wish for the Queen’s continued good health.

    “PCO will work closely with Rideau Hall and all implicated government departments to ensure that appropriate measures are in place. The Government of Canada wishes Her Majesty the Queen a long and prosperous reign,” a council office spokesperson, Stéphane Shank, told the Star.

    Rideau Hall, the home of the Governor General, was equally tight-lipped. “It will not be possible to share with you, at the present moment, details and the sequence of events pertaining to the death of Her Majesty the Queen,” said a spokesperson, Marie-Ève Létourneau.

    The reluctance to comment is understandable, said one person familiar with some of the government’s work on the file.

    “People don’t want to cast a lot of light on the subject because no one wants anyone to believe that the Queen is about to die,” the source said.

    But the source, who spoke on background because of the sensitivity of the topic, said that developing contingency plans was simply good practice.

    The source noted, for example, that when members of the Royal Family travel abroad, they pack mourning clothes with them, just in case. “If a death occurs in London, they have to be prepared,” he said.

    Just as Ottawa has planned for the deaths of past prime ministers and governors general — often in consultation with those personalities themselves — it has laid plans for the death of the Queen.

    “When the news comes that so-and-so has passed, there is an awful lot that has to be done in a very short prescribed period of time. The more planning you can do in advance to know who has to be called when and what happens in what order, so much the better,” the source said.

    “The key players who will be involved know that they will have roles to play and I presume they are talking to each other on a fairly regular basis.”

    That planning is almost certain to include the offices of the lieutenant-governors, who serve as the Queen’s representatives in each of the provinces.

    The death of the Queen — who has reigned for 65 years — will have a profound effect on Canadians, predicted Garry Toffoli, vice-chairman and executive director of the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust.

    “Most of us have never known any other monarch. It has defined our lives,” he said.

    “Traumatic might not be the right word, but it will be emotional when it happens,” Toffoli said in an interview.

    Given that her mother lived to 101, the Queen could have another decade ahead of her, he said. But he said it’s understandable that plans have been laid.

    As for guidance on what to expect when she dies, Toffoli suggested looking to the death of the Queen’s father, King George VI, on Feb. 6, 1952 — the last time a reigning British monarch died.

    The Heritage Department documents provided to the Star included an annex detailing some of the activities that unfolded on the Canadian end that year.

    Within an hour of the official announcement of the king’s death in London, notifications went out to the prime minister and cabinet officials in Ottawa. The CBC was quickly instructed to ensure that radio programs would “immediately be altered in a manner suitable for the occasion.” That meant no ads, only “appropriate” music, news and announcements.

    Public Works was contacted to ensure flags were lowered to half-mast on federal buildings. Work was started on proclamations: one to announce the death of the king and another to mark the accession of the Queen. The senior judge of the Supreme Court and the prime minister took oaths of allegiance to the new monarch.

    The Canadian representatives at the king’s funeral included the Canadian high commissioner, Vincent Massey, who was the incoming governor general, as well as the minister of national defence and the secretary of state for external affairs. Prime minister Louis St.-Laurent did not attend the funeral.

    A national day of mourning was declared and a ceremony held in Ottawa at the National War Memorial on the day of the funeral.

    Toffoli expects some of those activities will occur in the wake of the Queen’s death, too. “There are things that will happen automatically and then there will be things that will be up to the government of the time to decide what to do,” he said.

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