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- 08/29/17--11:12: _Fines for catcallin...
- 08/29/17--10:34: _Comedy Bar cancels ...
- 08/29/17--11:55: _Air Canada Centre t...
- 08/29/17--11:59: _Harvey now threaten...
- 08/29/17--14:10: _How did an 83-year-...
- 08/29/17--15:00: _Twitter account @TT...
- 08/29/17--15:27: _NDPers tying themse...
- 08/29/17--14:57: _The long Liberal ro...
- 08/29/17--19:14: _Pentagon chief Matt...
- 08/29/17--15:33: _$134-million claim ...
- 08/29/17--15:06: _Inside the quiet, ‘...
- 08/29/17--15:59: _Air Canada Centre n...
- 08/29/17--17:14: _‘Concerns raised’ a...
- 08/29/17--16:15: _Margaret Atwood def...
- 08/29/17--10:46: _Harvey breaks the r...
- 08/29/17--20:04: _Two Canadians among...
- 08/30/17--05:43: _Woman and child kil...
- 08/30/17--05:54: _Distracted driving ...
- 08/30/17--03:00: _SIU director tells ...
- 08/30/17--05:00: _Study shows ‘disast...
- 08/29/17--10:34: Comedy Bar cancels ‘No Fascist’ show after locks smashed
- 08/29/17--11:55: Air Canada Centre to be renamed Scotiabank Arena
- 08/29/17--15:00: Twitter account @TTChelps uses humour to defuse tense situations
- 08/29/17--15:27: NDPers tying themselves in knots to defend the niqab: DiManno
- 08/29/17--14:57: The long Liberal road to Indigenous reconciliation: Tim Harper
- 08/29/17--19:14: Pentagon chief Mattis freeze Trump’s ban on transgender troops
- 08/29/17--15:06: Inside the quiet, ‘overcrowded’ neonatal unit at SickKids
- 08/29/17--15:59: Air Canada Centre name change greeted with a shrug: Keenan
- 08/30/17--05:43: Woman and child killed in crash on Highway 401
- 08/30/17--05:00: Study shows ‘disastrous’ damage in brains of retired CFL players
Catcalling, or street harassment, as it’s officially known these days, doesn’t usually find its way onto many lists of “Planet Earth’s most Pressing Problems.”
This is probably why whenever a feminist complains in the press about some guy yelling obscenities at her on a city street, she is met with an army of eye rolls that seem to say: “Aren’t there more important causes you girls can focus your efforts on?”
To which this feminist would like to respond: No, not really. After all, what’s more important than a person’s right to a pleasant stroll down the street? Equal pay for equal work doesn’t count for much if you can’t walk to your job unmolested by leering creeps.
American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson is often credited with writing the popular inspirational quote sewn onto many a throw pillow: “Life’s a Journey, not a Destination.” But it’s obvious that Emerson, a man, was never a victim of cat calling.
Because when you’re a woman — i.e. when your walk to work, school or the corner store is, at some point in your life, invariably interrupted by a guy hollering “Suck it beautiful!” out of a car window, it’s the destination, not the journey that you celebrate.
All this is to say I wholeheartedly support French politician Marlene Schiappa’s new campaign to target street harassers and cat callers in France.
Schiappa, France’s official Secretary of State in charge of Equality between Women and Men, and the youngest member of President Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet (she’s 34 years old), would like to see French authorities apprehend street harassers on the spot and issue them a steep fine. In other words, she’d like to see street harassers and cat callers — overwhelmingly men who shout at, grope, and follow women on the street — publicly shamed in a similar fashion to shoplifters and people who refuse to pick up after their dogs.
Schiappa doesn’t appear to have worked out the details of a policy targeting street harassment (for example, how it will be written so as not to infringe on free speech rights), but the general idea behind it is a promising one: shift the shame and embarrassment women feel when they are cat called back onto the guys doing the cat calling.
Not only would such a policy give street harassers a dose of their own medicine, but the threat of a stiff monetary penalty might dissuade them from harassing people, even if such a penalty was rarely doled out.
With any luck, it would also help dispel the myth that street harassment is no big deal and that women need to toughen up. This is a myth I once believed myself, because I was a) insensitive and b) extremely lucky.
Most of the crude dudes I’ve stood up to in my life were pretty easy competition: teenage boys who became immediately bashful and remorseful when confronted about their inappropriate behaviour and idiots shouting from cars who disappeared in an instant (my profanity laced retorts a distant echo in their ears).
But I’ve since come to realize that not all cat callers fit neatly into the category of all bark and no bite. Some get angry when rejected. Others follow you. Some, practically foaming at the mouth, call you a f---ing dyke after you refuse to give them your phone number outside a Pita Pit at one o’clock in the morning (true story).
Others follow you, egged on by a group of their rowdy peers. This latter scenario is one all too familiar to Marlene Schiappa herself. The politician told NPR recently that as a teen in Paris, she and her sister “took alternative routes” to avoid “bands of boys” prone to cat calling and groping women on the street.
In the end, the French leader’s proposal to crack down on street harassment in her nation may amount to nothing more than a series of debates and columns like this one. And no doubt backlash from conservatives who demand to know why a feminist in a first-world country is complaining about men making lewd remarks in a jewel of a democracy like Paris when she could be fighting to end the far worse subjugation of women in the far East (that a feminist is capable of doing both of these things at the same time, conveniently never seems to cross their minds).
But Schiappa’s proposal will be successful even if it changes no laws, because it will redefine street harassment in the public conversation, from an inalterable fact of urban life to a problem that can and should be corrected.
After arriving to find his venue’s locks had been smashed, the owner of Comedy Bar opted to pull the plug on a late-night “No Fascist” show last weekend.
Gary Rideout Jr., the Bloorcourt venue’s co-owner and artistic director, says he took action to protect the safety of his staff and patrons in the event that the show became an unsafe space used for fighting between opposing political groups.
Initially booked for Saturday night, the “No Fascist T.O. Comedy Show” was organized by local comic Danny Polishchuk — writer and actor in Filth City— and had plans to give the proceeds it raised to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The event was also promoted as a “free speech comedy show.”
On the day the event was supposed to happen, Rideout Jr. was made aware of a Facebook post which referred to this standup comedy show as “crypto-fascist,” and said his box-office line had received several callers voicing concerns that people involved in the show may have ties to extreme political groups.
When he arrived at the club around 4 p.m., Rideout Jr. found the venue’s locks had been jammed. He said he did not report the broken locks to the police because his top priority was reopening in time for his early evening shows. He also said he didn’t think there was any way to prove who was responsible for the damage, which cost him more than $400 to fix.
After assessing the physical damage done to the venue and the calls received, Rideout Jr. cancelled Polishchuk’s show.
“Whether they were coming or not or whatever, it was not worth the risk. My bartenders are five-foot-tall, 100-pound women, you know what I mean?” he said. “They don’t need theoretically, possibly a white supremacist group showing up, or an anti-fascist group showing up to fight the white supremacist group . . . it’s just a comedy show.”
Polishchuk’s promotional art at the top of his event page seems to borrow substantially from that of the “No Fascist T.O. Diversity Rally” which successfully pushed for the closure of “The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses” event at Ryerson University a few weeks ago, calling it “bigoted.” Faith Goldy, then of The Rebel, and controversial U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson were supposed to speak at the event, which the school ultimately shut down citing safety concerns. (The event has been moved to Canada Christian College and rescheduled for Nov. 11.)
“Free speech is obviously the most important thing in terms of being a comedian,” said Polishchuk, who thinks that the event should have been allowed to continue. “The moment you’re not allowed to say things and people threaten you, it flies in the face of everything that comedy is about.”
While he used borrowed branding, the comic maintains there was nothing unusual about the event he wanted to host on Saturday. “There were 20 comedy shows in Toronto on Saturday night, all the same, except one of them was called the pro-free speech show and that’s the one that go cancelled because of threats of violence and actual violence,” he said.
His event’s description includes a disclaimer that “If you're an ACTUAL NAZI or WHITE SUPREMACIST or anything of this sort you ARE NOT WELCOME.”
“The thing now is obviously I’m against Nazis in every form,” said Polishchuk, who is Jewish, “but if you don’t actually disavow them, maybe sometimes they think this is an event for them. I just didn’t want there to be any, like, confusion about what this was.”
Polishchuk says he understands why Rideout Jr. made the call he did and thinks the way the venue handled the situation was “great.” He wants to reschedule the show for Nov. 11, but is still looking for a venue. He hopes to raise some money to help cover the cost of Rideout Jr.’s damaged locks.
With files from Jaren Kerr
With files from Jaren Kerr
The Air Canada Centre — home of the Maple Leafs and the Raptors is getting a new name.
MLSE announced Tuesday that their Bay St. arena will be named the Scotiabank Arena under a rights agreement finalized this week. The name change takes effect in July 2018, and ends a naming rights deal with Air Canada that had lasted since the building opened in 1999.
Reports say the bank will pay a total of $800 million over the course of the 20-year deal.
MORE TO COME
LAKE CHARLES, LA.—Twelve years to the day after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, another deadly storm forced the rescue of hundreds of people from floodwaters in southwestern Louisiana and prompted New Orleans to shut down its schools and other key institutions as a precaution.
Tropical Storm Harvey flooded neighbourhoods overnight with chest-deep water in the Lake Charles area, near the Texas line, although water abated in some places Tuesday as rain slackened.
In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged residents to stay home Tuesday due to the threat of potential flooding. Many appeared to be heeding his call.
Meanwhile, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Louisiana is offering to shelter storm victims from Texas.
“We have offered to stand up shelters specifically for individuals who would be transported out of Texas, so that they could be housed in shelters in Louisiana, particularly in north Louisiana, in the Shreveport area,” he said at a news conference in Baton Rouge. Edwards said he expects Texas officials to decide within 48 hours whether to accept the offer.
Later, in Lake Charles, Edwards urged people to remain alert but said the state is responding well to less severe conditions in its own borders.
“You never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at us, but with the people in this room, I’m confident we can handle it,” he told local and state officials.
