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    For those who can’t make it to the end of the alphabet and don’t know Y, taking a stroll down Queen St. E. in the Beach might help.

    Toronto artist Victor Fraser has once again painted his glittery alphabet on city streets, between Neville Park Blvd. and Herbert Ave.

    Some of the 26 letters are correlated with local businesses, such as B for Book City, C for Cinamon Indian Bistro and M for Mira’s clothing store (and the movie theatre next door), but others are randomly placed.

    Fraser said he tried to align the letters with stores wherever he could, when he painted them over the weekend.

    “The Beach is known for a very eccentric or ‘art-centric’ community that’s responsive,” Fraser said. “There was a lot of excitement and curiosity; it was really a lovely experience.”

    Painting and meeting residents also helped him take his mind off his mother’s cancer diagnosis.

    “It definitely helps alleviate personal stress, it’s fun to interact with kids and parents,” he said.

    Fraser painted a similar alphabet on the Danforth between Pape and Woodbine Aves. for three years in a row between 2012 and 2015 because he lived in the area.

    “I thought, ‘what can I do for this neighbourhood that it doesn’t really have?,’ ” he said.

    Last year, he created an alphabet in the Junction, where he has also lived.

    “I was going to do this on the (Toronto) Islands this year but Mother Nature said no,” he said, so he decided the Beach would be a good place to do it instead.

    The neighbourhood was bustling with activity Wednesday afternoon, and some pedestrians stopped to take photos of the sparkly letters, but few people knew why they were there or who painted them.

    “It’s hard to put it all together, you see an A, you see a B, and unless you keep going you won’t know that it continues,” said Joey De Wiele, a local resident.

    Michelle Campbell, who also lives in the area, said the letters were a fun little surprise when they appeared over the weekend.

    “They’re nice, they’re well done, it’s not just spray-painted on the sidewalk,” she said. “But the glitter is getting less and less glittery.”

    Fraser said he’d love to do a similar project in Chicago as part of an art exchange, or in Tokyo, where he visited earlier this year.

    “In the future it would be fun to have an alphabet city,” he said.

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    Google gave its employee James Damore the axe this week. Figuratively speaking, should it have, instead, killed him softly with its love?

    Damore, whom we will be hearing more about in the coming days as the newest face of white supremacy, is reportedly considering suing the tech giant for wrongful dismissal.

    An internal memo he wrote to staff, made infamous on social media as the “Google Manifesto,” said you can’t blame discrimination or hiring practices for the dismal number of women in the tech industry and leadership positions.

    It’s biology, stupid.

    Women’s “neuroticism” makes them less suited to be software developers.

    He said, “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.” Then he proceeded to rationalize the exclusion of women and to stereotype them.

    The internet well-nigh exploded, its embers descending onto predictable corners. At one end were those outraged that a supposedly logical-minded engineer could cherry-pick scientific studies to make sweeping, absolute denouncements about half of humanity. On the other, were those outraged that a man speaking up for the status quo was vilified and had his free speech rights violated.

    Much of the debate has focused on whether the brains of men and women are biologically different. One study says they are, another says they are not not. Certainly, no credible studies have made the connection between those differences and the career choices women make.

    While it’s comforting to seek the status quo and explain away discrimination as a biological necessity — not being equally considered for those “bro” jobs is in our interest, silly— why do countries such as India and those in Latin America produce proportionally more female programmers than North America?

    To lean on science first and then to switch to the claim that women don’t want leadership because “these positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life,” is just ridiculous, and ignores societal expectations that women carry the physical and mental load of running the house. It’s not just about who does the dishes.

    Damore says, “Status is the primary metric that men are judged on, pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail.”

    Aww, those poor rich corporate bosses. Given a chance, they’d much rather do a 9 to 5, rush home and take charge of the household, pick up their kids, help with homework, run their baths, cook dinners, prep for school the next day, arrange play dates, arrange the social calendar, relationships, groceries . . . just bliss. Instead they are valiantly living up to societal pressures to be powerful.

    “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

    — Unknown

    Damore’s views have clearly reverberated far beyond the boundaries of the tech industry to the wider world of sexists who couch their support of male dominance by heaping scorn on political correctness, by claiming victimhood while calling those actually victimized snowflakes, and finally, by relying on their “natural” leadership.

    They see opposition to their views as hypocrisy. They think social justice advocates welcome diversity of thought only when they agree with it.

    But an opinion is not “diverse” just because it differs from the norm.

    True diversity of thought based on different experiences enriches places of learning, places of work and societies when those speaking are not discounted simply for who they are. A differing view is not legitimate when all it seeks is to further oppress the marginalized.

    One immediate reaction that was widely cited within Google and outside was a persuasive opinion piece by a former employee, Yonatar Zunger, who said characteristics such as empathy, described as “female” in the manifesto, make you better engineers. “Engineering is not the art of building devices; it’s the art of fixing problems,” he wrote. “The large bulk of your job is about co-ordinating and co-operating with other groups.”

    He also made a case for why he would fire Damore. “I could not in good conscience assign anyone to work with you. You have just created a textbook hostile workplace environment.”

    Google fired Damore on Tuesday.

    There was another option. Google could have made Damore work in an all-women’s team with only female bosses, letting him stick out like a sore thumb, torn from his clique, unable to use “female” skills of collaboration because — biology just made him that way. Would he still want to “de-moralize diversity” if it meant there could be no men on his team? Would he still want to “de-emphasize empathy” if it led to his isolation?

    Google’s firing supposedly sent a message that sexist views would not be tolerated.

    In reality, it was not the views, but the expression of such views that were not being tolerated. The tech giant applied a Band-Aid to a far deeper cut. Firing people like Damore pushes underground the sexism that manifests daily in subtle ways around who is considered favourably, who is assigned challenging tasks, whose errors are excused more readily than others.

    The outcome of such thinking shows up in Google’s employee demographics (similar to other tech companies): predominantly male (nearly seven in 10) and predominantly white (56 per cent), with Asian males making inroads.

    It shows up in the company’s secrecy over its salary information while being investigated by the U.S. government over allegations of gender wage gap.

    In being tardy about changing its institutional sexism, all the Google firing did was confirm delusions of victimhood among the powerful and deliver supremacists a new martyr.

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

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    Hyeon Soo Lim is free.

    After two and a half years of detention in North Korea, Lim — the senior pastor at the Light Presbyterian Church in Mississauga — is heading home.

    The 62-year-old was expected to return by the end of the week on a Canadian government charter directly from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. Lim and his family — who have not seen each other in person since the pastor’s detention in 2015 — will reunite in Toronto, where they have a west-end home.

    In a statement released Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “pleased and relieved” that Lim had been released.

    Trudeau also thanked Sweden for its assistance in the matter but said “operational security considerations” prevents the government from discussing the matter further.

    Canada does not have a diplomatic presence in North Korea and the Swedish Embassy serves as the protective power for Canadians there.

    The news was first reported by North Korea’s state media as a “sick bail” decision by the country’s Central Court, granted on humanitarian grounds.

    “Rim Hyon Su, a Canadian civilian, was released on sick bail according to the decision of the Central Court of the DPRK on Aug. 9, 2017 from the humanitarian viewpoint,” the Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday, using the country’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

    “He (Lim) had been under the penalty of indefinite hard labour as he conducted hostile deeds against the DPRK,” the news agency continued.

    “Pastor Lim’s health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the government of Canada, and we are working to ensure that he receives any required medical attention,” said Trudeau in the statement.

    Sen. Yonah Martin, deputy leader of the Conservatives in the Senate, is a friend of Lim’s. She described her reaction to the Toronto man’s imminent release as “relief and disbelief — with a lot of anxiousness mixed in.”

    Read more: Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim released over health reasons, says North Korea

    “I had a great sense of relief but it took me by surprise only because it had been so long,” she said of Lim’s detention — more than 900 days.

    “This is long-awaited.”

    On Monday, a high-ranking Canadian government delegation quietly flew to Pyongyang to discuss Lim’s release. The group, led by Trudeau’s national security adviser, Daniel Jean, secured Lim’s freedom and by Wednesday, preparations for departure were underway.

