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    Equifax Inc. said its systems were struck by a cyberattack that may have affected about 143 million U.S. customers of the credit reporting agency, shedding light on one of the largest and most intrusive breaches in history.

    Intruders accessed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers, Equifax said in a statement. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 consumers were also accessed, the company said. Equifax shares dropped more than 8 per cent in after-hours trading.

    “This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes,” Chief Executive Officer Richard Smith said.

    The company set up a website,, that consumers can use to determine whether their information was compromised. It’s also offering free credit-file monitoring and identify-theft protection.

    The incident is a stark reminder of the risk of consumers’ personal data being exposed online. It’s particularly worrisome for the millions of people who trust credit-reporting agencies like Equifax to handle and protect their financial information.

    Criminals took advantage of a “U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files” from mid-May through July of this year, Equifax said. The intruders also accessed dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 consumers.

    “It’s a huge deal,” said Tim Crosby, senior consultant with security-assessment firm Spohn, “You would expect these guys to have compartmentalized this data far enough away from a Web server — that there would not be any way to directly access it.”

    Equifax has been hit by breaches in the past. Experian Plc, Equifax and TransUnion, the three biggest U.S. credit-reporting companies, uncovered cases in 2013 where hackers gained illegal, unauthorized access to user information. Credit reports, purportedly on famous people ranging from Michelle Obama to Paris Hilton, were posted online in that hack.

    This is the most high-profile cybersecurity breach since online portal Yahoo reported two separate incidents. Last year, Yahoo, whose web assets were acquired by Verizon Communications Inc. earlier this year, disclosed a 2014 breach that affected at least 500 million customer accounts. A few months later, the company said a 2013 hack siphoned email addresses, scrambled account passwords and dates of birth of as many as 1 billion users.

    The Equifax breach exposed information, including Social Security and credit card numbers, that could be more valuable to bad actors and potentially more damaging to consumers.

    Some U.K. and Canadian residents were also affected. The company is working with regulators in both countries. It uncovered the breach on July 29. While the company’s investigation is substantially complete, it remains open and is expected to be completed in coming weeks, Equifax said.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation didn’t immediately respond to emails and a phone message requesting comment about its possible involvement in an investigation.  

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    The absentee owners of three Cabbagetown row houses no longer face zoning bylaw charges after agreeing to stop renting the properties out for periods of less than 30 days.

    Toronto’s Municipal Licensing and Standards division laid the charges against the owners of 102, 104 and 106 Bleecker Street after neighbours complained of issues relating to parking, garbage and rowdy weekend parties.

    The three defendants were charged with permitting the homes to be rented out as a suite hotel, filling the rooms with paying guests who were using Airbnb and other short-term rental sites.

    The properties are zoned for residential uses, not commercial purposes, under the city’s zoning by-law.

    But since the charges were laid late last year, city staff have monitored the use of the properties and found that “there has been compliance and therefore … the city feels … (it) appropriate to resolve these charges,” prosecutor Geoff Uyeno told court on Friday.

    He presented to the court undertakings, signed by the defendants, who agreed that any rental shall be for a period of longer than 30 days.

    “The undertakings will apply unless the zoning bylaws in the city of Toronto are amended such that a suite hotel or a short-term rental use becomes a lawful permitted land use,” he said.

    “Each of the three defendants acknowledges they may be charged for future violations of the city’s zoning bylaw if there is an illegal short-term rental of properties.”

    The defendants, Roman Neyolov, Svetlana Neyolova and Alexander Tkachenko, were not in the courtroom when their charges were withdrawn. A maximum fine for a zoning violation is $25,000 for an individual and $50,000 for corporations.

    But their lawyer, David Genis, said his clients thought they were entitled to rent out the homes for brief stays after receiving erroneous advice from the city.

    “When the city started looking into it, and prosecuting it, they saw that my clients never had any bad intentions, in fact they had intentions to comply,” Genis said outside court.

    “City staff did not provide erroneous information to the defendants,” a city spokesman wrote in email. “The defendants may have misunderstood what were the lawful property uses of their residential property.”

    Brian Kellow, who lives across the street, said he doesn’t care that the charges were withdrawn, but is just relieved the “integrity of our street was restored.

    “My primary concern, and the concern of my neighbours, was that these houses were wrecking our street,” he said Friday. “What we wanted was neighbours. The idea that new families, or people will be moving in long-term to these houses, is great news. That’s all we ever wanted.”

    He added things were much quieter on Bleecker Street this summer, compared to 2016.

    Fairbnb, the union-led coalition fighting to have the home-rental business regulation, is disappointed the charges didn’t stick because, it says, no message of deterrence gets sent.

    “This is an example of why future short-term rental regulation needs to include real fines for those who violate city by-laws and short-term rental rules,” said Thorben Wieditz, a researcher with Unite Here Local 75.

    “Relying on the court system drags on for years and often doesn’t result in anything that deters people from breaking the rules. Fines are needed for both, hosts and platforms like Airbnb that are found to advertise, rent and profit from unlawful listings.”

    However, Wieditz called the end result fair.

    “The 30 days make it a long-term rental. It would mean that the rental agreements will be governed by Ontario’s Rental Tenancy Act, which is a good thing.”

    Earlier this year, a justice of the peace imposed a $10,000 fine on the owner of a Willowdale home who violated city bylaws by accepting short-term renters. The home had been the site of loud parties, including one where a young man was shot in the head, but survived.