Some New Orleans neighbourhoods flooded earlier this month during a deluge that exposed problems with the city’s pump and drainage system. On Tuesday, rains flooded a few of the city’s streets.
The city’s public schools were closed, along with six universities and a medical school. A ceremony and march in New Orleans to commemorate the deadly 2005 storm was postponed until Sunday.
For many others, it was largely business as usual.
“I can’t afford not to open,” said Jerry Roppolo, 65, owner of a popular coffee house where water often creeps over the sidewalk and up to the threshold during heavy rains.
The shop in the Carrollton neighbourhood is usually bustling but was slow Tuesday. Roppolo attributed that to the school closures. “A lot of the parents come in on the way to school, on the way from school,” he said.
About 500 people were evacuated in southwest Louisiana’s most populous parish overnight, as a heavy band of rain pushed waterways out of their banks, Calcasieu Parish spokesman Tom Hoefer said. He said as many as 5,000 parish residents are affected by the flooding, but not all of those people have flooded homes. Some are just cut off by flooded roads.
A lull in the heavy rains allowed water to recede Tuesday morning, enabling some who fled their homes to return, survey damage and remove possessions.
“I wanted to get my mother’s Bible out of the house and there were some things we needed — our medicine, we’re both on medications,” said David Wells, 65. “I got a feeling it’s going to get worse before it gets any better.”
Evacuations continued Tuesday in some rural areas outside Lake Charles, with authorities working to empty a flood-prone subdivision near the town of Iowa. Officials in Acadia Parish advised residents near the Mermentau River and Bayou Nezpique to leave.
As of Tuesday, authorities had confirmed three storm-related deaths in Texas. No Harvey-related deaths were immediately reported in Louisiana, according to a spokesman for Edwards.
The high water in Calcasieu Parish surprised residents of some neighbourhoods not known for flooding. The Kayouche Coulee spilled over when heavy rain hit the area after sunset, and people began calling for rescue.
Residents rode out of neighbourhoods in National Guard trucks, wildlife agents’ boats, jacked-up pickups and clinging to the cab of a semi-truck. They carried belongings in suitcases, trash bags or even soggy cardboard boxes.
“We all got stuck back there,” said Andrea Boutte, who rode out on the big rig. “Those boats took forever.”
National Weather Service meteorologists said Tuesday that officials expect Harvey will make another landfall in Cameron Parish early Wednesday, after hitting Texas and meandering back into the Gulf of Mexico.
As much as 15 to 30 centimetres of rain could fall in western Louisiana.
“We are starting to get down to the end of the tunnel of all this rain,” National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Erickson said.
Harvey is projected to bring gusts up to 50 mph (80 kph) in coastal areas and gusts of up to 65 km/h in Lake Charles and along the Interstate 10 corridor.
Erickson warned that some coastal rivers won’t be able to drain rains effectively because Harvey’s winds are pushing storm surge into coastal waters, aggravating flooding of areas that have already received more than 51 centimetres of rain.
Images of flood devastation in Houston revived painful memories for survivors of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005.
“It really evoked a lot of emotions and heartbreak for the people who are going through that now in Houston,” Ray Gratia said Monday as he collected sandbags for his New Orleans home, which flooded from the massive hurricane that left much of the city underwater for weeks.
His family still doesn’t know what happened. Weeks after Domingos Martins was found, his loved ones are trying to put the pieces together.
How did an 83-year-old Toronto man with dementia manage to survive for five days without food and his blood pressure medication?
His family calls it a miracle he was found alive after he went missing July 28.
He was discovered outside a factory between a highway mesh fence and wood-retaining wall near Weston Rd. and the Highway 401 on-ramp — a walking distance from his daughter’s home, where Martins lives.
Jack Da Silva said his father-in-law was shirtless when police found him. Police suspect that Martins lost his shirt when he was trying to crawl in a small hole on the wall. Da Silva said police told him Martins sustained wounds after he got inside the wall and lost his balance due to the sloping surface of the pavement.
“Maggots were already starting to eat him,” Da Silva said in an interview. “He couldn’t move. He was in a fetal position (when they found him). It’s nothing short of a miracle. Somebody was watching out for him.”
Da Silva said the family has been trying to figure out what happened in the days that his father-in-law was missing.
“He hasn’t said anything about that,” Da Silva said. “My wife asked him if he drank rain water when it rained. He said yes. But, we don’t know. Slowly, we are pushing him to tell the truth.”
Martins spent a week in the intensive care unit where his condition was monitored 24/7, Da Silva said. Martins has been recovering slowly, and his health has improved — his doctors have cleared him of complications, his blood pressure has stabilized and he has started to walk.
With no food, medication or water to sustain him and the threat of changing weather conditions, Martins was fortunate to be found alive, said Dr. Sharon Cohen, medical director of the Toronto Memory Program.
“They are without food, without medication,” Cohen said. “They’re at risk of exposure to the elements and a lot of times in the winter we’ve had people succumb to freezing cold weather.
“In Toronto, it happens every year. People die, or they’re found in a snow bank. They’ve wandered off and can’t find their way home, and they’re often not very far from home.”
Cohen said cases like Martins are common, and can be fatal. She said patients slip away so quickly, not because they’re trying to escape but because they’ve become confused.
The risk is not adequately understood, even by family members, Cohen said.
“It’s a wake-up call, luckily (Martins) returned very safely, probably very dehydrated, and depending on what medications he needed for various health problems, he’s at risk to suffering worsening health conditions,” Cohen said.
The incident is preventable, Cohen said. While it’s hard to manage someone who has spotty memory, she said there are ways to prevent this kind of situation such as having them carry photo ID all the time or having door alarms installed.
Da Silva said his father-in-law has since returned home where the family is keeping a close eye on Martins, who goes by the name Branco. Nobody should go through what his family experienced during his disappearance — the sleepless nights, the guilt and the desperation they felt every day when no news came about his whereabouts, Da Silva said.
“The family would like to thank all the family, friends, neighbours, volunteers, police and the staff at Humber River hospital for their support,” he said.
Martins’ family is hosting a charity event with Toronto police about the importance of having GPS bracelets on people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. He said the money raised at the event will go towards getting GPS trackers to those families.
“It is something that can be preventable,” Da Silva said. “We want to raise awareness. I think it is time that we look at this seriously because we all have parents.”
The event is scheduled for Oct. 14 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at their family restaurant, Martins Churrasqueira & Grill House, near Keele St. and Rogers Rd.
Outraged by the latest delay on your TTC commute? Tweeted at the TTC to share your anger? Then you’ve probably come across Ron Sly.
Sly, 32, is one of six TTC customer service representatives who run the transit agency’s Twitter account @TTChelps for commuters who have questions about the service, complaints or compliments for employees who went above and beyond the call of duty. The account is active seven days a week, starting at 7 a.m.
Sly has been on the job for two months, and despite the frustration he sometimes faces from passengers, he says he loves interacting with people all day.
“Everyone gets a response basically, we work at it until we can solve it,” Sly said. “We’re a big massive corporation that you’re sending your issue into, but everyone is treating your issue as the most important one of the day when they’re working on it.”
His Twitter signature is RA with a little rocket emoji beside it, and his everyday interactions with customers range from helping people find the right bus stop to apologizing to angry passengers when there’s a delay.
The TTC has a customer service department with a staff of about 20 people, who, apart from running the Twitter account, answer the phones, write emails and letters, and speak to people in person.
According to Sue Motahedin, the head of the customer service team, the TTC gets an average of 150 complaints per day.
It depends on the week and transit conditions, but the most common complaints are usually service delays, streetcar issues, employee discourtesy, service and route changes and vehicle operation complaints. Once in a while, compliments make the top category, Motahedin said.
When unexpected service interruptions happen — like on Aug. 10 when signal issues on Line 1 caused delays of at least 40 minutes for morning subway users that prompted even the mayor to apologize — the TTC can get more than 500 complaints in a day.
Sly and the rest of the customer service team are on the front lines, trying to answer all of them.
“When an issue arises that is a surprise to us, instead of 100 in a day you respond to 500 in a day, and they’re all really angry,” Sly said. “Unfortunately there’s not much we can do but make sure that they’re heard.”
Sly said reading hundreds of angry tweets can get overwhelming, especially on rough days. But in those situations, he always reminds himself that tomorrow is a new day.
“The vast majority of TTC trips are completed without a problem so we just take some solace in that and start again the next day,” he said.
Sly recalled one interaction he had with a man who tweeted a gif of Zach Galifianakis flipping the bird during a rough morning on the TTC. Sly responded with a gif of Taylor Swift saying ‘sorry,’ and the passenger responded with a gif of Steve Harvey smiling.
“It was short interaction, the TTC kind of ruined his morning, but with a little bit of humor and light-heartedness we can hopefully turn it back around and make it a positive experience,” Sly said. “It’s an interesting challenge on Twitter because you have less than 140 characters to judge what their tone is and how they’ll respond, you don’t want to send a light and fun message to someone who is very upset.”
Robyn Crosby, a 38-year-old Fort York-area resident, tweets at the TTC about once a month, and said her communication with them has always been positive.
“They’re always polite, they said ‘it happened to me yesterday,’ and that made me feel like they could relate to my issue,” Crosby said about an interaction she had with the Twitter account last week.
Both Sly and Motahedin said they want people to know there are real people running the account, who answer the tweets and care about customer experience.
“We are people behind the computer screen who are doing our very best to help,” Motahedin said. “We totally understand when people are frustrated, we’re all TTC riders ourselves.”
Jagmeet Singh wears a turban as mandated under the code of conduct for Sikh males.
It is an article of faith, sacred, steeped in tradition and martial history, essentially intended to protect hair that must be kept in a natural, unaltered state: Uncut.
(It should be noted that in India, home to 22 million Sikhs, roughly half the male population do not wear a turban.)
A far cry from the face-concealing veil for Muslim women, the niqab — in Arabic, naqaba: Meaning to pierce, bore a hole or perforate.
As in the netting panel that at least allows women to at least see, if not their own feet.
There is no Muslim religious commandment compelling adult females to cover their faces, though it’s the law of the land in ultra patriarchal regimes such as Saudi Arabia.