    Jean’s delicate Canadian mission to extricate Lim — thought to be the longest-held western prisoner in North Korea — was carried out as tensions amplified this week between the United States and North Korea over nuclear capabilities. U.S. President Donald Trump’s warning about unleashing “fire and fury” on the authoritarian regime spurred North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to threaten a missile strike on Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific.

    A medical doctor was reportedly aboard the Canadian charter.

    As prisoner No. 036, Lim dug holes for eight hours a day, six days a week, in a hard-labour camp since December 2015.

    Lim is apparently in poor health and has lost weight. He has high blood pressure, a condition that requires medication. The North Koreans permitted that medicine to be sent to Lim, via the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.

    Lim, a native of South Korea, is the spiritual leader of one of Canada’s largest churches. The Light Presbyterian Church has about 3,000 members, a congregation that under Lim’s stewardship grew from about half a dozen families over two decades.

    As part of his ministry, Lim developed a passion for humanitarian work.

    He and church colleagues travelled to countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea on charitable visits. Lim eventually decided to devote more time and money to the needy in North Korea, making about 110 trips there since 1997. Besides bringing in food, Lim’s charitable operations included supporting orphanages and a seniors’ nursing home.

    On his last visit, Lim went missing the same day he crossed the border from China into a northern region in late January 2015. North Korean authorities later confirmed they’d detained the Canadian. In December of that year, Lim was convicted of ostensibly plotting to overthrow the Kim regime and was given a life sentence in a hard labour camp.

    Raymond Cho, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Scarborough-Rouge River, said he prayed for the return of his friend, whom he calls “a gentle man.”

    “I believe in the power of prayer,” said Cho, who has known Lim for two decades. “I prayed for him every night, twice a night.”

    Cho, like Lim a native of South Korea, said the pastor will need time to rest and recover to full health but for now, he’s relieved at Lim’s release.

    “The bottom line is he’s coming home,” Cho said.

    With files from Bruce Campion-Smith

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    It was the morning commute from hell on the TTC.

    In a string of incidents and issues Thursday — causing delays which prompted an apology from Mayor John Tory — the transit service responded to everything from signal issues to medical emergencies to a trespasser on the tracks.

    Thousands of passengers at the height of rush hour had to deal with at least 40 additional minutes to their travel times. And, if anything, commuters were united by their bitterness.

    “The TTC is an “Award Winning Transit Service” . . . this is why participation trophies are bad,” one passenger tweeted.

    “Getting screwed over by the TTC one last time before my farewell to this city,” another added.

    There was also some sweetness. Commuter Nikki Clydesdale said passengers were trading seats between stations, offering their spot to anyone having a rough time standing for so long.

    “The (emergency) workers were doing a great job of helping people out,” Clydesdale said. “I saw them laughing with and comforting a girl who was having an anxiety attack.”

    The chaotic sequence began around 6 a.m. when the TTC tweeted about a five-minute delay southbound between St. George and St. Patrick stations because of signal issues.

    The delay steadily grew worse.

    Between Sheppard West and St. Patrick stations, more signal problems meant a 40-minute delay by 8 a.m. Commuters took to social media to declare that the delays were actually much longer.

    “When a 20-minute subway ride turns into a 1.5 hour subway ride. Thanks #TTC,” one passenger tweeted.

    Fourteen emergency alarms were set off across the TTC over the course of the morning, including passengers fainting and having seizures inside the subway cars. This led to a “domino effect” and caused more delays, TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said.

    Problems on the morning commute included:

    • Trains turning back at Islington station due to signal issues at Kipling on Line 2 at around 8:30 a.m. but the issue was later resolved.

    • Inside Queen’s Park station around 9 a.m, a pair of medical incidents drew emergency services to the same platform. As the train crawled into the station, commuters reached out to find water for a sick girl, crouching down to offer her help.

    • A suspicious package was reported near the Bloor subway station around 11 a.m. Bloor St. shut down at Yonge while the situation was investigated. No evacuations were necessary.

    • At around 11:50 a.m, the TTC had also suspended service both ways at Rosedale station, with a power-off situation because of a trespasser at the track level. Power was rebooted quickly after the issue was resolved.

    It wasn’t until nearly 1:30 p.m., when the original signal issue at St. Patrick was resolved.

    Ross said the TTC sincerely apologized to passengers for the delays. The situation’s origins had been traced back to Wednesday night maintenance crews, he explained, who inadvertently caused the signals at St. Patrick station to default to red and cause longer-than-normal travel times.

    A piece of equipment from the 1950s was mistakenly removed from an equipment room. To resolve the issue, track crews had to manually allow trains to bypass over trip arms that normally prevent trains from running red lights. Because of the issue southbound at St. Patrick, not enough trains were able to leave Wilson Yard to meet the morning rush.

    “This was a unique, one-off situation that has not happened before and should not happen again,” he wrote in an explainer posted on Twitter.

    Tory also apologized. The mayor posted five tweets on the delays, beginning with an apology on behalf of the city and the TTC. “It was due to work being done overnight installing the automatic train control system,” Tory wrote of the Line 1 disruption.

    “We’re trying our hardest to avoid disruptions at all times as we work to install this new signal system . . . once we have automatic train control, this won’t happen — that’s why we’re installing it and replacing a decades-old system.

    “We will continue to try to do better and we know today’s TTC service didn’t meet the standard that people expect and deserve.”

    Later in the day, at St. Clair West station, some riders voiced their concerns to TTC staff at the transit agency’s monthly hour-long “Meet-the-Managers” event.

    “The TTC is a great system . . . with a lot of ancient technology,” said customer Sajjad Syed, who stopped by to talk delays and overall cleanliness on TTC vehicles.

    Syed said better communication is needed by TTC staff during delays such as the one experienced on Thursday.

    The issues come just before a planned disruption of the transit service on Saturday and Sunday, where Line 1 will be closed between Sheppard West and St. George for signal upgrades for the second time in a month.

    Installation of the new signal system is expected to be completed by 2019.

    With files from Alanna Rizza and Sammy Hudes

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    How will Canadians be living in 2018? They will be “together apart” within their homes, surrounded with blues and greens, natural materials and glitzy metallic embellishments.

    The predictions come from Ikea Canada, which is releasing its 2018 furniture and design catalogue August 14. Widely considered a predictor of lifestyle shifts, the catalogue will reach seven million homes across Canada by August 25.

    This year’s theme is “Make room for life” and it’s centred around the living room — one of the hardest working spaces in the home, said Kathy Davey, the interior design head of Ikea Canada.

    “The influences there are urbanization and technology, those are really two big trends we’re seeing,” she said.

    Movement to city centres has people living in smaller spaces, Davey said, which means the spaces have to be more fluid, since they’re used for a variety of activities.

    Technology has influenced a trend Davey called “together apart,” where people can be together in the same room but using different devices, such as a tablet and a phone, putting them essentially a world away from each other.

    Key to that is showing people they don’t have to have their sofa along a wall, or anchor it to a TV set, Davey said.

    “Just enabling people to really have this custom space that we’re not seeing today, that we really want people to be bold and brave and have a new take on their living room, especially because it’s a much more multi-functional space,” she said.

    Ikea carried out market research in Canada, customer surveys and home visits to figure out how people behave in their homes and what activities take place in them. The company also noticed people have been bringing nature into their homes — from herb gardens to flowers.

    “Greenery is becoming important in the home and people want to see more natural materials,” Davey said.

    “People are feeling they need more and more to reflect their own personal style. They’re getting so many different influences out there, but in their home they really want to put a stamp on their own space — it’s the one environment they can control,” she said.


    This brass-coloured 20-piece flatware set does the double duty of being both chic and dishwasher safe.



    Champagne coupes bring a touch of The Great Gatsby to a get-together, unlike their fluted counterparts.

    $2.99 each


    The metallic base is on trend right now and, Davey said, “they really bring, I would say, the accent to the home.”