    The city continues to hold public consultations around proposed regulations that would allow short-term rentals in any type of house in Toronto as long as it is a person’s principal residence, whether owned, rented or leased.

    City staff will submit a final set of proposals to council later this year.

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    OTTAWA—Aung San Suu Kyi rebuffed three fellow Nobel laureates who tried in a private meeting four years ago to persuade her to speak up for Burma’s persecuted Muslim minority, The Canadian Press has learned.

    The result of the closed-door meeting in New York City in September 2013 foreshadowed the worldwide outrage she now faces for not defending her country’s Rohingya Muslims.

    All three attendees, including American Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, who worked with the Canadian government to ban landmines, added their voices Friday to the global condemnation of Suu Kyi.

    An estimated 270,000 Rohingya have fled Burma for neighbouring Bangladesh, saying they are running from attacks by government troops and Buddhist mobs.

    Read more:

    ‘Alarming number’ of 270,000 Rohingya have fled Burma violence, UN says

    How Canada can act to ensure justice for Rohingya

    Fires in empty Rohingya village intensifies doubts about Burmese government claims

    Suu Kyi, who is an honorary Canadian citizen, has dismissed the complaints as misinformation and says the Burma government, which she now leads, is fighting a militant insurgency.

    But there have been widespread global calls for her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize to be rescinded and for world leaders to denounce her silence.

    Four years ago, three of her fellow female Peace Prize winners — Williams, Iran’s Shirin Ebadi and Liberia’s Leymah Gbowee — met her privately in what proved to be a futile effort to persuade her to recognize the Rohingya issue.

    “We were disappointed in her reaction behind the scenes,” said Rachel Vincent, the director of the Ottawa-based Nobel Women’s Initiative, who was also at the New York meeting.

    Suu Kyi was in the U.S. on a tour organized by the U.S. State Department. The meeting took place in office space provided by Human Rights Watch, Vincent said.

    “We felt the appropriate thing to do was to voice our concerns, first, privately. But it has become clear that it was necessary to become public in our concerns.”

    On Friday, Williams, Ebadi and Gbowee and four other female Nobel laureates sent Suu Kyi a letter telling her she had betrayed the values of the Nobel Peace Prize with her silence.

    “How many Rohingya have to die; how many Rohingya women will be raped; how many communities will be razed before you raise your voice in defence of those who have no voice?” said the letter.

    “Your silence today casts a dark and disturbing shadow on the prize and its values, which we are privileged to represent.”

    Vincent said Williams and her fellow Nobel laureates stood up for Suu Kyi during her years of house arrest in Burma, defending her in numerous public statements. Williams was one of the few who managed to win permission from Burma’s ruling military junta to visit Suu Kyi during her detention.

    “When she asked people around the world to use their freedom to support freedom for her and many Burma democrats in prison, she entered into an unwritten compact,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

    “But now it looks like she’s reneging on the deal ... and it’s a gut punch to the world community that supported her.”

    Suu Kyi visited Ottawa last spring and had a closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He raised concerns about the treatment of the Rohingya during the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office said at the time. Trudeau reiterated that concern this week during the Liberal caucus retreat in Kelowna, B.C.

    “Prime Minister Trudeau needs to go further and make clear to Aung San Suu Kyi that unless her government ends the atrocities, Canada will do more than denounce abuses and needs to reassess Canada’s bilateral relationship with Burma,” said Farida Deif, the Canada director of Human Rights Watch.

    So far, government officials say privately there is no consideration being given to rescinding her honorary Canadian citizenship. Suu Kyi is one of six international figures to receive that honour.

    An online petition by has almost 390,000 signatures calling for Suu Kyi to be stripped of her Peace Prize. A Gatineau, Que. man has also launched a private petition calling on the government to revoke her Canadian citizenship.

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    Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez spent a busy day in Los Angeles trying to head off a possible next wave of misguided asylum seekers who could be forced to leave the United States in the coming months.

    Canadian officials fear thousands of migrants could come streaming across the Canada-U.S. border when President Donald Trump makes a decision on the fate of a special immigration designation, known as a Temporary Protected Status, afforded to citizens of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

    “We want to relay the message that there’s a whole bunch of misinformation that’s circulating and before folks decide to sell their homes and uproot their families and potentially make a really rash decision based on false information, we want these folks to have all the facts — the true facts about what lies ahead with the Canadian immigration system,” said a government spokesperson, speaking on background about the objectives of the L.A. trip.

    In total, more than 300,000 citizens of 10 countries that are suffering the effects of conflict or disaster are eligible for the TPS protection. More than 250,000 are from El Salvador and Honduras alone.

    On Aug. 30, Honduran newspaper La Prensa also published an article citing a Miami-based Honduran immigration activist as saying he had been contacted by the Canadian government about the possibility of welcoming desperate Hondurans to Canada. Canadian officials scrambled to deny the report the following day.

    Immigration anxiety also peak again this week when Trump decided to scrap a program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, that provided work permits to people who were young children when they entered illegally into the U.S. with their parents. The program will formally expire in six months.

    Rodriguez’s L.A. trip is modelled on a similar visit to Miami in August by Haiti-born Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg. There, he met with members of Miami’s Haitian diaspora as well as local elected officials and groups working with new immigrants.