Intriguing then — and distressing to many of us — that Singh, the apparent front-runner for leadership of the federal NDP, has wrapped the vile niqab in a chimera of Charter rights and freedoms and Quebec human rights law.
Last week, prior to the only French debate of the NDP leadership race, Singh told the Star he is unequivocally opposed to Quebec’s Bill 62, tabled two years ago, which would require anybody offering or receiving public services to do so with faces uncovered. The bill is admittedly confusing in proposed amendments, one of which might extend the face covering ban to public transit.
Quebec is formally a distinct province where, given its past subordination to the Catholic Church, secularism is now vigorously embraced. The national assembly has the authority — unless the Supreme Court of Canada would dare to say differently — to pass laws enshrining secularism.
Normally, hardcore NDPers talking to other hardcore NDPers would hold minimal interest for me. But the religious accommodation genie has come out of the bottle again — it never really went back in, even after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pulled the plug on a four-year legal fight by the previous Conservative government to force removal of the niqab when taking the citizenship oath, withdrawing a Stephen Harper request to the Supreme Court to hear an appeal on an issue lost in Federal Court.
Equally dismaying are those Canadian women — including NDP leadership contender Niki Ashton — who either waffle over the niqab as a woman’s dress choice which should not be dictated by any government, or outright defend its virtues as a feminist protective against sexual objectification.
This is absurdist, revisionist twaddle.
How very disheartening that even highly intelligent people, when women’s rights clash with multicultural rights — religious accommodation — would cleave to the latter, which makes them precious little different from burka enslavers in Afghanistan.
I’ve said it before and will repeat it again: Any woman who wears a niqab, purportedly because she chooses to do so and isn’t doing a man’s bidding, contributes to the erosion of all women’s rights in a secular society. A woman who opts not to show her face in public perpetuates the hideous concept that the rest of us are less virtuous, that our faces are so intimate a feature they should be hidden. She renders us lesser beings and thus unequal.
There is enough ghettoization around. These women want to ghettoize their faces.
Any society which buys into this fallacy is inheritently anti-woman, paternalistic and inside-out reactionary. As Trudeau famously said about his gender parity cabinet two years ago: “Because it’s 2015!”
Canada did not invent civil rights nor perfect them, though we’ve arguably aggrandized multiculturalism beyond any reasonable doctrine. Trudeau prattles endlessly about “Canadian values” but goes berserk at the suggestion that those values might actually be even marginally codified.
Perhaps we should pay heed to what other countries, with much longer histories of democracy, have decided on the niqab.
Belgium, hardly a retrogressive nation, has banned it as incompatible “with social communication and more generally the establishment of human relations, which are indispensable for life in society.”
That was the argument put before the European Court of Human Rights which last month unanimously ruled a niqab ban does not violate human rights.
The European court, if anything, is often criticized for its over-weaning vigilance on human rights. The panel that heard this case included judges from Iceland, Estonia, Turkey, Montenegro, Monaco and Moldova. It is not a European Union institution; rather part of the Council of Europe, a 47-member state international organization founded in 1949 with the aim of upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
They concluded the Belgium ban did not break any international rules forbidding discrimination.
The decision noted the ban was “necessary in a democratic society” trying to protect “the rights and freedoms of others” and seeking to guarantee the conditions of “living together.”
Belgium, as a state, had argued that it considered a full-face veil incompatible “with social communication and more generally the establishment of human relations, which were indispensable for life in society.”
Whether a full-face veil is acceptable to the Belgian public, the court concluded, is a matter for state authorities to decide and not an international court. The woman who brought the case can appeal the decision to the Grand Chamber of the Court.
The European court decision follows a rejection of a similar challenge against the veil ban in France. Two years ago, the court upheld the French ban in a country that is home to an estimated 5 million Muslims, but where only about 1,900 (according to 2009 research) women were affected by the proscription, a figure which has reportedly dropped by half “thanks to a major public information campaign,” French officials told the judges.
Lawyers for the complainant insisting outlawing the full-face veil was contrary to six articles of the European convention; that forcing its removal was “inhumane and degrading, against the right of respect for family and private life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of speech and discriminatory.”
The European Court of Human Rights has also upheld France’s ban on head scarves in education establishments and a regulation requiring removal of scarves, veils and turbans for security checks.
It’s ironic that some of the same people who passionately insist there should never be any curtailment of religious rights in the public realm simultaneously justify limiting free speech that is hateful.
The niqab is hateful.
Blinded by fervency, the NDP — and to a considerable extent the Liberals — have turned themselves into doctrinal pretzels.
Outgoing NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s defence of the niqab during the last federal election contributed to the party’s plunging fortunes at the polls. He told the CBC Radio earlier this year his niqab stance “hurt us terribly . . . the polling that we did showed we dropped over 20 points in 48 hours here in Quebec because of the strong stand I took on the niqab.”
The party lost most of the Quebec seats it had gained during the “Orange Wave” 2011 election under Jack Layton.
Canadians have made it clear over and over in public polling that face veils are an affront to our values: 82 per cent of respondents in favour of removing the niqab during citizenships oaths, according to a 2015 Privy Council Office poll, but one from among many such pulse-takings with the same general results.
That does not make an overwhelming majority of Canadians bigoted or intolerant or Islamophobic. It makes the NDP tent and the Liberal tent on this particular issue much too small and insufferable.
Jagmeet Singh doesn’t care much for majority opinion. He told the Star last week: “Human rights shouldn’t be a matter of popularity. (Rights are) not supposed to be subject to the whims of the majority.”
The sentiment is not wrong. But its application in this niche controversy is.
But one reason why the NDP will never form a majority Canadian government.
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
It was June 2015, and Justin Trudeau, then leader of the third party and struggling in the polls, made what was seen by many at the time as a rather impulsive promise.
He quickly pledged to implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that had been released that day by Justice Murray Sinclair.
Monday, more than 26 months after his pledge of reconciliation, a United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination reported it was “alarmed” that the Trudeau government continues to ignore multiple decisions by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to close the gap in funding for child and family services of Indigenous children.
That’s quite a gap between expectations and delivery.
Also Monday, Trudeau arrived at Rideau Hall and announced he would dissolve the “creaky old structures” of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs department, announced plans to kill the Indian Act and put one of his most trusted ministers into one of two new Indigenous portfolios.
Are we about to witness yet another gap between expectations and delivery?
There could be no loftier goal than Indigenous reconciliation and Trudeau’s government deserves credit for making it a priority.
But there can be no tougher task for a government than trying to undo history, toss off the yoke of colonialism, address grievances and mistrust and deliver much-needed services quickly while dealing with an entrenched bureaucracy.
All are needed to effect real change.
When expectations collide with reality things can actually get worse.
Trudeau either made history Monday or made an admission that, mid-mandate, true reconciliation and timely delivery of services remain as elusive as ever.
The prime minister, of course, would never say the latter, but he did concede it would come as no surprise “that there are real challenges in terms of changing a relationship and improving a relationship and services that have foundered for decades, if not centuries.”
Hayden King, an Anishinaabe educator in the faculty of arts at Ryerson University, told me there is a concern that this move is just another Liberal symbol that will be “wrapping us up in process.”
Promises have been heard and discarded for decades. Under this government, the promises are yardsticks that allow Indigenous leaders to push for accountability.
“I never invest in any hope in a Canadian government,” King says, “because there is a mountain of empirical evidence that governments since 1867 have been acting to extinguish Indigenous rights and communities.”
Then there is Cindy Blackstock and her relentless fight to provide fairness for Indigenous children.
She took the government to the human rights tribunal and won in February 2016. The tribunal ruled that Ottawa discriminated against Indigenous children by underfunding child welfare services and not providing the same level of health care on reserves as the rest of the country.
In response, the Trudeau Liberals have spent more than $700,000 fighting the original order and three subsequent non-compliance orders, according to numbers obtained by NDP leadership candidate Charlie Angus.
In June, the government took the tribunal to Federal Court over a ruling that linked inadequate health care to two suicides of 12-year-old girls in Wapekeka First Nation.
“I look at this from a kid’s perspective,” Blackstock said. “Instead of helping me, Justin Trudeau is actually violating the law to thwart me. What kind of message is that sending to kids?”
The ministers involved in that challenge are Carolyn Bennett and Jane Philpott, the two ministers appointed to the Indigenous files by Trudeau Monday.
Their real task will be turning around a bureaucracy that sees itself as protectorate of the Canadian population, which puts it on a collision course with Indigenous needs and aspirations.
It narrowly interprets court or tribunal rulings, it strangles political intentions with its own form of inertia, it is steeped in paternalism and it guards information, as Blackstock says, as if child welfare was a national security issue.
The good news is that Philpott, as the minister of Indigenous services, said her first priority would be child and family services and health care.
The better news is that this is a woman who is not only compassionate, but highly competent and clearly tough enough to deal with a bureaucracy if her hardball negotiating tactics with the provinces on health care funding are any gauge.
The best news is that Philpott is not a woman who will want to preside over more symbolic actions. A woman of substance will want to deliver substance.
Tim Harper writes on national affairs. He can be reached at email@example.com or Twitter: @nutgraf1
Tim Harper writes on national affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @nutgraf1
WASHINGTON—U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis announced Tuesday that he is freezing President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, saying that he will first establish a panel of experts to provide advice and recommendations on how to carry out Trump’s direction.
The Pentagon confirmed the move in a statement attributed to Mattis, saying that the Pentagon will develop a study and implementation plan “as directed.” Soon-to-be arriving political appointees at the Defence Department “will play an important role in this effort.” The plan will address both the potential for transgender people looking to serve in the military for the first time, and transgender troops who already are serving.
“Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield,” Mattis said. “To that end, I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction.”
Mattis added that panel members “will bring mature experience, most notably in combat and deployed operations, and seasoned judgment to this task.” The panel will “assemble and thoroughly analyze all pertinent data, quantifiable and non-quantifiable.”
