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- 08/25/17--20:06: _Surviving again: Ho...
- 08/25/17--17:19: _Trump pardons contr...
- 08/25/17--16:03: _North Korea fails t...
- 08/25/17--09:47: _Peterborough GE pla...
- 08/25/17--15:03: _Toronto doctor accu...
- 08/26/17--04:00: _A condo party regis...
- 08/26/17--03:00: _What Marilyn Bell, ...
- 08/26/17--04:00: _Pink diamond at cen...
- 08/26/17--03:00: _Would Princess Dian...
- 08/26/17--05:34: _Texas officials war...
- 08/26/17--09:26: _Man wanted for atte...
- 08/25/17--13:01: _Mayweather sees a r...
- 08/18/17--10:11: _Bring back the nudi...
- 08/26/17--19:09: _Protesters begin fi...
- 08/27/17--12:19: _Trump renews pledge...
- 08/27/17--11:31: _Second man arrested...
- 08/26/17--15:46: _City’s safe injecti...
- 08/26/17--12:20: _Texas hotel slaying...
- 08/27/17--08:19: _Holocaust survivor,...
- 08/27/17--10:04: _‘Daddy, let’s go to...
- 08/25/17--20:06: Surviving again: How needy Holocaust survivors cope with poverty
- 08/25/17--17:19: Trump pardons controversial ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio
- 08/25/17--09:47: Peterborough GE plant with lethal legacy closing down
- 08/26/17--04:00: Pink diamond at centre of hotly contested dispute
- 08/18/17--10:11: Bring back the nudity on 'Game of Thrones': Teitel
- 08/27/17--12:19: Trump renews pledge to make Mexico pay for border wall
- 08/27/17--11:31: Second man arrested in Buckingham Palace terrorist incident
- 08/26/17--15:46: City’s safe injection site sees 36 clients in first week
Naum Shagas doesn’t have much.
His studio apartment in North York, no more than 20-by-18 feet, is where he spends most of his time alone. It’s furnished entirely through donations and he sometimes has to put up with cockroaches.
Four hot meals are delivered to the 82-year-old’s door throughout the week and he picks up three additional meals, prepared for him free of charge, at the Bernard Betel Centre, a non-profit community centre for the elderly. Sometimes he’ll eat a slice of bread he bought on his own or drink a cup of tea to supplement his diet.
His wardrobe consists mainly of clothing he purchased decades ago in Minsk, where he worked as a physician for 36 years. But with no pension, he lives on just $400 a month.
It’s not the first time Shagas has had to struggle survive.
“I still have flashbacks, especially coming back now, of how my mother and older sister were running away and trying to escape the Germans,” Shagas said through a translator in his native Russian.
Shagas is a Holocaust survivor who lives in poverty in Toronto.
And while his situation is far from unique in Canada, it’s a problem few have heard about, even in the Jewish community.
Of roughly 17,000 Holocaust survivors living in Canada, about one quarter live in poverty, including more than 2,000 in Toronto. Survivors are twice as likely as other Canadian seniors to be poor, according to a 2016 study.
“These people have suffered,” said Pinchas Gutter, a Holocaust survivor and chair of Jewish Family and Child Service’s Holocaust Advisory Committee, which looks after “needy survivors” in the community.
“Now in their later years, they have to come and put their hands out and say ‘please.’ It hurts me.”
Shagas moved to Canada in 2009 when he was 74. Born in the former Soviet Union, he was six years old in 1941 when the Nazis came for the Jews in his hometown of Klintsy, which is today located in western Russia. His father was drafted to the army just before the war began and he never saw him again.
The Nazis forced Shagas, his mother and older sister onto a packed cattle car that took them to a Shadrinsk, a village where they spent the rest of the war. His mother fell ill during those years and Shagas and his sister lived in an orphanage, where they and other children were always starving.
He recalled a woman once giving him a cup of milk and piece of bread, “the most delicious food I ever had.”
Today, Shagas’s living conditions remind him of his suffering as a child. He says he’s getting used to life in poverty, but never imagined he’d have to relive that hunger.
“I didn’t think it would come to it,” Shagas said. “It’s actually really painful to go through this. I often think about the past when we were starving.”
His family moved back home after the war ended and Shagas overcame lingering anti-Semitism to get into a medical school. He married, had a daughter and became head of his department at a local hospital.
Shagas settled in Israel in 1997 when he was 62, two years after his wife died of cancer. He spent 12 years there working as a personal support worker.
He then joined his daughter in Canada, who sponsored him, and lived with her family. But wanting to live independently, Shagas moved out three years later, and was accepted into Toronto Community Housing.
Now he survives on $400 a month from his daughter. His rent is $150, and the rest goes to over-the-counter medications, internet, the occasional TTC trip to see his doctor and whatever remaining groceries he can afford.
Shagas won’t be eligible for Old Age Security benefits until he reaches the 10-year mark in Canada, which is still two years away. He received social assistance in Israel, but his part-time job didn’t earn him a pension. Despite his 36 years of work as a physician, he says he gets nothing from Belarus.
“In the same way that poverty is multi-factorial and very complex, so have been the lives of Holocaust survivors who have suffered incredible trauma,” said Sandi Pelly, United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto’s director of capacity building for the social services.
“Many of them have immigrated two, three or more times and they face many challenges. While some Holocaust survivors fared very well if they immigrated early, others not so well, and have varying health challenges, physical challenges, emotional challenges.”
In other countries, like Israel, about 25 per cent of survivors also live in poverty. In the U.S., that number is about one-third.
“When the survivors came to Canada, we were about 45,000,” said Hank Rosenbaum, co-president of Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants. “Some Holocaust survivors were affected badly from the war. They came here, a strange country, they went to work and they were not successful. They’re hardworking people, however they did not accumulate any wealth for their senior years.”
It’s an issue that’s only come to the attention of some Jewish organizations in the last few years, according to Nancy Singer, executive director of the Kehilla Residential Programme, the UJA Federation’s housing agency.
“We were in shock. We didn’t know that,” Singer said. “Our first reaction was ‘we have to do something, now, immediately, because the clock is ticking.’”
Kehilla, which operates a rent-assistance program for the Jewish community, launched a new program earlier this year specifically catered to survivors. Backed by an $800,000 donation by the Azrieli Foundation for three years, Kehilla will provide up to $300 per month in rent assistance for 100 survivors.
“Survivors are precious, they are the keepers of memories that will be lost forever when they’re gone,” said Naomi Azrieli, chair and CEO of the foundation. “After the experiences they’ve had, they deserve to be treated with dignity.”
Azrieli said her foundation is working with community organizations across the country to help to offset funding shortfalls, and cover expenses like dental and medical fees, rent and food. The foundation donated close to $400,000 last year to cover these services for survivors in Toronto and Montreal alone.
Some survivors receive aid through a fund known as the “Claims Conference,” which helps agencies serving aging Holocaust survivors around the world. The German government is the main source of funding.
Shagas, for instance, receives meals-on-wheels, which are funded by the grant. He’s eligible for medical assistance once a year for costs not covered by OHIP, such as dental fees.
“If it weren’t for the Claims Conference support, I wouldn’t be able to make it,” he said.
A grant of $18,000 was allocated for Toronto’s survivor community in 1996. This year, that allocation is more than $12.5 million.
The fund is divided among various local agencies, including Circle of Care, which provides kosher food, homecare support and transportation to 1,500 survivors.
“The most difficult thing for some of the concentration camp survivors is they relied on their ability to be independent and their health in order to survive,” said Arnold Foss, the agency’s director of Holocaust Survivor Services Funds. “As they age and they’re losing some of this independence and they’re losing their good health, it’s very difficult for them to accept that, and in turn accept having any care.”
For many, the prospect of living in any kind of institution, such as a retirement home, is too daunting.
“It’s very reminiscent of the camps and being told when to eat and sleep,” Foss said.
UJA provides matching funds to agencies funded by the Claims Conference. Last year, it also raised $1.5 million to support Jewish seniors in poverty.
“It’s never going to be enough funding in terms of the number of hours that survivors will need as they age,” Pelly said.
Through the Claims Conference grant, Jewish Family and Child Service provides emergency funding to 650 low-income survivors in Toronto to cover medical and dental expenses, and prevent rent shortfalls or utility shutoff.
“Some of them suffered losses that left them without family to surround them as they got older,” said Brian Prousky, executive director of the agency. “A number live in isolation, without familial support that other seniors might not just enjoy but require.”
About 20-30 applications for assistance come in each month from the GTA alone, according to Gutter, whose committee processes each request.
“One gentleman came to me and said the money he gets, it’s either going to eating, or he’s going to buy diapers for his wife,” Gutter said. “It was heartbreaking for me to hear that.”
While the organization tries to help everyone it can, so many still fall between the cracks, according to Gutter.
“Very few people like asking for charity,” he said. “A lot of people are hidden, are too shy to ask, so you don’t see them and they just slowly wither away and you never know what happens until they pass away.”
For Shagas, his isolation is often agonizing.
“It gets very lonely. Sometimes I just want to bang my head against the wall,” he said.
More like Shagas are learning to cope with similar conditions, due in part to an “unusual” trend, according to UJA. Unlike most cities, where the survivor population is on the decline, Toronto’s has been growing due to immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union.
“It’s obvious that it would be great if we get more help, but at the same time I understand that why should anyone help us? We don’t deserve it,” said Shagas.
“It’s just really painful. I deal with the cards I have.”
PHOENIX—U.S. President Donald Trump spared former Sheriff Joe Arpaio a possible jail sentence on Friday by pardoning the recent federal conviction stemming from his immigration patrols, reversing what critics saw as a long-awaited comeuppance for a lawman who escaped accountability for headline-grabbing tactics during his tenure as metropolitan Phoenix’s top law enforcer.
The White House said the 85-year-old ex-sheriff was a “worthy candidate” for a presidential pardon. It was Trump’s first pardon as president.
“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” the White House statement said.
The announcement to pardon Arpaio came three days after a rally in Phoenix at which the president signalled his willingness to absolve the misdemeanour contempt-of-court conviction.
Arpaio was in a celebratory mood after the pardon, eating dinner at an Italian restaurant as someone in his party ordered champagne. He told The Associated Press he’s thankful for the pardon.
“I appreciate what the president did,” he said. “I have to put it out there: Pardon, no pardon — I’ll be with him as long as he’s president.”
The pardon drew a swift and harsh denunciation from Latinos and political leaders in Arizona and beyond. They said the action amounted to an endorsement of racism by wiping away the conviction of a man who has been found by the courts to have racially profiled Latinos in his immigration patrols.
“Pardoning Joe Arpaio is a slap in the face to the people of Maricopa County, especially the Latino community and those he victimized as he systematically and illegally violated their civil rights,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said.
The White House announced the pardon late Friday after Trump fleshed out the details of his ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, a policy that will cheer his conservative base, and as a powerful Category 4 hurricane threatened to batter Texas with heavy winds and severe flooding.
Arpaio became a nationally known political figure over the past dozen years as he took aggressive action to arrest immigrants in the country illegally. But years of legal issues and costs stemming from his immigration efforts began to take a toll on his political power at home, and he was handily defeated by a Democrat in the 2016 election.
It coincided with Trump winning the White House based in large part on his immigration rhetoric, with Arpaio campaigning for him around the country.
Trump has been plagued by poor job approval ratings that currently stand at 34 per cent, the lowest mark ever for a president in his first year. His decision on the former sheriff may serve to energize Trump supporters dispirited over the president’s decision a week ago to dismiss chief strategist Steve Bannon, a favourite on the far right wing of the Republican Party. But it has angered his opponents even more.
The pardon contradicts a key theme in the movement for tougher immigration enforcement — that all people, no matter who they are, aren’t above the law. Arizona politicians have invoked the “rule of law” for more than a decade as the guiding principle in pushing for tougher immigration laws.
The pardon also marked a devastating defeat for critics who believed the lawman sowed divisions by making hundreds of arrests in crackdowns that separated immigrant families and promoted a culture of cruelty by housing inmates in outdoor tents during triple-digit heat and forcing them to wear pink underwear.
They say it removed the last chance at holding Arpaio legally accountable for what they say is a long history of misconduct, including a 2013 civil verdict in which the sheriff’s officers were found to have racially profiled Latinos in his immigration patrols.
Arpaio was accused of prolonging the patrols for 17 months after a judge had ordered them stopped so that he could promote his immigration enforcement efforts in a bid to boost his successful 2012 re-election campaign.