    Dubourg had a tough message — that those choosing to sneak across the border into Canada risk eventual deportation to their home country if their claim is not accepted. But Dubourg was chosen because he could deliver it in English, French and, most importantly, Haitian Creole.

    Similarly, Rodriguez gave Spanish-language interviews to La Opinion and the Univision television network Friday.

    Rodriguez also held a meeting with the consuls general for Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

    “They were very anxious to get all those facts so they can start to relay them to the folks that are coming in to see them and asking questions,” the Canadian government official said.

    The three countries, whose TPS designation expires between January and March 2018, have been lobbying the American government for an extension, arguing that the housing shortages, damage to infrastructure and the security challenges that have risen in the years since make it tough to resettle so many people all at once.

    Nicaragua and Honduras have had the designation since shortly after Hurricane Mitch ravaged the countries in 1998. El Salvador was designated as a TPS country after two major earthquakes in 2001 killed 1,000, injured about 8,000 and caused serious damage in 165 of the country’s 262 municipalities.

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    SUDBURY—A one-time Liberal candidate rejected by Premier Kathleen Wynne for a 2015 byelection says he’s not certain he was being offered paid jobs to step aside from the Liberal party’s nomination race.

    “I wasn’t sure they were monetary or not,” Andrew Olivier said Friday in the Election Act bribery trial of former Wynne deputy chief of staff Patricia Sorbara and Sudbury Liberal organizer Gerry Lougheed.

    The two are accused of offering jobs or appointments to Olivier to make way for defecting New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault, tabbed by Wynne as the best bet to win the Sudbury riding back.

    Olivier, the Liberal candidate for Sudbury in the 2014 provincial election, had hoped to reprise that role after the ‎surprise resignation of New Democrat MPP Joe Cimino five months into his term, setting the stage for the byelection in February 2015.

    Lougheed lawyer Michael Lacy put it to Olivier during cross-examination that “he was offered an opportunity to continue to have a role in the party” as opposed to government posts.

    “I wasn’t 100 per cent‎ sure,” Olivier replied.

    Lacy went back at Olivier, using courtroom television screens to show a transcript of an interview with Ontario Provincial Police investigators in which he was asked if he felt he had been offered rewards or benefits not to exit the nomination race.

    According to the transcript from the interview about nine days after the alleged offers were made by Sorbara and Lougheed on Dec. 11 and 12 of 2014, Olivier told police “it was an opportunity to be in the party. I had no interest in finding out if these were paid positions.”

    ‎Lacy also revealed an email memo showing a Sudbury Liberal riding association executive, Andre Bisson, was working behind the scenes to convince the Toronto party hierarchy to have Olivier acclaimed or appointed the byelection candidate before Thibeault came into the picture.

    “‎I know that he was lobbying for me,” said Olivier.

    “It’s starting to ring a bell for me now that you’re saying it,” he told Lacy.

    Lacy drew a parallel between Bisson’s actions on behalf of Olivier and the later push by Wynne and the central party to have Thibeault acclaimed or appointed as the candidate.

    “They ‎were lobbying for the very same thing the Liberal party wanted for Mr. Thibeault . . . the very thing you called not democratic.”

    Sorbara lawyer Brian Greenspan and Lacy have argued the charges against their clients have no merit because Thibeault had decided to accept the premier’s official approval as the candidate ‎before the conversations with Lougheed and Sorbara took place.

    “Wouldn’t you agree, sir, he was attempting to soften the blow?” Lacy asked Olivier about the offer from Lougheed.

    “I didn’t know that was his intention,” Olivier replied.

    In the conversation Olivier held with Lougheed after Thibeault accepted the candidacy, Lougheed said: “The premier wants to talk. They would like to present you options in terms of appointments, jobs, whatever, that you and her and Pat Sorbara could talk about.”

    A tape of the conversation was replayed in court as the trial began Thursday.

    Olivier, a mortgage broker who is quadriplegic, tapes some calls and conversations because he cannot take notes.

    He placed second in the 2014 election as the Liberals lost the riding held for the previous 18 years by veteran Liberal cabinet minister Rick Bartolucci, who is slated to testify next week before Wynne’s appearance on Wednesday.

    Olivier has repeatedly testified that he hoped the party hierarchy could be convinced to hold a nomination race even after he was told by Sorbara, Lougheed and Wynne that Thibeault would be the candidate, based on the premier’s power to name candidates under the Liberal constitution.

    “I thought there was still going to be a (nomination) process,” Olivier said Friday. “In my conversation with the premier I didn’t feel there was a concrete decision.”

    In the byelection — which was won by Thibeault, now Wynne’s energy minister — Olivier ran ‎as an independent and placed third.

    He was relieved after finishing his testimony Friday.

    “Everybody in that room understands the gravity of what’s going on,” Olivier told reporters in the courthouse lobby.

    If convicted, Sorbara and Lougheed, a funeral homeowner, face maximum penalties of $25,000 fines and two years less a day in jail.

    New Democrat House leader Gilles Bisson, who made the original complaint to Elections Ontario after Olivier posted accusations on his Facebook page about being bribed out of the race, said the case shows political parties need to have open and contested nomination races — not appointments by party leaders.

    “This is bad for all of us who are in politics.”

    The trial resumes Monday, the same day two former top aides to premier Dalton McGuinty are scheduled to go to trial on Criminal Code charges for alleged deletion of documents related to cancelled gas-fired power plants before the 2011 election.