The Pentagon chief said that once the panel makes its recommendations and he consults with the secretary of homeland security, he will provide his advice to Trump. In the meantime, current policy regarding transgender service members will remain in place, Mattis said, meaning that those already serving can continue to do so.
The issue has been especially sensitive since Trump announced on Twitter on July 26 that “after consultation with my Generals and military experts,” he would not allow transgender to serve in the the U.S. military “in any capacity.” White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders clarified later that day that no change would be made until an implementation policy was developed.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, added the following day that transgender service members already serving will be treated with dignity and respect as the Pentagon sorts out its new policy, but that it would carry out Trump’s direction.
Mattis had left the door open to some transgender service members continuing to serve, referring Aug. 14 in remarks to Pentagon reporters to Dunford’s statement when asked whether any transgender people would be forced out of the military.
“The chairman immediately went out and said immediately, ‘Everyone stand fast until we get the direction,’ ” Mattis said. “I understand that this is probably more about your suspicion about what could be coming, but the fact is, we have received no direction that would indicate any harm to anybody right now.”
The Obama administration repealed its ban on transgender service member serving in July 2016. A Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Pentagon found that there were between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender people among the 1.3 million on active duty, but Mattis has questioned whether the study is accurate.
A multimillion-dollar claim seeking damages against Omar Khadr for the death of a U.S. special forces soldier should be dismissed because it relies on false information and a conviction before Guantanamo’s controversial military courts, documents filed Tuesday state.
Nathan Whitling, Khadr’s lawyer, wrote in the statement of defence to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that the Utah claim for $134.1 million (U.S.) “would never have existed but for the unlawful detention, abuse, torture, and other mistreatment of (Khadr) in Bagram and GTMO.”
Khadr, now 30, was shot and captured in Afghanistan by U.S. forces on July 27, 2002, at the age of 15. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer was fatally wounded during the firefight AND Sgt. Layne Morris was hit by shrapnel and lost sight in one eye. Khadr, grievously wounded and also blinded in one eye, was transferred to the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan, where he received life-saving medical treatment and was interrogated for nearly three months before his transfer to Guantanamo, also known by the acronym GTMO.
Morris and Speer’s widow, Tabitha, brought a wrongful-death suit against Khadr, winning by default in 2015. (Khadr was detained at the time in Canada.) They are appealing to the Canadian courts to enforce the ruling.
But Whitling wrote that part of their claim, stating that Khadr was the only person alive in the compound in Afghanistan when Speer was hit by a grenade, is false.
“The evidence before the military commission confirmed that there was a combatant alive in the compound and firing his weapon at the U.S. combatants entering the compound, which individual was . . . in the same area from which the grenade had been thrown.”
Khadr accepted a Pentagon plea deal in Guantanamo in 2010 for an eight-year-sentence and a chance to be repatriated to Canada in exchange for admitting that he threw the grenade. He said upon his return that he considered the plea deal the only way he would ever leave Guantanamo — and that he is unsure about his memories of the firefight. His lawyers have argued based on where he was in the compound, it would have been impossible for him to have thrown the grenade that hit Speer.
Whitling, in his statement of defence against the Utah suit, further argues that Canada cannot enforce a judgment based on a conviction under the military commissions at Guantanamo.
“The supposed U.S. common law of war relied upon by the U.S. prosecutors did not exist at the time of the alleged conduct (by Khadr), does not exist today, and is unknown to the international community of nations,” he wrote.
Khadr received an apology, and along with his lawyers was given a $10.5-million settlement from Ottawa for his mistreatment by Canadian officials while held as a minor in Guantanamo.
Canada’s Supreme Court has harshly condemned the federal government for its mistreatment of Khadr — under both past Liberal and Conservative governments.
Khadr lives now in Edmonton, was recently married and plans to attend courses this fall to become a nurse.
On Thursday, Whitling will ask an Edmonton judge to relax Khadr’s bail conditions to allow him to visit his sister, Zaynab, without supervision, when she visits Canada.
Khadr can only have contact with Zaynab if his lawyers or bail supervisor is present and he argued in an affidavit before the court that this restriction is no longer required. “I am now an adult and I think independently,” he writes in the affidavit. “Even if the members of my family were to wish to influence my religious or other views, they would not be able to control or influence me in any negative manner.”
He is also requesting fewer restrictions on his movement and access to the internet.
At SickKids hospital, a room with six babies is tremendously quiet—but far too full.
“There’s no space for the equipment, there’s no space for the families,” said Dr. Estelle Gauda, head of SickKids’ neonatology division.
“There’s just nowhere to breathe.”
Swaddled in animal-patterned blankets, tubes run through the pre-term babies’ mouths and noses, helping the tiny humans stay alive. Screens monitor their levels as nurses feed and assess their status. The room has been specially constructed to create quieter acoustics and softer lighting, in order to decrease stimulation for the miniature patients.
Born 24-25 weeks into their pregnancy, these premature infants can weigh as little as 500g at birth. They’ve been transported here from all across Ontario, often because they need neonatal surgeries that only SickKids can provide.
Having six babies in one room is typical at SickKids these days, she said, but that’s not the norm for neonatal care. At Mount Sinai and Sunnybrook, for example, each baby has their own room (with exceptions for multiples). Gauda said she’d like to see four babies in each room at SickKids, potentially by making other rooms available.
Hospitals across Ontario have seen a surge in infants needing high-level intensive care this summer, says the Ministry of Health, with Toronto’s level 3 NICUs—which care for the most seriously sick infants—hit hardest. While there’s been a surge in the past two months, Gauda said NICU capacity has been a “constant problem” at SickKids since she started at the hospital in March.
“(The NICU) is overcrowded. It’s not up to standard with respect to space around babies, as well as allowing the best environment that we can create to decrease the state of families,” said Gauda, who said they’ve been having continuous conversations about needing more capacity.
With better technologies, smaller and sicker babies are surviving more often, she said, but that means they often have to stay in the NICU for longer.
Some hospitals with lower level NICUs are also often full, she said, so even if babies can be moved out faster, sometimes there’s nowhere for them to go.
“There’s just demand everywhere,” said Gauda.
Health ministry spokeperson David Jensen, told the Star last week he’s not aware of what caused Ontario’s recent sudden increase in NICU demand, but says there is no public health issue contributing to the surge.
On Monday afternoon, there were 36 infants in SickKids’ NICU—two more than the government provides funding for.
SickKids has 42 physical NICU beds, but the ministry only provides funding to staff 34 of them. In the past two months Gauda said SickKids has been treating about 38 NICU babies every day, and sometimes as many as 40. The unit has a flexible staffing model that can accommodate around 38 babies at a time, sometimes by bringing in nurses from different units. They make it work, she said, but it can be stressful.
SickKids has had to move one baby to Ottawa in the past six weeks, she said, and at one point considered moving a baby out of province before they found space.
“We are trying to present the best face that we can, but we also know that behind the scenes there are a lot of things that are stressed,” she said.
Walking through the unit, Gauda points out the transport office, where calls “continuously” come in for babies who need to be brought to the hospital.
A spokesperson said SickKids offers “the most comprehensive set of critical care services to the neonatal population in Ontario”—particularly those requiring complex surgery and sustained life support. SickKids is also the only hospital in Toronto that can do surgery on newborns.
SickKids received a one-time $1.3 million in November 2015, in response to pressures from a growing volume of neonatal cardiac surgeries, a statement from Megan Primeau, spokesperson for the Toronto Central local health integration network said. The statement says the current surge is mainly from non-surgical cases across all three of Toronto’s level 3 NICUs and that local capacity improved over the weekend.
Down the hall, Gauda points out another room, where babies who’ve had complications during delivery are undergoing “therapeutic hypothermia” their body temperature is cooled down for a few days to slow down brain activity to help with recovery in case of potential brain injury. About 70 babies undergo this therapy each year, said Gauda, and just a few weekends ago, there were five babies in the sub-unit.
Over the past week, a surge in babies needing high level intensive care has drawn concern from doctors and parents. On Monday, the Ontario NDP called on the government to immediately increase funding for the province’s hospitals in light of the “crisis in neonatal intensive care.”
Mount Sinai Hospital added two extra beds to its NICU over the weekend, and has plans to add two more by September; SickKids and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre also plan on adding two beds to their NICUs.
Long term, Gauda said SickKids is in conversations and negotiations with the ministry of health about getting more resources for the neonatal unit. That might mean more money, she said, but it also could mean allocating money in different ways. It’s not just a SickKids issue, she said; the problems stem from demands across the province.
“Not only do we have to improve the capacity here, but we have to improve the capacity of the other level 2 nurseries and the other level 3 nurseries,” said Gauda. “It has to be a really orchestrated system that has to be in place.”
SickKids says that on average, the cost per day for a bed in its NICU is around $2,100.
The hospital says it hopes to rebuild its neonatal unit as part of its “Project Horizon” redevelopment plans, although that will not be complete for another 10 years.
The Air Canada Centre’s days are numbered. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment announced Tuesday that as of July, the building that is home to Leafs and Raptors games will be known as Scotiabank Arena.
And you know, there wasn’t a wet eye in the city when the news got around. Along Bay St., you could hear a resounding yawn emanate from Torontonians, a breeze sweeping under the rail bridge created by the co-ordinated shrugging of shoulders.
One corporation who has nothing whatsoever to do with the building or its purpose will be exchanged for another. Who cares?
Well, presumably Scotiabank cares, enough to pay a reported $800 million over 20 years for the naming rights. And it’s probably a good bet that MLSE, recipients of that money — roughly equivalent to the price of a pair of Leafs season tickets! — are excited about it. But I can’t say I can muster up any real emotion about it at all.
And I’m a sentimental guy. Longtime readers will know I’m prone to getting misty eyed and eulogizing rusty old boats as they’re hauled out of the harbour and waxing nostalgic for half-abandoned malls. I’ve spent quiet moments reflecting on the removal of parking meters. I tend to notice the changing city and want to commemorate it.
Back when Maple Leaf Gardens first closed, and then when it was announced it was being replaced by a grocery store, I was livid. It felt like some sacred ground was being sold out. I admit I still call the place the Blue Jays play the SkyDome, not in some grand anti-corporate protest gesture, but because it seems like the actual name of that building in my mind.