Arpaio acknowledged extending the patrols, but insisted it wasn’t intentional, blaming one of his former attorneys for not properly explaining the importance of the court order and brushing off the conviction as a “petty crime.”
He accused then-president Barack Obama of trying to influence the 2016 sheriff’s race by announcing in court weeks before Election Day that it was willing to prosecute Arpaio.
But the charge itself wasn’t filed by prosecutors. It was recommended by the judge who presided over the profiling case. Lawyers in Trump’s Justice Department prosecuted the case at a five-day trial in late June and early July.
The TV interviews and news releases that media-savvy lawman used over the years to help promote his immigration crackdowns and win re-election came back to bite him when the judge who found him guilty cited comments the sheriff made about keeping up the patrols, even though he knew he wasn’t allowed.
The criminal case sprang from the profiling lawsuit that ultimately discredited Arpaio’s immigration patrols and is expected to cost taxpayers $92 million by next summer.
Arpaio’s office was accused in other instances of wrongdoing in the profiling case, though none led to criminal charges.
The alliance between Trump and Arpaio centres heavily on immigration enforcement, such as getting local police officers to take part in immigration enforcement. They also have questioned the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate and have a similar history in sparring with judges.
During the presidential campaign, Arpaio showered Trump with support. He appeared for Trump at rallies in Iowa, Nevada and Arizona, including a huge gathering in the affluent Phoenix suburb where the sheriff lives. Arpaio also gave a speech at the Republican National Convention.
“So Sheriff Joe was convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked supporters at Tuesday’s rally. “I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine, OK.”
Trump issued the pardon seven months after taking office, though it is not unprecedented for a president to issue a pardon in their first year in office.
The most recent president to issue a pardon so early in his term was George H.W. Bush, who granted clemency after seven months as president, said Jeffrey Crouch, a professor of politics at American University who has written a book on presidential pardons.
Arpaio said he’ll discuss more about his case next week, but says he’ll remain active politically now that he’s no longer facing jail time.
“I don’t fish,” Arpaio said. “I’ll be very active.”
SEOUL—Three North Korea short-range ballistic missiles failed on Saturday, U.S. military officials said, which, if true, would be a temporary setback to Pyongyang’s rapid nuclear and missile expansion.
The U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement that two of the North’s missiles failed in flight after an unspecified distance, and another appeared to have blown up immediately. It added that the missile posed no threat to the U.S. territory of Guam, which the North had previously warned it would fire missiles toward.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the projectiles fired from the North’s eastern coast flew about 250 kilometres, though it did not mention any failures. It said South Korea and U.S. militaries were analyzing the launch and didn’t immediately provide more details.
South Korea’s presidential office said the U.S. and South Korean militaries will proceed with their ongoing war games “even more thoroughly” in response to the latest launch. They are the first known missile firings since July, when the North successfully flight tested a pair of intercontinental ballistic missiles that analysts say could reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.
The White House said that U.S. President Donald Trump— who has warned that he would unleash “fire and fury” if the North continued its threats — was briefed on the latest North Korean activity and “we are monitoring the situation.”
The rival Koreas recently saw their always testy relationship get worse after Trump traded warlike threats. Saturday’s launch comes during an annual joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea that the North condemns as an invasion rehearsal, and weeks after Pyongyang threatened to lob missiles toward Guam.
North Korea had walked back from the threat to lob missiles toward Guam, but there had been concerns that hostility will flare up again during the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian drills between the allies that run through Aug. 31.
However, some experts say North Korea is now mainly focused on the bigger picture of testing its bargaining power against the United States with its new long-range missiles and likely has no interest in letting things get too tense during the drills. They say the North may limit its reactions to low-level provocations like artillery and short-range missile launches.
Early assessments from the U.S. and South Korean militaries suggest that the North Korean launches could be short-range Scud-B or solid-fuel KN-02 missiles, said Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean military official who is now an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies.
While the missile that supposedly blew up immediately after launch was clearly a failure, Kim said it’s too early to judge the flights of the other two missiles, since the North could have been experimenting with developmental technologies or deliberately detonated the warheads at certain heights and locations.
North Korea’s state media earlier Saturday said that leader Kim Jong Un inspected a special operation forces training of the country’s army that simulated attacks on South Korean islands along the countries’ western sea border in what appeared to be in response to the ongoing U.S.-South Korea war games.
Kim reportedly told his troops that they “should think of mercilessly wiping out the enemy with arms only and occupying Seoul at one go and the southern half of Korea.”
The Korean Central News Agency said that the “target striking contest” involved war planes, multiple-rocket launchers and self-propelled guns that attacked targets meant to represent South Korea’s Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands before special operation combatants “landed by surprise” on rubber boats.
The border islands have occasionally seen military skirmishes between the rivals, including a North Korean artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong in 2010 that left two South Korean marines and two civilians dead.
In response to North Korea’s expanding nuclear weapons program, South Korea has been moving to strengthen its own capabilities, planning talks with the United States on raising the warhead limits on its missiles and taking steps to place additional launchers to a U.S. anti-missile defence system in the country’s southeast.
South Korea has also been testing new missiles of its own, including the 800-kilometre-range Hyunmoo-2. Although the missile has not been operationally deployed yet, it is considered a key component to the so-called “kill chain” pre-emptive strike capability the South is pursuing to cope with the North’s growing nuclear and missile threat.
General Electric Peterborough, which employed tens of thousands of workers over its 125-year history and once made some of the world’s biggest motors, is slated to close.
More than 350 employees of the factory, founded in 1892 by Thomas Edison, the inventor of electric lightbulbs, will lose their jobs by the fall of 2018.
“We grew up there. Our parents worked there. Those memories are huge,” said Sue James, who worked at the plant for 30 years, as did her father before her.
James’s father Gord died of lung and spinal cancer, diseases his family believes were caused by the toxic substances he worked with.
A Star investigation last year highlighted the plight of former employees who say years of exposure to chemicals in the factory led to hundreds of cases of cancer or other illnesses.
GE maintains that health and safety have always been its “number one priority” and that the company has “always followed the best health and safety practices based on the best knowledge available to us at the time.”
It was reduced demand for products that drove the decision to close the Peterborough plant, according to Kim Warburton, vice-president of communications and public affairs for GE Canada. The plant will cease manufacturing, but will retain about 50 engineers onsite, she added.
“It’s really about global demand,” she said. “In the last four years, volume at this plant has been down 60 per cent.”
Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett said his “immediate concern is for the workers and the families” affected by the closure.
“It will be a difficult time for many residents who are connected with GE or who have historical ties to this company,” Bennett said in a statement.
He vowed to meet with the area’s MP and MPP to discuss government assistance to secure the community’s economic foundation.
Once the city’s single largest employer, GE Peterborough made everything from diesel locomotive engines to turbines to hydro generators. The plant was the major economic driver in a region where more than half the population once worked in manufacturing. Now about 10 per cent of the city’s workforce is in manufacturing.
“That is the last of manufacturing in Peterborough of any size,” James said. “GE was sort of the last one standing … It’s devastating news for the community and Peterborough, there’s no doubt about it.”
Since 2004, workers at the plant made some 660 compensation claims to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board for a range of occupational diseases. Some 280 were accepted, but more than half were withdrawn, abandoned or rejected because of apparently insufficient evidence that the conditions were work-related.
A comprehensive report conducted by private-sector union Unifor later concluded that working conditions at the factory between 1945 and 2000 played a significant role in an “epidemic” of work-related illnesses among employees and retirees.
The Ontario government has since vowed to do the “right thing” for former workers, including additional funding for the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, which is helping GE retirees compile compensation claims. The details of that funding have not yet been announced.
James says retirees are growing frustrated by the wait.
“People are getting to the point where they can’t take the stress anymore,” said James. “It’s just been such a long fight and a long struggle.”
Warburton said the decision to close is unrelated to compensation claims.
“These are two completely unrelated matters,” she told the Star. “The decision on the plant today is based on volumes and not having the work.”
“(It’s) an ongoing process with the health claims and legacy issues,” she added. “We’ve participated in that process for a number of years with WSIB and other agencies we will continue to do that.”
In line with manufacturing plants across Ontario, GE’s Peterborough operations have slimmed down significantly in recent years. In January, the company announced it was laying off 150 employees as a result of a drop in volume orders.
“I am saddened and disappointed to learn that GE will be ceasing manufacturing at its Peterborough facility. My thoughts are with the affected workers, their families and our community, and I am determined to work with GE to ensure employees are supported,” said MPP Jeff Leal, whose father worked at the plant for 40 years.
Warburton said the company does not currently have plans to sell its Peterborough site, which occupies several acres in the city.
The plant will operate for another year so the company can honour existing orders, she added, and will provide transitional support to departing employees such as skills, job training and retirement planning.
“Manufacturing has taken quite a hit in today’s day and age with robots and precarious work,” said James. “It’s just a changing world.”
A bail decision is expected next week following a two-day hearing for Mohmmed Shamji, a Toronto neurosurgeon charged with first-degree murder.
Shamji is accused of killing his wife and mother of their three children, Elana Fric-Shamji, after her body was found inside a suitcase next to the West Humber River in Vaughan.
Her body was discovered on Dec. 1, and police said around that time they believed Fric-Shamji had been strangled and had suffered from blunt force trauma.
A Superior Court judge will decide Wednesday whether the accused awaits his trial, expected to begin in the fall of 2018, out on bail or behind bars.
As the handcuffed Shamji was ushered into a 361 University Ave. courthouse prisoner’s box Friday morning, the former Toronto Western Hospital neurosurgeon wore a fitted charcoal-coloured suit and white dress shirt. He had a shadow of barely-there facial hair, and several people, who appeared to be family members, were in the courtroom.
Shamji smiled and mouthed a few words to them at the end of the day, but kept his gaze forward while Justice Michael Brown heard submissions from the Crown and his lawyers, Lisa Pomerant and Liam O’Connor.
The couple was married for 12 years, and Fric-Shamji, 40, had filed for divorce just days before she was reported missing, according to her friends.
As reported by the Star in December, Shamji was charged with uttering threats and assaulting Fric-Shamji in 2005, when the couple was newly married.
The charges were withdrawn after Shamji signed a peace bond.
Shamji is currently being held at Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton.
A news story went viral this week about a young Toronto family living the life of Cheech and Chong against their will.
According to the CBC, Toronto condo resident Paul Bradshaw, along with his wife and 7-year-old son, have had to put up with pot smoke seeping into their condo from their next-door neighbour’s unit for nearly five years. Bradshaw told the CBC the smoke seeps into the family’s condo unit not only through the front door, but also through windows and electrical sockets, and into his kid’s room.
“It wakes him up from a dead sleep,” Bradshaw said in an interview with the national broadcaster. “We have an air purifier but it has very little effect. It’s potent. It hits you.”
Unfortunately, little can be done to legally stop the stoner next door. Repairs to the condo unit’s walls haven’t prevented smoke from seeping into Bradshaw’s son’s room. The Smoke-Free Ontario Act prohibits smoking in common areas of condominiums, but not in individual units themselves. (Condos can create rules around smoking in individual units, but according to the CBC, Bradshaw’s has not.)
A terminal cynic might suggest, by way of consolation for the Bradshaws, that their son’s early exposure to pot smoke, as a companion bedtime ritual to brushing his teeth and putting on his pyjamas, might immunize him against marijuana’s cool factor. When he gets to high school and somebody passes him a joint, he can honestly say, “no thanks, I had my fill in the second grade.”
Joking aside, the Bradshaws’ dilemma brings to mind two major issues facing our city.
The first is the nation-wide legalization of marijuana. We are now less than a year away from legal pot, and it’s not unlikely, come July 1, 2018, that people who smoke up in their apartments may feel more entitled when neighbours complain about the telltale odour wafting in from next door. Why not? Legalization will validate their pot use and erode the social stigma around it.
But the Bradshaws’ problem impinges on an issue that’s far more mainstream than the legalization of marijuana: affordable housing.
Moving forward, I wouldn’t be surprised if complaints like Paul Bradshaw’s become more commonplace precisely because we’re facing an affordable housing crisis.
As things stand now, many young families can’t afford to buy homes, so they rent living accommodation instead. This means the apartments or condos in which they partied their twenties away now have to serve as starter family homes, especially if they choose to have kids. This would be OK (albeit a little cramped) if everyone in the city was the same age, or matured at the same rate, but obviously this isn’t the case.