    Read more:

    Bribery charges against ex-Wynne staffer, Liberal organizer unfounded, defence says

    Thibeault will testify in Sudbury byelection bribery trial

    Kathleen Wynne to testify in Sudbury byelection trial

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    “Well, we found one,” John Burzynski leader of the Raise the Arrow expedition told a news conference Friday morning before unveiling sonar images of a long-lost object that was a part of Canada’s most significant aviation program.

    Burzynski confirmed that the expedition’s engineers have located one of nine models of the Avro Arrow that have been sitting at the bottom of Lake Ontario since they were launched in test flights between 1954 and 1957.

    The Arrow was a fighter jet developed in the 1950s that was lauded as a groundbreaking technological achievement before the program’s controversial cancellation by the Diefenbaker government in 1959.

    The Arrow’s story, Burzynski said, was one of “the realization of dreams,” as well as the “bitter taste of defeat,” when the program was cancelled and the only existing planes destroyed. Canadians were stunned when then-prime minister John Diefenbaker announced the cancellation, the reasons for which were never clear, but likely had to do with costs.

    The Raise the Arrow expedition, Burzynski said, was not only about finding something that was lost. It was about the people who worked on the plane, and all the Canadians who held memories of the Arrow dear.

    The expedition spent a total of 12 days since the end of July searching the lake.

    The model, which remains on the floor of the lake, is about three metres long and two metres wide. Images show orange paint, a hallmark of the treasured Canadian technology, still intact and peeking through the zebra mussels that almost entirely cover its surface.

    “I think being able to showcase using cutting edge Canadian technology —being our sonar systems and underwater vehicles — to actually find and resurrect cutting edge Canadian technology… I think it’s an amazing example of what we can do as Canadians looking back at our history,” said David Shea, vice-president of engineering for Kraken Sonar.

    Shea remembers being fascinated by the Arrow as a child after reading his older brother’s history books on the aircraft.

    “I remember going through this book and looking at these jet fighters and I didn’t understand why they didn’t exist anymore,” he said. “Every since then, growing up and going into engineering, I’ve been fascinated with the fact that Canada had such a cutting edge technology and we were world leaders at one point in time.”

    The Avro Arrow program, Shea said, is unparalleled in the ability it had to inspire Canadian engineers. He hopes that the country is beginning to gain back some prestige in the field of science and technology — particularly as the advanced sonar technologies he uses proved successful in finding one Arrow model.

    The discovery of the model is the biggest Arrow-related event since a full-sized replica of the plane was unveiled in 2006.

    Shea’s looking forward to going back out onto the water to find the other eight right away.

    An archaeological team led by Scarlett Janusas will now get to work on recovering the model. She said the team hopes to send divers down before the end of the season.

    The object will likely be retrieved next spring, at which point more information about its place in Arrow history is expected to come to light.

    Once all the models are removed from Lake Ontario, they will be housed at the Canada Aviation and Space museum in Ottawa and the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton.

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    Trying to find any good that can come from the LCBO seizing control of the marijuana market is like trying to get high by smoking a rolled-up Bounty towel.

    It’s strange. Honestly, I can usually find something good in just about anything. The other night, my wife unilaterally imposed a new household budget and whipped up a dinner of “Greek tacos” that were hastily constructed with leftover souvlaki skewers and a mixture of spices few Mexicans would endorse and, though it was touch-and-go for a bit, I was not rushed to the ER.

    So that was good.

    But upon learning Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals plan to open 150 stand-alone marijuana stores — come for the 30 per cent markup of bundled excise taxes, stay for the glossy CCBO magazine with delightful Facewreck Haze garden-party recipes — the only feeling was one of a bad trip.

    And I don’t even use recreational drugs.

    On what future potheads will refer to as Black Friday, Ms. Wynne took a big hit off the nanny-state bong and announced plans for the provincial government to add “drug dealer” to its monopoly portfolio. At this rate, I give it six months before she decrees that all snow tires be purchased exclusively through a Service Ontario kiosk.

    As the Star’s Robert Benzie reported: “The stand-alone cannabis outlets — physically separate from existing provincial-owned liquor stores — and a government-controlled website will be the only place weed can lawfully be sold after Ottawa legalizes it on July 1.”

    Yes, after weed is legalized on July 1 — or given Justin Trudeau’s penchant for broken promises, perhaps that should read if weed is legalized — Wynne will bravely mutate into a cross between Metrolinx and El Chapo and aim to control the local supply of cannabis through Beer Store-style outlets where the “product” is hidden from view, circa 1962, and the surreal experience is decidedly at odds with the presumed preferences of marijuana enthusiasts who’ve been known to do some impulse buying outside of traditional retail hours, and who likely won’t be thrilled when their new dealer is closed for a holiday or is suddenly on strike.

    Then there is the issue of supply and demand. And here it is not clear if Wynne is trying to corner the market on marijuana or rare orchids.

    In a “Backgrounder” released on Black Friday, with the wildly exciting title, “Ontario’s Cannabis Retail and Distribution Model,” the government’s “proposed approach” is to open 80 stores by 2019, before that number climbs to 150 the following year.

    Is that sufficient when the government is also shuttering every private dispensary? If you’ve ever tried to locate an LCBO outside a major urban pocket, you know the answer is “not bloody likely.” The weird part is the government is claiming it and only it can control cannabis at a time when it has ceded to public pressure and allowed beer and wine sales to seep into grocery aisles.

