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- 08/12/17--03:00: _Let’s talk about ma...
- 08/12/17--09:17: _Environment Canada ...
- 08/12/17--05:26: _At least 9 killed d...
- 08/12/17--07:16: _Chinese president c...
- 08/12/17--10:30: _Parkdale rent strik...
- 08/12/17--08:41: _Canadian man accuse...
- 08/12/17--15:04: _Toronto cop who bou...
- 08/12/17--08:35: _Released Canadian p...
- 08/12/17--09:03: _One dead, 26 injure...
- 08/12/17--17:09: _NHL legend Bryan Mu...
- 08/12/17--19:39: _Dozens of flights c...
- 08/12/17--14:08: _Home sellers strugg...
- 08/12/17--03:00: _Toronto TV personal...
- 08/12/17--15:43: _The ‘many sides’ of...
- 08/13/17--03:00: _How the legacy of t...
- 08/12/17--21:40: _Man in life-threate...
- 08/12/17--19:35: _A walking tour of T...
- 08/12/17--20:04: _Shapovalov magic ru...
- 08/13/17--04:00: _Rains, then floodin...
- 08/13/17--04:00: _’We’re not a treatm...
- 08/12/17--03:00: Let’s talk about male infertility
- Clean your house: Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, mop the floors and clean with a damp cloth to reduce fertility-impairing chemicals that may be in the dust, such as flame-retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and phthalates. Particles may come from household products, construction materials in older homes and the outdoors.
- Avoid plastic containers and metal cans: Plastic containers may have phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which can leach into food or water. Opt for glass kitchenware and glass jars. Metal canned foods are often lined with BPA, so cut back and opt for fresh ingredients.
- Check labels on body care products: Many contain phthalates, a class of toxic chemicals that aren’t usually listed but can lurk under non-specific ingredient fragrance. Read the labels and avoid lead acetate, phthalates and any product with the generic word fragrance.
- Shop organic: Studies have found elevated rates of infertility among farm workers and agricultural communities exposed to high amounts of pesticides. Buy organic food as much as possible.
- Be aware of cellphone radiation: Some studies suggest cellphone radiation can affect sperm quality. Since levels decline with distance, keep your phone out of the front pocket and away from your genitals.
- 08/12/17--17:09: NHL legend Bryan Murray built winners and lasting bonds: Cox
- 08/12/17--15:43: The ‘many sides’ of injustice in Charlottesville riot: Paradkar
- 08/12/17--19:35: A walking tour of Toronto’s Koreatown reveals family history
- 08/12/17--20:04: Shapovalov magic runs out in Rogers Cup semifinals: DiManno
- 08/13/17--04:00: Rains, then flooding, killing crops for many Ontario farmers
After six years of trying to have a baby, Daren Herbert and his wife were stunned to discover he was the reason they were having difficulty.
He and Joanne were in their late 30s and both had suspected the issue was with her. But it turned out that his “catastrophically low levels of sperm” were the problem.
“(I was) afraid, shocked, surprised and feeling guilty because all that time we had assumed it was something to do with her,” recalls the Toronto actor. “I remember thinking, ‘Is it something I did through the course of my life that made my numbers drop so drastically? Or have they always been low?’ ”
A growing number of men are asking such questions as they grapple with fertility issues.
For Herbert, 41, and Joanne, 40, the journey to parenthood culminated happily in May with the birth of daughter Ori, after they underwent two cycles of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). But across Canada about 16 per cent of couples struggle with infertility — a figure that has doubled since the 1980s.
Men are solely responsible for infertility in about 30 per cent of those cases, and contribute to half the cases overall, according to . Factors affecting male fertility include genetics, a history of sexually transmitted infections, and environmental and lifestyle influences, such as exposure to pesticides, chemicals and smoking, excessive alcohol and stress.
It’s an issue that doesn’t get as much attention as female infertility — in part because women see doctors more regularly than men and are conscious of their biological clock. But a man’s age also affects sperm quality and count. Some do become fathers later in life — former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, artist Pablo Picasso, rocker Mick Jagger — but they’re the exception.
Acomprehensive study published this summer shows sperm counts of Western men dropped by more than 50 per cent in less than four decades. Sperm count is the best measure of male fertility. Researchers from Hebrew University of Jerusalem looked at data from 185 studies of almost 43,000 men done between 1973 and 2011. They found a 52. 4 per cent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3 per cent decline in total sperm count in men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. There was no significant decline in counts in men from South America, Asia and Africa, where fewer studies have been done.
“(Infertility) can be a very painful thing for a lot of people — and it was for us,” Herbert says. “But our pain was short-lived …. We were very lucky.”
That’s because couples can go through numerous IVF cycles and never have a baby.
The meta-analysis didn’t examine the cause for the decline, but the authors say the fact that it’s occurring in the West suggests chemicals used in commercial products play a role. They warn the decline has implications beyond fertility and reproduction, saying it may be a “canary in the coal mine” for male health across the lifespan.
“In the industrialized world we’re seeing a very definite and clear decline in sperm counts, in quality, even among fertile men, and as the world becomes more toxic, the effect will be greater,” says Dr. Art Leader of The Ottawa Fertility Centre and a board member of Conceivable Dreams, an Ontario-based infertility patient advocacy group.
“I think as well as The Handmaid’s Tale we’re going to have a sequel to it called The Manservant’s Tale.”
Although men can’t change the burden of global pollution there are things they can do to optimize fertility, says the professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine at the University of Ottawa.
He suggests minimizing alcohol, smoking and exposure to smoke, increasing exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating organic foods, taking an adequate dose of Vitamin D and not using anabolic steroids. And be mindful of endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals found in everyday products that interfere with the body’s naturally occurring hormones. Examples include bisphenol A (BPA), dioxins, phthalates and fire retardants.
Even medications used by men to stop hair loss — finasteride and minoxidil — have been shown to lower sperm counts. But once men stop taking these drugs, sperm counts bounce back.
Men should also be wary of reproductive hazards on the job, says Leader. For instance, bakers and chefs who work in hot places; mechanics and industrial workers who handle the metal degreaser Trichloroethylene (TCE), and farmers who work with herbicides and pesticides may be at risk.
If someone is really concerned, they can freeze their sperm before age 40, says Leader, noting: “Men have a best-before date of 40.”
For Herbert, learning in 2014 that he had a low sperm count was a difficult blow. The normal range is 15 million to 200 million sperm per millilitre of semen — he had about one million.
But infertility wasn’t something he felt comfortable talking about with his buddies.
“There is a taboo attached,” he says. “What’s the stigma? That you’re shooting blanks. It just doesn’t feel manly. This is the one thing that should be easy for us to do.
“We go through so much of our life trying not to get somebody pregnant ... And then you get to this stage and it’s like, ‘What? I need help? It’s not working? I don’t have enough?’ ”
In hindsight, Herbert says, it would have been “a lot more helpful for me to talk about it.” But he didn’t, except with his wife, who happens to be a psychotherapist.
Jan Silverman, a fertility counsellor who also works at Create Fertility Centre in Toronto, says men don’t easily open up about infertility. But when given the chance they will.
“We get all kinds of guys coming out with sperm issues,” says Silverman, who runs an infertility support group. “Wives will say ‘Oh, he’ll never talk.’ And you get them in the room, with a couple of other guys there, and before you know it they are talking.”
Often what surfaces are feelings of shame, embarrassment and sexual inadequacy. And there’s guilt because even though they’re infertile, it’s their female partners who undergo the invasive and uncomfortable fertility treatments.“I’ll never forget having this huge police officer — a six-foot-five, big, burly guy — who found he had a sperm count of zero. He sat in my office weeping, asking ‘Me?’
“That was so poignant and telling because you never know. That’s the interesting thing about sperm. Just because you ejaculate you don’t know what’s in there. So for men, there is such a sense of shock.”
Even popular culture is tackling the topic. Recently on the HBO hit Ballers, the main character Spencer Strasmore, a retired football player portrayed by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, is worried he may not have swimmers and seeks a referral to a fertility specialist. It’s still unclear how that storyline will unfold because moments before he goes into a collection room to ejaculate, he gets called away for work.
Dr. Keith Jarvi, director of the Murray Koffler Urologic Wellness Centre and Head of Urology at the Mount Sinai Hospital, says a sperm test should be the first thing a couple undergoes as part of fertility testing.
“It’s not any statement about your manhood,” says Jarvi, who heads the biggest centre in Canada for male infertility. “The frequency with having a lower sperm count is not uncommon.”
The test checks to see if there is sperm, how much of it there is, how it moves and if it appears healthy and normal. The test is covered by OHIP, relatively easy to do and may spare the female partner from undergoing treatments.
“Guys are often ignored,” says Jarvi. “But if you ignore the guy you might not find a fertility problem that could be fixed.”
Sometimes the fix is simple. Avoiding regular exposure to heat, such as hot baths and saunas, wearing looser underwear and keeping the genital area cool have all been shown to help.
“There’s a whole series of new techniques and new treatments that we can now offer men that we couldn’t offer them 15 years ago,” he says. “We’re now taking on more and more patients who we thought before had no hope.”
For the Herberts, fertility doctors suggested a type of IVF called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection, which is commonly used to treat severe male factor infertility. It’s a laboratory process involving eggs extracted from the female, and semen retrieved from the man. An embryologist takes a single healthy sperm and injects it into the egg to create an embryo that is then transferred to the uterus.
Herbert and his wife also made lifestyle changes. He started taking vitamins, improved his diet, stopped doing hot yoga, started acupuncture and eliminated soaps, shampoos, deodorants, toothpaste and household products with potentially harmful chemicals.
In total, they spent about $30,000 during that first IVF attempt.
“Once we said, ‘We’re going for this,’ then we were all in,” says Herbert.
But it wasn’t enough. In November 2015 they were devastated to learn that first cycle of IVF didn’t work. They tried again in 2016. By then the Ontario Fertility Program was up and running and they were eligible for provincial funding, which cut their costs by half. The procedure is covered, but not the drugs. Conceivable Dreams, where Herbert is a patient, is trying to persuade insurance companies to add the drug cost to their standard plans.
About 8,200 patients have received government funded IVF treatments since it was introduced in December 2015, says the health ministry. There is a database tracking how many funded IVF cycles are the result of male infertility, but the figures are not yet available.
Doctors warned that IVF was a crap shoot, but the Herberts hit the jackpot on their second attempt.
“If it had been unsuccessful, I would’ve spent the rest of my life having to carry that: We spent our lives childless because of me. That’s pretty intense.”
But then Ori came along. Herbert now looks forward to a life filled with discovering the joys of fatherhood: Playing with her, teaching her to walk, speaking with her.
“She’s like a book that I’m anxious to read.”
Protecting your Sperm
Source: Environmental Working Group
Environment Canada is investigating reports of two tornadoes that may have touched down in southwestern Ontario during dramatic thunderstorms yesterday evening.
Residents in the area of Leamington and Hawkesville took to social media last night just after two storms hit to post pictures and testimony of what they witnessed.
One resident in Leamington caught a photo of their possible tornado that Kuhn called “clear-cut.”