Which means that many couples with new babies who can’t find afford to move, will end up staying put in downtown rental buildings, where few people go to bed before 10 o’clock, and where it isn’t uncommon for some residents to drink and crank up Spotify playlists with titles like “Songs for Drunk White Girls” on a Tuesday night. And, of course, smoke marijuana.
My wife and I are in this situation right now.
We live in a condo building that’s relatively young (most residents appear to be between 25 and 40). We moved into our unit when we were 24 and received regular noise complaints in response to our own weeknight partying. Now, on the cusp of 30, we’re the ones making the noise complaints.
Where our smoke used to seep out into the hallway, now our younger neighbour’s does. This may simply be the great circle of urban life, but it’s bound to become greater and more circular as the accelerating lack of affordable housing suited to families, and the increasing number of urban millennials with young children collide.
The question is, what can those of us who’d like to lead a quiet family life (in a city where only the rich can afford houses) do about it?
I propose a Toronto Condo Party Registry. Not unlike the Bed Bug registry, an online database of Toronto apartment buildings and hotels potentially infected with bed bugs, the Party Registry would inform Torontonians about apartment and condo buildings prone to weeknight bacchanals.
What’s more, it would alert you to the ambience of revelry specific to the rental accommodation being considered, from the type of tunes blasting within its walls, to the substances consumed.
If you were looking at a building close to the financial district, for instance, the registry might let you know you’d better get used to the smell of stale beer, discarded bounce tubes, and the eternal bro chant “Ole! Ole! Ole!”
If you were looking at a building in the hipper west, the registry might warn you about the e-cigarette smoke hazard. And if you were moving north, Avenue Road-ish say, you’d be alerted to the possibility of being woken up in the middle of the night by the voice of Mariska Hargitay of Law and Order SVU, the result of an elderly neighbour who’d left the TV on again at maximum volume, because they’re asleep, hard of hearing, or worse.
Marijuana to Mariska — as a renter and/or new parent, all you can do is to pick your poison.
Vicki Keith was about five kilometres from the shore on the first leg of her double crossing of Lake Ontario when her swimming goggles started filling up with water. Salt water.
She’d had an exhausting start — four hours battling three-metre waves that pushed her back and threatened to turn her body into a pretzel, as Keith describes it — and she was now battling through the outgoing current of the Niagara River.
“I was so emotionally frustrated that my goggles were filling up with my tears,” says Keith, who is on the phone from the Kingston pool where she coaches her swim team.
“And I realized at that point that I had to stop where my brain was going,” says Keith of that day in August 1987. She overcame her mental exhaustion by focusing on her strokes, one at a time.
When she hit the far side, she says no one expected her to keep going. But she ate a Big Mac in the water and turned around. Quitting didn’t enter her mind.
Keith has a quality that open-water swimmers need: determination. Some swimmers say, laughing, they have also been called stubborn and pigheaded.
Marilyn Bell had it at age 16, when she became the first person to make the 52-kilometre crossing in 1954. She was driven by her goal that a Canadian should beat the American swimmer who had been contracted by the CNE to attempt the swim, in a bid to drive up attendance.
Trinity Arsenault had it. Arsenault set the record in 2014 as the youngest by a couple of months to cross Lake Ontario, at 14. The St. Catharines native trained for two years, perfecting her stroke with the help of her mother, Christine, who inspired her daughter with her own crossing in 2011.
And Marilyn Korzekwa also possessed the drive when she became the first person to make the Lake Ontario crossing both ways, swimming south to north in 1983 and in the other direction a year later.
The Hamilton psychiatrist says any athlete can be trained physically to swim the lake. But finishing is 70 to 80 per cent due to mental toughness, “stubbornness and wanting to get across that lake at all costs,” she says.
When asked if she would describe Keith as stubborn, Korzekwa says she is the definition of the word.
After Keith’s double crossing, which experts thought was physically impossible, her friends jokingly suggested that she swim across all the Great Lakes the following year.
Instead of dismissing the idea, Keith bought a map, got a magic marker, drew lines across each lake and put the map up on her living room wall. She found newspaper clippings with motivational sayings and photos of things that inspired her and put them up around it.
Every time Keith went by the map, she would look at it and murmur, “I can do it.”
“I started to believe it was possible because of that,” she says. “And once you believe it’s possible, you start to break your goal down into smaller and smaller steps.”
She would need those small steps when her arms ground to a halt in Lake Huron the following summer.
For a moment Keith wondered what to do, but then she turned and looked at her right arm and said out loud, “you just have to go around once.” And then she looked at her left arm and said the same thing.
Keith kept talking to herself for the next hour, until she looked up and saw the shore.
Suddenly she felt great. She finished the crossing doing butterfly.
The open-water swimmers have experienced moments of beatific calm, but they’ve also battled currents that keep them hopelessly swimming in place and waves that feel like a slap across the face.
And yet they all say the lake is where they feel at home.
“I felt like I was exactly where I wanted and needed to be,” says Trinity Arsenault. Arsenault did a lot of research beforehand and says many competitors describe it as a “beautiful, aha moment.”
Women have done well in the water. The group Solo Swims has documented 51 people who conquered Lake Ontario. Twenty-eight have been female, some crossing multiple times. Keith believes that as the distances increase, women and men become more equal in their ability to complete the challenge.
Marilyn Korzekwa — who raced in high school and at U of T — says she feels like a fish out of water in the summer if she’s not in the lake every couple of days.
She is president of Solo Swims, which was formed after a coroner’s inquest into the death of 17-year-old Neil MacNeil, who drowned in 1974 trying to cross Lake Ontario. The safety organization is the official record keeper for Lake Ontario and other swims within the province’s borders.
After an attempt by Korzekwa in 1981, which she had to abandon because of heavy fog, she says it was such a huge disappointment that “every time I looked at the lake it just hurt in my heart. That did not go away until I conquered it in 1983.”
And at 79, Marilyn Bell Di Lascio, as she is now known, still remembers the first time she floated as a child. On the phone from her retirement home in New Paltz, N.Y., she describes the sensation of being held up by the water as “wonderful.”
“From then on it became my happy place.”
Early on, no one realized Bell Di Lascio’s potential.
When she was a rambunctious child, she says, her parents enrolled her in one sport, only to try another when she failed. “They had made the decision that there had to be something I had to be good at,” says the Toronto native.
She tried ballet. Gymnastics. Tap.
A music teacher told her father he was wasting his money and that Bell Di Lascio was never going to be a dancer.
Bell Di Lascio tried ice skating.
And then her father bought her 10 lessons at an open-air pool at Oakwood and St. Clair Aves. in Toronto. Her first coach was Alex Duff, who created an early form of synchronized swimming. He also founded the Dolphinet swimming club and was head coach at the 1934 British Empire Games. Duff taught her the basics and invited her to swim in the winter with his team at Jarvis Collegiate.
Bell Di Lascio loved being part of the team, but she was too slow to win, and “not much of a competitor,” she says. Her second coach, the legendary Gus Ryder, said later that she wasn’t hungry enough to beat her friends.
When her parents wanted to pull her from training at age 13 because of her lack of success, and the expense, Ryder convinced them to let her stay and train. In exchange, Bell Di Lascio would work in the pool office of the Lakeshore Swim Club, which Ryder founded in 1930.
She trained for the 1952 Olympics in Finland but didn’t make it and was crushed that she would never swim for Canada. “I wanted to go to the Olympics and represent my country,” says Bell Di Lascio.
But Ryder noticed she would often do an extra quarter-mile during training in the Credit River, or that she was the last to get out of the lake, and he could see she had the makings of a distance swimmer.
“I was definitely getting stronger and a little more mature,” says Bell Di Lascio, who kept swimming longer and longer distances.
“My dad would always say to me, why do you have to be so pigheaded? Or why do you have to be so stubborn?” she says, and he mentioned these qualities to Ryder.
“And Gus said, I’ve never really thought of her as being stubborn. I see determination. And she doesn’t know how to quit.”
When Bell Di Lascio dove into the pitch-black water that night in 1954 after scrambling to follow American swimmer Florence Chadwick’s 11 p.m. start, it was with blind faith that Ryder and her escort boat would meet her somewhere up ahead in the Niagara River. The only light was the one fading as Chadwick’s entourage got farther and farther away.
Korzekwa’s mother, sick in bed, turned the radio on the next day, excited about the story and waiting for every update.
Three years later, when she was pregnant with Korzekwa, she decided the name Marilyn symbolized endurance and strength and named her daughter after Bell Di Lascio.
“Being an immigrant from war-torn Poland, post-war, endurance and strength were something she wanted her daughter to have,” says Marilyn Korzekwa.
Most swimmers start on the south side because the current from the Niagara River gives them a northward push that can be felt up to 10 kilometres out, says Korzekwa.
But once they’re in the lake, anything can happen.
A wind from either direction can push away the warm surface water and drive up the cold from below, resulting in temperature decreases of about 17 degrees C in a single crossing, says Keith.
The lake gets warmer in August, but thunderstorms are always a risk and can end a swim unless the athlete can outpace them.
When the water is rough, a swimmer can get so seasick that they throw up for hours.
And sometimes the combination of high winds and white-capped waves at the start of a swim can cause agonizing tendinitis, which forced Korzekwa to battle through pain the entire way.
“I discovered on my first crossing how much it hurt,” she says.
The swimmer hit a wall every three hours, when her brain told her she had to stop. “My lungs hurt. I didn’t feel like I could move my arms one more stroke,” says Korzekwa.
But she kept going, swimming slowly for an hour until the thoughts passed and she devised a strategy to deal with them when they came again.
Like most swimmers, she relied on her crew to help get her across.
At one point when Korzekwa thought she couldn’t go any further, her pacer Libby Brown, a pool swimmer, told her she would accompany her the rest of the way.
“I thought, well, if she could do it, then I could do it,” says Korzekwa, who went on to outsprint Brown. Brown was pulled from the water because she was slowing Korzekwa down.
Bell Di Lascio, too, wanted to quit, but it wasn’t the lamprey eels that bothered her.
She’d encountered them in the Credit River and although she hated the feel of their long snake-like forms curling around her legs, she knew to smack them in the head before their teeth could latch onto her body.
But she was sleep-deprived after staying awake during the day of the swim, ready to follow Chadwick into the water but not knowing when the American would leave.
Her coach accompanied her in a lifeboat from the downed passenger ship the Noronic. The lifeboat was lent to them by a private owner, she recalls Ryder telling her. She herself remembers the smell of the fumes when the luxury ship burned in Toronto’s harbour in 1949, killing 119 people.
To keep her going, Ryder wrote inspirational messages on a chalkboard that she could read without stopping. Messages such as “ ‘Nobody made you do this. You wanted to do this for Canada. You wanted to beat the American,’ ” says Bell Di Lascio. “He was really practising psychology without certification. He knew me better than I knew myself.”
She hummed and sang her way through the night, every stroke taking her closer, she says, to a sunrise she’d never seen.
When dawn broke, she wasn’t even sure at first what it was.
“That was a wonderful experience,” says Bell Di Lascio. “The water had flattened out. It was so beautiful. It reminded me of the story of the resurrection,” she says. “It was almost a type of resurrection on the water for me because I had made it through the night and that was my biggest fear.”
Sunrise had an effect on Keith, too.
On the way back to Toronto she started hallucinating around the 36-hour mark, something she had learned to expect after a record-setting continuous swim of five and half days in a pool.
When Keith looked down she saw patio stones in the shape of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and little stone alligators and crocodiles that moved across them. She’d already given her crew permission to pull her if she ever headed under water to explore.
Then, around 3 a.m. on her third day in the lake, she saw a great big wall right in front of her. She tried to swim faster to close the gap and slower to see if it would get bigger. But the wall was always in the same spot ahead of her.
When Keith complained to her crew that she couldn’t get through it, one member realized what was happening and said he’d pull the boat through and make a hole for her. But as soon as everyone went through, the wall closed up behind them, she says.
It was only when the sun rose that the wall disappeared.
“The sun came up and I could see the CN Tower — the SkyDome wasn’t there yet. And I started to pick up my pace from there,” says Keith, although she remembers struggling in those last few hours, doing sidestroke and barely able to lift her arms out of the water.
As she got closer to shore, though, she realized that she was going to make it and changed to butterfly, which later became her signature stroke, “just to prove that I had something left,” says Keith.
Of course, the finish is different for everyone.
Trinity Arsenault made it through the night singing camp songs with her crew, which included her mother and Keith — who together set off a confetti bomb at sunrise — as well as Korzekwa.