    This makes the claim of higher responsibility — “Ontario is proposing a safe and sensible approach to the retail of recreational cannabis, overseen by the LCBO through a subsidiary corporation,” reads the backgrounder — harder to reconcile with the revenue-grab reality. It’s like saying I trust my ex to take the kids on a skydiving vacation, but he’s strictly prohibited from picking them up after school.

    So the government is now in the process of expending a startling volume of tax dollars to: a) effectively kill competition, b) reduce the choice and convenience for citizens interested in buying a legalized product, c) inhibit entrepreneurship and small-business growth in an emerging sector and, d) do all of this under the dubious guise of control in the hope nobody will notice the blatant overreach.

    Again, I have no dog in this fight. I’m not a user. But if I were, I’m not sure I’d want to venture out to a Big Box mall, wander into an antiseptic store with a Walmart vibe and exchange pleasantries with a grumpy, on-the-clock employee who may not know a Champagne Kush from a Veuve Clicquot. I’m not sure I’d want to return to my car carrying a CCBO-branded paper bag after “browsing” theoretically and being made to feel like I was purchasing an AK-47 at a Toys “R” Us.

    Which is why the only thing Wynne is destined to achieve is breathe new life into the black market. This decision is a lump of coal in the vaporizer of users.

    As any drug dealer can tell you, territory is key. And on Black Friday, Wynne made it clear she believes the province is her street-corner and rival factions hoping to get a piece of this action will be wiped out by her gang of bureaucrats.

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    Mississauga Councillor Nando Iannicca called June 21 “one of the greatest days in the history of Cooksville.”

    Iannicca, who has served the area on city council for 27 years, was elated the day that council moved on his plan for the city to negotiate the purchase of 31 homes over 11 hectares near Cooksville Creek to build a “Central Park” in Mississauga. The resolution passed in camera.

    But the plan came as a shock to the people the plan would most directly impact — the homeowners.

    Michele Alexander, 57, received a letter from the city in June which said the city was interested in buying the home she’s lived in for 18 years. Worried about the possibility of expropriation, she was quick to check the news for more information.

    She didn’t learn the details of Iannicca’s park plan until early July, when it was reported in the media.

    “The first thing that upset all of us is that there was no conversation ahead of time,” Alexander said. “None of us saw this coming.”

    Now Alexander is among a group of homeowners who are determined not to sell to the city. They say they were blind-sided by their own councillor’s “secret” plan. She was among a number of Cooksville Creek homeowners who spoke at a Mississauga council meeting Wednesday, asking for assurance that their homes won’t be expropriated.

    “I would probably be the last person out of there,” Alexander said in an interview with the Star. “I would fight to the very end because it’s just wrong.”

    Iannicca said he’s been transparent about his plan to “kill two birds with one stone” — to provide desperately needed park space to the growing city, and buy homes he said that would be hard to sell given the area’s risk of flooding.

    Council gave the green light for the city to purchase the homes, all of which are in the city’s floodplain, for their market value — no more than $2 million per home. The money to buy the homes will come from a city fund set aside for the purchase of land for parks. The council decision did not give city staff a mandate for expropriation.

    By 2031, 7,000 more people will live in Cooksville and the area will be connected with the future Hurontario Light Rail Transit system. Iannicca said the need for park space will grow along with the neighbourhood’s population.

    The large park would help correct the city’s green space deficit and reduce the risk of floods in the area it would occupy, he said.

    Alexander is doubtful that the money offered by the city will be enough to motivate her or her neighbours to move, especially since many of them have lived there for decades.

    The abundant trees in the neighbourhood make “you feel like you’re going to a cottage when you go here,” Alexander said.

    The community is also tight knit — especially since the flood of 2013, when the neighbours helped each other out.

    “There’s no way I could replace this for that kind of money,” Alexander said.

    Linda Kaszuba-Kostick, a realtor who lives and works in the Cooksville neighbourhood, said that homes near Cooksville Creek form a “high demand pocket;” the neighbourhood has good schools, existing green space and home values have risen in anticipation of the incoming LRT.

    “I don’t think areas suffer from having another park,” she said. “If it’s done beautifully, which I’m sure it will be, it will be a good thing.”

    Kaszuba-Kostick said the values of the properties the city wants to buy are difficult to predict. Some of the homes in the area are on large lots, which could make them worth more than $1 million, but the fact that they are on the floodplain hinders owners from building bigger homes on the lots, which is a trend in the area.

    Iannicca declined to release details about which properties specifically the city wishes to buy, but said that only 12 of them are occupied by the owners.

    Laura Piette, director of Park and Forestry, called the prospect of buying residents’ longtime homes “a delicate matter.” She said the city intends to meet with all homeowners, and proceed to negotiate with willing sellers only.

    But enough homeowners refusing to sell could spell the end of Iannicca’s years-old Central Park dreams.

    “That is my cautionary tale for everyone,” Iannicca said. “If this plan does not find favour we’ll turn our attention elsewhere.”

    There are plenty of other homes located in the floodplain, whose owners may be more willing to sell to the city, in the event that Iannicca’s own constituents resist, he said.

    If that happens, “I think many of them will see this as a tremendous opportunity lost,” he said.

    But Iannica’s not planning on that right now. He said the home purchases will take time — up to three years — and that council will have time later to reevaluate if the Cooksville Creek owners don’t budge.