And yet, the name Air Canada Centre holds no poetry, stirs no emotions, conjures no affection. From the time it opened and the building got its name, it was a pure cash transaction. A billboard we were all supposed to pronounce. From the beginning, it was a name completely divorced from the form, purpose and ownership of the place it named. So who cares?
Gather ’round children, and I’ll tell you how, once upon a time, this would have seemed weird. Back when our phones were connected to the wall by a cord, and we all tied onions on our belts, the names of buildings were usually related directly to what they were or what they were used for or to who used them. So, for instance, the Toronto Maple Leafs played at Maple Leaf Gardens and the New York Yankees played at Yankee Stadium. The mall in downtown Toronto called the Eaton Centre had a giant department store in it called Eaton’s.
Not every place was named for a tenant, but you could still often figure out the purpose (and often the location) of a building by what it was called: The Blue Jays originally played in a stadium at Exhibition Place called Exhibition Stadium, and then moved into a dome that opened up its roof to the sky called SkyDome.
You see, the names seemed to mean something. Some of them were stupid names, but they were connected to what you’d do or see in them. Which might, eventually, be the kind of thing you’d eventually grow attached to. You know, a name that would evoke memories of what you experienced in a place.
No one that I know of ever took an airline flight in the Air Canada Centre. And pity the person who wakes up out of a Rip Van Winkle slumber and goes into the new building on Bay marked Scotiabank next year looking for a mortgage. (Although, of course, if old Van Winkle decides to buy Leafs tickets while he’s there, he’ll need a mortgage, so there is that.)
But here in 2017, no one names their sports venue after its location or after the team that plays in it anymore. Now the names are ads. Often enough, they are ads for the same products. In the NHL, as of 2018, there will be seven Canadian teams: two play in arenas named after Rogers, two in arenas named for Bell, and two in arenas named for Scotiabank. There’s one more that plays in an arena that used to be named for Scotiabank.
Oddly, the team whose home is in the TD Garden, named for the Toronto Dominion Bank, plays in Boston. And BMO field, named for the Bank of Montreal, is in Toronto.
Anyhow. Scotiabank Arena. It’s boring, but it’s probably fine as corporate sponsorships go. It feels, in a way, like Leafs and Raptors fans dodged a bullet. Because over the past decade or so, many of the corporate names attached to sports venues sound plain silly.
Back in the 1990s, David Foster Wallace satirized the rising corporate naming rights trend in his novel Infinite Jest, depicting a future in which years were marked not by numbers but by names such as Year of the Trial Sized Dove Bar or Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment. Some sporting facilities are making the parody look less like ad absurdum and more like prophecy.
Look at Jobing.com Arena (since renamed) in Phoenix, Petco Park in San Diego, O.co Coliseum in Oakland. Look at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, or the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Look at the KFC Yum! Center in Kentucky.
The name Scotiabank Arena may smoosh two words together in the branding of the bank, but at least it doesn’t have any punctuation in the middle of it.
The new name is a yawn. So was the old one. Let’s hope the games played inside the building are more exciting.
Ten oddly named sports stadiums
Branding rights run amok. The new Scotia Bank Arena (that’s the Air Canada Centre until July 1) has nothing on these arena names.
Guaranteed Rate Field: Chicago White Sox, MLB
Smoothie King Center: New Orleans Pelicans, NBA
Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome: Minnesota Vikings, NFL
Talking Stick Resort Arena: Phoenix Suns, NBA
KFC Yum! Center: Louisville Cardinals, NCAA
Quicken Loans Arena: Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA
Petco Park: San Diego Padres, MLB
Sports Authority Field at Mile High: Denver Broncos, NFL
Whataburger Field: Corpus Christi Hooks, AA baseball
University of Phoenix Stadium: Arizona Cardinals, NFL
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca acknowledged Tuesday that “concerns have been raised” about Metrolinx’s decision to approve two new GO Transit stations despite internal reports that recommended they not be built.
But in a letter to the transit agency’s chair, Del Duca stopped short of saying that the two stops, one of which is in the minister’s riding, should be removed from the list of 12 new GO Transit stations the province plans to build over the next decade.
This week a Star investigation revealed that last year, Del Duca’s ministry pressured Metrolinx, an arm’s-length agency of the provincial government, into approving the two stations: Kirby, in the minister’s riding of Vaughan; and Lawrence East, a station in Scarborough backed by Mayor John Tory as part of his “SmartTrack” plan.
Kirby would cost $98.4 million to build, while Lawrence East would cost about $23 million.
“As we have always said, all proposed new stations require additional technical and planning analysis, environmental assessments, preliminary and detailed design and extensive community engagement,” Del Duca said in his letter Tuesday to Metrolinx board chair Rob Prichard.
“That said, it is clear that concerns have been raised about the process by which the Kirby and Lawrence East stations were ultimately approved.”
Del Duca wrote that he expects Metrolinx “will not enter into any contractual obligations” for either station until the agency is satisfied that land use policies and updated GO Transit service concepts justify building the stops.
If the agency’s board and management aren’t convinced that the evidence supports the stations, then they “should be deferred to the next round of consideration at a future date,” the letter said.
Del Duca didn’t specify what he meant by “concerns” about the stations. His office declined to answer follow-up questions Tuesday afternoon.
A spokesperson for Metrolinx also declined to answer questions, but said the agency “will respond appropriately” to Del Duca’s memo.
While the letter is the clearest acknowledgment yet from the provincial government that there may have been irregularities in the station approval process, Del Duca signalled he still supports building the stop in his riding.
He wrote in the letter “there are several significant residential and employment developments” planned nearby, and the people “living or working in these new communities would likely be inclined to access a GO station at Kirby.”
However, initial business cases Metrolinx commissioned last year showed both Kirby and Lawrence East would actually lead to a net loss of ridership on the GO network. They determined neither would attract enough new passengers to offset the number of riders who would stop taking the train because of the longer travel time the new stations would entail.
Documents the Star obtained through a Freedom of Information request show the Metrolinx board voted at a secret meeting on June 15, 2016 not to build the two stops, but changed course after the transportation ministry unexpectedly sent the agency copies of press releases indicating that the following week the minister would announce the stations were going ahead.
Metrolinx then redrafted reports to support the two stops, and days later the board reconvened in public and approved them as part of a package of 12 new stations under the $13.5-billion regional express rail expansion.
Metrolinx didn’t publish the station business cases until nine months after the vote, by which time the Kirby report had been altered to appear more supportive. The agency never released a separate June 2016 report that explicitly recommended against building the two stops. The Star obtained a copy two months ago.
At an unrelated announcement Tuesday morning, Premier Kathleen Wynne didn’t respond directly when a reporter asked whether she believed Del Duca had interfered in the approval process for political purposes.
“Let me just be clear. Those stations will not be built unless the evidence is there,” she replied.
“There has not been a final decision made.”
In the wake of the Star’s investigation, critics have called for Metrolinx’s governance procedures to be overhauled to ensure greater accountability.
“Every board meeting of Metrolinx should be open to the public. Every decision they make and its rationale should be transparent,” Ontario NDP urban transit critic Cheri DiNovo said Monday.
In response to those calls, Wynne said Tuesday: “We can have that conversation.”
She added that “there are public consultations and public meetings that Metrolinx holds.”
Tory defended his support for the Lawrence East stop on Tuesday during a media availability in Scarborough.
“I make no apologies whatsoever. In fact, I see it as an important part of my job to fight for every transit stop that I can get in the city of Toronto, whether it’s one that forms part of a TTC route or a GO transit route,” he said.
For several months, in defence of building Lawrence East, Tory’s office has referenced a city analysis that appears to never have been published.
The city provided the two-page analysis to the Star on Monday. It challenges some of the numbers in the Metrolinx business case for Lawrence East, but still concludes it would cause a net loss of GO ridership.
It’s unclear why the city analysis, which city spokesperson Jackie DeSouza says was written in June 2016, was never published but used to brief the mayor’s office.
Tory resisted the idea that there has been a lack of transparency in the transit planning process.
“As far as I’m concerned, the reports that underlie a lot of those decisions, I’m quite happy that they should be made public,” he said. “You won’t find me resisting the release of those transit reports.”
Tory said that until the Star’s report he was not aware the Metrolinx board originally voted against Lawrence East and Kirby.
On Monday, the Progressive Conservatives asked the Ontario auditor general to perform a “full value for money audit” of Kirby and Lawrence East. A transit advocacy group made a similar request to the same provincial watchdog last week.
Margaret Atwood declined to comment Monday when the Star emailed her asking about her opposition to a proposed eight-storey luxury condo building in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood.
But after the story was posted on the Star’s website, the literary icon went on the defensive on Twitter — in some cases sparring with critics who piled on and accused her of NIMBYism and ignoring Toronto’s affordable housing crisis.
Some of the exchanges got a little testy, such as when Shawn Micallef, an author/urbanist and Toronto Star columnist, tweeted that Atwood had “strengthened the anti-housing backbone in this city with this politically sledgehammer opposition to an 8 storey bldn.”
Atwood tweeted: “Now you’re just being silly. Or, I dunno – are you working for the developer or something?”
Micallef responded that he was “in nobody’s pocket” and on Tuesday followed through on his promise to send her his latest book about Toronto.
A sample of some of Atwood’s other tweets from Monday evening:
In response to a tweetstorm by Globe and Mail architecture critic Alex Bozikovic attempting to explain Toronto’s population growth and zoning, Atwood tweeted:
“To repeat: The neighbours don’t want the building to go right to the lot line + kill their trees. And Y to 8 storeys that respect setbacks.”
When some Twitter users suggested age was a factor in the neighbourhood objection to the development, she responded:
As part of a larger conversation, many people replied to Atwood’s tweets asking her to clarify her position, so she did.
“Nobody is blocking the building. Many are trying to modify it. Have you seen the proposal?”
“Maybe you should calculate the profit involved for the developer in destroying my neighbours’ trees.”