    This table lamp looks like a fishbowl over a light bulb and is one of the many “shiny glass objects” featured in the new catalogue. “You could say it’s the jewelry to the wardrobe,” Davey said of accessories.



    This decorative hourglass is one of the elegant accessories in the catalogue. “These things add a level of detail and quality, I think, to be warm and inviting and inspiring,” Davey said.



    This sofa has storage on all sides and can be placed in the middle of a room, not up against a wall. “Sofa, of course, is the soul of the living room,” Davey said. “It’s about comfort and quality but it doesn’t have to be lining the walls anymore and your sofa doesn’t need to be in front of a TV.”



    These colourful office chairs come in blue, grey and green and let your living room stay trendy and bright, even if it’s doing double duty as a study. “We really want people to be bold and brave and have a new take on their living room, especially because it’s a much more multi-functional space,” Davey said.



    These shiny bowls, plates and side plates made of tempered glass add a bit of glitz to dinner.


    This brass-coloured frame can hold anything from mail to keys to help keep a small space organized and stylish.


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    OTTAWA—A recent court decision should come as a warning to the federal government to stop playing fast and loose with airline passenger safety rules, says the head of a union that represents thousands of flight attendants in Canada.

    In the wake of the ruling last week by the Federal Court of Appeal., the Canadian Union of Public Employees is urging the Liberal government to make changes to federal aviation rules about the ratio of crew to passengers on planes.

    The court disagreed with Transport Canada’s conclusion that there was no impact on passenger or crew safety when it allowed Sunwing Airlines to increase the ratio of passengers to flight attendants on its aircraft.

    Under federal rules at the time, flights originating in Canada were required to have one attendant for every 40 passengers, unless the transport minister granted an exemption.

    In 2013, Sunwing asked to raise the ratio to 1-50 on its Boeing 737-800 aircraft — each of which can seat 189 passengers, according to seating charts on the company’s website. That ratio is now the threshold for all carriers in Canada.

    Sunwing also sought permission to change procedures for flight attendants during an emergency evacuation.

    However, the airline failed three separate tests of the new system, in which crews were required to perform a partial evacuation in just 15 seconds. A Transport Canada inspector was on hand for those tests.

    The inspector suggested the crew could save time by foregoing “blocking” orders, which calls for a passenger to block the aisle to allow a crew member to open an emergency exit. The advice worked; the crew passed the test.

    However, before the government could sign off on the change, Sunwing was told to provide a risk assessment showing that dropping the blocking order from its procedures wouldn’t compromise safety.

    The resulting risk assessment said that it would be unlikely that passengers would block emergency exits during an evacuation.

    CUPE took the government to court over the decision to increase the ratio on Sunwing flights. The union represents more than 11,500 flight attendants at nine airlines.

    The ruling, dated Aug. 4, said the risk assessment was “cursory and provides no indication of how this conclusion was reached.” The judge also felt that testimony at trial showed that “no reliable testing was conducted to verify the accuracy of the conclusions.”

    The inspector didn’t review the assessment before giving his seal of approval, the judge added.

    The Supreme Court’s test for government decisions requires that they be transparent, intelligible and justifiable; this decision met none of those benchmarks, the judge continued, saying there was no way to determine how the inspector reached such conclusions.

    “Not only did the inspector fail to review Sunwing’s risk assessment, there is in addition no evidentiary basis to substantiate the assumption that passengers would not likely block a Sunwing flight attendant who needs to open an emergency exit to evacuate the aircraft,” the ruling said.

    “It is impossible to see how the inspector could have been satisfied that the proposed amendment ... did not compromise safety.”

    The government was also ordered to cover the union’s legal costs of $3,000.

    “This is a major wake-up call for Transport Canada. The safety of passengers and crew must come first, before any other consideration,” CUPE national president Mark Hancock said in a statement.

    A Transport Canada spokesperson said officials are reviewing the ruling.

    A June report from the House of Commons transport committee recommended the government review the 1-50 ratio with an eye to safety and security.

    The union wants the Liberal government to require all airlines to use the lower ratio of passengers to crew to promote safety.

    Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.

    0 0

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J.—Not backing down, President Donald Trump warned Kim Jong Un’s government on Thursday to “get their act together” or face extraordinary trouble, and suggested his earlier threat to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea was too mild.

    “Maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said, in the latest U.S. salvo in an escalating exchange of threats between the nuclear-armed nations.

    A day after North Korea laid out plans to strike near Guam with unsettlingly specificity, there was no observable march toward combat, despite the angry rhetoric from both sides. U.S. officials said there was no major movement of U.S. military assets to the region, nor were there signs Pyongyang was actively preparing for war.

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    Trump declined to say whether the U.S. is considering a pre-emptive military strike as he spoke to reporters before a briefing with his top national security advisers at his New Jersey golf resort.

    The president insisted the North had been “getting away with a tragedy that can’t be allowed.”

    “North Korea better get their act together, or they are going to be in trouble like few nations have ever been in trouble,” Trump said, flanked by Vice-President Mike Pence. Accusing his predecessors of insufficient action, Trump said it was time somebody stood up to the pariah nation.

    Though tensions have been building for months amid new missile tests by the North, the pace has intensified since the U.N. Security Council on Saturday passed sweeping new sanctions Trump had requested. The sanctions prompted the new heated volley of rhetoric.

    In the latest move by North Korea, its military announced a detailed plan to fire four Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan and into waters around the tiny U.S. territory of Guam, home to two U.S. bases and 160,000 people.

    North Korea said its military would finalize the plan by mid-August, then wait for Kim’s order. U.S. allies Japan and South Korea quickly vowed a strong reaction if the North were to follow through.

    Trump echoed that threat Thursday, insisting if North Korea took any steps to attack Guam, its leaders would have reason to be nervous.

    Read more:

    Did Donald Trump accidentally threaten nuclear war out of a penchant for hyperbole?: Analysis

    Trump’s warning to North Korea suggests he may be ready to strike first, but is that self-defence?

    Why North Korea is threatening Guam with its ballistic missiles

    Trump says North Korea will be met with ‘fire and the fury like the world has never seen’ if it doesn’t stop threatening the U.S.

    “Things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK?” Trump said. He did not specify what they might be.

    Military analysts said it was unusual for Pyongyang to give such a precise target for a military action. Still, there were no signs that North Korea was seriously mobilizing its population for war, such as by pulling workers from factories or putting the army on formal alert.

    “There’s a lot of theatre to this whole thing,” said Bob Carlin, former Northeast Asia chief for the State Department’s intelligence arm.

    Similarly, the U.S. military gave no indications it perceived a seriously escalating threat from Pyongyang, such as moving to evacuate American personnel or their families from Guam, where there are 7,000 U.S. troops, or South Korea, where there are 28,000.

    And U.S. officials insisted no significant number of troops, ships, aircraft or other assets were being directed to the region, beyond any that had been previously scheduled. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss military planning publicly and requested anonymity.

    Trump said he would soon announce a request for a budget increase of “billions of dollars” for anti-missile systems.

    But as it is, the U.S. has a robust military presence in the region, including six B-1 bombers in Guam and Air Force fighter jet units in South Korea, plus other assets across the Pacific Ocean and in the skies above. Washington’s vast military options range from nothing to a full-on conventional assault by air, sea and ground forces. Any order by the president could be executed quickly.

    Current and former U.S. officials said if war did come, the U.S. and its allies would likely hit hard and fast, using airstrikes, drone operations and cyberattacks aimed at military bases, airbases, missile sites, artillery, communications, command and control headquarters and intelligence gathering and surveillance capabilities.

    Key threats would be North Korea’s small but capable navy, including its submarines that can move quietly and attack. And Pyongyang also has significant cyber abilities, although not as sophisticated as America’s. The North has also been preparing for ground war for decades, and would be a formidable force on the border.

    Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday that while it is his responsibility to have military options, the U.S. effort is focused on diplomacy and the Trump administration is working with its allies on a diplomatic solution.