    Iannicca said that he understands the homeowners’ wish that they were consulted beforehand, but insists that he abstained from reaching out before the plan was approved to protect their privacy.

    “Now, dare I say, none of them have lost a damn thing,” he said. “I had no official story to tell until June of this year.”

    The city is now in the process of meeting with the homeowners.

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    MEXICO CITY—One of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in Mexico struck off the country’s southern coast, toppling hundreds of buildings, triggering tsunami evacuations and sending panicked people fleeing into the streets in the middle of the night. At least 60 people were reported dead.

    The quake that hit minutes before midnight Thursday was strong enough to cause buildings to sway violently in the capital city more than 1,000 kilometres away. As beds banged against walls, people still wearing pyjamas ran out of their homes and gathered in frightened groups.

    Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas, the state nearest the epicentre, said his house “moved like chewing gum.”

    The furious shaking created a second national emergency for Mexican agencies already bracing for Hurricane Katia on the other side of the country. The system was expected to strike the Gulf coast in the state of Veracruz late Friday or early Saturday as a Category 2 storm that could bring life-threatening floods.

    The head of Mexico’s civil defence agency confirmed the deaths of 45 people in the southern state of Oaxaca. Another 12 people died in Chiapas and three more in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.

    The worst-hit city appeared to be Juchitan, on the narrow waist of Oaxaca known as the Isthmus. About half of the city hall collapsed in a pile of rubble, and streets were littered with the debris of ruined houses.

    President Enrique Pena Nieto toured the area, where he met with residents amid the debris of crumbled buildings.

    “The priority in Juchitan is re-establishing supply of water and food, as well as medical attention for those affected,” Pena Nieto said via Twitter.

    Mexico City escaped major damage, but the quake terrified sleeping residents, many of whom still remember the catastrophic 1985 earthquake that killed thousands and devastated large parts of the city.

    Families were jerked awake by the grating howl of the capital’s seismic alarm. Some shouted as they dashed out of rocking apartment buildings. Even the iconic Angel of Independence Monument swayed as the quake’s waves rolled through the city’s soft soil.

    Elsewhere, the extent of destruction was still emerging. Hundreds of buildings collapsed or were damaged, power was cut at least briefly to more than 1.8 million people and authorities closed schools Friday in at least 11 states to check them for safety.

    The earthquake’s impact was blunted somewhat by the fact that it was centred 100 miles offshore. It hit off Chiapas’ Pacific coast, near the Guatemalan border, with a magnitude of 8.1 — equal to Mexico’s strongest quake of the past century. It was slightly stronger than the 1985 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

    The epicentre was in a seismic hot spot in the Pacific where one tectonic plate dives under another. These subduction zones are responsible for producing some of the biggest quakes in history, including the 2011 Fukushima disaster and the 2004 Sumatra quake that spawned a deadly tsunami.

    The quake struck at 11:49 p.m. Thursday, and its epicentre was 165 kilometres west of Tapachula in Chiapas. It had a depth of 69.7 kilometres, the USGS said.

    Dozens of strong aftershocks rattled the region in the following hours.

    Three people were killed in San Cristobal, including two women who died when a house and a wall collapsed, Chiapas Gov. Manuel Velasco said.

    “There is damage to hospitals that have lost energy,” he said. “Homes, schools and hospitals have been damaged.”

    In Tabasco, one child died when a wall collapsed, and an infant died in a children’s hospital when the facility lost electricity, cutting off the ventilator, Gov. Arturo Nunez said.

    The quake triggered tsunami warnings and some tall waves, but there was no major damage from the sea. Authorities briefly evacuated a few residents of coastal Tonala and Puerto Madero because of the warning.

    The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported waves of 1 metre above the tide level off Salina Cruz, Mexico. Smaller tsunami waves were observed on the coast or measured by ocean gauges elsewhere.

    In neighbouring Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales appeared on national television to call for calm while emergency crews surveyed damage. Officials later said only four people had been injured and several dozen homes damaged.

    The quake occurred near the point of collision between three tectonic plates, the Cocos, the Caribbean and the North American.

    The area has seen at least six other quakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater since 1900. Three of those occurred within a nerve-wracking nine-month span in 1902-1903, according to Mexico’s National Seismological Service.

    Scientists were still reviewing data, but a preliminary analysis indicated the quake was triggered by the sudden breaking or bending of the Cocos plate, which dives beneath Mexico. That type of process does not happen often in subduction zones. Usually, big quakes in subduction zones occur along the boundary between the sinking slab and the overriding crust.

    “It’s unusual, but it’s not unheard of,” said seismologist Susan Hough of the USGS, describing how stresses on the sea floor can produce big earthquakes.

    The new quake matched the force of a magnitude 8.1 quake that hit the country on June 3, 1932, roughly 500 kilometres west of Mexico City.

    A study by the seismological service concluded that that quake killed about 400 people and caused severe damage around the port of Manzanillo. A powerful aftershock that hit 19 days later caused a tsunami that devastated 25 kilometres of coastline, killing 75 people.

    In Veracruz, tourists abandoned coastal hotels as winds and rains picked up ahead of Hurricane Katia’s expected landfall. Workers set up emergency shelters and cleared storm drains, and forecasters warned that the storm threatened to bring torrential rainfall, high winds and a dangerous storm surge off the Gulf of Mexico.