“‘House others’ make it sound as if those housed are homeless. For a couple of million per unit, that’s far from the truth.”
Many complained that Atwood and her neighbours had fallen prey to NIMBYism.
In response to a tweet that suggested the city must build up, not out to accommodate the next generation, Atwood tweeted:
“But what are you suggesting I do? Right now? Jump off a bridge to create space? But some rich person would reno my house. You know it.”
“You want me to sell my house to a developer who’d put an apartment building on it? You think I bear some personal guilt for housing cycles?”
Followed shortly by:
“Never mind. Once I’m dead, market forces will take over, and I will doubtless be tortured in Hell for living in the wrong place.”
Atwood later offered an alternate solution:
The rain from Harvey is in a class of its own. The storm has unloaded at least 124 centimetres of rain southeast of Houston, the greatest amount ever recorded from a tropical weather system in the U.S., excluding Alaska and Hawaii. And it’s still raining.
The National Hurricane Center broke the news:
“A preliminary report from one Texas rain gauge has broken the Texas tropical cyclone rainfall record. Southeast of Houston, Mary’s Creek at Winding Road reported 49.32 inches (125.27 centimetres) as of 9 am CDT. This total is higher than the previous record of 48 inches set during tropical cyclone Amelia of 1978 at Medina, Texas.”
The Hurricane Center only states that the 124-plus centimetres breaks the Texas record set in Medina in 1978, but the amount also represents the most from a tropical system in the Lower 48 states.
Hawaii has logged isolated reports of greater amounts at high elevations from tropical systems, but the footprint from Harvey in Southeast Texas is much larger. It has produced nearly a metre of rain over most of the Houston region, affecting more than five million people.
“The 3-to-4 day rainfall totals of greater than 40 inches (possible 50 inches in locations surrounding Santa Fe and Dickinson) are simply mind-blowing that has lead to the largest flood in Houston-Galveston history,” the National Weather Service office Serving Houston wrote.
From the perspective of the amount of volume unloaded in the U.S. from a single storm, Harvey has no rival.
John Neilsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist, found Harvey’s total rainfall concentrated over a 52,000-square-kilometre area over 72 hours represents nearly 19 times the daily discharge of the Mississippi River, by far the most of any tropical system ever recorded.
The Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison determined that many areas of Southeast Texas have received rain that is expected to come around only once every 1,000 years (or having a 0.1 per cent probability of occurrence), assuming a stationary climate.
This is truly an epic storm.
WASHINGTON—Two Canadian men are among more than a dozen people indicted Tuesday by a grand jury in Washington, D.C., for attacking protesters in May 2017 during a U.S. visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The indictments charge the defendants with attacking peaceful demonstrators who had gathered on May 16 outside the home of the Turkish ambassador to await Erdogan’s arrival after he had met with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House.
The two Canadians named in the American court document are Mahmut Sami Ellialti and Ahmet Cengizhan Dereci.
In June, police in the U.S. capital issued arrest warrants for Ellialti on charges of felony aggravated assault and felony assault with significant bodily injury and Dereci on charges of felony assault with significant bodily injury and misdemeanour assault or threatened assault in a menacing manner.
Sixteen of the defendants named in Tuesday’s indictment had already been charged on June 13. Two of the defendants were arrested in June and face an initial court hearing on Sept. 7. The rest remain at large, including the two Canadians.
The pair told the CBC last year that they are staunch supporters of Erdogan and had voted to elect him.
“Recep Tayyip Erdogan was chosen by the Turkish people. We voted for him and we want him to be our president,” Dereci said at the time.
All 19 defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, a felony punishable by a statutory maximum of 15 years in prison. Several face additional charges of assault with a deadly weapon.
Several are members of Erdogan’s security detail who returned with him to Turkey, so it is unclear if any will face legal repercussions in the United States. However, they could end up being threatened with arrest if they return to the U.S. If any are still in the country, they could be expelled if Turkey refuses to waive diplomatic immunity.
Video of the protest showed security guards and some Erdogan supporters attacking a small group of protesters with their fists and feet. Men in dark suits and others were recorded repeatedly kicking one woman as she lay curled on a sidewalk. Another wrenched a woman’s neck and threw her to the ground. A man with a bullhorn was repeatedly kicked in the face.
After police struggled to protect the protesters and ordered the men in suits to retreat, several of the men dodged the officers and ran into the park to continue the attacks. In all, nine people were hurt.
Police detained two members of Erdogan’s security detail, but released them shortly afterward. Two other men were arrested at the scene — one was charged with aggravated assault and the other was charged for assaulting a police officer.
American officials strongly criticized Turkey’s government and Erdogan’s security forces for the violence; the State Department summoned Turkey’s U.S. ambassador to complain. The Turkish Foreign Ministry then summoned America’s ambassador to protest the treatment of the detained security guards.
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said at the time that Erdogan’s security team moved in to disperse the protesters because “police did not heed to Turkish demands to intervene.” The Turkish Embassy claimed the demonstrators were “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the president.
With files from The Canadian Press
DUTTON, ONT.—A woman and child were killed and two other people were taken to hospital following a collision on Highway 401 in southwestern Ontario on Tuesday afternoon.
Elgin County OPP say the crash occurred near the town of Dutton at about 4:30 p.m. when a pickup truck heading east crossed the centre median and struck a westbound van.
Two people in the van, 42-year-old Sarah Payne and five-year-old Freya Payne of London, Ont., died of their injuries.
A six-year-old boy in the van, William Payne, and the 56-year-old Cambridge, Ont., man driving the pickup were in stable condition.
Provincial police say charges are pending.
Highway 401 had been shut down because of the crash but was re-opened in both directions at about 11 p.m.
ORILLIA, ONT.—Ontario Provincial Police say distracted driving causes more collisions than speeding and alcohol- and drug-related collisions combined.
The OPP says there have been 6,360 collisions on roads it patrols since Jan. 1 compared with 4,700 collisions due to speeding and 1,158 crashes due to a driver drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
They say 47 people have died this year because of an inattentive driver, which is an increase from the 39 who died at the same time last year.
OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes says this is further evidence that people who talk on their phones, text or are distracted in another way take a toll on the safety of other drivers around them.
The provincial police force says it will be conducting a distracted driving campaign over Labour Day weekend.
Distracted driving has led to more deaths than both speeding and alcohol and drugs on OPP-patrolled roads every year since 2009 with the exception of 2012.
Six months before an alleged assault by an off-duty Toronto officer on teen Dafonte Miller, the director of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit asked police Chief Mark Saunders to “educate” his officers on their duties to notify the watchdog when a civilian is seriously hurt by police, according to correspondence obtained by the Star.
SIU director Tony Loparco’s request to Saunders was spurred by a 2015 case where the watchdog alleges Toronto police neglected to notify the civilian agency about an incident warranting an SIU investigation, specifically the injuries of a man sent to hospital while bleeding out of his ears following a police raid.
“A decision was made not to contact the SIU,” Loparco wrote in the June 2016 letter, obtained by the Star through a Freedom-of-Information request. “This was the incorrect decision.”
Ontario’s Police Service Act states the SIU must be notified “immediately” of any incident that would reasonably be considered a serious injury, including when someone is admitted to hospital. But the watchdog — which investigates serious injuries and deaths involving police — only learned of the man’s injuries two and a half months later, and only after receiving a letter of complaint about the incident. The man was diagnosed with a perforated eardrum.
Meanwhile, the delay “deprived” SIU investigators of important evidence, Loparco told Saunders.
“It is my hope that you will implement appropriate educational requirements for your officers so that similar problems do not arise in the future.”
Asked if any action was taken on Loparco’s request to educate officers on notification requirements, Mark Pugash, spokesperson for the Toronto police, said he would not discuss the specifics of the case.
Toronto police take Loparco’s comments seriously, Pugash said, but is accountable to the Toronto police board.
Toronto police have come under fire in recent weeks for failing to notify the SIU of serious injuries incurred by civilians in encounters with police, chief among them the severe alleged assault on Miller.
The Black 19-year-old suffered a broken orbital bone, broken nose and will lose an eye following the December 2016 incident. The injuries were allegedly caused by an off-duty Toronto police officer Michael Theriault and his brother, Christian Theriault. Last month, both men were charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and public mischief following an investigation by the SIU.
But the watchdog did not even know about Miller’s injuries until months after the alleged attack, and only then because Miller’s lawyer contacted the SIU. The delay has prompted accusations by Miller’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, of a deliberate coverup by police to protect the Theriault brothers, whose father is a veteran Toronto police officer working in the Professional Standards unit, which was the division that decided not to contact the SIU about Miller’s injuries.
Saunders has denied allegations of a coverup, saying the SIU was not told because, based on the information his officers had at the time, notification was not required.
Last week, the SIU announced it was charging Toronto police Const. Joseph Dropuljic with assault in a separate case involving injuries incurred by a young Black man. In that case, the SIU was not notified for 11 months after the incident, and only after the victim came forward to lodge a complaint.
The repeated delays underscore what critics say is a need for stronger police oversight, including consequences for officers who don’t follow laws around the SIU.
“This is what raises suspicions in people’s minds because they ask, ‘well, why didn’t they not notify the SIU?’” said Howard Morton, former director of the SIU and now a criminal defence lawyer.
Earlier this month, Morton joined a coalition of rights groups, including the Ontario Human Rights Commission, calling for the immediate implementation of the recent report by Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch.
That report made a series of recommendations aimed at stronger police oversight, including clarifying the rules around when police services must notify the SIU and officers’ duty to co-operate with investigations.
At the completion of every SIU investigation involving Toronto police, the SIU director writes a letter to the chief with basic details of the investigation and its conclusion.
Unlike the two recent cases involving Black men, the May 2015 incident prompting Loparco’s letter to Saunders did not result in a criminal charge against any Toronto police officer.
According to the letter, the incident started with an attempted knifepoint robbery which led to an investigation involving Toronto’s Emergency Task Force (ETF). On May 30, 2015 the ETF executed a search warrant in the case.