“In my opinion, that’s going to be a confirmed tornado,” said Rob Kuhn, a severe weather meteorologist with Environment Canada.
“Public reports come in, and if there’s enough of them and if they look like they bear some weight … we try and send out an investigative team to check it out,” Kuhn said.
A damage survey team is looking into a tornado that may have touched down in Hawkesville, near Waterloo, Kuhn said, adding that “there is damage in the area: downed power lines and debris in open fields.”
There was also “structural damage” found in the area, of a “two by four constructed wall that was ripped up and tossed,” possibly a part of a barn, as well as aluminum siding and “some kind of silo.”
“Something was destroyed,” Kuhn said.
The damage in the Hawkesville area continued east towards Elmira and possibly stretched south towards the village of Maryhill as well, he said.
Thunderstorms moved over Leamington at 5:40 p.m., and over Hawkesville at 7:30 p.m. If confirmed, these will be the seventh and eighth tornadoes in Ontario since March, following two tornadoes that touched down in Muskoka only last week.
Another resident posted a video on Twitter of the funnel cloud in the distance.
The Leamington tornado is currently called “probable” by the weather agency.
“There are some reports of damage there to solar panels and a greenhouse,” Kohn confirmed, stating that the Hawkesville reported tornado is the current priority. “The one in Hawkesville may have more damage associated with it than Leamington.”
Environment Canada put out a severe thunderstorm watch just after 1 p.m. on Friday for the Waterloo-Wellington area, which was upgraded to a warning at 6:51 p.m. The severe thunderstorm warning included a mention of a possible “isolated, brief tornado” touching down, forty minutes before that warning turned into an official tornado warning at 7:30 p.m.
Waterloo Regional Police confirmed that they got a call at 7:36 p.m. for a possible tornado passing through, and said there were no injuries.
“Any severe thunderstorm can produce a tornado without warning,” Kuhn said.
Although they don’t know yet how powerful the potential tornadoes could have been, Kuhn said that the current damage assessment indicated that there were likely winds gusts within the thunderstorm of at least 90 km/h.
The two tornadoes didn’t spring from the same thunderstorm, but from the same cold front, Kuhn said. The outer regions of the GTA also felt the pressure from this storm system, with several severe thunderstorm watches announced around 8 p.m. last night.
Kuhn was driving home to Kitchener into the same thunderstorm that affected Hawkesville yesterday evening, and said it had “one heck of a lot of lightning.”
The constant lightning lasted for around half an hour, he says, but storms continued in the area until “at least 11 p.m.”
“When you were outside, you could see it to the north, and it was just non-stop rumbling. It just kept going, it’s really quite amazing.”
At home, his dog did not appreciate the spectacle: “when there’s continuous thunder, (he) just sits there and barks at it.”
NAIROBI, KENYA—In an escalation of Kenya’s deadly election violence, police on Saturday fired live ammunition at rioters and used tear gas on vehicles carrying opposition officials trying to enter a Nairobi slum where they have strong support. A young girl was killed by a stray bullet, nine bodies with gunshot wounds were brought overnight to the capital’s main morgue, and a watchdog group said police gunfire has killed 24 people since Tuesday’s disputed vote.
The chaos in the Nairobi slums of Mathare and Kibera, as well as in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu city, contrasted with widespread calm — and celebrations in some areas — in the country of 45 million after Kenya’s election commission said late Friday that President Uhuru Kenyatta won a second term. Protests, often violent, began soon after voting when Kenyatta’s main challenger, Raila Odinga, alleged vote-rigging.
The government said life was returning to normal and that those challenging security forces were criminals intent on looting and destroying property. However, the police came under scrutiny for what the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, which monitors government institutions, described as the “unlawful and unacceptable” use of excessive force.
Seventeen of the two dozen people shot by police died in Nairobi, the commission said. It cited allegations of police breaking into homes, beating people, threatening them with rape and demanding money. The watchdog group also lamented “the destruction of private property by both civilians and allegedly by security personnel in the course of their duty.”
Police shot and killed two people during riots by opposition supporters on the outskirts of Kisumu, a regional police commander, Leonard Katana, said Saturday. Another five people were injured by gunfire in Kisumu, Katana said.
In Mathare, where Odinga has significant support, police opened fire to disperse protesters who blocked roads and set up burning barricades. Associated Press photographers saw police charging demonstrators and firing live rounds and tear gas.
One Mathare resident, Wycliff Mokaya, told The Associated Press that his 9-year-old daughter was killed by a stray bullet while on the third-floor balcony of their home.
“I was watching her play with her friends when she suddenly fell down,” Mokaya said. “She was my only hope.”
Nine bodies with gunshot wounds were brought to the Nairobi morgue from Mathare, a mortuary official said Saturday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
An Associated Press photographer said police used tear gas on a large opposition convoy trying to enter the Kibera slum. Police also fired shots in the air.
The Kenya Red Cross said it helped a total of 93 people who were injured during the clashes since the election results were announced.
Police harassed and assaulted at least four journalists covering the violence, witnesses said.
The unrest followed a victory speech Friday in which Kenyatta, whose father was Kenya’s first president after independence from British colonial rule, said he was extending a “hand of friendship” to the opposition.
Kenyatta won with a decisive 54 per cent of the vote to nearly 45 per cent for Odinga, but the bitter dispute over the integrity of the election process tempered what many Kenyans had hoped would be a celebration of democracy in a regional power known for its economic promise and long-term stability. The opposition said the election commission’s database had been hacked and results were manipulated against Odinga.
The unrest also exposed divisions in a society where poverty and government corruption have angered large numbers of Kenyans, including those who have been protesting in the slums and see Odinga as a voice for their grievances.
Adding to the rift is ethnic loyalty. Kenyatta is widely seen as the representative of the Kikuyu people, the country’s largest ethnic group, while Odinga is associated with the Luo group, which has never produced a head of state.
But reconciliation efforts and the introduction of a progressive constitution in 2010 have helped to defuse fears of the kind of ethnic-fueled violence that followed the 2007 election in which more than 1,000 people were killed. Odinga ran unsuccessfully in that election; he also lost the 2013 vote to Kenyatta and took allegations of vote-tampering to Kenya’s highest court, which rejected his case.
Recalling its failed legal challenge in 2013, the opposition has said it will not go to court again. It has not directly urged supporters to stage protests, instead telling them to stay safe.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—Chinese President Xi Jinping made a plea for cool-headedness over escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea in a phone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday, urging both sides to avoid words or actions that could worsen the situation.
The call came after Trump unleashed a slew of fresh threats against North Korea on Friday, declaring the U.S. military “locked and loaded” and warning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he “will regret it fast” if he takes any action against U.S. territories or allies.
Trump has pushed China to pressure North Korea to halt a nuclear weapons program that is nearing the capability of targeting the United States. China is the North’s biggest economic partner and source of aid, but says it alone can’t compel Pyongyang to end its nuclear and missile programs.
The White House said in a statement that Trump and Xi “agreed North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behaviour.” It also said that the two “reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
State-run China Central Television quoted Xi as telling Trump the “relevant parties must maintain restraint and avoid words and deeds that would exacerbate the tension on the Korean Peninsula.”
But restraint was not the word of the day on Friday as Trump sent out a cascade of unscripted statements, including what appeared to be another red line — the mere utterance of threats — that would trigger a U.S. attack against North Korea and “big, big trouble” for Kim.
North Korea’s Minju Joson newspaper, meanwhile, lashed back at the U.S. in an editorial Saturday.
“The powerful revolutionary Paektusan army of the DPRK, capable of fighting any war the U.S. wants, is now on the standby to launch fire into its mainland, waiting for an order of final attack,” it said. DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The tough talk capped a week in which long-standing tensions between the countries risked abruptly boiling over.
New United Nations sanctions condemning the North’s rapidly developing nuclear program drew fresh ire and threats from Pyongyang. Trump, responding to a report that U.S. intelligence indicates Pyongyang can now put a nuclear warhead on its long-range missiles, vowed to rain down “fire and fury” if challenged.
The North then came out with a threat to lob four intermediate-range “Hwasong-12” missiles near Guam, a tiny U.S. territory some 3,200 kilometres from Pyongyang.
At the epicentre of the rhetoric, Trump’s New Jersey golf course, the president seemed to put Kim on notice, saying, “If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat — which by the way he has been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years — or he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.”
Asked if the U.S. was going to war, he said cryptically, “I think you know the answer to that.”
But Trump’s comments did not appear to be backed by significant military mobilization on either side of the Pacific, and an important, quiet diplomatic channel remained open. As a precaution, Japan deployed missile defence batteries under the path a North Korean missile might take.
Life on the streets of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, also remained calm.
There have been no air raid drills or cars in camouflage netting as has been the case during previous crises. State-run media ensures that the population gets the North Korean side of the story, but doesn’t convey any sense of international concern about the situation.
U.S. officials say they will be going ahead with long-scheduled military exercises with South Korea. Pyongyang says it will be ready to send its missile launch plan to Kim for approval just before or as the drills begin.
Called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run Aug. 21-31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air. North Korea claims the exercises are a rehearsal for war, but Washington and Seoul say they are necessary to deter North Korean aggression.
Trump began his Friday barrage with an especially fiery tweet: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
He later retweeted a posting from U.S. Pacific Command that showed B-1B Lancer bomber planes on Guam that “stand ready to fulfil USFK’s #FightTonight mission if called upon to do so.” “Fight tonight” has long been the motto of U.S. forces in South Korea to show they’re always ready for combat on the Korean Peninsula.
Trump also brushed away calls for caution from other world leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel.
“I don’t see a military solution and I don’t think it’s called for,” Merkel said Friday, calling on the UN Security Council to continue to address the crisis.
“I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer,” Merkel added.
“Let her speak for Germany,” Trump said, when asked about the comment. “Perhaps she is referring to Germany. She’s certainly not referring to the United States, that I can tell you.”
By evening, he seemed to have mellowed a bit.
“Hopefully it’ll all work out,” Trump said. “Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump.”
Speaking to Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, he promised: “You are safe. We are with you a thousand per cent.”
Tenants of Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood say they have won several significant concessions from their landlord, MetCap Living Management Inc., concluding a rent strike that began May 1.
Tenants had claimed their units in 12 Parkdale buildings were badly in need of repairs and they were facing repeated and unfair rent hikes intended to force out low-income tenants. Many tenets had withheld their rent payments in response. The final agreement will see lower rent increases at the buildings, according to a Saturday press release from a tenant group.
MetCap president and chief executive officer Brent Merrill, has maintained throughout that many efforts were made to address tenant concerns at all the buildings, including setting up special hotlines for tenants to report repair issues. He also, he says, reached out personally to tenants who complained about unfulfilled work orders.
Withholding rent was just one of several actions taken by tenants. There were several rallies and marches through Parkdale, the brief occupation of a lobby and stairwell, outside a MetCap office and the short-term shutdown of a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
“We won this strike because we refused to play by the rules,” said Bryan Daley, who lives at a seven-story building at 90 Jameson Ave., in the press release. “Parkdale came together as a community and organized to defend our homes and we came out on top.”