But the next day, it started to rain and a chop that started in the middle of the night grew into three- to-four-metre waves. Arsenault had to outrun a thunderstorm.
“At one point, I was moving three kilometres an hour and the storm was moving behind me at two kilometres,” says Arsenault. “So I was literally sprinting all the way to the finish.”
In the summer of 2016, Trinity Arsenault became the youngest Canadian to cross the English Channel, a shorter swim by a third but another brutal challenge.
Cuts in her mouth, caused by her braces, swelled 10 times more than she expected because of the salt water. The jellyfish that typically congregate in a calm zone in the middle of the channel had floated much closer to shore. Arsenault says she wasn’t mentally prepared to be surrounded as soon as she stepped into the water. And the sea is colder and swimmers battle strong tides.
The distance is 32 kilometres from coast to coast but swimmers often go further because the current pushes them from side to side.
Arsenault made it across in 12.5 hours.
“I’m a competitive person by nature,” explains Arsenault about why she takes on challenges. “I really enjoy setting goals, striving to achieve them and I really appreciate hard work.”
Distance swimming also allows her to raise money for Jumpstart, a charity that helps financially disadvantaged kids participate in organized sports.
“Growing up in a single-parent family, I knew how hard my mom had worked to give us our opportunities,” says Arsenault. Her sister Michaela is also a Great Lakes swimmer and swam across Lake Erie in 2016.
“I wanted to do it for an organization that would help kids who were having the same financial barriers or in many cases, much worse than I was,” she says. Arsenault is now training to become an elite rower.
Vicki Keith has raised more than a million dollars for charity.
Keith continues to coach her swim team, the Kingston Y Penguins, a club for kids with physical disabilities as well as their able-bodied siblings. Keith was chosen as head coach for Team Ontario, which recently competed at the Canada Games in Winnipeg.
She’s also been a motivational speaker and in one TED Talk appearance, tells a story similar to Bell Di Lascio’s, about an instructor who told Keith’s parents that their daughter danced like a horse.
Keith was so determined to be good at something that she bought her own trophy when she was 10.
“It was my way of saying I have value, I have something wonderful and unique about me,” says Keith. She still has the trophy.
Marilyn Korzekwa quit the sport to work and raise a family but came out of retirement nearly 30 years later. She was the first Canadian to complete the Triple Crown of Marathon swimming which includes crossing the English Channel and the Catalina channel off California (2011, 2013) as well as a course around Manhattan Island (2014).
On Monday, the 60-year-old became the first Canadian to swim across Lake Tahoe, raising money for the Sashbear Foundation, a mental health organization.
Bell Di Lascio went on to set records as the youngest person to swim the English Channel and the Strait of Juan de Fuca in B.C. But like Korzekwa she quit swimming when she married and moved to the States, where she worked as a teacher.
She continued to mentor swimmers though, and as technology progressed, has been able to track their movements in real time online because of GPS. She says she thinks of many of the swimmers as family.
“Over the years I’ve developed a real close bond with just about everybody,” says Bell Di Lascio. “There are very few that I haven’t met.”
When she was 30, Bell Di Lascio was diagnosed with a deteriorating spinal condition called scoliosis that has made it painful for her in recent years to swim front crawl. She still swims, but on her back, kicking her feet.
But she started swimming front crawl again last year after a local instructor came to her retirement home and taught her a new technique that allowed her to swim for hours without any pain.
Her condition worsened though, and the scoliosis is “now causing my chest cavity to be compressed,” says Bell Di Lascio, who has developed restrictive lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe at times.
She just got back in the pool after several months.
“My life has been like a marathon swim, because there’s so much in life that we’re not in control of,” she says. There’s “the tide that’s going to take you where you wish to go and the flood tide that’s going to push you back where you have been.
“It’s always been a metaphor for me,” says Bell Di Lascio, who has imparted the message to her students and others as a motivational speaker.
“The good news is, and the message I always try to leave with people, is that if we’re patient and determined, we know that the tide will change,” she says. “Cause it always does.”
At a glance
VICKI KEITH, 56, born in Winnipeg
She is the only swimmer to complete the 104-kilometre double crossing of Lake Ontario and the first person to swim across all five Great Lakes. Keith has 18 world records, including pool swims. Her swims include:
Lake Ontario, 1986 (attempted double crossing but pulled after first crossing because of storm); 1987, 1989 (butterfly)
Lake Ontario, Lake Superior,Lake Michigan,Lake Huron, Lake Erie: 1988
Catalina Channel: 1989, world record for butterfly
English Channel: 1989, world record for butterfly
Strait of Juan de Fuca: 1989, world record for butterfly
Tandem crossing of eastern Lake Ontario with husband John Munro: 2001
Lake Ontario, 2005: 80.2-km butterfly to raise $260,000 for the Kingston Family YMCA
MARILYN BELL DI LASCIO, 79, born in Toronto
At 16, she became the first person to cross Lake Ontario.
Lake Ontario: 1954
English Channel: 1955 (Second Canadian, after Winnie Roach in 1951, to cross)
Strait of Juan de Fuca: 1956 (Fifth swimmer and second woman to swim the strait. She was the fastest on the strait’s long course — a record that held until this month, when Susan Simmons of B.C. beat it)
MARILYN KORZEKWA, 60, born in Toronto
The first person to cross Lake Ontario south to north and north to south in separate swims. The second person, after American Diana Nyad, to make the north-south crossing.
Lake Ontario: 1983, south to north; 1984, north to south
English Channel: 2011
Catalina Channel: 2013
Manhattan Island: 2014, first Canadian to complete Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I.: 2016
Cook Strait: 2016
Cape Cod Bay: 2016
Lake Tahoe: 2017, first Canadian
TRINITY ARSENAULT, 17, born in St. Catharines
At 14 years and 71 days old, she became the youngest person to swim the lake, beating out fellow Canadian Annaleise Carr, who held the record after crossing in 2012.
Lake Ontario: 2014
Lake Erie: 2014
English Channel: 2016, youngest Canadian
A valuable pink diamond is nestled among stolen cars and baggies of seized drugs in a cavernous Toronto police warehouse, waiting for its rightful owner to take it home. That much, everyone can agree on.
But the family of its now-dead original owner and the pawnshop that later bought it from a convicted jewel thief bitterly disagree on nearly every other detail of the story: how much the gem is worth, who it truly belongs to and even whether it was actually stolen.
Ownership of the diamond is now at the centre of a court battle that’s lasted two years and counting, with both sides viewing the situation as a miscarriage of justice. On one side is a pawnshop owner who says he bought it fair and square; on the other is a family who says it belongs to them. Think of it as a custody dispute, with a tiny pink stone at the centre of it.
“I’ve chosen to pursue it because I don’t think it’s fair,” said Howard Green, owner of the H. Williams and Co. pawnshop, which possessed the jewel before Toronto police seized it in 2012. “This has gone on far too long.”
The saga began in 2011, when Martin Winberg bought the diamond from a Toronto-area gold and gem dealer for $40,000. The jewel is an orange-pink colour — the quality that makes it valuable, according to Green — and weighs in at 0.59 carats.
Winberg suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and a leg injury that left him essentially homebound, according to his statement to police, taken over the phone. His family declined to speak with the Star or share photos of him, citing a desire for privacy.
Winberg asked the salesman who sold him the diamond to store it on his behalf, along with another gem he’d purchased, according to the statement he gave police. The man agreed to do so as a friend, but later left the jewels with a colleague he thought he could trust, the statement said.
“In or around April 2012, Martin’s acquaintance informed him that it had been stolen by a thief named Brian Colyer,” alleges an argument submitted to the Ontario Court of Appeal by Winberg’s estate.
“Mr. Colyer had stolen several pieces of property in and around the same time, including the diamond and another diamond belonging to Martin. Martin Winberg had never met or heard of Mr. Colyer before, and had never authorized him to have possession of the diamond, much less to steal and convert it.”
The allegations in the filing haven’t been proven in court. When reached by the Star, Colyer didn’t respond to requests for comment.
In 2015, however, he pleaded guilty to the theft of gold bars, coins and gems valued at more than $800,000 from several other of the dealer’s clients — though the pink diamond was not among the items he was convicted of stealing.
Colyer was a regular customer at H. Williams and Co., Green said. The store, a mainstay on Church St. in downtown Toronto, is exactly what you’d imagine a pawnshop to look like — rows of jewels lie in display cases beneath shiny guitars, while a safe with a heavy metal door sits open at the back of the room.
Colyer was a regular customer at the pawnshop and staff had no reason to suspect anything untoward about the diamond, Green said. To illustrate his point, he pulled out a box of receipts he said were Colyer’s, flipping through them as he listed the dollar values of items the man pawned, all in the thousands. The shop gave Colyer $5,000 for the Winberg diamond in April 2012.
Winberg reported the diamond stolen. In his statement to Toronto police, Winberg said he’d never met Colyer, let alone given him permission to pawn the diamond.
Green told the Star he believes the diamond was never stolen, and that Winberg gave Colyer the diamond to sell on his behalf (Green wouldn’t say why he thought so). Green’s lawyers argue that since Colyer wasn’t convincted for this particular theft and Winberg isn’t alive to answer questions, the former owner’s estate can’t prove a claim to the gem.
“This particular diamond, it should be returned to me,” Green said. “They think we’re crooks . . . I’ve done nothing wrong.”
The Winberg estate’s lawyer, Paul Adam of Wise Law Office, strongly disagrees with that version of events.
“We haven’t seen a single scrap of evidence that that is the case,” he said.
In July 2012, police seized the diamond from the pawnshop after several of the dealer’s employees complained about Colyer. Investigators held onto the gem while the case moved through the courts.
But Winberg died in February 2015, two months before Colyer was sentenced to two years less one day in jail. Colyer pleaded guilty to eight charges, but the Crown dropped the counts related to Winberg after his death, saying it wasn’t in the public interest to pursue them.
Though the criminal case was closed, the conflict was far from over.
In June 2015, after the trial, police told Winberg’s estate and the pawnshop that investigators no longer needed the diamond. Green applied to have the diamond returned to H. Williams and Co. An Ontario Superior Court of Justice judge ordered police to return the diamond to Green.
Before Green actually received the diamond, however, Michael Winberg — Martin Winberg’s brother, who had been made a trustee of the estate — asked for an appeal, saying the judge who made the order was mistaken.
The Ontario Court of Appeal set aside the order. No timeline has yet been set for any upcoming proceedings, and Adam declined to comment on what happens next with the case.
And so the diamond remains in the hands of police.
Adam said his client maintains that the Winberg estate is the true owner of the diamond since the pawnbroker has no right to stolen property.
Green strongly disagrees, saying neither Winberg nor his family tried to claim the jewel in the years after it was pawned, and the court gave it to him fair and square.
“There’s nothing to argue about,” Green said. “We’re out the money, we’re out the diamond and at one point a court ordered it be returned to us.”
Green said he’s now spent far more on legal fees than he did on the diamond. Adding to Green’s frustration, he said he believes the diamond isn’t even worth $40,000.
“I wish it was,” he said with a chuckle, adding that he believes it’s worth closer to $15,000.
Adam said the estate had no comment on the value of the diamond, or how much it has spent in legal fees.
“They could make it go away real quick if they just give me my $5,000 plus costs,” Green said, adding that the Winberg estate declined such a deal.
Adam said it would be inappropriate for him to comment, but said the case presents an interesting dilemma — one for which there is little legal precedent.
“I guess there haven’t been many cases where a judge has had to puzzle over this,” he said.
August 2011— Martin Winberg buys the diamond from a dealer for roughly $40,000. He leaves it with the employee who sold it to him.
April 2012— The employee allegedly tells Winberg that his coworker, Brian Colyer, has stolen the diamond. Colyer had pawned the gem at H. Williams and Co.
May 2012— Colyer is fired from the dealer after several clients complained to management.
June 2012— Toronto police charge Colyer with a series of thefts, including Winberg’s diamond.
July 5, 2012— Toronto police seize Winberg’s diamond from H. Williams and Co.
Feb. 19, 2015— Winberg passes away.
April 7, 2015— Colyer pleads guilty to eight charges related to thefts of gems, gold and coins and is sentenced to two years less a day in jail. Prosecutors drop the charges related to Winberg’s diamond.
June 2015— Toronto police inform Winberg’s estate and the pawnshop that investigators no longer need the diamond, as the criminal case against Colyer is over.
September 2015— H. Williams and Co. applies to a court to get the diamond. A judge awards the diamond to the pawnshop.