The location of the search warrant execution, and any identifying information about the injured man or officers involved, was redacted in the letter obtained by the Star. The letter also did not state who sent the complaint letter notifying the watchdog of the man’s injuries; Jason Gennaro, spokesperson for the SIU, said he could not say who wrote the letter due to confidentiality requirements.
A team of seven ETF officers arrived at the home, found it unlocked then called out for the man wanted by police to exit the home. When he didn’t, the team went inside and found the man sleeping in the basement. The man refused the officers’ orders to show his hands then to get on the ground. One of the officers, spotting a knife beside the man’s bed, then deployed a Taser.
The man fell to the ground but continued to thrash, according to the letter, so one of the officers pressed his ballistic shield onto the man’s back to immobilize him, allowing him to be handcuffed.
When the man was brought outside, there was blood coming from his ears and he had a small cut above his eyebrow. He was taken to hospital where his cut was sutured and he was diagnosed with a perforated eardrum — the latter an injury typically seen in people who encounter a deafeningly loud sound.
Loparco had to determine whether the man’s injuries were caused by the officers and wondered if a loud police distraction device called a “flash bang” has been used in their entry into the home. Citing witness and officer accounts, Loparco concluded it hadn’t been used and stated that the perforated eardrum was not attributable to police. He also said the force used by police was reasonable.
However, Loparco noted that because the SIU was not immediately notified, the watchdog’s investigators could not go to the residence to conduct a probe to independently determine whether the loud distraction device had been used.
According to Ontario’s Police Services Act, the SIU must be notified immediately of any incident “that may reasonably be considered to fall within its mandate.” The SIU uses what’s called the Osler definition of serious injury, which states it must be presumed someone is seriously injured when they, among other types of injuries, are admitted to hospital and suffering hearing loss.
The man’s injuries “satisfied two separate presumptions contained within the definition. Thus, the SIU should have been notified,” Loparco wrote Saunders.
Among Tulloch’s recommendations is to set out in law the Osler definition of serious injury. As it stands, serious injury is not defined in the Police Services Act.
As reported by the Star earlier this year, Loparco has issued several complaints about Toronto police co-operation with SIU investigations within the last few years, including past failures to notify the watchdog of serious injuries. In some cases, Loparco will ask the chief to investigate an alleged incident of non-co-operation and report back.
But police chiefs are not legally obligated to respond to these letters because the SIU has no authority under the Police Services Act to demand chiefs look into officer conduct.
Morton said the provincial government must step in to enforce the laws outlining what’s expected of police when it comes to SIU co-operation. It’s not enough “to simply have a director out there in isolation hoping that if he writes to the chief there will be some education,” Morton said.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said he will introduce legislation in the fall session of the legislature that will “transform Ontario’s police oversight system,” adding the bill will be introduced shortly after the provincial legislature resumes sitting.
Wendy Gillis can be reached at email@example.com
Luciano Minuzzi had finished his very precise and very complicated analyses of brain scans from dozens of retired CFL football players and healthy volunteer subjects. Now it was time to look at the results.
As Minuzzi performed his calculations, he was blind to the subject’s identity — a key part of the scientific process. He didn’t know if he was examining the brain of a retired player or a control subject.
For each of the subjects, Minuzzi was analyzing the thickness of the brain’s cortex — the thin outer shell of the cerebrum where the bodies of billions and billions of nerve cells reside. It’s also the part of the brain that smacks the inside of the skull during a concussion.
Read more:What happens in a concussion?
When the results were unlocked and Minuzzi was able to compare the retired players to the controls, he was stunned.
Everywhere he looked, it seemed, the cortex of the players, on average, was significantly thinner than it was for the controls — whether it was the top of the brain, the front, the back, the sides and even the inner surfaces down the middle.
A thinning of the cortex is important because it suggests a substantial loss of nerve cells, supporting cells or both.
His first reaction?
“When I saw the images, I thought that must be wrong,” said Minuzzi, a brain imaging expert and a clinical psychiatrist at McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare. “I must have done something wrong.
“So I did it again.”
And again. And again. And again.
Minuzzi went back and re-analyzed each subject four times because he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Each time, his results were confirmed.
On average, about 65 per cent of the cerebral cortex showed significant thinning in the CFL players. That’s a staggering amount of damage that has accumulated in the players over time.
By comparison, Minuzzi said when he analyzes patients suffering some types of brain disorders, there might be five per cent of the cortex which shows significant thinning.
Minuzzi said the cortical thinning experienced by the players are “very, very strong results that we were not expecting.”
“It’s almost like seeing the brains of much older people,” said Minuzzi. “They are not matching in terms of age.
“I was shocked,” he added. “There’s something really serious happening.”
Minuzzi is part of the research team for the Spectator’s CFL concussion project, a unique collaboration between the newspaper and six researchers from McMaster University.
The project, which took more than two years to complete, involved comprehensive testing of 22 retired CFL players and another 20 healthy men of similar ages with no history of concussions who acted as control subjects.
Using a variety of sophisticated tests, the goal of the project was to examine the long-term effects of concussions and repeated hits to the head suffered by former football players.
The dramatic amounts of cortical thinning weren’t the only horrifying results to emerge.
The retired players also underwent electroencephalogram (EEG) testing to measure the strength of the brain’s electrical activity as they paid attention to different stimuli, again compared to healthy volunteers.
In some cases, the EEG results from players were no different than the results that would be seen in some types of coma patients.
The findings are almost hard to believe, said John Connolly, a McMaster professor and the Senator William McMaster Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, who specializes in EEG analysis and concussions.
“In the coma patient, you can understand it — the person has had a catastrophic brain injury of some description,” said Connolly, a member of the project’s research team.
“But these men we tested are living their lives, they probably drove themselves here, some of them are running businesses.
“I’m not suggesting they’re in a coma, quite the contrary,” he added. “They came in, we chatted to all of them.
“Are there ways they’re getting around this? I think there must be.
“There must be some way they’re compensating for what amounts to a really disastrous attentional problem.”
The disturbing differences found between the players and controls throughout the various forms of testing suggest strong evidence of a link between football, repeated hits to the head and long-term effects on the brain.
The findings raise very serious concerns about the future health prospects of former football players.
“It seems that their brains are already very fragile,” said Minuzzi.
“The saddest part of this is that if the cortical thinning has been caused by neuronal loss, once those cells are dead, they are dead,” he added.
“It’s not something where we can do physiotherapy and recover, like a muscle can be increased with exercise.”
Michael Noseworthy, an MRI imaging expert and part of the research team, said he too was shocked by the results.
“These players are unquestionably abnormal compared to the normal population of the same age,” said Noseworthy, director of McMaster’s School of Biomedical Engineering and director of Imaging Physics and Engineering at St. Joseph’s Healthcare.
“I feel really bad for these players,” he said. “And the current players, too.”
Noseworthy was asked if there’s any chance the players’ results aren’t connected to football.
“No, this is football,” he said. “That’s the common denominator.”
The findings from this project are believed to be the first ever to report such a wide array of brain imaging and EEG results from living former professional football players.
“I’ve never seen a study that’s done what you’ve done,” said Robyn Wishart, a Vancouver-based lawyer who specializes in the litigation of brain trauma cases involving athletes. “It’s mind-blowing what your images show.”
Wishart has launched two separate lawsuits against the CFL on behalf of more than 200 former players who allege the league’s negligence caused them to suffer brain injuries.
The project’s findings raise grave questions about the safety of a dangerous sport that is popular precisely because of its violent nature.
“The players are getting stronger and faster and that’s just adding to this issue,” said Bob Macoritti, a study participant who played six seasons, mostly with Saskatchewan, in the mid to late 1970s.
“You can’t get stronger, faster and heavier and not have more damaging collisions.”
The research results, Wishart said, will help parents better understand the risks of the sport for their children.
“I think the parents have a right to know what a long career in the sport of football could mean to the long-term health of their child,” she said.
When the NFL agreed last year to a $1-billion settlement of lawsuits related to brain trauma, the league acknowledged as many as 6,000 former players may develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Research into concussions and their connection to sports is now an area of growing interest across North America.
A long-term study of concussions and CFL players has been underway for more than two years at Toronto’s Krembil Neuroscience Centre, which is affiliated with Toronto Western Hospital and the University of Toronto.
In addition to brain imaging research of living retired players, the Toronto project is also analyzing the brains of deceased players that have been donated for the study of CTE.
By virtually every measurement examined in the Spectator project, the retired players’ results were worse than those of the healthy control subjects.
In many cases, the results were shockingly worse.
Here’s what we found:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a method of using very strong magnetic fields to generate highly-detailed images of organs and tissues. It’s particularly well-suited to looking at the brain.
MRI can show in real time which areas of the brain are activated — and how much activation is taking place in those areas — during the resting state or when tasks are being performed during the scans.
One main use of MRI scans is to look at so-called “white matter tracts” in the brain.
These are the various bundles of nerve fibres — much like electrical cables — that join different areas of the brain and distribute the signals between nerve cells.
Some of these tracts join the two halves of the cerebrum through a broad C-shaped band in the centre called the corpus callosum, and some of the tracts join together different areas within each half of the cerebrum.
Damage to these bundles could interfere with brain function or processing speed.
Four different types of analyses were applied to the MRI data and each analysis looks at different measures of the structural integrity of the nerve fibres that connect various areas of the brain.
The MRI analyses showed significant differences between the retired players on average and the controls in a number of white matter tracts across the cerebrum.
The testing showed 95 per cent of the players had decreased activity in a part of the prefrontal cortex believed to be associated with decision-making, when compared to an average level of activity in the control subjects.
The area showing the most consistent differences across all measures was the corpus callosum, the large band that connects the left and right halves of the brain.
The differences seen in the retired players suggest two separate issues at work.
The first is that the nerve fibres in these bundles are showing signs of injury, degeneration, or the loss of the insulation around the fibres that help transmit the electrical signal smoothly.
The second is that large swaths of the corpus callosum showed signs of premature aging in the retired players compared to the control group.
Previous studies have shown the corpus callosum to be a common point of trauma in repetitive brain injuries. Because this large band connects the two halves of the brain, it can be damaged as the force of a blow is transferred back and forth through it, like a shock wave.