    Katia had maximum sustained winds of 165 kph and was located about 195 kilometres southeast of the city of Tampico in the afternoon, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

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    When GarCon Building Group went bankrupt more than two years ago, Karim Hajee was one of several homeowners who collectively lost more than a million dollars in deposits on home renovation work.

    Court documents filed last week allege that the money — which hasn’t been returned — went partly toward the company owner’s personal expenses, including gambling debt, and bills for his former Toronto home.

    “Just that realization that ‘Wow, I trusted someone and now a big chunk of my finances are gone’ — that was devastating,” Hajee said in an interview Thursday with the Star.

    Eight families, including Hajee and his wife, launched a lawsuit in June 2015, against Adam Gardin, his wife Naomi and GarCon, collectively seeking $1.5 million in damages, plus $500,000 in punitive damages and their legal costs.

    They accused Gardin, who now lives in Michigan, of fraud, theft, conversion, breach of contract and unjust enrichment. None of their allegations have been proven in court.

    In a statement of defence from August 2015, Gardin denied wrongdoing, saying that increased costs forced GarCon to file for bankruptcy, that the company used advanced funds to pay for the work on the plaintiff’s homes, and that he acted in good faith.

    Last week, the plaintiffs filed new court documentsthrough their lawyer Ryan Wozniak, which included bank records they argue show “Adam and Naomi used the plaintiffs’ deposits to pay myriad personal expenses.”

    “Adam requested large deposits from the plaintiffs at a time when GarCon was hemorrhaging cash and on the brink of financial collapse,” a portion of the motion reads.

    They also allege that those expenses included hefty gambling debts. The bank records show $95,617.04 of credit card expenses incurred at Caesar’s Palace Windsor and Fallsview Casino between December 2013 and December 2014.

    The Star contacted Gardin asking him to respond to detailed allegations contained within the Aug. 31 motion. He declined to respond to the specific allegations, but emailed the following statement:

    “GarCon, the company I started from nothing in 2004, has now been closed for over two years now. Over this time, my family has suffered immensely by the closure of the company, and the subsequent negative media I have gotten, as well as the legal matters I am currently dealing with. Although I am deeply saddened by what has happened to the clients of GarCon, my main focus right now is my family and my health. I hope that we will all be able to put this behind us soon.”

    Wozniak declined to comment on this story.

    Hajee, his wife and four kids, now live in the home he hired GarCon to renovate back in 2015, but it’s taken a long time to get to that point. Even now the interior of his home isn’t completely finished, nor is his driveway.

    “Our home still isn’t completed because we’ve run out of funds,” he said.

    He said he paid GarCon $155,909 in deposits but the work was not completed; his home was only ever gutted, and a big hole was dug in the backyard before GarCon went bankrupt.

    He hopes homeowners see what he went through as a cautionary tale.

    “There’s no clear protection for you, the homeowner, once you pay the contractor any amount,” he said.

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    POMPANO BEACH, FLA.—Hurricane Irma swept across the Bahamas and Cuba on Friday as the deadly storm hurtled toward Florida’s doorstep and threatened to ravage the state with destruction not seen in a generation.

    As the weather forecasts and warnings from officials grew increasingly dire, hundreds of thousands of people across Florida fled their homes in an effort to get out before the rapidly-closing window to escape Irma’s wrath slammed shut. Forecasters said Irma, a storm of remarkable size and power that has already battered islands across the Caribbean, would approach South Florida by Sunday morning and could slam ashore there before tracking up the state’s spine.

    The death toll in the storm’s wake across the Caribbean climbed to 22.

    Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the eastern part of Cuba reported no major casualties or damage by mid-afternoon after Irma rolled north of the Caribbean’s biggest islands.

    But many others residents and tourists farther east were left reeling after the storm ravaged some of the world’s most exclusive tropical playgrounds, known for their turquoise waters and lush green vegetation. Among them: St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla.

    Irma threatened to push its way northward from one end of Florida to the other beginning Sunday morning in what many feared could be the long-dreaded, catastrophic Big One.

    “It’s not a question of if Florida’s going to be impacted, it’s a question of how bad Florida’s going to be impacted,” William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said at a news briefing on Friday.

    Even as emergencies were declared in Georgia and the Carolinas — where heavy rains and flooding are expected early next week — attention remained focused on Florida as the state anxiously prepared for Irma’s arrival, with forecasts calling for up to 50 centimetres of rain in some areas and thrashing winds no matter how the storm pivots before hitting the mainland United States.

    “Irma is likely to make landfall in Florida as a dangerous major hurricane, and will bring life-threatening wind impacts to much of the state regardless of the exact track of the centre,” the National Hurricane Center said Friday.

    The centre said that Irma, which had maximum sustained winds near 250 km/h and higher gusts on Friday and passed between the Central Bahamas and north coast of Cuba, was expected “to remain a powerful Category 4 hurricane as it approaches Florida.”

    Local, state and federal officials have offered ominous warning after warning as the storm zeroed in on Florida, making clear how much danger they felt the Sunshine State could face in the coming days. Long urged people from Alabama to North Carolina to monitor and prepare for Irma, calling the storm “a threat that is going to devastate the United States, either Florida or some of the southeastern states.”