The number of people who participated in the actual strike was never entirely clear. Parkdale Community Services said as many as 200 tenants withheld rent in May and up to 300 in June, across the 12 buildings. The headcount was an estimate, based on public meetings and information from tenant representatives.
“The organizing of hundreds of working class people in Parkdale, including us and our neighbours, has shifted the balance of power between landlords and tenants in Parkdale in our favour,” said a statement on the Parkdale Organize website from the Rent Strikers’ Negotiating Committee.
In early February, MetCap applied to the Landlord and Tenant Board to raise rent 3 per cent above provincial guidelines, each year for three years, due to renovation costs.
This is legal, though an above guideline rent increase must be approved by the Landlord and Tenant Board.
A 1.5 per cent rent increase has already been approved for 2017.
The dispute took a frightening turn at the end of May, when a supporter stepped in front of Merrill’s moving truck and was forced to back-peddle, then jump to the side. Merrill told the Star he did a rolling stop to pick up a badly frightened building manager who had been chased by tenant supporters.
Merrill confirmed that in June, several hundred tenants in buildings across Parkdale were sent notices warning them to pay rent, or potentially face a hearing before the Landlord Tenant Board. But, said Merrill, there was no way to know how many were participating in the strike and that volume of notices was not unusual for Parkdale.
Vic Natola, a community legal worker, with Parkdale Community Legal Services said MetCap staff reached out at the end of June “to talk about tenant demands and what needs to happen to end the rent strike,” and negotiations began shortly after.
“The demands have been constant and consistent through the entire negotiations and the strike. No more Above Guideline Increases and fix our buildings,” said Natola. “It was pretty much all hands on deck to help support the tenants through that,” said Natola. “We continued to provide legal support because tenants don’t know the law inside and out and we do.”
The meetings included tenant representatives from several buildings taking part in the rent strike, MetCap staff and Brent Merrill and staff from AIMCO, and Parkdale Community Legal Services. All sides agreed to not talk about the details, until a resolution was reached.
“Nobody had any interest of putting the negotiations at risk,” said Natola.
With files from Emily Mathieu
With files from Emily Mathieu
The lawyer for a Canadian man accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails says his client will bypass the extradition hearing and go directly to the United States to face the charges.
The hearing for Karim Baratov, 22, was scheduled for next month.
Baratov was arrested in Hamilton in March under the Extradition Act after U.S. authorities indicted him and three others — two of them allegedly officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service — for computer hacking, economic espionage and other crimes.
After several months planning to fight the extradition, his lawyer Amedeo DiCarlo said in June that Baratov was considering bypassing his extradition hearing in an effort to speed up the legal process.
DiCarlo has previously said Baratov is getting bored behind bars — where he’s been since his arrest in March — and that he doesn’t want his client to spend more time than necessary in custody if it looks like he could be exonerated or spared incarceration in the U.S.
He has stressed that waiving the extradition hearing does not mean admitting guilt.
A teen who allegedly tried to steal an outfit because he said he needed it for a job interview earlier this week is officially employed — thanks to the help of a Toronto police officer.
Const. Niran Jeyanesan was called to a Walmart store on Sunday, Aug. 6, for a routine shoplifting call: an 18-year-old had reportedly tried to steal a dress shirt, a tie and a pair of socks.
The teenager told Jeyanesan he wanted to work to help his family because his father had fallen ill and lost his job, but didn’t have the proper clothes for an interview.
Rather than charging him with theft, Jeyanesan decided to buy the outfit for him instead.
“I had spoken to my investigating team and all the investigators were on board with it, our staff sergeant was,” Jeyanesan said. “I think they all believed that this was the right thing to do for this person.”
Jeyanesan gave his cell phone number to the teenager, telling him he wanted to know how the interview went.
On Friday night, he got a call from the teenager who had good news.
“He confirmed that he had got the job. I’m just happy,” Jeyanesan said. “Happy that this person actually went and did what he said he was going to do and followed through with it and that he was determined to get that position, and he did. That’s all him. So the second chance truly works.”
Jeyanesan said he believes cases like this are a sign of policing changing for the better in Toronto.
“Certainly, in terms of taking care (with) every investigation and finding a best case scenario, especially talking to people and hearing their part of the story and so forth, that has for sure improved, at least in the three years I’ve been policing.”
Paraphrasing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s often referenced quote from 2015, Const. Niran Jeyanesan said “It’s 2017.”
“If you look at it financially, we spend a lot of money incarcerating people and putting them through the court system and so forth, so as police officers, if we can actually divert that process into something positive, why not?”
He said the teenager was “very excited” on the phone, and was looking forward to starting his new job.
“We don’t usually see the results right off the bat in policing and for this, it (was) different,” Jeyanesan said. “When . . . he said he got the job, I asked him, ‘Hey, did you wear that shirt and tie?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I did. And thank you.’ ”
Hyeon Soo Lim, a Toronto-area pastor who was detained in North Korea for over two years, is back in the city after catching a connecting flight in Ottawa.
Lim arrived in Toronto in the late morning Saturday, and is “landed and resting,” according to a press release from his family.
Lim was detained by North Korean authorities in January 2015 while in the country on a charitable mission. He was later convicted of attempting to subvert the authoritarian regime of Kim Jong Un and sentenced to life in a labour camp.
North Korea’s Central Court on Wednesday granted Lim “sick bail” on humanitarian grounds.
It has been reported that Lim was in poor health and had lost a lot of weight.
Lim was seen in video footage taken Thursday at a U.S. military base in Fussa, Japan, appearing thinner but walking unaided.
Lim is expected to attend a Sunday service at his church, the Light Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, which had fought and prayed for his release.
With files from Mary Ormsby
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA.—A car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally Saturday in a Virginia college town, killing one person, sending at least 26 others to hospitals and ratcheting up tension in an increasingly violent confrontation.
The chaos boiled over at what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade: the governor declared a state of emergency, police dressed in riot gear ordered people out and helicopters circled overhead. The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of the Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee, and others who arrived to protest the racism.
Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, said several hundred counter-protesters were marching when “suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound.” A silver sedan smashed into another car, then backed up, barrelling through “a sea of people.”
The impact hurled people into the air. Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety in different directions.
The driver was later arrested, authorities said.
The turbulence began Friday night, when the white nationalists carried torches though the university campus in what they billed as a “pro-white” demonstration. It quickly spiralled into violence Saturday morning. Hundreds of people threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays. At least eight were injured and one arrested in connection.
President Donald Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms” what he called an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” after the clashes. He called for “a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”
Trump says he’s spoken with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and “we agreed that the hate and the division must stop and must stop right now.”
But some of the white nationalists cited Trump’s victory as validation for their beliefs, and Trump’s critics pointed to the president’s racially tinged rhetoric as exploiting the nation’s festering racial tension.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson noted that Trump for years publicly questioned President Barack Obama’s citizenship.
“We are in a very dangerous place right now,” he said.
Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler had called for what he termed a “pro-white” rally in Charlottesville. White nationalists and their opponents promoted the event for weeks.
Oren Segal, who directs the Anti-Defamation League’s centre on Extremism, said multiple white power groups gathered in Charlottesville, including members of neo-Nazi organizations, racist skinhead groups and Ku Klux Klan factions.
The white nationalist organizations Vanguard America and Identity Evropa; the Southern nationalist League of the South; the National Socialist Movement; the Traditionalist Workers Party; and the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights also were on hand, he said, along with several groups with a smaller presence.
On the other side, anti-fascist demonstrators also gathered in Charlottesville, but they generally aren’t organized like white nationalist factions, said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Many others were just locals caught in the fray.
Colleen Cook, 26, stood on a curb shouting at the rally attendees to go home.
Cook, a teacher who attended the University of Virginia, said she sent her son, who is black, out of town for the weekend.
“This isn’t how he should have to grow up,” she said.
Cliff Erickson leaned against a fence and took in the scene. He said he thinks removing the statue amounts to erasing history and said the “counter-protesters are crazier than the alt-right.”
“Both sides are hoping for a confrontation,” he said.
It’s the latest confrontation in Charlottesville since the city about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C., voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Lee.
In May, a torch-wielding group that included prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer gathered around the statue for a nighttime protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group travelled there for a rally, where they were met by hundreds of counter-protesters.
Kessler said this week that the rally is partly about the removal of Confederate symbols but also about free speech and “advocating for white people.”
“This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do,” he said in an interview.
Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices.
“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.
Charlottesville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a liberal-leaning city that’s home to the flagship University of Virginia and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.
The statue’s removal is part of a broader city effort to change the way Charlottesville’s history of race is told in public spaces. The city has also renamed Lee Park, where the statue stands, and Jackson Park, named for Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. They’re now called Emancipation Park and Justice Park, respectively.
For now, the Lee statue remains. A group called the Monument Fund filed a lawsuit arguing that removing the statue would violate a state law governing war memorials. A judge has agreed to temporarily block the city from removing the statue for six months.
It was Bryan Murray’s faux gruffness that always made you laugh.
“Don’t know why you’re calling me,” he’d say drily over the phone. “Those people in Toronto have all the answers, don’t they?”
By the end of the conversation, of course, he always would have told a funny story, given you some good information, and made it clear you could call anytime. When you call a fellow several times a season over the course of more than a quarter-century of hockey seasons, you get used to the rhythm, the necessary back-and-forth. Can’t remember too many chats with Murray that weren’t well worth the time. Or any.
In a perfect hockey world, Murray would have ended up in Toronto with the Leafs in some position or another during his sterling 35-year NHL career. Damn, that would have been fun. It would have been a terrific fit in many ways.
In that perfect shinny world, of course, a quality man like Murray would also have, at some point along the road, received a Stanley Cup ring for being part of a championship team. The closest he came was coaching the Ottawa Senators to the Cup final in 2007 where, in one of those shake-your-head peculiarities of the sport, he was beaten by an Anaheim team he had a major hand in building.
Murray, who died of colon cancer at his Ottawa home on Saturday morning at the age of 74, was a hockey man through and through, with a super-sensitive b.s. meter for all the nonsense in the game and a willingness to speak his mind. He was one of 10 kids and put his hometown of Shawville, Que., on the hockey map despite the fact he didn’t play the game to a particularly high level himself. No, he started out as a teacher, the point in his life from which many of the endless number of stories he could share often began.
The accolades began pouring in for Murray on Saturday, and that will continue for some time because of all the people he touched in the game, and the careers he helped start, all the players he coached, all the friends he made, all the media people for whom he always had five minutes and a clever quip or two.
“I don’t think it really bothered him that he didn’t win a ring,” said his longtime colleague and friend Doug MacLean. “Sure, he would have loved to win one. But he thought bigger than that.”
MacLean, who worked alongside Murray in Washington, Detroit and Florida, first met Murray in the late 1970s at a junior all-star game. MacLean was playing for Brockville, and Murray was the head coach in Pembroke.
“I remember listening to him, thinking: Man, does this guy know his hockey,” said MacLean. “We stayed in touch, and if not for Bryan Murray I wouldn't have been in the NHL. He mentored me, gave me opportunities. He taught me you can treat your players with respect and still be a really good coach. He had a knack for coaching like he had played in the NHL, and he never played a game.”