    “Do I have military options? Of course I do. That’s my responsibility,” Mattis said Wednesday. But he said the Trump administration wants “to use diplomacy.”

    To that end, Trump said he “of course” would always consider negotiations with North Korea, but added that talks have failed for the last 25 years. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Asia this week, said North Korea could signal it was ready for such talks by halting any missile tests for an extended period.

    North Korea’s specific threat affecting Guam said it would involve the Hwasong-12, an intermediate-range ballistic missile first revealed at a military parade in April and believed to have a radius of more than 3,700 kilometres. The North said four of the missiles would hit waters 30 to 40 kilometres from Guam.

    “We keep closely watching the speech and behaviour of the U.S.,” read a military statement carried by official state-run media.

    Guam lies about 3,400 kilometres from the Korean Peninsula, and it’s extremely unlikely Kim’s government would risk annihilation with a pre-emptive attack on U.S. citizens. It’s also unclear how reliable North Korea’s missiles would be against such a distant target, given that its military has struggled to target effectively in the past.

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    The OPP is asking for the public’s help in identifying an “organized motorcycle mob” that was seen driving dangerously on major highways over the long weekend.

    OPP said they received numerous complaints about a group of motorcycles traveling as a group on Highways 409, 401, 403, the QEW, Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner on Sunday between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

    “Not only were they driving dangerously and aggressively, at sometimes they came on a dead stop on the highway causing congestion, chaos, frustration for other motorists and really putting everyone at risk on the highways,” said OPP Sgt Kerry Schmidt.

    Schmidt also said that officers were rebuffed when they tried to pull over riders on the 401.

    "That officer was swarmed by riders," he said. "They all flippantly took off from the officer at high rates of speed."

    Schmidt that type of behaviour is "not cool."

    "These guys may think they're showing how powerful they are by hiding in a group, but this is something that is serious and could result in serious consequences," he said.

    According to Schmidt, the motorcyclists could have easily caused accidents.

    “There is no place for groups like this to hijack our highways that are used for commerce, for transportation, for a shared community of drivers that are trying to get around the GTA especially on a long weekend. This will not be tolerated,” said Schmidt.

    Provincial police laid charges in March following similar incidents on Toronto-area highways in 2016.

    A man died on July 23, 2016 when he collided with a transport truck as a group of motorcyclists travelling together on Highway 401 slowed traffic while performing stunts.

    A group of motorcyclists also slowed traffic and performed stunts on Highway 427 on Sept. 22, 2016.

    OPP is asking anyone with information, photos, videos, or dash cam footage of the riders to contact them or call Crime Stoppers.

    Schmidt says if anyone involved in the “motorcycle mob” wants to come forward, they can do so.

    With files from the Canadian Press

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    A woman died in a two-vehicle collision in Scarborough Thursday evening.

    The incident happened around 6 p.m. on Sheppard Ave. E. and Water Tower Gate, east of Morningside Ave., when a car and a TTC bus collided.

    Paramedics say the woman was pronounced dead at the scene. No other injuries were reported.

    Police have closed Sheppard Ave. E. in both directions from Water Tower Gate and Grand Marshall Dr. to Conlins Rd. for investigation.

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    Six months after approving an ambitious plan to overhaul policing in the city and rein back a sky-high budget, the Toronto police board is backpedalling on a central component, confirming Thursday there will be a brief thaw in what was meant to be a three-year hiring freeze.

    Eighty new uniform police officers will join the force by year’s end, a step taken to address staff departures happening at a rate faster than expected, the Toronto police board said in a joint statement with the Toronto Police Service and the Toronto Police Association on Thursday.

    “We realize that the path to modernization is not a straight line,” the statement read.

    The move comes in the wake of months of criticism by the police union, which said officer ranks had depleted to critically low levels and morale was rock bottom due to burnout.

    In this year alone, approximately 300 Toronto police staff members have retired, resigned, or moved to other police services, including 191 uniform officers, according to the union. Approximately 100 to 150 police employees typically retire or resign each year.

    “I think it’s good thing for everybody — good thing for the public, good thing for the officers, good thing for the service,” Mike McCormack, president of the police union, said Thursday in an interview.

    Approved by the police board in February, the “Way Forward” action plan recommended no new uniform officers be hired over three years, a freeze the force began implementing even before the officially sign-off on the final report earlier this year. The aim was to reduce the number of officers to about 4,750 by 2019. According to the union, Toronto police employed 5,100 police officers as of last month.

    The plan found $100 million in savings for the police service’s operating budget over three years — $60 million of which would come from the three-year freeze on hiring and a moratorium on promotions.

    Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Mayor John Tory said the goal of cutting costs and downsizing the number of uniform officers can still be met by 2019.

    Tory said city leaders recently struck a renewed partnership with the union as the police service continued to implement the recommendations spelled out in the Way Forward. The union has agreed to work with the board to achieve “the ultimate objective of modernizing the force, including a more efficient deployment of police resources,” Tory said.

    “We’re moving ahead with all of those changes but it takes time,” Tory said.

    Thursday’s announcement came after recent meetings between Toronto police, its board and the union. In addition to lifting the hiring moratorium, the joint statement also announced a review of staffing levels at police divisions to ensure “acceptable levels,” as well as a full review of the uniform staffing levels, using data “to validate” the 4,750 number suggested by the modernization report.

    The joint statement also said there will be a review of all uniform and civilian supervisory assignments and “continued collaboration” on the thorny issue of the compressed work week schedule.

    In the Way Forward report, the task force said the current scheduling system sees officers on shift regardless of time of day or patterns in demand, limiting the service’s ability to be more flexible about officer deployment.

    The most recent contract, signed in 2015, created joint committees to examine the compressed work week, as well as the requirement for two-officer patrol cars at night, but thus far no changes have been made.

    In the final version of the Way Forward report, the task force said a hiring moratorium would “give the Service the time it needs to change outdated models and practices to make better use of existing officers.” It would also allow the service to focus on a “neighbourhood-centered approach to policing and other priorities.”

    However, the report did state there may be circumstances where hiring or filling vacant positions may be necessary.

    With files from Betsy Powell

    0 0

    A 77-year-old woman who went to court to clarify the assisted dying law for people who are in excruciating, incurable pain but who do not face imminent death has died with medical assistance.

    The woman, known as AB due to a publication ban, had severe osteoarthritis but her doctor would not perform the end-of-life procedure because he was concerned she did not meet the “reasonable foreseeable death” requirement.

    In documents filed with the court, the woman’s lawyer Andrew Faith stressed the chilling effect a lack of clarity in the legislation had on access to medical care.

    In a ruling in June, Superior Court Justice Paul Perell said that a person does not need to have a terminal condition or be likely to die within a specific time frame to access medical assistance in dying.

    The death of the woman last week was confirmed by a news release Thursday from Dying with Dignity Canada.

    “After AB died, her daughter said it was the first time in decades that she had seen her mother in a pain-free state,” the release said.

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    Ontario’s independent police review director has mandated Toronto police chief Mark Saunders hold a disciplinary hearing after a video appeared to show Sgt. Eduardo Miranda’s repeatedly Taser and stomp on a man during a Jan. 24 arrest.

    In the report, obtained by the Toronto Star, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) found that there was “evidence of misconduct” during the arrest.

    Two of the complaints were deemed to have been “substantiated (as) serious,” including that Sgt. Miranda “used excessive force.”

    “Clearly, in my view, this matter had to be investigated, not just based on the complaint filed, but also on the videos and so on. I see what’s on TV,” police review director Gerry McNeilly said.

    “I found that the actions of the officer reached a threshold for misconduct based on the excessive use of force and I determined that it was serious. That means that the matter must go to a tribunal hearing. The chief has no choice.”

    Read more:

    Toronto police threaten to seize phone of man lawfully filming arrest

    Teen allegedly punched by cop in 'Neptune Four' case finally gets to tell his tale: DiManno

    If Toronto police are serious about restoring our faith they need to root out the bad-apple cops: Keenan

    Police must follow the law: Editorial

    The hearing, which will be open to the public, will take place Sept. 26 at 9 a.m.