June 2, 2017— Ontario’s top court allows the estate to appeal the lower court order, sending the case back to trial court. The diamond remains in police custody.
ALTHORP, ENGLAND—Diana is entombed and enisled, eternally out of reach.
And yet, two decades after the death of a princess, the world is still grasping at her.
Who was she? What is her place in history? How did this gauche naïf, transformed into a woman of glamour steeped in misery, change the British monarchy?
Because she did, if only, ultimately, by taking her leave of it. Just as she’d predicted that she would never be queen.
Because she is the mother of a future king who has more of his mother — and his grandmother — in him than the king he will succeed.
Because, for a moment in time, the world stood shock-still in grief and disbelief.
It has become easy to mock the unprecedented torrent of public and “performative” mourning triggered by that middle-of-the-night news bulletin that Diana, Princess of Wales, had been killed with her summer-fling boyfriend in Paris, casualties of a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel on Aug. 31, 1997.
The paparazzi were there to record it, contributed to it in a foolish chase to the death, although a lengthy French judicial investigation blamed the single-vehicle accident on the driver, Henri Paul, drunk at the wheel and speeding.
Conspiracy theorists still claim nefarious murder plots afoot. Just as some insist Diana is not actually buried here, on the tiny island in the middle of an ornamental lake known as the Round Oval within the gardens of Althorp Park, the 500-year-old ancestral estate where Diana grew up.
Diana was buried here on Sept. 6, 1997, in a black Catherine Walker dress, with the rosary given to her by Mother Teresa only two months earlier tucked into her hand. There have been four vandalism attempts upon the island in the years since, her brother, Charles — the current Earl Spencer — told the BBC last month. “There are some odd people out there, and keeping her here is the safest place.”
A place, however, that had fallen into shabby neglect, for which Spencer was sternly rebuked until a massive rehabilitation of the estate grounds was undertaken over the past year. Althorp reopened to the public in July. There is no public access to the island, but visitors can reflect in a Grecian-style temple on the edge of the lake.
On July 1, which would have been Diana’s 56th birthday, Princes William and Harry were graveside with Diana’s two grandchildren in a private rededication and remembrance service. Her former husband, Charles, the Prince of Wales, was fortuitously touring Canada at the time. He would not have belonged in the melancholy group.
Remembering Diana, unforgettable Diana.
Except an entire generation has grown up without her. And it’s unlikely she’s being taught in the history texts.
For insight into the Princess of Wales — she lost her HRH status upon divorcing (the young William promised her he would restore it) — one would have to turn to the pop library of biographies and glossy celebrity trash and first-person accounts written by an inner cadre (they claim) who professed intimate knowledge of the aristocratic arriviste who stood the House of Windsor on its head. Who just about broke it in a fight to the modernizing finish.
Scores of books, many reissued for the “anniversary” of Diana’s death — the “Untold Stories” told time and time again — and dozens of documentaries that have been broadcast in recent weeks. From Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, an encomium featuring rare interviews with William and Harry and wherein, interestingly, their father is never mentioned, nor the tumultuous marriage the boys observed, nor Charles’s subsequent marriage to his longtime mistress, Camilla, the asp at Diana’s breast; to an NBC special interview with her former bodyguard Ken Wharfe on Dateline: The Life and Death of Princess Diana; to ABC’s Martin Bashir entry, The Last 100 Days of Diana; to a National Geographic Diana-logue, Diana: In Her Own Words, narrated entirely by the princess and taken from the taped conversations she provided to journalist Andrew Morton, who authored the 1992 bestseller Diana: Her True Story, the tell-all that cracked open the fraud of the Windsor marriage.
“It started life as 150 pages and now it’s 450 pages,” says Morton, of his updated book of the same name. “Contains all of Diana’s words from the tapes. It’s now the historical record. This is the stuff historians and biographers will go back to 100 years from now.”
Those tapes were recorded by an intermediary, Diana’s friend Dr. James Colthurst. Portions of the tapes originally indecipherable have been rescued by enhanced modern technology.
Those tapes take their place alongside the infamous and impetuous TV interview Diana gave to Bashir in 1995, a broadside against Charles and Camilla that banged the final nail into the coffin of a mutually loathing spousal mismatch, and the scandalizing — albeit candid — recordings of conversations between the princess and her voice coach, Peter Settelen, packaged as controversial documentary for Channel 4. Tapes that were never intended to be seen publicly (the program drew record viewership) and which were the subject of lengthy legal battles.
One more ghoulish profiteer.
Diana is the gift that keeps on giving.
So that’s one question answered: Diana clearly continues to beguile, possibly even more so than had she not died so tragically young, had she been now a middle-aged grandmother, doubtless still chic and captivating but also a relic from Malice in the Palace days. Frozen in time, like Marilyn Monroe, she won’t ever grow old, marginalized and irrelevant. She’s a cipher, a prism through which to marvel upon a mosh pit era of frenzied royalty splashed daily across the tabloids and broadsheets.
Diana moves more covers dead than alive and doing who-knows-what as a humanitarian dilettante. The public’s infatuation has never cooled, with viewership demographics showing young people just as fascinated.
“How would she be today?” Morton muses. “It’s difficult to say but I would have thought that by now she would have remarried. She always wanted more children, especially a girl. She was eager to find another partner at some point. It wasn’t going to be Dodi. I have in mind some kind of American billionaire with all the toys, the British equivalent of Jackie O.”
Someone to keep her safe — as the hapless Dodi Fayed did not — and to underwrite all her decidedly un-royal humanitarian interests, which ran the gamut from AIDS to leprosy to land mines as Diana cast about for a purpose post-HRH.
And to think that all that drenching Diana coverage — the most famous woman on Earth, both hounded by the press and expertly manipulating of it; oh yes, she honed cunning — occurred in a pre-social media universe.
“Would she be tweeting her sorrows?” Morton wonders.
Certainly she heated up the phone lines, spilling her rage and her hurt to anybody who would give a listen, her circle of intimates morphing, friends un-friended, allies alienated when they dared to gently remonstrate, or when they just couldn’t bear the burden of supporting Diana any longer. Only a handful stayed resolute, saw her maddened side and didn’t blink, never betrayed her.
How unprepared she was for the caged craziness of royal life and a fussy, hidebound husband — a mere dozen or so times they saw each other before the fairytale nuptials at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which Diana, typically melodramatic, afterward described as “the worst day of my life.” Still just 19 and nubile, baby-fleshy — before the bulimia — when formally stepped into the limelight for the first time after the blue sapphire and diamond engagement ring had been placed on her finger. A charity affair at Goldsmiths’ Hall four months before the wedding, and she’d picked an off-the-shoulder cleavage-revealing black taffeta gown by designers Elizabeth and David Emanuel.
“I remember being very excited,” Diana says on the Colthurst tapes. “I got this black dress from the Emanuels — I thought it was OK because girls my age wore this. I hadn’t appreciated that I was now seen as a royal lady.”
Charles allegedly scolded her for it.
“I remember walking into my husband-to-be’s study and he said, ‘You’re not going in that, are you? But it’s black. Only people in mourning wear black.’
“Black to me was the smartest colour you could have at the age 19 — it was a real grown-up dress.”
It was the first time she put her foot wrong. She would do so again and again, though the public remained unaware of the reprimands and reproofs behind closed doors, the chafing, the despondency and violent clashes with Charles, the escalating bitterness that found release in mutual infidelity, the ashes of a marriage as Charles returned to the mummy-embrace of Camilla.
What she couldn’t scream out loud to the world, Diana wore on her person, a dog-whistle of fashion as she segued from frilly and sometimes old-lady frumpy to regimental suits à la Michael Jackson, to Dynasty silhouette costume gowns, to sleek, to sheaths, and finally to the F-U revenge ensemble, a statement dress, black and figure-hugging and trailing a hip veil, worn to a Vanity Fair party at the Serpentine Gallery on the same night in June 1994 Charles’s tit-for-tat TV interview with Jonathan Dimbleby — confirming his affair with Camilla — aired.
The dress said: see what he rejected for that hag.
Her evolving fashionista chops — frocks hanging on bones during the eating disorder years — guaranteed perpetual cameras-on for Diana, as her wardrobe and hairstyles launched countless copycats, just as they’d rushed to imitate her voluminous wedding gown. But there was always more to the public fascination than that, even before the truth of the warring Windsors emerged.
There was Diana the debutante royal, Diana the giggler in very early days when Charles couldn’t keep his hands off her, Diana the baby-mama, Diana the crowd-thrilling performer on tours, Diana of the tender touch, Diana at first unintentionally eclipsing Charles and then deliberately casting him into shadow — crowds audibly disappointed when the Prince of Wales worked their side of a walkabout — Diana the dour, Diana the tearful, Diana the deranged, according to the Charles loyalists.
Really, Charles & Diana was the highest-rated reality TV show in history, played out for 15 years of wedlock deadlock and no connubial relations, apparently, after the birth of Harry. “As suddenly Harry was born, it just went bang, our marriage,” Diana says on the tapes. “The whole thing went down the drain.”
Surely it said something about us, too, how in thrall to them — to her — we were. Royalty had no mystery after all, further vulgarized by ascent and descent of Sarah, Duchess of York — The Real Wives of Kensington Palace. They were just like us but worse, their adulteries seamier, their sulks gloomier, their naughtiness more sensational, if often downright juvenile. All the privileges in the world and they were just another man and woman behaving badly, wounding each other as spectacle.
But Charles was always assured of his place in the venerable order of things. Diana was not.
So there was a beguiled pity for her and she worked it deftly, which didn’t make the suffering any less real.
In the present age, would she have risen above the Kardashians or the Duck dynasts or Donald Trump (who once tried wooing Diana) as dysfunctional celebrity? Or was it all about that touch of magic bestowed by real royalty upon a kindergarten teaching assistant and sometime char elevated to within a heartbeat of the throne?
Something, however indefinable, made Diana the People’s Princess, her loss so wrenching that mourners didn’t know what to do with their grief, as if something bigger than one woman’s tragic death had been ripped from their hearts. In spontaneous tribute, they piled up bouquets and wreaths outside Buckingham Palace — an estimated 60 million blooms — and they sobbed as the gun carriage that bore Diana’s casket made its dolorous passage to Westminster Abbey, passing by a million mourners lining the streets. Forcing even a stubbornly resistant Queen to bow her head. Some 2.5 billion people worldwide watched the funeral on TV, as Earl Spencer memorably lambasted the Royal Family in his eulogy.
Her devastated sons, 15 and 12, made to walk behind the casket, was a grotesquerie.
“My mother had just died and I had to walk a long way behind the coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” Prince Harry told Newsweek this summer. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.” In the princes’ documentary, essentially a tribute, Harry also says: “It was very, very strange after her death, the sort of outpouring of love and emotion from so many people that had never even met her.”
But they felt as if they had, such was her chimerical presence in their lives.
Diana’s legacy is highly debatable. In a realm devoted to statuary and monuments, there’s hardly a trace of the princess in 2017 — a faltering memorial fountain at Hyde Park, a bronze statue of Diana and Dodi at the bottom of the escalator at Harrods. A Thames garden bridge originally conceived by the actress Joanna Lumley, to be largely financed by a trust, collapsed this year amid acrimony because London Mayor Sadiq Khan would not commit to further public funds for the project.
In April, a temporary White Garden — flowers and foliage inspired by the princess — was opened in the Sunken Garden of Kensington Palace. A statue commemorating Diana, commissioned by her sons, was also to have been unveiled at Kensington this month, although it’s unclear if it had been finished.
At Buckingham Palace, which Diana hated, a state room has been transformed as anniversary tribute into a recreation of the princess’s sitting room at Kensington, featuring the desk at which she wrote letters. William and Harry chose the personally cherished items, including: family photos, favourite music cassettes and the ballet slippers that had hung on her sitting room door. As well, an exhibition of her iconic wardrobe — Diana: Her Fashion Story— has been mounted at Kensington. (Recall that many of her outfits were auctioned for charity shortly before her death at William’s suggestion.)
The commemorative newspaper stories are coming fast and furious as the anniversary date approaches. But only a month ago, many of those same papers ran fawning spreads about Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, marking her 70th birthday, clearly orchestrated. “They were part of a long-term plan to make Camilla acceptable as Queen Consort,” Morton says, although Camilla has allegedly insisted she has no interest in elevation to the title when Charles becomes king.