Murray, whose 620 coaching wins put him 12th on the all-time list, had been waging a very public battle with colon cancer since 2014, and had decided to become a spokesman for cancer awareness. He finished off with the Senators as general manager at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, soon after making one of his riskier and more controversial trades, acquiring Dion Phaneuf from the Maple Leafs in a nine-player deal.
Whether it was as a head coach or as a GM, Murray specialized in turning losers into winners. He did that in his first NHL coaching job in Washington, winning NHL coach-of-the-year honours in 1984. When he was fired by GM David Poile partway through the 1989-90 season, Murray was replaced in rather controversial fashion by his brother Terry.
Detroit, another perennial loser, hired him immediately, and he immediately got that team into the post-season. He was behind the bench when the Wings were stunned in the first round of the 1993 playoffs by the Leafs in a seven-game series ended by Nikolai Borschevsky’s overtime winner.
Scotty Bowman was hired by owner Mike Ilitch the next year, and the fit just wasn’t there between Murray and Bowman. Murray left to become GM of the expansion Florida Panthers with MacLean as his coach, and three seasons later the Panthers made it to the Cup final, losing in four games to Colorado.
He later moved on to Anaheim, and was GM of the Ducks when they made it to the 2003 Cup final against New Jersey. Murray left the Ducks to return to the Ottawa Valley as head coach of the Senators, a surprising move at the time. As Ottawa GM starting in the 2007-08 season, his biggest challenge was trying to find somebody who could coach the team the way he felt it should be coached. He went through five coaches in nine years.
“I’m leaving after a disappointing year. That’s the hardest part,” he said after the Senators missed the 2016 playoffs by eight points. “You always want to leave on the up, and that wasn’t to be this year, but I feel really good about the talent level that is on the ice for the future.”
The hockey gods, it seems, chose to make Murray beloved and widely respected rather than a Cup winner. If it had been his choice to make, you always understood he wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Damien Cox is the co-host of Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. He spent nearly 30 years covering a variety of sports for The Star. Follow him @DamoSpin. His column normally appears Tuesday and Saturday.
Damien Cox is the co-host of Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. He spent nearly 30 years covering a variety of sports for The Star. Follow him @DamoSpin. His column normally appears Tuesday and Saturday.
TORONTO—Weather and reduced staffing of air traffic controllers at Toronto Pearson International Airport is causing delays and dozens of flight cancellations.
NAV Canada, which owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation service, says weather has affected flights to Montreal and Newark, N.J., from Toronto.
In an email Saturday, spokesperson Jonathan Bagg says flights scheduled to land in Toronto are also affected by weather and reduced staffing levels at Pearson’s control tower.
He says a ground delay program has been implemented, which is a traffic management procedure where flights are delayed at their departure airport to manage demand and capacity at their arrival airport.
NAV Canada did not explain the reason for the reduced staffing levels, but says it is working to get aircraft “on their way as quickly as possible.”
About 80 flights scheduled to arrive at Pearson had been cancelled as of Saturday evening.
In a tweet Saturday afternoon, the airport was warning passengers that lightning could affect their flight schedules.
Barrie teacher Cheryl O’Keefe doesn’t know how she would have survived the stress-induced sleepless nights of July had school not been out for the summer.
O’Keefe is among Toronto region home buyers and sellers who got caught in the spring real estate downturn.
When the sale on her house finally closed a month past the originally agreed-upon date, it was the end of an expensive nightmare for O’Keefe.
Others who sold their homes in this year’s once frenzied real estate market, are still struggling to complete their transactions.
Lawyers, realtors and mortgage brokers report a surge in calls from distressed sellers whose buyers purchased in the heat of the market, only to find that the subsequent drop in the home’s value is more than the cost of walking away from a deposit.
Others, who bought unconditionally, have discovered they can’t get the financing to meet their purchase obligation. In some cases, the bank appraisal has come in at a value below what a purchaser agreed to pay, leaving the buyer scrambling to make up the difference.
O’Keefe’s real estate agent, Peggy Hill of Keller Williams, says closings have been stalling since the end of June. Barrie home prices may not be as high as some closer to the city, but the drop has been precipitous.
“Our average price for a home in Barrie is $471,822 for July. In March it was $570,199. We’re talking about a $100,000 difference,” she said.
That is still $40,000 above the average price of July 2016. But back then, 208 of the 260 homes listed sold. “This July we have 201 sales so the sales are still there but with 683 active (listings),” said Hill. “That’s the real picture.”
The GTA-wide picture is similar. When the regional market peaked in April, the average home price — including every category from condos to detached houses — was $919,449. By July, it had fallen to $746,216, although prices were still up 5 per cent year over year.
There were 9,989 sales among 11,346 active listings in July of 2016, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. This July, listings soared to 18,751 listings, with only 5,921 sales.
O’Keefe had lived in her bungalow for only about two years when she decided to sell it in February, about the time property prices were peaking. Her basement apartment was standing empty and she wanted to downsize.
The real estate frenzy in Barrie mimicked Toronto’s and most of the 43 showings of O’Keefe’s house were, in fact, people from Toronto.
Like many homes at the time, O’Keefe’s sold in about a week for more than the listed price. The buyer put down a $25,000 deposit and requested a longer-than-usual four-month closing date of June 28.
“That was fine. It just gave me more time to do what I had to do,” said O’Keefe.
What she had to do was find a new home for herself in the same fiercely competitive market. She lost a couple of bidding wars and turned her back on a century home she loved because she knew it would go at a price she could never justify.
When she happened on an open house that fit her needs, O’Keefe bought it with a May 28 closing — a month ahead of when her own home sale was to be finalized. She arranged bridge financing to cover both mortgages for that month.
It all looked good on paper. But as the spring wore on, O’Keefe grew uneasy. The buyers of her house had not requested the usual pre-closing visit. Usually, excited new owners want a look around.
O’Keefe got her realtor to call. No response.
A week from closing, she had still heard nothing. At 4:50 p.m. on closing day, her lawyer talked to the purchaser, who admitted he was having difficulty with the closing.
By then, O’Keefe had been living in her new place a month and was paying two mortgages.
She agreed to extend the closing to July 14. When that didn’t happen, O’Keefe agreed to a second extension to July 31. The date came and went. Finally on Aug. 2, her lawyer called to say the buyer closed.
“Every step of the way everything that could be a headache has been a headache,” she said.
O’Keefe’s realtor says that so far, in her office, even problematic closings have been finalized. But some have been disappointing.
“There have been deals where we’ve had to take less commission. The seller had to take less money to make it close because at that point they’re euchred.
“It’s usually $40,000 to $50,000 because of our price point. In other areas I know it’s in hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Hill, referring to areas such as Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Aurora, also hard hit by the market’s downward slope.
Some buyers have requested extensions on new home purchases because their old places didn’t sell, said Hill.
“That’s understandable,” she said. “In March, you wouldn’t dare go in with an offer conditional on the sale of a home. The problem is, in April, when all hell broke loose, everybody started putting their houses on the market fearing they had missed the top.”
Many have arranged bridge financing and moved on. But others haven’t been as fortunate, said Toronto lawyer Neal Roth.
He has been getting about five calls a week since mid-May from home sellers struggling to close on transactions.
“There is this horrendous domino effect going on where people in the spring were rushing into the market for a variety of reasons, committing to prices that in some instances were well beyond their means,” he said.
Most of his callers represent one of two scenarios.
First, there’s someone paid $1.5 million for a house that has since become worth $1.4 million, so they want to get out of the purchase.
“The other type of person says, ‘The bank promised me 60 per cent financing. Now that I’m at $1.5 million I should still get the same 60 per cent, not realizing that you have to come up with the 40 per cent of your own cash, or that the bank said 60 per cent when you were at $1.2 million, not $1.5 million,” said Roth.
While he thinks some sellers got greedy and some buyers should have been more careful, he hasn’t encountered anyone who got caught playing the property market.
“They’re all average people. None of them have been speculators as far as I know,” he said.
It’s not uncommon for mortgage brokers to hear from home buyers struggling with financing, said Nick L’Ecuyer of The Mortgage Wellness Group in Barrie
“But what we’re getting now is people who are in sheer turmoil. They don’t know what to do at all,” he said.
Some sellers, who planned to use their equity to put down 20 per cent or more on another home, don’t realize they can’t get bridge financing from a bank if they don’t have a firm purchase agreement on their old house.
Then there’s the hard truth that the house they’re selling isn’t likely to go for as much as they expected earlier in the year.
They can put down just 5 per cent and apply for a government-insured mortgage, but that’s more complicated and costly, said L’Ecuyer.
The Appraisal Institute of Canada doesn’t have statistics on the number of lender-commissioned appraisals that come in short of the agreed-upon price of a home.
But based on anecdotal accounts, it’s happening more now in the GTA, said institute CEO Keith Lancastle.
“Any time you go into a situation where you make an abrupt change from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market — where you see a slowdown for whatever reason — you can encounter this situation,” he said.
The role of an appraiser is to provide an unbiased opinion of a property’s value at a given point of time.
“A heated market does not automatically translate into a true market value. When you take away the heat, all of a sudden it settles down into something that is perhaps more reflective of what true market value is,” said Lancastle.
He says he’s still surprised by how emotional what is routinely now a million-dollar home buying experience can be.
“It’s arguable that mortgage lending should not be underwriting that emotion and that notion of a sober second thought is really important, not only for the purchaser, but also for the lender,” he said.
Buyers tempted to walk away from a deposit need to realize that they may still face a lawsuit, says L’Ecuyer. If you bought a house for $500,000 and decided to forfeit the deposit, and the seller gets only $450,000 from another buyer, you can be sued for the difference, he said. There is also the possibility of being sued by a realtor who isn’t getting a commission, and for additional legal and carrying costs.
Roth said there are people who don’t even realize that when they back out of a sale, their deposit is automatically lost.
O’Keefe believes that because she priced her home on the low side, it hasn’t lost any value. “You start talking to people and this is happening to so many,” she said. “I’m lucky that my house closed.”
He owned a four-bedroom house with a pool in a ritzy York Mills neighbourhood and enjoyed all the perks of the affluent: winters luxuriating at his family’s two-storey beachfront condo in Palm Beach, idyllic summers at an island cottage in Parry Sound, a ski chalet, a golf club membership and so many trips to Las Vegas, he was on a first-name basis with casino executives.
Cash wasn’t just his nickname, it defined him; he came from money and his own annual earnings topped $400,000.
Michael (Cash) Pomer even had some prominence in Toronto, certainly within the city’s gambling community, due to his frequent appearances on television and radio as an NFL handicapper. In the ’90s and early 2000s, he could be seen trading quips with Jim Tatti on Sportsline or heard on The Fan on Sunday mornings, hosting his own two-hour gambling show.
Now the money, and some $6 million in assets, is gone. All of it.
Cash Pomer is penniless.
Even if you don’t recall Pomer as a quirky on-air personality, his is a remarkable story of loss; a tale of how the grip of drug addiction can cause a man who seemingly had everything to squander it all.
But it is also a story for which Pomer — with the help of some loyal but exasperated friends — is trying to write a final, redemptive chapter.