    The report found that five constables and Sgt. Miranda, contrary to police orders, neglected their duty by failing to activate their in-car camera system microphones upon arriving at the scene.

    “With regards to the other officers involved, I determined that there was misconduct, but that it was of a less serious nature. It was still serious, but I didn’t find that it met the threshold for me to send it to a disciplinary hearing,” said McNeilly, who was appointed Ontario’s first independent police review director in 2008.

    “They still have to be disciplined, but it’s informal. If any of those officers refuse the informal discipline, then the matter must proceed to a tribunal disciplinary hearing.”

    The arrest was captured on video by complainant Waseem Khan. In the video, Khan is repeatedly told that he isn’t allowed to record the arrest, even though citizens have a right to record police during their duties if they are not obstructing the officers.

    For that, McNeilly found that Sgt. Miranda improperly directed a constable to interfere with Khan’s lawful presence in the area and with his recording of the incident, “thereby bringing discredit on the reputation of the Toronto Police Service.”

    Khan will have full standing at the hearing.

    He plans to attend.

    “I hope that there’s some sort of accountability, because I think officers, just like any other citizen, should be held accountable when they go beyond the law or do something criminal,” he said Thursday.

    “If he is found guilty of the allegations in this hearing, I hope that Toronto police services realizes that this is something that they have to act on and that he should be charged criminally as well.”

    Khan said he believes the police are losing public trust and that this case will be revealing about their approach.

    “If anyone else was to do that to someone, it wouldn’t be OK, so I don’t think anybody should be outside the law,” he said.

    “It’s becoming more and more evident that it’s hard to trust the police.”

    Toronto Police Association spokesperson Mike McCormack said Thursday that he will wait for all evidence to be unearthed in court before he comments on the case.

    The Toronto Police Service did not offer any comment on it.

    “Generally speaking, any matter of internal discipline is confidential until such time as the officer has made a first appearance in the Tribunal,” said spokesperson Meaghan Gray in a statement.

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    When Ken Hirschkop moved into historic Cabbagetown in 2005, he didn’t expect a tourist site to pop up behind his backyard. But he says that’s what the house a 2 St. James Ct. has become.

    It’s not because, among the rows of Victorians adorned with official heritage conservation district plaques, this house possesses particular charm. It’s because its box-like exterior and perpetual state of partial-construction makes it seem out of place.

    “It looks like it’s landed from space,” Hirschkop said, noting that Cabbagetown visitors regularly make detours to catch a glimpse of the unusual building.

    The house belongs to 78-year-old Norm Rogers, and its redevelopment has been the subject of a 10-year-old battle between neighbours , first over proposals for a bigger house on the lot, then over damage and inconvenience caused by the construction.

    Now, construction of a house that Rogers, neighbours, and the city agreed upon (resemblance to spacecraft aside) in 2014 is well underway, but those plans are being held up by neighbours who accuse Rogers of neglecting to stick to their agreement.

    Rogers’ house was supposed to be completed last December, and complaints about property damage have mounted steadily since construction recommenced about a year ago.

    “It’s such a colossal waste of everyone’s time,” Hirschkop said.

    Rogers agrees, and says that, after the long slog to build his home, he no longer plans to live there; the stairs of the three-storey house would be too much for him to manage at his age.

    “All I want to do is build the house,” he said in an interview Thursday. Then he’ll move out of the city.

    Rogers is now in a standoff with Laura Allen, Hirschkop’s neighbour, whose backyard Rogers needs to access in order to complete the work.

    “We’re prepared to finish it, and finish it so it looks really good,” Rogers said.

    He warned Allen that, without permission to enter her backyard, he will have to paint the concrete wall facing her backyard — black, because that’s the colour of paint he has handy.

    “If she thinks she’s going to hold us up for ransom, that doesn’t work with me,” Rogers said.

    Allen, who moved into the neighbourhood in 2011, says she’s determined to block workers from entering her backyard until she has a guarantee that her property will be protected.

    She estimates thousands of dollars worth of backyard furniture has been destroyed as a result of the work. Rogers has refused to compensate her, saying that she overestimated the value of what’s been damaged.

    “It has been devastating,” said Allen. She now plans to sell her house, but says she can’t as long as the disruption continues.

    Allen thinks the city, which granted Rogers his building permit, should intervene to make sure the neighbours’ property is protected.

    “If you’ve given someone permission to build something that size, there was always the possibility of damage,” she said.

    The city said that it has regularly inspected Rogers’ building site for compliance with the building permit, and that damage to adjacent property is the responsibility of the permit owner. Disputes over damage are “civil matters,” a Mario Angelucci of Toronto Building, said.

    Martin Rendl, a Toronto-area planning professional, who argued to the Ontario Municipal Board in 2008 that Rogers’ plans were not appropriate for the neighbourhood, said it is not common for development disagreements to go on for so long.

    “A new house you can put up in a couple of months, not over a decade,” he said.

    Part of the reason the construction missed the December 2016 deadline is because Rogers did not receive his heritage permit from the city until June 20, 2016. He now has until September 2017 to complete the work.

    Hirschkop says he’s grown accustomed to construction delays, and run-ins with Rogers have been a fact of life as long as he’s lived in Cabbagetown. He’s making do; last year he put up a shed in his backyard to block out the view of Rogers’ unfinished concrete wall. (“We needed a shed anyways.”)

    Hirschkop still worries the drawn-out building of Rogers’ house will set a precedent for developers to change the landscape of their neighbourhood, if the city doesn’t step in to support him and his neighbours.

    “It’s the most beautiful neighbourhood I’ve lived in by a long shot,” Hirschkop said. “It won’t stay beautiful if you let people do whatever you want.”

    0 0

    Relatives of Mississauga pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, who was released this week after more than two years in a North Korean prison, said Thursday he is “on his way home” and they are anxious to be reunited with him.

    “We are relieved to hear that Rev. Lim is on his way home to finally reunite with his family and meet his granddaughter for the first time,” Lisa Pak said Thursday on the family’s behalf.

    “There is a long way to go in terms of Rev. Lim’s healing, therefore, in the meantime we ask the media for privacy as he reconnects with his loved ones and receives medical attention.”

    Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi said a video appears to show Lim walking across the tarmac of a U.S. military base in Fussa, Japan, on Thursday, the day after he was freed from prison.

    The 62-year-old is with members of the Canadian government delegation sent to Pyongyang this week to negotiate his release, according to the broadcaster.

    Pak said the family is grateful to the Canadian government and the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang for working behind the scenes to secure the pastor’s freedom. She did not say when he was scheduled to arrive in Canada.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he was “pleased and relieved” that Lim had been released.

    The prime minister also thanked Sweden for its assistance in the matter but said “operational security considerations” prevent the government from discussing the case further.

    While Canada lacks an embassy in North Korea, Sweden has maintained one in Pyongyang since 1975. Sweden acts as the “protective power” for Canada and other countries, meaning it can provide different services including consular responsibility for Canadian citizens.

    Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted that she was glad Sweden could assist with the effort to free Lim.

    In a Facebook post, she said Sweden had been “actively engaged in Pastor Lim’s case over a long period of time.”

    “Our presence in North Korea enables us to engage in dialogue and interactions. We take this role very seriously.”

    Wallstrom called Lim’s release a “ray of hope” amid mounting tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.

    “Many eyes are now on developments in North Korea. We are firmly convinced that dialogue is the best solution,” she said.

    Jessica Hedin, counsellor at the Swedish Embassy in Ottawa, declined to elaborate on the Scandinavian country’s role in helping Lim.

    A Canadian delegation led by Daniel Jean, Trudeau’s national security adviser, was in Pyongyang this week to discuss Lim’s case.

    Lim, a pastor with the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont., had been sentenced by a North Korean court to life in prison with hard labour for what it called crimes against the state.

    Charges against him included harming the dignity of the supreme leadership, trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system, disseminating negative propaganda about the North to overseas Koreans, and assisting American and South Korean efforts to help people defect from the north.