“It’s interesting that Edward VIII gave up the throne for the woman that he loved and then forever more was bitter about the fact they never gave Wallis (Simpson) the title Her Royal Highness. It’s something that does matter to members of the Royal Family — status and title. Prince Charles is a notorious stickler for status as titles.”
William and Harry certainly appear fond of Camilla, yet Morton suggests their palpable exclusion of father or stepmother — not even a mention — in their documentary was an unsubtle statement.
“They’ve had to learn to tiptoe around their father’s sensibilities, especially William. He’s second in line. They are developing separate courts and separate ways of doing things. That documentary, intentionally or unintentionally, is a broadside across Charles’s ambition to make Camilla queen. In the affection they have for their mother, they reminded the British people of what we had lost and, obviously, the two elephants in the room were Charles and Camilla.”
As adults, Morton continues, the princes are very much still a creation of their mother, especially William, who was so keenly aware of the tumult in his parents’ marriage, with Diana leaning on him heavily for support.
“You don’t need to be a psychologist to work it out. What did Prince William want? He wanted stability and he wanted family.”
This, Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge, gave him. “Stability, family and an eager preparedness to play second fiddle. Stable to the point of boredom. It’s notable that the world talks about William and Harry as a double act more than William and Kate. These were two children from a broken home. The eldest one’s married a partner who will provide stability and adoration. Prince Harry is probably keen to get hitched as well, he’s virtually said as much.”
As future king — which he’s described as a job rather than a vocation — William would bring evident qualities of a natural reserve, like his grandmother, but also the “humanity and accessibility that his mother had,” Morton says. “He is very much the duality of Spencer and Windsor.”
We can all speculate on what Diana would have thought of Kate. No woman is good enough for a beloved son. But she would certainly have been over the moon with those adorable grandchildren.
“Diana remains relevant for the causes that she championed, as an echo of the impact she had when she was alive,” Morton says. “But her greater relevance is in her living legacy: Prince William and Prince Harry, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.”
In a BBC poll, Diana made the Top 5 of the greatest Britons ever, alongside Churchill and Shakespeare.
“That shows she does have an enduring place,” Morton says. “If the monarchy is a reflection of the changes in society, which it often is, then the abdication (of Edward VIII) in 1936 was a step-change in the monarchy and Diana’s death in ’97 was a step-change in the monarchy. Her impact will continue, not just through William and Harry but also through Charlotte and George. It’s no coincidence that Charlotte’s middle name is Diana.”
Twenty years come and gone since Diana’s death. That, too, provides a point of reflection for the rest of us.
“We all know where we were when she died,” Morton says. “God, is it that time already? Twenty years have gone by in a heartbeat.
“Like Marilyn Monroe or James Dean, she never gets old. She looked glamorous, she looked sleek, she looked like she’d got her act together after years of kind of meandering. And she seemed pretty happy. She was filled with the bright hope of morning promise.
“Her life was short, but, like a firework, it burned bright.”
CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS—Hurricane Harvey rolled over the Texas Gulf Coast on Saturday, smashing homes and businesses and lashing the shore with wind and rain so intense that drivers were forced off the road because they could not see in front of them.
The fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade came ashore late Friday about 48 kilometres northeast of Corpus Christi as a mammoth Category 4 storm with 209 kph winds. It weakened overnight to Category 1.
But the storm’s most destructive powers were just beginning. Rainfall that will continue for days could dump more than a metre of water and inundate many communities, including dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.
“Our focus is shifting to the extreme and potentially historic levels of flooding that we could see,” said Eric Blake, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
No deaths were immediately reported. High winds kept emergency crews out of many places, and authorities said it could be hours before emergency teams are able to fully assess damage.
By dawn, nearly 300,000 consumers were without power in the coastal region, and nearly 0.5 metres of rain had fallen in some places.
The mayor of Rockport, a coastal city of about 10,000 that was directly in the storm’s path, said his community took a blow “right on the nose” that left “widespread devastation,” including homes, businesses and schools that were heavily damaged. Some structures were destroyed.
Mayor Charles “C.J.” Wax told The Weather Channel that the city’s emergency response system had been hampered by the loss of cellphone service and other forms of communication.
About 10 people were taken to the county jail for treatment after the roof of a senior housing complex collapsed, television station KIII reported.
On Friday, Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios offered ominous advice, telling the station that people who chose not to evacuate should mark their arm with a Sharpie pen, implying that the marks would make it easier for rescuers to identify them.
In the storm’s immediate aftermath, the Coast Guard sent two helicopters to try to rescue the crews of three tugboats reported in distress in a channel near Port Aransas. And about 4,500 inmates were evacuated from three state prisons in Brazoria County south of Houston because the nearby Brazos River was rising.
By late morning, Harvey’s maximum sustained winds had fallen to about 120 kph and the storm was centred about 40 kilometres west of Victoria, Texas. It was moving north at 3 kph, according to the hurricane centre.
The system was expected to become tropical storm by Saturday afternoon.
The hurricane posed the first major emergency management test of President Donald Trump’s administration. The president signed a federal disaster declaration for coastal counties Friday night.
Trump commended the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for his handling of the storm.
In a tweet Saturday morning addressed to FEMA head Brock Long, Trump said: “You are doing a great job — the world is watching! Be safe.”
In a separate tweet, Trump said he is monitoring the hurricane closely from Camp David. “We are leaving nothing to chance. City, State and Federal Govs. working great together!”
The president also tweeted, “We have fantastic people on the ground, got there long before #Harvey. So far, so good!”
In Corpus Christi, the major city closest to the storm’s centre, wind whipped palm trees and stinging sheets of horizontal rain slapped against hotels and office buildings along the seawall as the storm made landfall.
Daybreak revealed downed lamp posts and tree limbs and roof tiles torn off buildings. The city’s marina was nearly unscathed, save an awning ripped from a restaurant entrance and a wooden garbage bin uprooted and thrown.
Along Interstate 45 leaving Galveston, motorists had to stop under bridges to avoid driving in whiteout conditions.
In Houston, rain fell at nearly 76.2 millimetres an hour, leaving some streets and underpasses underwater. The many drainage channels known as bayous that carry excess water to the Gulf were rising.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the chief administrator of the county that includes the city of 2.3 million, said flooding so far was a “minor issue,” but warned that “we’re not out of this.”
Fuelled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, Harvey grew rapidly, accelerating from a Category 1 early Friday morning to a Category 4 by evening. Its transformation from an ordinary storm to a life-threatening behemoth took only 56 hours, an incredibly fast intensification.
Harvey came ashore as the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.
The storm’s approach sent tens of thousands of people fleeing inland. Families who escaped Rockport were worried about neighbours and whether their homes are still standing.
Johanna Cochran was panicking over whether her house or the McDonald’s where she works survived the storm. She and her boyfriend evacuated to a San Antonio shelter.
Another Rockport resident, Pamela Montes, said she knew many people who stayed behind because “no one felt like it was going to hit.”
Just hours before the projected landfall, the governor and Houston leaders issued conflicting statements on evacuation.
Gov. Greg Abbott urged more people to flee, but Houston authorities recommended no widespread evacuations, citing greater danger in having people on roads that could flood and the fact that the hurricane was not taking direct aim at the city.
The last Category 4 storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Charley in August 2004 in Florida. Superstorm Sandy, which pummeled New York and New Jersey in 2012, never had the high winds and had lost tropical status by the time it struck. But it was devastating without formally being called a major hurricane.
Harvey is the first significant hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in September 2008 brought winds of 177 kph to the Galveston and Houston areas, inflicting $22 billion in damage.
Surrounded by police at a Willowdale residence, a man wanted for attempted murder evaded inevitable arrest by slamming his car into a police cruiser and speeding away.
Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson said police had been searching for Tyrell Evans, 28, since an incident in April. When police received information that he was at an address in the Yonge St. and Avondale Rd. area, they surrounded the house late Friday.
“We were in the process of getting the proper warrants to go in,” Hopkinson said. “While we were doing that, he was able to escape.”
Hopkinson asid Evans got into a black Maserati and rammed it into police vehicles blocking his path in order to get away.
“What if somebody was walking in front of the house as he’s leaving and doing all this stuff, right?” Hopkinson said. “He has absolutely no regard for our rule of law, human life. That’s what he’s showing, that’s what he’s exhibiting.”
The dramatic scene was a culmination of police efforts after an initial warrant for Evans’ arrest was placed on April 9, when police received a report of a person with a gun in the Queen St. W and John St. area. Police said a man was involved in an altercation with a group of people when he pulled out a handgun and aimed it at a 33-year-old man. The trigger was pulled twice, but the gun did not fire, possibly due to jamming. The man, allegedly Evans, then fled the scene.
“It wasn’t a fight, I believe it was just verbal,” Hopkinson said. “Over an argument, he was willing to shoot a stranger.”
The gun was never recovered from the first incident. Police believe it may still be in his possession.
Evans faces ten charges including attempted murder, assault with a weapon, possession of a firearm obtained by crime, and failure to comply with probation. He is now also wanted for dangerous driving after Friday’s incident.
Police describe him as six foot, with a muscular build, a beard and a shaved head. His car’s license plate is CBBH 661, and it should have damage to the driver’s-side door after the collision with police vehicles.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police, but police are urging people to be cautious.
“If anybody sees (him), we absolutely do not want them to approach. They see the car—and let’s face it, a Maserati is not a common car—they see the car, call 911 immediately.” Hopkinson said. “He is going to harm someone if we don’t catch him.”
It had been more than two decades since a white man had won the world heavyweight boxing title.
The eccentric promoter Don King knew not only that, but that the United States was still a country with deep racial divisions. So when Gerry Cooney — a stout, white New Yorker with a punishing left hook — agreed in summer 1982 to face the reigning champion, Larry Holmes, who was Black and from the Pennsylvania rust belt, King knew what he had to do.
“If it’s an antagonistic fight between two Blacks, it’s one thing,” King said in a recent interview. “But if it’s an antagonistic fight between a white and a Black, then you can play the race card tremendously and get an overwhelming return.”
Such deliberate racial themes, long a tradition in boxing, might not be laid out quite as starkly Saturday night when boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is Black, and mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor, who is white, square off in Las Vegas in a boxing match.
But race has certainly influenced this spectacle of a bout between two titans of their respective sports in ways both stark and subtle.
Both fighters have flung racially tinged barbs at each other — McGregor told Mayweather to “dance for me, boy” and said he himself was half black “from the bellybutton down”; Mayweather said he was fighting “for all the Blacks around the world.”
The racial animosity cuts deeper than a few comments.
Mayweather had spent more than a decade embracing his status as the undisputed king of fight sports villainy: brash, derogatory and eager to flaunt his money, while trying to brush aside a record of domestic violence convictions.
Then along came McGregor, a mixed martial artist from Ireland, who used a boldness that rivalled Mayweather’s to reach the peak of stardom in the fast-growing Ultimate Fighting Championship universe, in which fighters use their fists and feet and can wrestle opponents down. Even though the two men competed in different sports, they became fast rivals.
Read more: Conor McGregor’s fans are keeping the faith
Now, as they prepare to fight, McGregor is claiming most of the fan support, while Mayweather is asking a pointed question: Is there a racial double standard?
“He’s arrogant, he’s cocky, he’s this, he’s that, he’s unappreciative,” Mayweather told reporters of how his antics have been received, while McGregor has exhibited similar behaviour “and they praise him for it.”
To some, the very fact that McGregor has an opportunity to make nine figures in his first professional boxing match speaks to a racial double standard.
Mayweather, 40, has compiled a 49-0 record since his professional debut in 1996. Although McGregor, 29, has proved to be a devastating striker en route to a 21-3 mark in mixed martial arts, this will be his first professional boxing match.
Holmes, the defending champion and the victor in the 1982 fight, drew a comparison to the $10 million purses that he and Cooney — each undefeated entering their bout — received when they met in the ring.
“If it wasn’t for the white guy that I was fighting, we wouldn’t have gotten $10 million,” Holmes said. “If I would have fought five brothers, we wouldn’t have got that much money.”
McGregor’s earnings might have come down to his marketability.
“McGregor is in many ways a cheap imitation of Floyd’s ‘Money Mayweather’ persona,” Todd Boyd, a professor who studies race and pop culture at the University of Southern California, wrote in an email. “But McGregor is white, he’s younger, and his clowning comes with an Irish accent. All of this seems to have endeared him to some in the media and many fans as well. McGregor is being celebrated for the same things that Floyd has been denigrated for.”