At 60, after a lifetime of careening from one dependency to another, Pomer is trying to rebuild his life and be an inspiration to other addicts.
The Star met Pomer several times through the spring and summer, interviews framed around a rehab stint at a Toronto treatment centre. It was his fourth try at becoming clean and sober but, this time, he believes he might be giving himself a chance.
“I haven’t gone this long without drugs or booze in my life, since I was 17,” he said, six weeks out of rehab and emanating a hopefulness that was once as absent as his wealth.
“I feel great. I’m getting my swagger back. I learned the tools (to stay sober). I didn’t care before. You’ve got to want it, plain and simple. I want it.”
Pomer once lived the high life as the charming, fun-loving epicentre of every party. And if there wasn’t a party, he’d make his own. Opioid painkillers and a few rocks of crack cocaine always took him where he wanted to be.
But when he first sat down with a Star reporter in May to share his story, it was a gambit by a desperate man flailing for a quick remedy to a complicated situation. Pomer was living on welfare and his application and subsequent appeal for disability support had both been rejected. He’d also been cut off by a private social service that had been helping.
Five months behind in his rent and just days before eviction from his North York apartment, he hoped exposing his dependencies to the world might elicit sympathy and that could, in turn, lead to public support. Friends, though skeptical of this latest Pomer scheme, offered to establish a GoFundMe web page.
At that first meeting, the former broadcaster seemed distracted. He would drift to the next story before the first was completed; the details often muddled. Over lunch at a North York diner — a meal Pomer said was, other than some fruit, his first in three days — he outlined how he had gone from gadabout to down and out. He then asked if he could order a bacon burger to go. That way he’d have something to eat the next day.
When Pomer walked there was a shuffle in his stride because of an arthritic left ankle. Even sitting, he frequently shifted uncomfortably due to chronic back pain. Anger roiled just below the surface.
After rehab, however, Pomer seemed a different person. His grey pallor was gone. He was more focused, remembering details of his life quickly and clearly. Pomer was less agitated, less beaten down, less bitter. He said he was no longer interested in applying for disability. He wanted to find work. He said he is getting control of his life. He joked often.
The primary motivation for sharing his story now, he said, was in hopes it might encourage other addicts to seek treatment or talk to their family doctor.
It was a remarkable transformation especially when you consider the heights from which Pomer had fallen.
“How many people have everything and lose everything?” wondered his childhood friend Steve Simmons.
Indeed, how does a smart, affable rich kid — the kind of free spirit who would fly his mother to Hawaii on a whim — become a broken man surviving off welfare and handouts from friends, their kindness really all that’s keeping him from living on the streets?
The high life
“I was a functioning addict,” said Pomer. “I never thought I’d end up this way but I point fingers at nobody except myself. I’m not proud of it.”
Pomer said he started using drugs the way a lot of kids did in the early ’70s, experimenting at middle school and then at York Mills Collegiate Institute, where he was on the varsity wrestling and track teams.
“Some kids smoked pot, I loved black hash,” he recalled. “I was into sports but I still liked to smoke my hash late at night. When my parents went to bed, I’d crawl out the front window, have a couple of puffs and crawl back in and go to bed.”
But while the other kids grew up to have jobs, families and mortgages, Pomer, who had girlfriends but never married, was unfettered by those day-to-day demands. He had no responsibilities and no need for self-control. His hard-driving father, who died in 1994, built a fortune through fashion retail, owning John Pomer Menswear stores and Bi-Rite outlets. At one point he had 34 stores.
Pomer’s casual drug use escalated to a dependency at some point in his 20s. Then, until he was 50, he was high virtually every day — even when he was on air.
Pomer figures he spent $3 million on recreational drugs. That number, he concedes, may be low. For years, the dependency cost him between $500 and $800 daily.
In his heyday, Pomer spent his winters in Florida golfing or hanging out with his mother. He’d fly to Tampa for his TV hits and do his radio show remotely from Palm Beach. He didn’t need a regular job, though he did work at times both for his dad and for a computer company in those early days. His engaging personality made him an excellent salesman.
So glib and charismatic was Pomer that, as a 15-year-old, he once showed up unannounced at the hotel suite of Muhammad Ali — in Toronto to do TV commentary — carrying a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and talked his way in to interview the champ.
Pomer shared his wealth and good nature and collected friends easily. Some of them — even those that disapproved of his habits — stuck with him.
Twice the Simmons family took Pomer into their home after he’d been booted out of other lodging.
“All along people have supported him,” said Sheila Simmons, Steve’s wife. “People didn’t give up on him because he was charming and fun and they remember him as this kid; this 19-year-old who was just full of piss and vinegar … there is something in him that these people feel the need to look after him.”
With those pals, in those younger years, Pomer revelled in being the fun-loving smart-ass at the centre of things.
“Then it became the late ’70s and early ’80s and all hell broke loose — that’s when cocaine really hit its peak — if you brought coke to a party and dumped it on the table, you were the coolest guy at the party,” he said.
“It was so popular, so loved, so status.”
And Pomer couldn’t resist the high it gave him.
“I enjoyed drugs. I loved drugs. I found my equilibrium in drugs,” he said. “I never blacked out. I never woke up and said, ‘Gee, I don’t remember what I did last night.’ Ever. I never had shaky hands. I never missed a show.”
Pomer’s cravings went from hash and marijuana to cocaine to painkillers to crack, with plenty of overlap and mixing and matching. It was crack cocaine, though, with its quick hit of euphoria that became his go-to.
“I enjoyed it better. It took the edge off,” he recalled. “I took a piece and crunched it up, mixed it with tobacco and rolled it in an Export paper. Put a filter in, lit it up and it was … yowser.”
Along with the crack, Pomer said there were days when he would take as many as 20 Percocets — which contain an opioid pain medication — sometimes kickstarting his morning by washing down three of them with orange juice.
So dependent was Pomer, he said his dealer would hide five days’ worth of purchases in five spots around his house. That way he could just phone his supplier to find out where that day’s stash was cached. Eventually, Pomer was making the call before breakfast. Once, when he unexpectedly decided to extend a stay at the Parry Sound cottage, his dealer made the drive north with a $2,000 supply of painkillers.
“I had a drug dealer I trusted; he never did me wrong,” said Pomer. “He bought himself a cottage and a motorcycle off me.”
A high school friend, Sheldon Jafine, believes that because Pomer came from money, there was never any motivation for him to be serious about education or career building. He did graduate from York University but his passion for sports and a knack for sports wagering put him in a position where he only had to work, Jafine figures, about 10 hours a week doing his broadcasting hits and phone line recordings. That downtime mixed with large amounts of disposal income and a lack of obligations allowed Pomer to live behind a veil of drugs.
But even as his drug use continued unabated, he managed to function in the real world. He made frequent appearances on Global-TV’s Sportsline. His football prognostications (“he was very good,” said Simmons) were a weekly fixture. He operated a popular 1-900 tout line for which punters paid $5 a minute for his football insights; some years he said that line earned him $400,000. He also had private clients to whom he’d provide gambling advice. He hosted a local charity golf tournament to raise money for an electric wheelchair sports association. The likes of former Blue Jay Buck Martinez or radio personality John Derringer stepped in to MC.
“I guess I had control of an out-of-control situation, if that makes any sense,” he said.
But while Pomer said he “loved every minute of it,” his life began to unravel. Even though he was bringing in big money, he never paid taxes. Eventually, he said, Revenue Canada came after him for $1.7 million, and he settled with a $540,000 payment. That still meant he had to sell assets, including his home, during a down market.
He got fired by The Fan in 2001 — the Globe and Mail reported he was canned for complaining on the air about the disappearance of intro music, a rights issue he’d been told not to mention — and then Sportsline was cancelled in 2006. That eroded his public profile, which dramatically hurt the popularity of his 1-900 phone line as did the growth of internet gambling websites and online wagering information.
“As I try to weave through this maze of drugging, everything came down,” he said. “I didn’t pay my taxes. I didn’t care. I didn’t give a s---. I was an idiot. I was an addict. I was irresponsible and that’s that.”
Even his mother, Camilla, who now lives in a nursing home, sold family assets to help her son.
Jafine said another friend put it perfectly: “Every time you think Mike’s hit bottom, he finds a way to get lower.”
Pomer tried rehab three times but twice found an excuse to bail. After completing one session — paid for by a friend when he was 50 —Pomer was clean for a while and took up marathon running. A broken ankle put him back on painkillers, to which he again became addicted.
Pomer’s income eroded to a monthly welfare cheque for about $700. His rent was $1,150 a month. The math wasn’t working. Friends chipped in with some cash now and again. Or they gave him grocery store vouchers or TTC tickets, to help control how the money was being spent; sometimes, though, he’d use those vouchers to gamble on Pro-Line. A friend once gave Pomer his wife’s car but he sold it to pay rent.
While he still smoked the occasional joint, his latest dependency was alcohol. It’s what he could more readily afford. Some mornings he’d have a $2.99 breakfast at Wendy’s and then wait for the LCBO to open.
Pomer said the alcohol abuse started last year when, while working the last job he had as a clothing salesman, he got into the habit of buying a bottle after work. He soon left the job but not the booze.
“Within five minutes of getting home, the shots were being poured — vodka or Southern (Comfort). One ounce shots; I’d have four of them. Then another and another …”
Pomer said he drank almost every day for nine months — a 750-millilitre bottle would typically last two days — and on the rare day he didn’t have any booze, he’d think about how much he wanted a drink.
Jafine said Pomer was always hitting friends up for money and they started to abandon him.
“I was ready to walk from him,” said Jafine, a veterinarian who owns five animal hospitals in the Toronto area. “I told him if he didn’t go to rehab and straighten his act up and try to rebuild his life, I’m done.”
Though he pushed back, saying he didn’t need it, Pomer began a four-week rehab stint paid for by OHIP in May.
Pomer asked his landlord to delay his eviction for a few days so he could go directly to the treatment centre. He had no idea where he’d live once he got out.
Pomer said the counsellors viewed him as a long shot for rehab success and someone who was a master manipulator with his friends.
“As an addict, we all lie, we connive, we cheat,” said Pomer. “I don’t want to say steal but I lied a little and embellished a lot. ‘I need this for groceries.’ Well, I’ll be damned if I spent it all on groceries. I’d make sure there was a bottle, then the groceries.”
Some of his friends resent that Pomer, with his fortune gone, still maintains a sense of entitlement and an expectation that his pals will look after him.
Simmons, a newspaper sports columnist and broadcaster in Toronto, said at one point, several of Pomer’s friends put together a pool of money to cover his expenses and one of them administered it.
“What happens is, after a while, you get tired of paying because you’re not really accomplishing anything,” Simmons said. “All we were doing really was enabling.”
Once at the treatment centre, Pomer said his attitude was different from previous stints. He wanted to earn back the respect of people he cared about.
Before morning and afternoon classes — where addicts learn the 12-step program to overcome their dependencies — Pomer said he would complete the assigned reading, typically an inspirational story about someone working through trying circumstances to beat alcohol or drugs. Previously, he’d just as likely sit and read the newspaper sports section.
In the evenings, when patients go off site to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous meetings, he said he found those gatherings captivating.