    Lim, who has a wife and son living in Mississauga, started the Light Korean Presbyterian Church nearly three decades ago, shortly after he emigrated from South Korea.

    He grew the congregation from about a dozen people in 1986 to more than 3,000 members. He also runs a smaller church in downtown Toronto that caters to young people.

    The church has taken on numerous humanitarian projects in North Korea, one of which prompted Lim’s last trip there in January 2015.

    Read more:

    Freeing of Hyeon Soo Lim is a bright spot in Korean crisis: Editorial

    Trudeau confirms release of Mississauga pastor imprisoned in North Korea

    Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim released over health reasons, says North Korea

    0 0

    Mayor John Tory says it is up to Chief Mark Saunders to determine if three Toronto police officers face internal discipline after being acquitted in criminal court of sexual assaulting a colleague.

    “I’m not going to pre-judge what the police chief does,” Tory said Thursday. “Understand my role as the mayor and/or as a member of the police services board is to oversee what the chief does. The chief is in charge of the police service. He will reach whatever decision he chooses to reach.”

    On Wednesday, a judge acquitted three 51 Division constables, Leslie Nyznik, Sameer Kara and Joshua Cabero, accused of sexually assaulting a female parking enforcement officer in a downtown Toronto hotel room Jan. 17, 2015. The complainant’s identity is protected under a publication ban.

    “It is simply not safe to convict,” Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy wrote in her 45-page ruling.

    Molloy, however, said she did not “necessarily believe” Nyznik, the only one of the three officers who testified and “freely” acknowledged “many things that were not to his credit.”

    For example, “the amount of drinking that was going on, the extent of the free food and drinks and privileged treatment provided by the bars they attended, his familiarity with the Brass Rail and its staff,” the name of the Yonge St. strip bar the officers attended before going to the hotel.

    Nor was Molloy impressed with the ease with which Nyznik (and the others) “lied to the stripper at the Brass Rail about being a pornographic movie crew,” the judge wrote in her ruling. She also upbraided him for showing “shocking insensitivity and cruelty… of finishing with the complainant and then asking the two men if they should still call the ‘hooker’ to come over.”

    The officers have been suspended with pay since the criminal charges were laid.

    “The chief has not revoked their suspension as yet. He is reviewing the case with professional standards from a Police Services Act perspective,” Meaghan Gray of TPS corporate communications said Thursday.

    A lawyer familiar with police tribunal matters, but who is not authorized to speak publicly about the case, says the service faces “significant” legal hurdles if it finds discreditable conduct charges are warranted.

    Under the Police Services Act, charges must be laid within six months from when the complaint was made, which was more than two years ago. The investigation was carried out by the service’s professional standards unit. The criminal charges were laid in Feb. 2015.

    However, the act allows the service to issue a PSA “notice of hearing” on the officers if the police board accepts the delay was “reasonable.” The source said defence lawyers for the officers are likely to argue it was not because Toronto police did the investigation, laid the charges and “should have known the evidence.”

    The police service could conceivably get around the six-month time restriction by basing charges on contents found in the judge’s ruling. Yet it’s questionable whether it would be legally permissible if the charges relied on Nyznik’s testimony, the lawyer said.

    Tory said Thursday that what he “expects from all of our public servants, and I include in that first and foremost police officers, people who work for the transit system, a high standard of behavior. Whether you’re on or off duty, you are a public servant,” Tory said.

    Read more:

    The slogan ‘believe the victim’ is popular but has no place in a criminal trial, says judge, ruling 3 cops not guilty: DiManno

    ’It is simply not safe to convict,’ judge rules after Toronto officers accused of sex assault found not guilty

    Prosecutor says complainant in police sex assault trial had good reason to ‘remain silent’

    “I can’t say ‘I am not the mayor’ when I leave work at the end of a long day. I’m the mayor all the time. Police officers, while they may be off duty, are police officers all the time. I just hope people take from this that message, most importantly.”

    He repeated police officers “have to exercise good judgment” and respect the position they hold.

    “And even though you may not be on duty, you are a person representing the transit commission or the police service or city council. I think people have to think more carefully than they sometimes do,” he continued.

    “Everybody, when it comes to the relationship between men and women and showing proper respect for one another and proper care – both in terms of the sort of kinds of events they go to, how they behave, how much they have to drink and how they treat each other, most importantly.”

    Tory said the situation is difficult because Molloy rendered not guilty verdicts, “on the other hand there are some real concerns that exist out there of people saying ‘well what if those officers, for example, were to be involved in a future case of this kind?’”

    Tory added people “have to behave in a manner that would stand the test of public scrutiny that is inevitably applied either during, or in many cases after events happen.”

    0 0

    You’re a Black teenage male just crossing the road. You haven’t done anything wrong but a belligerent cop is suddenly in your wheelhouse.

    And before the day is over, you will be charged with assaulting police, threatening death and assault with intent to resist arrest.

    All of those charges will subsequently be withdrawn.

    Nearly six years go by.

    On the morning of Aug. 10, 2017, you — one of the “Neptune Four” as the quartet of Black youths arrested in the incident that night have become known — finally get to tell your story in front of a police disciplinary tribunal.

    Because the officer who allegedly arrested you unlawfully, who allegedly pointed a gun in your stunned face, who allegedly dropped you with a punch in the head, who allegedly smeared blood from a cut finger across the back of your vest — a cut you did not inflict — has himself been charged under the Police Act with unlawful arrest and two counts of disorderly conduct.

    That’s Const. Adam Lourenco, who has pleaded not guilty.

    Read more:

    Teen testifies he stood up for himself, then got punched by a cop

    Another officer, who purportedly stood by as all of this was going on, deliberately turning his back on the scene and ignoring pleas for help, is Const. Scharnil Pais. He also has pleaded not guilty on one count of unlawful arrest.

    Oddly, on Day 2 of this hearing, the prosecutor, Insp. Dominic Sinopoli, does not ask the witness how Lourenco cut himself on his utility belt.

    Perhaps that will come later. Lord knows this entire matter has moved like molasses, with preliminary excursions to Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director, and pre-hearing arguments (rejected) for the Ontario Human Rights Commission to get a place at the table on the grounds that an exploration of racial profiling was intrinsic to the hearing, and even a motion (brought by Lourenco) that the adjudicator, the judge in other words, be removed over the “optics” of an old misconduct allegation. Insp. Richard Hegedus, the hearing officer, cleared himself of reasonable perception of bias and an application for judicial review was quashed.

    Got all that?

    So now, on Thursday, we reached the meat of the thing with the first of the four Blacks youths — three, actually, because one of them formally withdrew from the collective complaint — sworn in to testify. Not a youth anymore, aged 21, but his identity remains protected because he’d been charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act — even though those charges no longer exist.

    The young man unspooled his tale and then did so again as commentary for the Toronto Community Housing surveillance video which captured most of the encounter.

    Four teens on their way from a Neptune Dr. public housing project, in the Lawrence Heights area, to a Pathways to Education meeting across the street.

    There they are on the video, exiting the building. And before you can say who’s-your-daddy an unmarked black police car pulls into the parking lot.

    “Very aggressive, as far as their body language,” the witness says, recalling how Lourenco and Pais — both members of the now-disbanded Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) unit approached the group. Lourenco got in front of them, Pais behind.

    It was Lourenco who told them there had been a robbery in the area and they matched the suspects’ description.

    He demanded to see ID. “I’m 15 years old. I don’t have ID on me. I said, you can call my mom. She lives in that building.”

    But this youth, he’d earlier attended an Ontario Justice Education program and knew that he wasn’t compelled to identify himself.

    “I asked him, ‘am I under arrest?’ He said no. ‘Am I free to go?’ He didn’t answer.”

    Instead, the complainant testified, Lourenco began berating him. “He was calling me names, that I was being a smart-ass. He was trying to provoke me.”

    Lourenco, the witness said, steered him away from the three other youths — which seems evident on the grainy video. Hits him with a couple of uppercuts in the midsection, then a hard “shot to the head and I fall down.”