What’s most disturbing about the results is that the differences seen in the retired players’ brains were more consistent with the results that would be seen in someone who had just recently suffered a concussion.
Yet in the case of the retired players, it had been years — perhaps decades — since they’d last suffered a concussion or repeated blows to the head.
“For these players, with who knows how many concussive hits or sub-concussive hits, it’s pretty striking and clear that the damage has never been repaired,” said Noseworthy.
The MRI scans also showed significant areas of premature aging in several of the white matter tracts that join areas within one hemisphere or the other.
The results also suggest that it’s not necessarily the violent but less frequent concussive types of hits that cause the most damage.
Offensive and defensive linemen, who endure frequent but less violent blows to the head, showed greater damage to the white matter tracts of the brain than players such as receivers and defensive backs, who suffer higher energy hits but fewer of them.
The results also showed that there was a significant and accelerated decline in the integrity of the white matter tracts as the age of the retired players increased.
MRI scans can provide details about the brain’s anatomy. This is useful for measuring the thickness of the cerebral cortex, the outer folded shell of so-called “grey matter” that covers the two halves of the cerebrum.
The cortex is made up of the bodies of billions of nerve cells, called neurons, which are responsible for organizing many of the higher-level functions of the human brain, such as memory, attention, emotion and problem solving.
Using some high-powered math, the thickness of the cortex can be calculated across the brain. A thinning of the cortex suggests either a loss of the neurons themselves, a loss of connections between the neurons, a loss of blood vessels that supply the nerve cells, or a combination of all three.
Cortical thickness is a very important measure because once nerve cells are lost, they can’t be regenerated.
These were the most shocking of all our findings.
On average, the players had “significant” thinning in 65 per cent of their cerebral cortex area, compared to people in the control group.
Minuzzi, the psychiatrist and brain imaging expert, said he expected to see small spots of cortical thinning, perhaps localized to the areas where concussions occurred.
Instead, “they show global reduction,” Minuzzi said. “The whole brain has been affected.”
Some of the players are in their 40s, Minuzzi said, but “they have the brain of an 80-year-old, maybe 90-year-old.”
The images from the players and the thinning of the cortex, he added, were “compatible to someone very old or someone with a neurodegenerative disorder.
“Something really wrong is happening here,” he said.
“It’s impossible to fake this. This is an objective measure of the thickness of your brain.”
Altogether, the results showed, on average, that about 20 per cent of the mass of the cerebral cortex has been lost in the retired CFL players compared to the controls, which is a stunning amount of damage.
As Minuzzi studied the brain scans of the players, one image popped into his head — “the gladiators of the past,” he said.
“People were cheering for someone to die,” he said. “I was wondering if that’s what’s happening now when we turn the TV on.
“Are we seeing people who are being exposed to something that is quite negative that will change their lives forever?”
An EEG is a measurement of the electrical activity taking place across the brain.
While MRI imaging and cortical thickness analysis reflect the structure of the brain, EEG measurements help provide answers to the question of what functional consequences arise from these structural changes.
A series of 64 electrodes scattered across the outside of the skull pick up changes in electrical activity caused when nerve cells fire. The more cells that fire, the stronger the electrical signal.
In addition, an EEG is very good at picking up the timing of nerve cell activity in response to stimuli.
Our EEG experiment was designed to measure two different states — how does the brain respond when a subject is consciously paying attention to stimuli, and how does the brain respond when a subject is not paying attention to the same stimuli?
In the first case, the subjects were told to pay attention to the sound of tones being played through earphones.
Most of the time, the tone was exactly the same and it was repeated over and over — beep, beep, beep, beep. The brain’s electrical response to the regular tone dulls quickly as it becomes habituated to it.
But every so often, the tone would differ — perhaps it was longer, or louder, or a different pitch.
When the abnormal tone is played, the electrical activity spikes in response to this new stimulus.
It’s well established from research that the electrical spike occurs around 300 milliseconds after the stimulus and this is called the “P300 wave.”
Recordings from the electrodes allowed us to measure the size of the wave — which corresponds to the amount of electrical activity — and whether or not there was a delay in the response between the players and the controls.
In the second part of the experiment, the subjects watched a nature movie while the same beep-beep-beep tones were being played through their earphones. Again, the tone would differ every so often, as it did in the first part.
The subjects were told to disregard the background sounds of the tones and simply watch the movie.
But even though the subjects aren’t consciously paying attention to the tones, the brain is still monitoring the sounds.
And the same process is at play — the response to the normal tones becomes habituated and there’s a spike in electrical activity when the tone changes.
In this case, the phenomenon is known as the Mismatch Negativity effect, or MMN, and the spike occurs about 150 to 250 milliseconds after the abnormal stimulus.
Our experiment measured the conscious (P300) and unconscious (MMN) responses to the abnormal tones for the retired players and controls.
When consciously listening to the tones, the P300 responses of the players on average were only half as strong as the control group responses, regardless of whether the tone changed in pitch, length or loudness.
These results were highly statistically significant.
Since an EEG measures the strength of electrical activity, the results suggest there was considerably less firing of nerve cells, on average in the players’ brains compared to the controls.
“You can have various theories as to what’s going on, but it means that they cannot pay sustained attention,” said Connolly.
For some of the retired players, there were no signs of P300 electrical activity shown, regardless of how the tone changed — a result that would be consistent with some types of coma patients.
“To show a P300 is not something only shown by geniuses or only people in peak physical condition,” Connolly said. “Everybody shows this thing.
“But some of these fellows do not show P300s and that to me is simply stunning.
“It might be that someone has a reduced one or a delayed one but to not see it at all, I’d never seen that before, literally,” Connolly added. “And I’ve been doing this for 30-plus years.”
The players, on average, also exhibited a delay in response when the abnormal tones were louder or longer.
A delay in response suggests that it might be taking longer for the signal to be processed in the brain.
When subconsciously listening to the tones, the players’ MMN responses were significantly reduced compared to the control group, particularly when the abnormal tones were longer or of a different pitch.
These responses come from areas in the brain that include the auditory (hearing) cortex and areas that control our ability to pay attention and focus.
Both the P300 and MMN responses are linked to different types of memory formation.
One possible explanation for the reduced strength of the electrical activity in the players is that the overall number of nerve cells in their brains has been reduced because of the cortical thinning that’s taken place.
HEALTH AND DEPRESSION
All of the retired players and control subjects were asked to fill out a self-reported health survey, a concussion symptom survey, as well as the Beck Depression Inventory, a standardized test that can show if a subject exhibits signs of depression and if so, how severe it might be.
The health and symptom surveys asked subjects to rate themselves on more than a dozen measures, including general health, pain, emotional well-being, memory difficulties, sleep difficulties and irritability.
The players’ average score on the Beck Depression Inventory was nearly four times higher than the average for the control subjects.
Seven out of 22 players showed some signs of depression.
Not one of the 20 controls showed signs of depression.
When it came to the symptom scoring for measures such as irritability, difficulty in remembering and emotional sensitivity, the results were even worse.
The players’ total concussion symptom scores were five times higher than the control subjects.
For every one of the six categories, the players scored worse than the controls.
What’s most disturbing is that for many of the retired players, it had been years — if not decades — since they last suffered a concussion. In fact, a few of the players reported they had never been officially diagnosed with a concussion during their playing careers.
Yet on average, the players consistently reported the types of symptoms expected to be found in people who were recovering from a recent concussion.
The results were particularly dramatic when it came to self-reported problems with memory. The average symptom score was 10 times higher for the players than it was for the controls.
Sixteen of 22 players reported some level of difficulties with memory. Only two of 20 controls reported similar issues.
In all eight of the general health categories, the players’ results on average were worse than those of the controls. The players were significantly worse in the pain and social functioning categories.
ImPACT, which stands for “Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing,” is a computer-based series of modules that measure motor processing speed, reaction time, visual memory, impulse control, and verbal memory.
This was the one aspect of our testing where the results were somewhat inconclusive.
The players performed worse than the controls in four of the six categories, but the differences were not statistically significant.
The players performed better than the controls in the visual memory and motor processing speed categories, which might be a residual effect of excelling in a sport that requires quick decision-making and the ability to remember visual patterns on the field.
Retired players who took part in the project have reacted with a mix of shock and unease at the disturbing results.
Most, however, also acknowledged they weren’t surprised.
“It’s a big eye opener,” said longtime Ticat receiver Mike Morreale, now 46 and the youngest of the 22 players tested.
“What upsets me is that, generally speaking, my peers are suffering like that and it makes me feel very uneasy inside,” Morreale said.
Former Argo Dan Ferrone, who played 12 seasons as an offensive lineman, said the results are “conclusive proof that football does have an impact on your brain matter.”
“I think a lot of guys probably know they have damage,” added Ferrone, now 59. “They’re just not aware of how bad that damage is.”
In addition to his 12 years playing professional football, he also played another nine years of high school and university football.
“That’s a lot of abuse,” he said.
Ferrone said he was diagnosed with one or two concussions during his career, but now suspects in hindsight he may have suffered as many as 10 concussions.
That’s not unusual, given the findings of a joint Harvard-Boston University study published in 2015.
In a survey of 730 U.S. collegiate football players over one season, the study showed that for every one diagnosed concussion, there were 26 potential concussions that went unreported or undiagnosed.
“These results are clearly an indication of the trauma that can happen from this game, no question about that,” said Don Bowman, a defensive back who played for Winnipeg and Hamilton in the mid to late 1970s.
“Where we go with this, I don’t know.
“There are guys making an awful lot of money playing this sport and perhaps that’s worth it,” Bowman added. “It wasn’t so much that way back when we were playing.”
Bob MacDonald, an offensive lineman with Calgary and Hamilton in the early 1990s, admits he now wonders, “What have I done?”
“My job was to smash guys as hard as I can,” said MacDonald, now a teacher at Saltfleet Secondary School. “So I never really gave it that much thought for a long time.
“When I was growing up, I never thought about impact and inertia and the brain flipping and flopping,” he said. “You just think ‘I’m wearing equipment, I’m safe.’”