So at night, when he would normally be partying, he was now getting “a spiritual high” from guest speakers. Pomer continues to vigilantly attend meetings, often going seven nights a week and occasionally doubling up at lunchtime. He’s been asked to become a speaker at those gatherings.
Pomer is now walking 10 to13 kilometres a day and sleeping better because of it. He said he “got his skinny little legs in shape again” and he is ready to work. Pomer said his priority is to stay active. He said he did little, other than drink and watch TV, in the months leading up to rehab.
“I was just a stupid loser, isolated and feeling sorry for myself.”
Jewish Family and Child is helping, too, he said. It gave him 20 $10 gift cards for groceries and a TTC Metropass for August, which is helpful for job hunting. Pomer also reconnected with his older brother, Henry — a relationship he described as wavering between strained and estranged — and said he has been “incredibly supportive.”
Pomer hopes to eventually find an affordable basement apartment in the Bloor and Spadina area, walking distance to most of his meetings. For now he has no home and is staying with friends.
Jafine said Pomer, who rarely thought beyond his immediate desires, is finally acknowledging he needs an aftercare program. That would give him accommodation, two meals a day, counselling and drug testing for the next two or three months.
While Pomer said he didn’t go through physical withdrawal in rehab or afterwards, he did have one slip-up. One afternoon, 23 days after graduating, he bought a bottle of Southern Comfort. He took a couple of sips, and said he cursed himself and then dumped the rest down the drain. Pomer said he went back to the treatment centre, explained what had happened and received encouragement for his response.
Pomer has been looking at getting work as a waiter but as his self-confidence returns, he’s thinking about how he can use his handicapping skills again. He said he had an interview and believes he has a chance to land a job with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., working as a sports wagering adviser. He’s also going to look at trying to get back into broadcasting in some capacity.
“I don’t envy his situation, at age 60 trying to start from square one again,” said Jafine.
“But think of the alternative. If he didn’t do what he did in terms of getting help, going to rehab and trying to turn his life around, he wasn’t going to make it another five years. He was going to be homeless, in the street with nobody to help him. He would have probably died between 60 and 65.”
Pomer recently spent a day with his old friend, Steve Simmons.
“I thought it was the best I’d seen him in years, the most realistic,” said Simmons. “I just thought he was mature about what he was dealing with, which he hasn’t always been.”
“I think this probably was rock bottom for him, losing his home and going into rehab. I think it’s a pretty stunning change of life. You either deal with it and accept it or you continue on your path. It looks to me that he’s in a better place than I’ve seen in for a very long time.”
Despite being keenly aware of everything he’s lost, Pomer said he — and he knows many won’t understand this — looks back with no regrets. He remembers his “fun in the sun” with fondness.
“Most people would say, ‘C’mon, you’d take back all that money.’ No, I wouldn’t change a thing. That’s who I am. That’s who I was,” he said.
“I’m still Pomer. The only difference is, I don’t live in a big home with a pool or a tennis court or anything like that. I don’t have my Palm Beach place. I’m generous psychologically now. I listen better. I don’t have my wealth but I don’t care. I’ve been there, done that. I had my time.”
This is it, then.
We can officially drop the pretence of equality after violent protests by white supremacists, “heritage” groups, neo-Nazis, KKK members and armed white terrorists slammed that charade this weekend.
Their deadly brand of racism was effectively endorsed by the United States president when he failed to call out supremacists, anti-Semites, xenophobes and homophobes and instead rebuked the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
On many sides. Which sides would those be, Mr. President, when there were just two: white supremacy — and equality.
Donald Trump wants to “study it,” he said, “to see how such things can happen.” He might want to start with studying the “many sides” of injustice at play.
Take a moment to think about what these people were protesting as they marched through the University of Virginia campus Friday night carrying torches and breaking into fisticuffs. And again, whey they showed up Saturday morning, waving Confederate and Nazi flags, carrying semi-automatic weapons, helmets, spears and shields, throwing punches, water bottles and spraying chemicals. A car plowed through counter-protesters flinging bodies in the air, killing one person and injuring dozens.
These savage people were not protesting white lives lost to police brutality. They were not protesting disproportionate incarceration of white people, or stricter sentencing than people of other races, or being denied housing or education for the colour of their skin. They were not protesting any of that because it is not their reality.
They were not protesting. Period.
They were rioting.
Their tempers were inflamed by the possibility of the removal of a statue of Civil War-era Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The city council voted for the removal in April, but it is pending litigation.
Not only was Lee the general who led a war to defend the ownership of Black people as property, he was also one of its more cruel enforcers — breaking up families and hiring them to other plantations, ordering the enslaved to be whipped and brine poured on their backs, as detailed in an eye-opening profile in the Atlantic in June.
The Saturday protesters had gathered at Emancipation Park, the new name of what was once Lee Park, where the statue stands.
Jason Kessler, a right-wing blogger, told media the protests were also about free speech and “advocating for white people.”
This, they believed, entitled them to chant things such as “White power,” “White Lives Matter,” “You will not replace us” and “Jew will not replace us.”
It was a mind-boggling show of white fragility, by people threatened not because their rights are being trampled by any measurable means but because a few voices of those they historically oppressed are starting to be heard again.
Where were the police ominously beating back protesters in the numbers they did in Ferguson, in Chicago, in Charlotte, in Baltimore, in Cleveland among other places when Black people protested deaths at the hands of police? Where are the calls for white people to denounce this disgusting display of hate in their name? Why is the driver of the car that plowed into people not being called a terrorist? Will we now ask that white people be the eyes and ears on the front lines of white hatred?
Remember Mark Hughes, the armed Black man called a suspect by Dallas police during protests in July last year? They called him a suspect even as he was helping them evacuate people and they did not take down their tweet with his photo even after it was established he was innocent.
In this gathering, white men armed to the teeth roam freely, with the privilege of knowing their rights will be protected.
The flags they were waving signify death and devastation to significant groups of Americans. Yet, they were allowed because, democracy. Would these democratic rights be granted to anyone wanting to wave the equally reprehensible Daesh (ISIS) flags?
Trump, a normally avid tweeter who releases foreign policy details in 140 characters, was silent until later in the day when he tweeted out a vague denunciation of the events and gave his insipid speech.
In all fairness, his blandness was not a surprise. Why would he disavow his friends?
Former KKK “imperial wizard” David Duke said, “This (protest) represents a turning point. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfil the promises of Donald Trump. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump.”
Over at the Daily Stormer, the white supremacist website, there was jubilation. “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us.... No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
Not all Trump’s buddies were pleased with his speech, though. Richard Spencer, the founder of the “Alt-Right” hate group, who was not shot at, not beaten, not punched, but maced by police, was miffed.
“Trump should not have praised the state and local police,’ he tweeted. “They did the opposite of their job. Total disaster.”
Total disaster. Never thought I’d agree with anything that revolting man said.
Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar
The remnants of all four of my grandparents’ early lives are scattered across the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Growing up in the home they rebuilt in Karachi, Pakistan, a home they named after the village they left behind, we’d sometimes hear the echoes of their past lives, from a time when Pakistan didn’t exist.
Within the walls of their new two-storey home, they’d remember the seven-storey building in the village where they all lived in Bihar. The garden in front of their new home couldn’t compare to the courtyard they gathered in every evening for big communal dinners in India. The long walk or bike ride they took every day was forgone for a shorter walk to the neighbourhood mosque or the nearby market.
Monday, Aug. 14 marks 70 years since they migrated westwards to Pakistan. The future leaders of the Muslim-majority country demanded independence in 1947 just as colonialism was leaving India and a deep-seated conflict between Hindus and Muslims was taking root, violently.
Seventy years on, their children and grandchildren would move westwards again, leaving everything behind once more, to suburban Canada — this time for reasons relating to social security and economic prosperity. We carry a legacy with us of a country the generation before struggled to live in, a legacy we’re just starting to understand.
After my paternal grandfather, S.G.M. Badruddin, died, my father found some unpublished essays of his — the personal experience of a journalist who had to flee from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in the early 1970s, where he worked as a news editor, to West Pakistan (now just Pakistan). Therein was a story of a man I didn’t know — someone who had conversations with leaders, who escaped through secret paths and covert car rides with Christian missionaries across the subcontinent.
In a memorable essay, my grandfather describes the six-week journey he took from Dhaka in Bangladesh, to Calcutta and Patna in India, to Kathmandu in Nepal, and then to Bangkok in Thailand, all the way to Karachi. While reading it, I mapped out my own journey from Karachi to Riyadh, Al Khobar and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, to Dubai, to Mississauga.
His was a harrowing tale of struggle. Mine is less so. But we both lost homes. We both made new homes. We both changed our identities.
No one spoke of Partition when I was younger. My grandparents were quiet about the experience, and no one asked. Yet it was always a part of us. Every Aug. 14, the televisions would be turned to the parade at Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s tomb — the burial place of the father of the Pakistani state.
We commemorated their migration by wearing green and draping flags on our cars, across our balconies, across our chests. Back then it was tradition, a fun thing to do that connected me and my sisters to my cousins in Pakistan.
It stayed a tradition until we immigrated to Canada more than seven years ago. The fact that we would start celebrating with red and white and not the familiar green and white suddenly made us hyper-aware of the evolving fabric of my identity.
I wasn’t alone. Sarah Qidwai, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, has been hearing stories of Partition from her grandmother, Kamni Siddiqui, for as long as she can remember. But it took an undergraduate history course for her to sit down and record, in detail, her grandmother’s experience of it.
Siddiqui, a retired professor of chemistry, was 9 in 1947. Her father told her they were “going to a land where (you) will be free to practise your own culture and religion, but there will be hardships and surprises.”
Like me, Qidwai found parallels in this. “As a family, we moved to Canada in 2004 and it was a lot more peaceful than what Grandma experienced in 1947,” said Qidwai. And now that Siddiqui has applied for Canadian citizenship, the history seems more poignant — this time her choice had fewer hardships and surprises.
If the history of Partition is complicated, its legacy is even more so. Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi children grow up knowing the names of the leaders of Partition and their roles in the creation of the three countries. First came the British man who arbitrarily drew a border that separated India into East and West Pakistan. Second came independence, the constitutions, the death of a founder. And then, almost 15 years later, East Pakistan had another independence movement to become Bangladesh.
The fluctuating borders led to new identities that continue to be defined by the memories of their creation. To this day, the violent history is romanticized, the idea of a new state for Muslims to just be Muslims is lauded, the fact of independence is idealized.
The reality for our grandparents, however, was very different — and it took me 25 years and a journey to Canada to figure that out. As I became more comfortable in my hyphenated identity, I started asking more questions and reading more about the country we, metaphorically, left behind.
It was the same for Seemal Saif, an employee at the Ontario ministry of infrastructure, who was 19 years old, and studying in Canada, when she finally understood the weight of her grandmother’s history.
Before Partition, Saif’s grandmother lived in Jalalabad, India — a state right at the border with newly formed Pakistan. At 7 years old, Saif’s grandmother wasn’t aware of the severity of the riots between Hindus and Muslims — reports of rapes and murders of Muslim women were increasing rapidly.