    The other youths implore Pais to intervene but he tells them to sit down on the ground, then turns the other way, steadfastly not looking at his partner.

    “When I was on the ground . . . he’s still calling me names, bitch, wannabe thug, smart-ass . . . ”

    Lourenco, while cuffing the youth, uses one hand to pull out his gun — points it at the three other teenagers, points it at him.

    To the others, threatens: “Don’t move or I’ll f----- kill you.”

    To the handcuffed teenager: “He says, ‘I’ll kill you as well.’”

    Asks if the cuffs are too tight. The teenager says yes. “So he tightens them more.”

    It was at this point, the witness testified, that Lourenco cut himself on his utility belt. “Look, you’ve just assaulted a police officer.”

    As he’s lying on his stomach, the witness continued, Lourenco wipes his bleeding thumb along the teen’s back. “He was kneeing me and scraping my face on the sidewalk.”

    He was shoved violently into the back of a squad car that had just arrived on the scene. “Throws me in, slams the door on my legs.”

    Sinopoli: “Did you ever assault Police Constable Lourenco?

    Witness: “No.”

    Sinopoli: “Did anyone in your group?”

    Witness: “No.”

    Sinopoli: “Did you spit?’’

    Witness: “No.”

    He was taken to the station, booked, dumped in a cell — no food, no phone call. He was 15 years old.

    He spent nine months on bail.

    None of the allegations against the officers have been proved at the tribunal.

    Lourenco and Pais were charged under the Police Act in September, 2014.

    In unrelated matters, Lourenco has also twice been criminally charged with drunk driving: One stay of charges, one guilty plea.

    The hearing continues.

    0 0

    Stephanie Duermeyer’s son could hardly wait to be picked up by the morning school bus on the first day of classes last September.

    Instead the then 10-year-old, who has autism, waited and waited. For a special needs bus that never arrived to collect him from his child-care centre. Hours later, after many phone calls, busy signals and assurances from the bus operator that transportation was coming, his mother, who doesn’t drive, fetched her distraught son and brought him home.

    On Day 2, he sat outside and cried for an hour after his friends had gone to school, wondering why he had been left behind. So Duermeyer, a single mother set to start a new job the following week, took him on three public transit buses to get him to his public school.

    That was the beginning of more than two weeks of chaos and uncertainty for the family that even led to the school principal driving down to pick up the boy. And it all came flooding back to Duermeyer on Thursday after Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé released a report slamming Toronto’s public and Catholic school boards for mishandling the 2016 transportation crisis that had been brewing for months and that left thousands of students stranded.

    “It was very stressful on him and really upsetting,” recalls Duermeyer, who says her son, who is usually calm and good-natured son and loves school, was crying constantly and couldn’t understand what was happening.

    Dubé’s report cited “a systemic, administrative failure” and communications breakdown with parents, bus operators and schools, and laid the blame squarely on the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board for failing to heed early warning signs of a critical bus driver shortage.

    The situation, which affected 2,687 students, including more than 300 with special needs, was not just chaotic, but dangerous, resulting in “serious cases where vulnerable children were at risk,” his investigation found.

    Those included junior kindergarten students dropped off by substitute drivers several kilometres from their homes and left alone on busy roads in violation of boards’ safety protocols, and special needs students left outside schools without supervision or stuck on buses for hours.

    Dubé cited examples of children as young as 4, and others with disabilities and unable to communicate going missing for hours after being dropped off at the wrong stops. A non-verbal 10-year-old with autism was found wandering in the yard of the wrong school; a 9-year-old was driven to Markham instead of Scarborough.

    Duermeyer said those stories “give me goosebumps.” When the bus company told her they’d send a cab to pick up her non-verbal son for a few days, she only agreed under the condition she travel with him and the other children with special needs.

    Dubé heard from a parent who lost her job after showing up for work late repeatedly after scrambling to get her daughter to school.

    “If only the Toronto school boards and their transportation group had heeded the early warning signs all around them at this time last year, they could have averted or at least mitigated the busing crisis that engulfed them last September,” Dubé told a news conference.

    His report notes that both boards have taken steps to prevent another driver shortage this fall and will report back to the ombudsman in six months on their progress on his 42 recommendations.

    Dubé said the roots of the problems go back to the spring of 2016 when the Toronto Student Transportation Group, the transportation consortium that serves the two boards, signed on new operators and revised routes.

    Later, despite receiving urgent warnings from the transportation group six days before school started, the boards failed to notify parents until after classes had resumed on Sept. 6 and they were dealing with a crisis and outcry from hundreds of parents.

    In a joint statement Thursday, both school boards welcomed the report, titled “The Route of the Problem,” and said they have met with the transportation consortium over recent months to address its findings and “ensure last fall’s school bus disruptions are not repeated.”

    New measures include installing GPS on all buses to track status and improve communication, adding call centre staff, weekly teleconferences with bus operators and a new online transportation site to keep parents updated.

    Toronto parent Dave Stubbs, who joined forces with other parents to carpool their stranded kids last fall over weeks of busing problems, said he has registered on the new transportation portal, though not without challenges.

    “I still haven’t been able to add my daughter’s information to the system despite the fact that the site indicates this function will be available Aug. 7,” he told the Star.

    This year those families are already making contingency plans, despite the promises from the boards.

    “Am I hopeful that this year we'll have safe, reliable bus service for our children with timely and transparent communication? Yes, most definitely. But I won't believe it until I see it.”

    Students return to school on Sept. 5.

    “The disruptions last fall should not have happened and we believe the steps that are being taken will ensure it doesn’t happen again,” said TDSB director of education John Malloy.

    TDSB trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher had stronger words following the news conference.

    “I think there’s plenty of blame to go around,” she said. “I don’t ever want to get the phone calls that I had last year, ever, ever again. It was horrendous and we had no power at that moment to fix it.”

    She and fellow Catholic board trustee Jo-Ann Davis said it’s the job of the boards’ to ensure transportation is running and to react quickly to address potential problems.

    “There are no guarantees but hopefully we’ve got better proactive processes in place to be making sure we don’t have the situation we had last September,” Davis said.

    A spokesperson for the union representing some drivers said she’s encouraged by the report and supports the recommendations.

    However, problems will continue to plague the sector until root problems causing the driver shortage — including minimum wage pay despite the huge responsibilities of the job, split shifts and stressful working conditions — are addressed, said Debbie Montgomery, President of Unifor Local 4268 and a former driver.

    In the meantime parents like Duermeyer are hoping for the best but feeling apprehensive based on experience.

    “I’m not holding my breath,” she said.

    0 0

    The house’s exterior looked quaint and homey; once inside, however, a different story played out; motion picture worlds collided.

    Each pastel coloured room in the Airbnb in Prince Edward County is themed after a film by Wes Anderson, the eccentric director whose works include Moonlight Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums, and span two decades. The house is located in Picton, a small town nestled in the heart of the bucolic county, near Kingston, Ont.

    Leah Gibson, a 24-year-old florist from Ottawa, visited “Mr. Anderson’s House” in mid-July for one night with her partner. She’s a big fan of the director and wanted to experience the area, she said. It made the Airbnb a hot ticket for her.

    “We usually guerrilla camp it, so I thought it would nice to book something a little classier,” said Gibson. “It’s lovely. I pretty much love Wes Anderson. It fits in really well for younger people wanting the Prince Edward County experience.”

    The host, Dayna Winter, said she considers the house to be her creative outlet, an endeavour she’s pulled off by herself. She opened the doors to Airbnb guests last July.

    “Everything is thrifted and DIY,” said Winter, who stays in Toronto when visitors arrive. “This is an art project that’s inspired by Anderson. He’s sort of my muse.”

    Within Winter is a smidgen of regret, she said, given the intricate design feats that are part and parcel of Anderson’s films.

    “It’s a really, really hard theme. Anderson has a great design mind and he obviously has a big team and a big budget to pull it off, so it’s been a bit of a challenge.”