But one important difference between Mayweather and McGregor, Boyd noted, is that Mayweather has been in serious trouble with the law related to domestic violence and has served jail time. And even though the crowds at promotional events have leaned heavily in McGregor’s favor, Mayweather has welcomed — and made plenty of money from — people who cheer against him.
So it is difficult to quantify how much of the support for McGregor is from people who like him as opposed to those who just want to see Mayweather lose.
McGregor said he did not believe that there was a double standard in how he was treated compared with Mayweather, and he noted that he had his fair share of detractors.
McGregor has been criticized for some of his racial remarks during the promotion of the fight. He gyrated on stage during a promotional event, calling it “a little present for my beautiful, Black female fans.” In an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live, McGregor seemed to refer to Black boxers in a scene from Rocky III as “dancing monkeys.”
McGregor insisted that he was not making race an issue in this fight.
“I’m not saying that there are not people on both sides that have this mindset where it’s Black versus white, and this type of thing,” he said. “But it’s certainly something I do not condone. I’m disappointed to hear the way sometimes it’s been portrayed. But I suppose it’s just the nature of the game, with the way things are going on in the world at the moment.”
His comments came before white nationalists’ protests over the planned removal of a Confederate statue led to violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 and subsequent disputes across the country.
Stephen Espinoza, general manager of Showtime Sports, which is broadcasting the Mayweather-McGregor bout, said the fight was primarily about two athletes at the top of their disciplines proving who was best, but he acknowledged that such events were often seen through the trends of the time.
“The interesting thing to me personally about boxing is it’s always been a mirror of society,” Espinoza said. “The sport has always been reflective of everything from U.S. immigration trends to socioeconomic and demographic trends.”
The diversity of boxing has been reflected in Showtime’s audience. The network said its boxing telecasts attract a viewership that is, on average, 35 per cent Black and 30 per cent Hispanic.
The UFC, on the other hand, tends to attract a whiter audience, in both viewership and attendance at matches.
For the Mayweather-McGregor meeting, the combined disciplines may attract a more diverse audience, though as a boxing match, it may have to pull more of the weight in any effort to unify racial and ethnic groups.
“Ultimately, when you get these disparate groups that end up enthusiastically rooting, you get sometimes a combustible environment,” Espinoza said. “Generally, these are national and ethnic rivalries, which are confined to the sport. One of the things that boxing does well is that it brings together a multicultural, multigenerational audience in a way that can be a bonding experience.”
If there’s one thing I thought I could count on in this life it was the feeling of sheer and utter horror that swept over me every time I watched Game of Thrones with my parents. Horror not necessarily because the show is full of monsters on horseback and characters disemboweling each other left, right, and centre, but because everyone and their loyal servant was getting naked and getting it on. And I mean everyone: Queens and concubines, pirates and priestesses, brothers and sisters — even Hodor, the dependable oaf famous for shouting his own name ad nauseam like a human Pokemon, made a surprise appearance in the buff. In other words, like most HBO fare, GOT was not a show you wanted to watch with mom and dad.
Until today, that is. It appears as though things have changed on Game of Thrones. Now in its seventh season, I find myself watching the show every Sunday night, sitting next to my family, utterly horror-free. Horror-free, and kind of disappointed.
This is because the gratuitous nudity and sex I thought I could count on has all but disappeared from the fantasy world of Westeros. Everyone is wearing so much clothing on GOT these days I sometimes doze off and come to wondering if I am watching Downton Abbey (Daenerys Targaryen, a.k.a. Khaleesi, once the most consistently naked woman in all the Seven Kingdoms is now consistently bundled up, not unlike the Dowager Countess, a.k.a. Maggie Smith, on Downton). What the hell happened?
Either a), someone turned up the AC on the set. Or b), (more likely), critics of the show’s bacchanalian bent finally got their way.
In a recent piece in the Guardian called “Game of Thrones has finally, thankfully ditched the sex for good” journalist Graeme Virtue (his actual name, no kidding) writes, “Sexposition was the stick used to beat Game of Thrones in the show’s early running, and it always felt like some HBO executive hedging their bets: if we’re going to let these fantasy characters discuss the detailed history, weirdly messed up seasons and absurdly tangled royal lineage of some made-up quasi-medieval continent, best throw in some titillation to stop bored viewers tuning out.”
Mr. Virtue isn’t alone in damning the titillation tactic. For some time, culture writers have been decrying gratuitous nudity on GOT, many of them in the name of feminism. Here’s writer Rebecca Bohanan bemoaning Khaleesi’s birthday suit in the women's magazine, xoJane, last year: “I hated the way the first season ended with a long, lingering shot of the “powerful” dragon queen’s boobs.” (And here, I thought it didn't linger quite long enough.)
Feminist writers have taken issue not only with the show’s previous habit of portraying women naked for the simple sake of portraying naked women; they dislike its tendency to portray women raped in graphic detail. I understand the latter criticism, but I have a lot of trouble with the former.
Yes, there are historically more naked breasts than penises and male torsos on GOT and yes this is a double standard, but why must the popular response to this one-sidedness be a complaint about sex and nudity in general? Why not advocate for more equal-rights exploitation instead? In other words, why not advocate for men and women (and giants and white walkers) in the buff! I am a big-tent feminist, or you could say, a big naked-tent feminist. My feminism includes not less gratuitous nudity, but more, as long as it’s egalitarian gratuitous nudity — which in a way makes it less gratuitous. Maybe this is because I’m gay, and my idea of what’s sexy does not involve Ryan Gosling reciting poetry and baking cookies in his underwear. Nor does it involve a scene in which a beautiful straight woman beds a gentle eunuch with rock hard abs. This latter happens to be the only GOT sex scene heterosexual feminists appear to be celebrating online. Meanwhile, had this female character gone to bed with Khaleesi, say, instead of the gentle eunuch, I’d bet a large lode of dragon-glass that the scene would have been denounced in multiple feminist think pieces as sexist BS and food for the “male gaze.”
Well, I believe in food for everybody’s gaze.
And I believe that in times of political unrest and uncertainty such as these, we can all benefit from a little gratuitous nudity on television — be it a “lingering shot of a powerful dragon queen’s boobs” or the naked backside of a gentle eunuch. Bring it on, GOT. The people are counting on you.
Inside the fence lies two community gardens, a play structure, cement pathways and a banner that reads, “Friends of Watkinson Park demands a nature park for the people. Down with gentrification.”
Outside the fence, community organizers in the Junction, which sits in between St. Clair Ave. W. and Bloor St. W. just north of High Park, worry about the rapid development of their west-end neighbourhood and the loss of its green space.
On Saturday, their fight was expected to bring roughly 200 people to the Dundas-Watkinson Parkette for a sleepover protest.
Development of Keele St. has been encroaching on what has always been a low-income area, driving out the poor and reducing access to affordable rental spaces, they say.
“Gentrification is spreading from Toronto’s downtown core to outlying neighbourhoods,” said Angela Browning, the spokesperson for Friends of Watkinson Park, a collection of community organizers attempting to preserve one of the last green spaces in the area.
In recent months, the group has stewarded two gardens in the park in its ongoing efforts to work alongside Six Nations elder Donna Powless.
“Watkinson park is an important restorative space for the low-income community who do not have yards,” Browning said. “We want to network with people who are environmentally concerned with the global warming issue and take up a movement.”
The protest is just the first step in a movement to empower low-income communities to take ownership of their neighbourhoods, added Browning.
“The Junction is being gentrified at a rapid rate,” she said. “There are condos going up. People are being evicted from rental housing.”
The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, or OCAP, is among the other organizations working with Browning.
“They were having issues with poor people in the park facing harassment from police, mainly for being told they couldn’t smoke in the park at that point,” said spokesperson Randy McLin.
“Since then we’ve been collaborating specifically around issues of access to public space.”
This weekend’s sleepover was inspired by the controversial campout OCAP organized at Toronto Mayor John Tory’s condo last April.
“It was really important for us to support this action because we need similar actions and resistances happening across the city,” McLin added.
After the city redesigned the parkette last year, Browning and other community organizers were disappointed that the final plans opted for cement and a playground, rather than the “nature-based” space they petitioned for.
Browning said the group wishes it had more support from the police and their local councillor.
They were unsure how police were going to respond to the campout.
“We’re just going to have to play it by ear,” Browning said ahead of the protest.
The campout was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday and run until Sunday morning.
WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump Sunday renewed his pledge to make Mexico pay for a border wall between the U.S and Mexico, days after threatening to trigger a government shutdown if congressional Republicans don’t include funding as they take on a spending bill due Sept. 30.
“With Mexico being one of the highest crime nations in the world, we must have THE WALL,” Trump posted on Twitter. “Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other …”
The president did not elaborate on how Mexico would cover the cost.
Trump has asked for $1.6 billion to begin border wall construction, but not all congressional Republicans agree about the merits of a fight to spend potentially billions of dollars more on a border barrier as they seek for tax cuts.
At a rally last week in Phoenix, Trump said, “If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” and that “one way or the other, we’re going to get that wall.”
A leading House conservative said Friday that he could support a short-term bill to fund the government after Sept. 30 and delay the fight over wall funding until December.
“I’m willing to do it whenever it makes sense,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, a founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. House Speaker Paul Ryan also has suggested a better time for a stand would be when the House and Senate negotiate final fiscal 2018 spending bills later in the year.
Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert said on ABC’s This Week Sunday that he was confident Congress would meet Trump’s budget request and wouldn’t speculate on whether the president would veto a measure without it.
Asked about Mexico paying for the wall, Bossert said the initial effort is on getting an appropriation to build the barrier.
“As we work with the Mexicans in other policies and trade policies and such, we’ll determine ways for us to make that right,” he said.
Trump, a week into his presidency, indicated to Mexico’s president Enrique Pena Nieto that he understood the Mexican government would not outright pay the U.S. to build a border wall. But he implored him to stop saying so publicly, according to transcripts of the Jan. 27 call obtained by the Washington Post.
The president said that “we are both in a little bit of a political bind” but that he knew the funding would work out “somehow” and “come out in the wash.” At the same time, according to the report, he said, “If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”
LONDON—Police detectives on Sunday arrested a second man in London in connection with what they called a terrorist incident near Buckingham Palace, when a man drove up to a police van then reached for a 1.2-metre sword.
Three police officers were slightly injured Friday night as they confronted a 26-year-old man who approached a police van in a restricted area outside Queen Elizabeth II’s London residence then reached for the sword in his car. The man, who repeatedly shouted “Allahu akbar!” (“God is great” in Arabic), was arrested on the scene.
Scotland Yard said a second suspect, a 30-year-old man, was detained Sunday in west London on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. Officers were searching an address in the area as part of the probe.
The force added that a warrant has been granted to detain the first suspect until Sept. 1.
Police had said Saturday they believed the man was acting alone and were not looking for other suspects.
Palace officials declined to comment. British media reported that no members of the royal family were in the palace in London at the time.
It’s been nearly one week since Toronto opened its first city-run site for people to use illegal intravenous drugs and so far three dozen people have used the controversial service.
“We are thrilled to be offering this life-saving service to the community,” Dr. Rita Shahin, Toronto Public Health’s associate medical officer of health, said Saturday.
“The very first client that we had when we opened our doors, to us, represents a potential life that we may have saved. We had 36 visits in just five days, which . . . represents a great success. We look forward to more people becoming aware of the service and helping more people in our community.”
The temporary clinic, located at Victoria and Dundas Sts. in a building that already houses The Works needle-exchange program, has been open since Monday.
In a plain clinical room, up to three people at a time can inject pre-obtained drugs with clean needles. Staff — two trained nurses, two counselors and a manager — can keep an eye on up to nine drug users per hour and hope each will stay at least 15 minutes for rest and observation and signs of overdose.
The site is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
City staff did not deal with any overdoses this week at the temporary site, Shahin said. Nor was there need to administer Naloxone, an antidote for the powerful opioid fentanyl, a drug responsible for a growing number of overdose-related deaths.
Health Canada had previously approved three larger permanent safe injection sites for Toronto: one in the building where the temporary site is now located, as well as one in South Riverdale and one in Parkdale. They were expected to open this fall.
But after local harm reduction advocates, concerned about an increasing number of overdoses, many of which are apparently related to the highly toxic painkiller fentanyl, opened their own unsanctioned “pop up” safe injection site in a tent in Moss Park, the city pushed ahead with its temporary site.
That “pop up” site in Moss Park has been operating for two weeks, from 4 to 10 p.m. daily. About 20 to 25 people inject on site each day and an additional 20 people smoking crack or methamphetamine, Nick Boyce, a volunteer at the site, said on Saturday.