All the women and children in the village, including Saif’s grandmother, were locked up as they awaited an opportune moment to escape. In the event that theycouldn’t, if the riots reached their home first, the family would burn down these rooms, women and children inside. It was deemed to be more honourable for them to be killed by their family members than raped by a Hindu mob.
By 1948, more than 15 million people had been uprooted, and estimates suggest between one and two million died, with death and suffering on all sides. The 1951 census of Pakistan alone identified the number of displaced persons in Pakistan at more than seven million.
“These were communities that lived together for centuries, they had been neigbours for generations,” said Saif. “Being in Canada, there’s a lot of talk about diversity but it’s also a fragile concept … I value it a lot more knowing this history than I would’ve just living in Pakistan.”
There is a generation of new immigrants that is just starting to draw these parallels, myself included — a process complicated both by the deaths of our grandparents who experienced it and the fading memories of our uncles and aunts who moved with them, just children at the time.
Partition’s ghosts continue to affect us; our grandparents’ past continues to follow us. The legacy of their migration continues to influence the reasons we immigrate: the right to freely and safely be the way we want to be.
The one constant in both our journeys, though, as even my grandfather notes in his essay, is our personal identification with the places left behind. For him it was Dhaka and Patna. And while, I may be building a life in the streets of the 6ix, I’m pulled to the lives that used to be in the streets of Karachi, the roads through India, and the journeys across new borders.
My experience of Partition is just starting.
A man in his 50s is in life-threatening condition after being shot in a robbery near the Eglinton GO station Saturday night.
Police from 43 division said the man was shot in the head and was taken to hospital in life-threatening condition after he was robbed just after 11 p.m.
Const. David Hopkinson said police are looking for three suspects who fled on foot. He said they should be considered “armed, violent and dangerous.”
Police said they were investigating reports that the incident happened near the parking lot of the station, near Eglinton Ave. E and McCowan Rd.
Paramedics said the victim was rushed to Sunnybrooke Hospital.
Hopkinson said police had previously arrested three people, but they were later determined not to be the suspects.
A little known fact about the Palmerston branch of the Toronto Public Library: This is where Jason Lee’s aunt learned how to say “I love you” in English.
It was 1988 and she was new to Toronto, learning conversational English so she could talk to her nephews, who were losing their Korean. She wanted it to sound perfect, so she went to the classes offered by the Korean YMCA at this cosy square of concrete, bricks and books.
She even tried out the words on people she didn’t love.
“I never realized how courageous that was,” 36-year-old Lee says to the crowd of 60 people wearing sensible hats and footwear for Heritage Toronto’s walking tour of Koreatown this Saturday.
Every year, Heritage Toronto offers a slate of walking tours that explore the city’s people, its diversity and little known stories. The tours are led by local historians and people who have experience in the community. What’s on offer is not unlike a theatre season — some popular tours return, there are always new ones in the mix, others return after long absences.
On Saturday, as tensions continued to escalate between North Korea and the U.S., a crowd of tourists and curious Torontonians came to learn about Toronto’s Korean history.
Lee begins at the Alpha Korean United Church, at the corner of Bloor and Huron Sts., with a microphone bag slung across his shoulder.
He explains that in the unrest of the first half of the 20th century, the presence of Canadian Christian missionaries in Korea led to the first Korean student attending the University of Toronto. More students and others connected to the missions followed.
By 1966, there were 100 Koreans in Toronto. By the 1970s, with a population of roughly 10,000 Koreans in the city, Koreatown had emerged near the University of Toronto, westward on Bloor St.
To this day, the church has played a central role as a gathering place for this community.
Lee weaves his own family’s story into the tour as the group makes its way west. His parents moved to Toronto in the late 1970s — his father was a gym teacher, his mother an actress. Their skills didn’t translate, so their only option was to start a business — not unlike many of the other Koreans who came to the city. He talks about the weight that many second generation children feel when it comes to that legacy.
“After the tour I will be working in my parents’ restaurant with my wife,” he says. “I’m expected. I’m voluntold.”
(Lee is the chairman of the Koreatown BIA, and runs his own uniform business in addition to working at his parents’ restaurant.)
Walking along Bloor St., he points out the bank where many went for loans when other banks turned them down, the newspaper that gave the latest news about groups such as the Korean Canadian Woman’s Association and the grocery store that provided a taste of home.
“To this day, my mother has never walked into a Loblaws,” he says.
He talks about kimchi — “sauerkraut on steroids,” and tells the group that for a Korean woman her kimchi is her business card — each with a distinctive taste.
The group stops to sample treats — walnut cake from Hodo Kwaja, tea at his parents’ Korean Village Restaurant and roasted rice candy from Korean grocery store PAT Central.
The rain begins to fall and the crowd huddles under an awning before Lee closes the tour in front of a senior’s centre where his grandmother spent many happy hours. He talks about how she always taught him to save money. Now an avid coin collector, he loops back to that message as he presents a set of 2017 Canadian coins to the youngest person on the tour.
“It took me a long time to find the dimes,” he says. “The dimes are the hardest.”
As the crowd leaves, people thank Lee, who like all of the guides, is a volunteer.
“You really put your heart into it,” one man says.
Then, a woman approaches Lee to ask about the situation in North Korea.
“Loco,” he says, having earlier learned this woman speaks Spanish. He loves learning other languages.
For more than 50 years, people in South Korea have been used to threats from North Korea, he says, but this is different, with the escalating rhetoric from both North Korea and the United States, and the speculation of a mid-August date for a potential North Korean missile strike against Guam. So yes, there is more fear than usual.
“In South Korea they’re used to it,” he says. “For the U.S. and North America, that is not something you’re used to when you wake up and look forward to work and whatever your day holds.”
2017’s most popular Heritage Toronto tours:
1. Yonge Street Architecture
2. Guild Park
3. Uncovering Riverside
Price: Suggested $10 donation
What’s next: On Sunday, tour North York’s Little Manila, with a look at migration, food & identity. Meeting point Bathurst-Wilson parkette, 3749 Bathurst Street. Starts at 1:30 p.m.
Visit: http://heritagetoronto.org/events/ for more information
MONTREAL—Both floppy-haired boy-band blonds.
Both sons of Russian émigré parents.
Both the youngest players ever into a semifinal of a Masters 1000 ATP event, in their debut seasons.
Both free-swinging millennials, fearless and freewheeling and flamboyant.
Send in the clones.
Looks like the start of a beautiful rivalry for Denis Shapovalov and Alexander Zverev, the 18-year-old Canadian and the 20-year-old German.
Zverev the man in black, a headband holding back his thick tresses; Shapovalov in his signature white ball cap, spun around backwards.
But only one would get to square off against Roger Federer on Sunday in the men’s final of the Rogers Cup.
To the chagrin of a nation — this one, which has suddenly quickened to tennis again — it won’t be sensational Shapo.
Under a starless sky, and with the sellout crowd lustily encouraging but ultimately helpless, as spectators always are, the magic ran out for the teenager from Richmond Hill, falling in straight sets: 6-4, 7-5.
Well, straight but zigzag sets, as momentum swung back and forth, with Shapovalov hanging in tough — that’s one thing we’ve learned this past week, this kid has got sand — through a final game that went to deuce five times, the homeboy fighting off two of three match points but unable to convert three break chances of his own, before a wide forehand and long return settled the matter.
“It’s an unbelievable week for me, a completely life-changing week for me,” Shapovalov said on court immediately afterwards, even as the audience at Uniprix Stadium — nee Jarry Park — embraced him in a standing ovation. “I just hope to take this confidence and keep going forward.”
The kid did not quit, which certainly was a hallmark of his tennis gumption throughout the past week in Montreal.
The other kid, a bit less of a kid, was just that smidgen better.
Graciously, Zverev paid tribute immediately to his vanquished opponent.
“Today is not about me. It’s about Denis.
“He will probably win this tournament one day. We will play a lot more times and probably some really great matches.”
It’s the message — promise — he conveyed to Shapovalov as they met at the net to shake hands at the end of their one-hour, 43-minute encounter. “I’m looking forward to this rivalry,” said Zverev.
Not as dramatic a tilt, perhaps, as some of the Canadian’s earlier matches, most especially his stunning upset of top-seeded Rafael Nadal. But it had its moments, some of which Shapovalov will likely be seeing in his dreams, or nightmares, for a while to come.
There were evident nerves on both sides, too, with an affliction of double-fault yips. More damaging to Shapovalov, however, as he dropped the first set after Zverev backhanded a return from a lofty height, smashing a winner, then benefitting from a Shapovalov DF in the fifth game. Zverev served out for the set efficiently, despite a whiff swipe at one ball.
The crowd did its best to lift Shapovalov back up, especially after he was broken in the first game of the second frame, again on double faults. And he did break right back, utilizing a series of nervy volleys that passed and froze and even drew racquet-tapping applause from Zverev.
Shapovalov had said, earlier in the week, that he was learning new things about himself through this dizzying experience. Learning new things about the game too, and how the matches can go longer, unsettled, compared to juniors. Because stuff keeps happening.
On this night, though, too much of that stuff was breaking against the teenager, even as he battled hard to hold service, even as he let Zverev off the break hook after some remarkably long rally points. Recovered from 0-30 in game 11 of the second set, as Zverev put increasing pressure on his serve, then had Zverev’s back to the wall in game 12 before it went down as most experts had predicted it would.
Shapovalov had taken out No. 1. He couldn’t take out No. 4.
“It was a dream week for me,” the drained teenager said afterwards. “Obviously I didn’t expect it. Saved four match points the first round. Just played loose after that, just went with it. I mean, beat one of my idols.”
Yeah, still awestruck over that Nadal match.
What’s the difference, what was the tipping point this past week, he was asked. Except Shapovalov couldn’t put a finger on it.
“I’ve kind of seen that I’m capable to push these guys,’’ he said, harking back to grass-court season. “Maybe the serve is getting bigger.’’ New racquet, bigger pop. “But also, I just think I’m improving every week. I’m playing a lot but I’m also working a lot (with his coach). This is still a transition year for me. I’m really trying to improve my game so that I can anchor myself in the top 50, top 20, top 10.”
Some nine hours he’s spent on the court over four days. Maybe a bit of the energy had seeped out by Saturday night.
But the kid’s name seemed to be on everyone’s lips across the city, his memorable moments replayed on TV screens in the subway.
“I wasn’t expecting, like, to hear my name every two minutes,” he laughed. “It’s like, all right guys, enough, enough.’’
And here’s a rarity: The Fed Express was shunted into the afternoon slot with centre court given over to the duelling young guns for the night spectacle.
Which maybe indicates a generational shift in tennis, the eve of a new era dawning, now that vintage tennis is starting to get a tad old as a compelling narrative.
Can’t remember the last time a Federer semi got short-shrifted on the live broadcast. Though he too seemed a bit bemused by his gentle nudging away from the prime-time spotlight. Endlessly chivalrous, of course, because that’s the Federer brand, and apparently genuinely delighted by young’uns seizing the public’s imagination. He can take the avuncular view — 1,113 match wins. Shapovalov? Um, seven, on the big boys circuit.