    The guests the Star spoke with had nothing but admiration for Winter’s work. Gibson said she was amazed by Winter’s fine touches and how the space was remarkably tidy.

    “Why stay in a regular Airbnb in the city when you could pay the same price for a more tailored experience that pays a lot more attention to detail?” she wondered.

    Visitors aren’t relegated to one room; the whole house is theirs.

    The space is full of knick knacks and vintage gadgets.

    Leisse Wilcox, 36, spent a couple nights at the Airbnb in January to hunker down and write columns for publications in Canada and the U.S.

    “I wanted a quiet space, not only to focus, but a place to really feel inspiration,” she said. “Going to a normal hotel wouldn’t have done the same thing. The space is incredibly inspired and creative.”

    Wilcox’s time there added to her undying crush on Anderson.

    “Wes Anderson is just a great storyteller who taps into this unrequited child in all of us and embellishes it honestly and openly. The house is an interpretation of each of the movies and that comes across. Every room you can feel the storyline.”

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    As a Toronto police officer stood over him with a pointed gun, a Black teen who just minutes before was en route to an after-school mentorship program lay face down on the ground “very scared and shocked,” a police tribunal heard Thursday.

    Nearly six years after the young man, his brother, and two friends were arrested at gunpoint outside their Lawrence Heights housing complex in an incident known as the “Neptune Four’ case, the now 21-year-old man detailed his account of the November, 2011 night at the ongoing police misconduct hearing stemming from the case.

    The teen is the central complainant. That evening, he’d spoken up for himself and the others when two officers suddenly approached, saying the boys fit the description of suspects in a robbery. Fresh off a seminar where he’d learned his rights during police interactions, the teen asked the officers if he was under arrest and if he was free to go.

    The questions, he testified, quickly led to thrown punches by one officer, who then drew his weapon.

    “After this point in time I gave up speaking,” the young man said in testimony that painted a picture of one aggressor cop, Const. Adam Lourenco, and his bystander partner, Const. Scharnil Pais.

    Read more:

    Teen allegedly punched by cop in ‘Neptune Four’ case finally gets to tell his tale: DiManno

    Both officers stand accused under Ontario’s Police Services Act of unlawfully arresting the four boys — all 16 or under — immediately after they left their homes inside a Toronto Community Housing Corp. complex on Neptune Dr. and walked toward an after-school program called Pathways to Education.

    Lourenco faces two additional charges of disorderly conduct for allegedly using unreasonable force — one for punching one of the boys and for pointing his gun at three of them.

    The officers have pleaded not guilty to all charges. None of the allegations have been proven at the tribunal.

    Following the incident the four boys faced charges, including assaulting police. All were later withdrawn. Because the teens faced criminal charges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Star is not identifying them.

    According to the teen’s witness testimony, he and the others saw an unmarked black vehicle pull up nearby, then two officers got out and approached the group, yelling.

    The officer he later learned was Lourenco had especially aggressive body language, young man said, and his tone was “hostile.” The cops told them there had been a robbery and that they fit the suspect description.

    The witness said he told the officers they had just come from his mom’s house and offered his cellphone to call her to confirm. But he was instead asked for ID, which was wasn’t carrying — “I was 15,” he said.

    He then asked Lourenco: “Am I under arrest?” Then later, “Am I free to go?” The officer did not respond, the witness said.

    At this point, the witness says he began to step away, then alleges Lourenco grabbed him, pushed him away from the group and started searching him, all the while insulting him — “he was calling me a bitch, that I wanted to be a thug, a smart ass,” he said.

    Then, in a move that was picked up on grainy TCHC surveillance footage, Lourenco punched him. The young man alleges the officer punched him multiple times, including once to the head, dropping him to the ground.

    When the young man’s brother and friends moved in to stop the attack — asking the officer: “what are you doing?” — Lourenco pulled his gun, the witness testified. Pais, meanwhile, turned his back and stopped looking, the witness said. “I could see that he was not interested in helping us,” he said.

    Officers called for backup. The witness, then on the ground, alleges Lourenco stood over him and cut his thumb on his belt, drawing blood.

    “And he said: ‘You just assaulted a police officer,’” the young man testified.

    The witness alleges he was kneed in the back and handcuffed; when Lourenco asked if the cuffs were on tightly, the young man said they were, prompting the officer to tighten them, the complainant testified.

    When backup arrived, the young man testified, Lourenco roughed him up as he was placed in the back of the car, the officer still calling him names and saying: “that’s why you don’t play these games.”

    He was taken to the police station and only then told he was facing charges, including assaulting a police officer, threatening death and assault with intent to resist arrest. When he was asked in the station if he understood the charges, he said yes, even though he didn’t.

    Asked by Toronto police Insp. Dominic Sinopoli why he wrongly claimed to understand the charges, the young man responded: “You have to say yes.”

    The young man said he was held over night and strip-searched, the officers all the while making “uncomfortable comments,” the witness said.

    The young man’s testimony continues Friday.

    Wendy Gillis can be reached at

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    Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared a Hamilton Police officer in a shooting that killed 36-year-old Anthony Divers on a September night last year.

    The Special Investigations Unit, which investigates police shootings in the province, determined “there are no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges” against the officer in connection to the fatal shooting, it stated in a release Thursday evening.

    Divers was shot and killed shortly before midnight on Sept. 30 by a Hamilton police officer who was responding to a call about a man who had committed an assault and was reportedly armed with a gun, according to the SIU.

    In his report on the incident, SIU director Tony Loparco stated that Hamilton Police received a 911 call from a woman who reported she had been assaulted outside a bar.

    Police arrived at the bar, confirmed the woman suffered “a serious injury to her left cheek” and determined there were reasonable grounds to arrest Divers for assault.

    Police also noted there was a no-contact order in place between Divers and the woman and that there had been previous violence between the two reported to police. Divers was possibly high on crystal meth and fentanyl and “was anti-police,” according to police notes.

    Earlier in the day, Divers showed the woman a Glock pistol he had in his pants, Loparco’s report states.

    After officers were dispatched to search for Divers, about 10 minutes after the initial call came in, one found him standing on the sidewalk near a bus shelter. The officer followed him on foot, yelling at him to “stop” and “get down.”

    According to the report, Divers’ right hand remained under his sweatshirt “throughout the tail end of the interaction” with the officer, leading him to believe Divers was hiding a gun.

    As Divers entered the roadway, the officer followed him, unholstered his gun and pointed it at Divers, continuing to demand Divers show his hands.

    Divers then turned to face the officer, lifted his right hand under his sweater and took two steps toward the officer, who fired two shots. Divers was pronounced dead at hospital shortly before 12:30 a.m.

    Divers’ family has said they believe he wasn’t armed that night, based on a witness they spoke to. Two witnesses interviewed by the Hamilton Spectator also said they did not see a weapon.

    Divers, who had mental health issues, was clearly in crisis, his family has said. They say the shooting raises the important question of how police deal with individuals in crisis.

    But Loparco concluded the officer “subjectively, had reasonable grounds to believe that his life was at risk” at the time he fired the shots that killed Divers. Loparco noted that the officers’ belief was based on both his observations at the time and his knowledge of Divers’ past behaviour.

    Divers was previously convicted of manslaughter stemming from the 2002 stabbing death of Ryan McDonald during a home invasion.

    The officer also knew Divers was “involved in organized crime,” “abusing narcotics” and “getting into a dangerous lifestyle” based on a previous interaction with him.

    Loparco noted that both the officer who shot Divers and another officer who witnessed the pursuit believed that Divers was reaching for a weapon after he turned around, and that the shooting officer had no other option remaining to him.

    He wrote that the officer “did not have the luxury of delaying and risking his own life by waiting to see if a shot was actually fired from whatever weapon that Mr. Divers was intimating that he had hidden inside his waistband or sweater.

    “Despite the after-the-fact knowledge that Mr. Divers was not armed, the (shooting officer) reasonably believed that his life was in danger from Mr. Divers and his actions in firing upon Mr. Divers were justified,” Loparco concluded.

    With files from Jacques Gallant

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