The Moss Park site has stopped or reversed 12 overdoses, and volunteers (80 in total, 25 of them medically trained) have closely monitored many more at risk people, according to Boyce. “These are all people who would have died, ended up in emergency costing thousands of dollars, or would have been prone to assault.”
Boyce said some of the same people come every day and there are no plans for the “pop up,” funded by donations from a Go FundMe page, to shut down now that the city site is up and running. In fact, Boyce said organizers of the Moss Park site are exploring implementing a program for people to check their drugs for fentanyl.
For some people, the downtown city-run site may be too far for them to travel, Boyce said. And for others, who are used to injecting in alleyways, they feel more comfortable in the tent in the park rather than the more sterile clinic-like environment, he added.
Toronto Police have so far allowed the unsanctioned site to operate. Last week, a department spokesperson, Mark Pugash, said police have met with the organizers and agreed on “a number of conditions which we think go a long ways towards minimizing risks to public safety.”
“We’ll continue to operate on a day-by-day basis, but we have no plans to change our position,” Pugash said.
Police in Ottawa are also monitoring an unsanctioned safe injection site that opened Friday.
As for the city-run site, which has had fewer visitors in its first week than the Moss Park “pop up,” Shahin said that because the site opened so quickly there wasn’t a lot of time or opportunity to promote the service.
“Over the coming weeks we will be conducting street outreach to notify more people of the service,” she said.
“We . . . remain optimistic that, with more time, more people in need will become aware of this vital health service and use it. The more people that use it, the more potential we have for people to avoid injecting alone and to potentially save lives.”
Shahin said staff have been debriefing at the end of each shift, sharing lessons learned among themselves and with colleagues in other Canadian cities and abroad.
Safe injection sites currently operate in Montreal and in B.C. cities of Vancouver, Surrey, Kelowna and Kamloops, with other cities including Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton planning or considering them.
With files from David Rider and Betsy Powell
With files from David Rider and Betsy Powell
DALLAS—A young girl’s repeated attempts to dial 911 went unanswered as her mother lay dying from stab wounds in a Texas hotel room. She didn’t know she had to dial 9 first to get an outside line.
Under a measure nearing final approval in Congress, businesses would be required to include direct-dial 911 on any new telephone system they install. That means there would be no need to dial an access code or additional digit to reach emergency assistance.
“Kari’s Law” was named after Kari Hunt Dunn, who was slain in 2013 when her estranged husband stormed into her hotel room and stabbed her multiple times while her children watched. The 9-year-old girl who tried four times to dial for help sat on her grandfather’s lap in the police station after the attack, and he promised to find a way to simplify nation’s the 911 system.
“A little girl did what she was taught to do, and adults prevented her from doing it,” said Hank Hunt, the girl’s grandfather and Kari Hunt Dunn’s father. “Adults should be the one to fix it. I wish I didn’t have to. I wish I had my daughter with me.”
The legislation Hunt has championed through Congress would amend the 1934 Communications Act to mandate both direct-dial 911 and software that automatically alerts first responders and on-site personnel. Both the House and Senate passed versions of the bill this year without opposition, but they both must approve an identical version before sending it to President Donald Trump.
“I know with my own children, we taught them to call 911, so I think a lot of people identified when they heard about this situation,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who introduced the House bill. “When it became clear that a law was not going to be an over ominous demand, then that’s what we put together.”
Most multi-line telephone systems, like the ones installed in hotels, offices and universities, can be made compliant with a programming or software upgrade that is reasonably priced, said Mark Fletcher, the chief public safety architect at the communications technology firm Avaya. Fletcher, who has helped Hunt push for the passage of Kari’s Law, said many systems already have settings that meet compliance standards that can be enabled for free.
Businesses will have two years to comply before being penalized with a fine, but many have already begun making voluntary changes.
More than 70 per cent of major hotel chains are in the process of requiring their franchises to have direct-dial capabilities to emergency services, which extends access to approximately 7,800 properties, according to a 2015 Federal Communications Commission report.
A year earlier, none of the chains required direct-dial access to 911. And only 25 per cent of multi-line telephone system vendors shipped products that allowed direct access to emergency services in the default settings.
“The industry wants to be responsible,” Gohmert said. “They did the reasonable thing of getting ahead of the law, but there’s always going to be some that don’t comply. The sooner this gets signed into law, the better.”
Legislators have passed state versions of Kari’s Law in Illinois, Maryland, Tennessee and Texas. But advocacy organizations such as the National Emergency Number Association say a national law is needed to standardize requirements and provide people with a common approach to accessing 911.
Until it becomes a federal mandate, Hunt said he will keep pushing for change at the state and local level. When the Texas legislation passed, his granddaughter stood beside Gov. Greg Abbott and received the pen he used to sign the bill into law. She wants to do the same in Washington.
“I made that promise to a 9-year-old, and I wasn’t giving up until it got signed,” Hunt said. “People kept telling me it would be 10 to 15 years down the road. I said, ‘We’ll see.’”
A reunion 72 years in the making took place last week at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum — and it’s all thanks to the Waterdown District High School Museum.
On Aug. 16 Tom van Roon and Ralph Berets met for the first time since 1945 — when van Roon’s parents Johannes and Caterina van Roon hid the then-four-year-old Berets and his sister Marion in their home in German-occupied Holland.
The van Roons, who had seven children of their own, hid the young Jewish siblings in their Amersfoort home for about three weeks. The house had a secret trap door in a second floor closet, with a ladder to reach the home’s rafters.
This spring, 17-year-old Waterdown student Matthew Lang needed a project for his Grade 11 history class, which runs the museum.
Lang had heard the story about his great-grandparents from his mother and set to work tracking down Berets in May. While they knew Ralph and his sister Marion’s first names, they had the wrong last name. After three weeks of searching, Lang got his grandfather involved and a call to his great-uncle put them on the right track.
Shortly after, Lang found himself calling Berets’s number. Berets, now 77, lives in Arlington, Va. and was an English professor at the University of Missouri — Kansas City before retiring in 2002. His sister Marion, 80, lives in the Netherlands.
The research led to last week, when van Roon was able to meet Berets in Washington, D.C.
Lang said when he started the project, he never expected to be able to set up a reunion.
“Everybody is really happy with the outcome and getting to meet him was even better,” he said, adding the reunion with Berets was documented by a local NBC affiliate at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. “I’m really happy for my opa to get this experience.
“I’m really happy it turned out the way it did, because it started as just a school project and became a lot more than that.”
Lang noted the final piece of the project is to get his great-grandparents recognized as Righteous Gentiles.
A program of the Israeli government, Righteous Gentiles is the phrase used for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Righteous Gentiles are honoured at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem.
Lang noted the process involves having four witnesses pledge that his grandparents did harbour the Beretses.
“We sent the paperwork in and we’re just waiting now,” he said, adding just recently the family learned the application is being reviewed.
Van Roon, 79, said it was great to be able to meet Berets.
The Blind River, Ont., resident said when he found Berets’s testimony online, it didn’t mention his family by name, but noted they hid on the second floor, above an ice cream parlour.
“That was my dad’s,” he said. “From then on the story just unfolded. It’s just amazing.”
Van Roon said it would be fantastic to have his parents recognized as Righteous Gentiles.
“I still have two brothers left out of the six siblings I had and I think they would be really happy for our parents if that happened,” he said.
“I’m really happy that I had the opportunity to meet Ralph and his wife,” he said. He added now that he knows Marion lives in the Netherlands he’ll try to visit the next time he’s in the country.
“It’s almost like an extended family now.”
Lang noted while his great-grandparents weren’t looking for recognition for their actions, it would be nice to have. In fact, one of his mother’s cousins even hired a private investigator to track Berets down, but they had the wrong name, so they came up empty.
“I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it,” he said of tracking down Berets. “I’m just a high school kid. But I didn’t give up on it.”
CORNWALL, ONT.—Their lives changed in an instant that July day when the government letter arrived telling them that her work permit was not being renewed.
For five years, Sheila Francois lived, worked and paid her taxes in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to help support her three teenage children. When she and husband, Frank, read that letter — no renewal and no explanation — they knew their life in the United States was over.
“If you have status and you see that immigration stops it, right away you think one thing — deportations,” says 44-year-old Frank Francois.
“The minute we saw that happen and as we are watching the news, we saw Canada taking people, we said, ‘we might as well take a chance’.”
The Francois family are among nearly 7,000 asylum seekers — most of them Haitian — who have flooded across the Quebec-New York state border since mid-July when the Trump administration announced it might end their “temporary protected status,” which was granted following Haiti’s massive 2010 earthquake. They are among the first few hundred the government has relocated to this eastern Ontario processing centre.
Few here have heard of Justin Trudeau and no one says they saw his now-controversial January Twitter message welcoming immigrants facing persecution. The tweet was heavily criticized by the Conservative opposition for sparking the American exodus.
But many here say they uprooted their new American lives because of something more primal: they were driven by fear of the anti-immigration politics of President Donald Trump.
“I decided to come to Canada because the politics of migration in the United States changed,” says Haitian-born Justin Remy Napoleon, 39. “I was scared. I came here to continue my life.”
Like Frank Francois, Napoleon says he feared deportation over Trump’s policy shift, so he left his adopted home in San Diego, flew to the eastern seaboard and boarded a bus for the northern border. It wasn’t the first time he decided to start over in another country. He left Haiti in 2006 for the Dominican Republic and then went to Brazil.
Napoleon says he dreamed of coming to Canada from as far back as his time in Haiti. When he crossed the border earlier this month, “I thought I was entering a paradise.”
Jean-Pierre Kidmage, 43, took a three-day bus ride from Miami to New York before taking a taxi across the border. He says he doesn’t know much about Canada but he’s heard good things. He hit the road because he was worried the Trump administration would deport him.
He’s been here less than two weeks, but he wants to stay. “I sleep well here. Better here than in the U.S.”
Lingering unease is palpable outside Cornwall’s Nav Centre, where they are being temporarily housed. Young men and women, some with children, pace the grounds, their eyes trained on mobile phones. More than a dozen adults politely decline interviews.
Some await taxis to take them into town to shop. A few roll suitcases towards a handful of cars and minivans bearing Quebec licence plates that periodically arrive during the day. The new arrivals here are free to go once they have registered their claims, and officials say most are headed to Montreal.
Now, more than a month and 2,550 kilometres after leaving his most recent home, Frank Francois sits on a bench in warm sunshine. He won’t be photographed, but he’s happy to discuss what has been a life of epic migration. It has been a life of running — from his native Haiti in 1997 to the Bahamas and from America to Canada.
He grew up on a farm in Port-de-Paix, the oldest of three brothers and four sisters. He yearned to become a doctor after high school, but there was no way his family could afford the $13,000 in tuition, so he got a visa to the Bahamas.
Soon, he began working construction jobs, sending some of his earnings home.
“Once you make money to pay your bills, you can help the people that you left behind in Haiti.”
He built his own family in the Bahamas. That’s where his three teenagers were born. His family spent a decade and a half there until more bad news arrived in the mail: the government informed him of a new law that called for the immediate expulsion of anyone who had been in the country as a visitor for more than 10 years.
“Hard! Everywhere,” he laughs.
His family re-established itself in Fort Lauderdale, near Miami, where Sheila had relatives. She went first with the three children, got visas, her work permit and set the kids up in school. Her husband got a visa and joined them in 2012.
He stayed after it expired and periodically found under-the-table work in construction, but it wasn’t easy. “It’s hard when you don’t have a legal status, to survive and work for your families.”
The children went to school, made friends and the family got on with life in a rented apartment. Now, aged 13, 14 and 15, the Francois children have become extremely aware of the changing political climate in the U.S.
“Every day, they say, ‘Daddy, every time we watch the news we don’t see any policy that the president (has) that’s in our favour.’ They were afraid to face deportations.”
Then, when their mother’s rejection letter came, the kids weighed in again.
“My children said, ‘Daddy, we were born in the Bahamas’ — this is their words — ‘we think Canada can help us.’
“They said, ‘Daddy, let’s go to Canada — find our way out’.”
Now, his family’s fate rests on receiving one more piece of official government correspondence: a notice that they qualify to have their asylum claim heard. That would start a process that will allow his children to go to school and for him to get a work permit.
“All I want Canadians to know about me is I am a working man,” he says.
“I’m looking for work and I’m looking for better education for my children. I want my children to be educated so they can help themselves. You understand?”