“To have a player at 18 or 20 years old in the finals of a Masters 1000 is not something we’ve seen very often, very rarely, except when Andy, Novak and Rafa were coming up.” Murray, Djokovic and Nadal.
“They were such great teenagers that maybe we saw it more often. Not even I probably achieved finals of Masters 1000 at that age.”
Federer set aside his overmatched semi opponent, Dutchman Robin Haase, in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6(5).
“It’s the biggest stage we have in the game on the ATP Tour,’’ noted Federer, who quietly celebrated his 36th birthday in Montreal. “To have young guys like this be there, it’s a good opportunity for them.”
Shapovalov and Zverev will doubtless be going mano-a-mano on the big courts for years to come. Maybe even at the U.S. Open, ’round the corner. Hasn’t yet been invited to Flushing Meadows. Surely there’s a wild card in the offing though for a guy who began the year ranked No. 1,132, began the week ranked No. 143 and will skyrocket to the mid-60s in the next wheel-spin.
His head’s spinning too.
“My whole life has changed in the past five days,” marvelled Shapovalov. “It’s crazy. I mean, I go from being not known to being so known in the tennis world, in Canada in general. It’s going to be a little bit of a change to me. I’m going to have to adapt.”
Disappointed by the outcome but hardly crushed, after all.
“Sascha played too good in the big moments. I don’t think I played that well in those moments.’’
Head to head now: 1-0 for Zverev.
Just the beginning.
This summer, when it rains, it pours — and the wet conditions have left many Ontario farmers struggling.
Beginning with a rainy spring that in some areas delayed planting and then flooded crops, the full extent of the damage won’t be fully known until the fall harvest — but the Ontario Federation of Agriculture estimates it will easily be in the “hundreds of millions” across the province, especially in eastern Ontario and the Holland Marsh area.
“This is the second year in a row” of volatile weather, said president Keith Currie. “The areas most hit with drought last year are getting hardest hit with rain this year.”
The back-to-back bad conditions have prompted PC MPP Jim Wilson to call on the government to provide additional aid to farmers. He toured affected properties in his Simcoe-Grey riding with staff from the agriculture minister’s office, but said he was “very, very disappointed” to hear that no new funds are forthcoming, especially when about one-third of farmers have no crop insurance.
Years ago, after a tornado, the then-agriculture minister started a special program to help apple growers replant all their uprooted trees, Wilson said, and he wonders why something similar is not now in the works.
“There is great uncertainty and it is far too early for the Wynne government to be turning its backs on farmers,” Wilson said. “There are billions available when there’s trouble or there’s a Liberal scandal, and they have nothing for what, in the big picture, is (one of) the backbones of our economy.”
This year eastern Ontario in particular has suffered, with the region on its way to record precipitation after 705 millimetres of rain from April 1 to the end of July. Last year, during the same time period, it was 193 millimetres, and the normal amount is 340 millimetres. Toronto has seen 388 millimetres of rain, compared to 160 millimetres last year during that same four-month period, and an average of 291.
“I don’t know what’s happening in Ottawa,” said David Phillips of Environment Canada. “We think it’s wet here, but it’s nothing compared to Ottawa. It’s almost as if it’s become a monsoonal climate.”
North of Toronto, Beeton farmers Barry and Bonnie Dorsey lost hundreds of acres after a torrential storm in late June, estimating $2.5 million in damages to crops including potatoes, onions and carrots.
“That morning, we had 20 to 30 acres under water,” said Barry Dorsey. Hours later, “we had 500 acres two feet under water” as overloaded local rivers and drainage ditches flowed onto their property.
There was so much, his nephew went kayaking across the fields. When the water was finally drained, workers found a number of fish. A farmer nearby lost 100 of 175 acres.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Barry Dorsey, who has farmed for decades. “I’ve never had this ever happen to me.”
The government says it is “too soon to determine the full impact this year’s unpredictable weather will have on crops across the province” and Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal plans to continue to keep a close eye on the situation.
“Farmers have a tough job but they do it well, even during difficult times,” he said via email to the Star. “This season, several parts of the province have been hit with unseasonable weather which has impacted planting and growing conditions for some Ontario farmers. I have been monitoring this situation and recognize the stress that severe weather events cause for our farm families.”
He said the government has programs available, including insurance, spending “more than $230 million every year … to help producers cover loss and damage due to risks that are beyond their control, like extreme weather.”
There are provincial and federal programs that can help some farmers, and while they may take time to pay out, “there are opportunities that they can take advantage of, and every little bit helps,” said Currie of the agriculture federation.
But extra measures wouldn’t have to mean “a cheque in the mail,” he added, but maybe letting financial institutions give farmers a break on interest payments “to help them get back on their feet.”
Currie also said farmers should be included in the government’s climate change action plans, given the impact of the weather changes on their livelihood.
When crops are harvested this fall, the impact of the rain could show up in the quality and quantity of the yield, said Professor Dave Hooker of the University of Guelph, a field crop agronomist who is in continual contact with farmers across the province.
In April and May, too-moist soil in the east half of the province meant corn and soy bean crops could not be planted — though areas west of Toronto continue to be “exceptionally dry,” he said. That delay pushes the season later, as does replanting fields after rain damage, “and results in a number of different consequences,” he said. Later planting can make crops more susceptible to flooding, and root rot can set in affecting growth or even killing them.
Too much water can also lead to a loss of nutrients, in particular nitrogen, considered crucial for high crop production, Hooker added.
“It’s clearly been night and day compared to last year … last year, it was all about ‘where is the rain?,’ this year it’s all about too much rain,” said Phillips of Environment Canada.
“ … That is the thing, this is what just upsets farmers, dismays them, how do we deal with this back to back?”
And it’s not just rain, but a lack of warmth this summer. In terms of days above 30 degrees, Ottawa has had six this year, compared to 26 in 2016; Toronto just eight, and 29 last year.
Phillips said while the focus is typically the extremes of climate change, “but another mark is variation” in weather. While weather forecasts have become more accurate, he said, farmers rely on typical seasons with few outliers, and now, “you can’t count on it being a normal season or a normal year.”
Demand for mental health services at Ontario universities and colleges has reached an all-time high.
With another wave of students about to begin a new academic year, the pressure on campus health providers shows no signs of diminishing. And schools are struggling to keep up.
More than ever before, students are being referred by campus health staff to services off-campus.
School and government officials say it’s a necessary step to handle the volume and complexity of student needs. But mental health advocates and students themselves say transitioning from on-campus to off-campus mental health services can leave major gaps in care, forcing students to navigate a confusing system in a sometimes strange city, often with the added barriers of long wait times and high financial costs.
For many of those involved, the solution is for university staff to provide strong support and guidance to students as they access off-campus resources. But that kind help is often missing during the transition process, critics say.
“We will fill in the gaps where we can, but we’re not a treatment facility,” said Casey Phillips, assistant vice-president of students at Nipissing University in North Bay. “We’re meant for that brief therapy, we’re meant to handle some of that lower level. (For) more complex cases we are reliant upon the community.”
Beginning post-secondary school often means moving away from home for the first time, and being far from family and friends.
The majority of mental health issues begin to surface during a person’s teens or 20s. But age restrictions on youth programs force many young people to abandon the mental health services they have accessed for years around the age of 18 — leaving them on their own to find new sources of help in the adult health-care system.
In May, the Ontario government pledged to boost annual funding for college and university mental health services by $6 million per year — bringing the total provincial investment in campus mental health services from $9 million to $15 million, to be split by approximately 45 institutions.
A decision has not yet been made about how much each school will get of this new money. But, if the total $15-million budget were apportioned equally between all universities and colleges in Ontario, each would receive a little over $333,000, a paltry sum compared to overall university budgets.
Despite the cash injection, campus services will not be able to meet everyone’s mental health needs, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Deb Matthews said in a statement to the Star.
“Mental illness is a spectrum,” Matthews said. “For some students, on-campus resources such as counselling and/or peer support may be the best and most helpful provision of care. For students with more complex mental health needs, the institution can serve as a point of referral or information in helping that student access the appropriate community supports and get the help that they need.”
The growing demand for mental health services has sparked a debate about universities and colleges’ level of responsibility when it comes to caring for their students.
Some argue schools should take an almost parental role, guiding and advising their students as much as possible. Others, however, argue that universities are educational institutions and should not be called upon to help students with personal or health-related problems, particularly once students leave campus.
Markham native Alicia Raimundo began struggling with anxiety and depression in childhood, but it wasn’t until she went away to the University of Waterloo that she was able to really pursue face-to-face help on a consistent basis.
Mental health staff at the university referred her off-campus, but did not help with the transition, she said.
“They gave me a number and a pamphlet and said good luck.”
It can be daunting for students in need of help to venture off-campus, Raimundo said.
“Schools are their own communities, especially ones that have huge populations of students that move to that city or town for that school. When you refer somebody out . . . it’s basically like referring somebody to another town.”
To ensure students follow through and get the help they need, mental health staff on-campus should have strong relationships with off-campus care providers, and take the step of booking students’ first appointments with off-campus services, said Raimundo, who graduated in 2012 and now works as a peer support provider at Stella’s Place, a mental health organization for people in their teens and 20s.
Other students, however, say the logistics of leaving campus at all can be difficult for those balancing a full course load, a part-time job, or other commitments.
“A long transit ride somewhere isn’t necessarily possible . . . and a student who is in crisis is probably unlikely to go to great lengths to reach these services if they are a 45-minute bus ride away,” said Alyssa Logan, a University of Guelph student who has looked for mental health services through the school.
To make access easier for students, off-campus mental health professionals should make regular visits to campuses to supplement school resources, said Taryn MacDonald, a recent graduate of the University of Guelph who sought on-campus mental health services while a student.
“Just like there are dental and medical outreach programs that will come to schools, we need mental outreach programs to come to schools,” MacDonald said. “Having psychologists, professional counsellors, or even social workers come in once a week to hold walk-in sessions for students who need the help — but aren’t getting it at school — would be beneficial.”
University and college staff must understand what community services are out there so they can properly inform the students they refer, said Erik Labrosse, director of student life at Laurentian University in Sudbury.
“(We must) be knowledgeable about the services, understand what the waiting times are and make sure that we’re giving good advice and making good referrals to the community,” he said.
Universities in smaller, more remote parts of the province face their own challenges and benefits in the collaboration with community mental health services.
Nipissing University, a school of about 5,000 students, has fewer options when referring students off-campus, as compared to schools in large cities, where multiple hospitals and community resources exist, said Phillips.
The advantage of being a smaller school in a smaller town, though, is the ability to build relationships with the community resources that do exist, and really understand what services they provide, Phillips added.
“We might do a really good job of being able to collaborate and make those referrals out but . . . we might not have as many community resources to refer them out to, and so sometimes you’re trying to fit that circle into the square to provide the service as best we can.”
The fact that more students are coming forward and asking for help is a positive development said Ann Tierney, vice-provost and dean of student affairs at Queen’s University.
But the increase in demand has forced universities and colleges to rethink the way they work with outside services to address students’ mental health needs.
“I see it as a partnership role,” Tierney said. “Certainly we have resources on campus but there are times when the student needs some expertise that is best available off-campus. Those community services are really key.”