    Read more: Hurricane Irma brings death, ‘wide-scale’ destruction to the Caribbean

    Quebec man on Saint-Martin calls Irma the most terrifying experience of his life

    Canadian couple stranded on Caribbean island pleads for help, evacuation

    Floridians are familiar with ominous forecasts and hurricane warnings, and many in the state have painful memories of Hurricane Andrew, which made landfall as a Category 5 monster in 1992, and other storms that brought lashing rain and winds. But when asked about people in South Florida who intend to ride out the storm at home, Long was blunt.

    “I can guarantee you that I don’t know anybody in Florida that’s ever experienced what’s about to hit South Florida,” Long said. “They need to get out and listen and heed the warnings.”

    Mark DeMaria, acting deputy director of the hurricane centre, said Friday afternoon that the latest models showed the storm track shifting slightly to the west, putting southwest Florida in particular jeopardy for the most violent winds even as all of South Florida will have significant impacts.

    “We really want to emphasize the very vulnerable Southwest Florida area,” DeMaria said.

    Scott, the governor, has warned people that evacuation zones could expand and said that all Floridians “should be prepared” to leave their homes. Scott has also cited the memories of Andrew, calling Irma “more devastating on its current path,” and warned that much of the state could be imperiled.

    “Based on what we now know, the majority of Florida will have major hurricane impacts with deadly storm surge and life-threatening winds,” Scott said. “And we can expect this along the entire east coast and the entire west coast.”

    In addition to packing intense power, Irma was also an immense storm, forecasters say, with hurricane-force winds extending some 112 kilometres from the centre, and tropical-storm force winds extending as far as 297 kilometres out.

    Airports around the state said they would suspend flights and cease operations. Publix, the grocery store chain, announced plans to close stores across the state in waves and did not say when they would reopen. Tom Bossert, Homeland Security adviser to President Donald Trump, on Friday said that people need to have enough food and water to get by during a period when the rain and wind will prevent authorities from getting to them.

    “We have pre-deployed and pre-staged, but we can’t actually get to that final point of care until conditions permit,” he said during a White House briefing Friday.

    The hurricane centre has issued a hurricane warning covering all of South Florida, where local officials have ordered evacuations along the coast. In Miami-Dade County, the state’s most populous, mandatory evacuations were issued for about 660,000 people, including for Miami Beach and Key Biscayne. It was the largest evacuation ordered in Miami-Dade history, said Carlos Gimenez, the county’s mayor.

    Miami City Hall, an Art Deco style building right on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, an evacuation zone, was locked and mostly vacant on Friday. The only City Hall parking spot that was occupied? A black Ford Expedition in the spot labelled for Mayor Tomas Regalado.

    Many people ordered to leave Broward and Palm Beach counties were directed to public schools, which have been shuttered across the state by Gov. Rick Scott so they can serve as shelters and staging areas for first responders. Many public schools across the state had already cancelled classes, while colleges had also shuttered campuses and rescheduled football games.

    Pompano Beach High School, which sits just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean and is normally home of the Golden Tornadoes, was transformed Friday into a safe haven for about 150 people seeking shelter from Irma. Several volunteers said they expected the school, one of about 20 facilities Broward County is using as a shelter, to reach its capacity of 280 people by Saturday.

    Those already packed into the school’s cafeteria had one thing in common: They were either unable or unwilling to leave the area, despite a mandatory evacuation order for several sections of the county, including anyone close to the nearby ocean. Only those who had registered starting at noon on Thursday were allowed into the school, and once capacity was reached, others who showed up were directed to venues with larger spaces.

    Three Broward County Sheriffs deputies were at the front door on Friday, inspecting all bags for weapons, drugs and alcohol. Two paramedics were assigned to the shelter in three shifts, and two will be in the building 24 hours a day starting Saturday morning, along with at least a half dozen law enforcement officers. The men, women and children filing inside have been greeted by several volunteers and county employees who will be working around the clock starting Saturday at 8 a.m.

    They’re staffing a facility that doesn’t quite have all the comforts of home — there are two bathrooms and no showers, cots or Wi-Fi — but there are a few. Two television sets were tuned to the Weather Channel, providing the latest news about Irma’s approach — all of it bad. There were also nine microwave ovens, plugs for cellphones and computers and, eventually, a generator that will be put into use once the power fails, as is expected once the hurricane hits.

    Still, according to one volunteer, the school was built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Many occupants came fully-prepared, with a number of air mattresses, chaise lounges and sleeping bags set up in neat rows throughout the cafeteria. Three free meals a day will be served during the duration, and water, coffee and snacks are also available.

    Someone brought in stacks of books, and others played checkers, cards, watched TV, read or took naps. An elderly couple came in concerned about keeping their insulin refrigerated. They were quickly assured by a paramedic they would be stored in a cafeteria fridge and available any time.

    Suzie and Renè Wilhelm are here on vacation from the Netherlands. They were staying at a hotel a block from the nearby Fort Lauderdale beach, located in one of the evacuation zones.

    Renè, a Mercedes Benz salesman back home, said they left Amsterdam for Orlando last Monday, not really aware of the monster storm gathering hundreds of miles away.

    “We’ve been coming to Florida since 2000, Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and we had no idea this was happening,” Renè said, sitting on one of two chaise lounges he had purchased Friday morning at a nearby Target. “We’re used to snow, but not this.”

    They stayed in Orlando for a day, then drove south on Wednesday hoping the storm still might veer away from South Florida.

    “We knew it was coming,” said Suzie, who works in health care. “But we also heard it was coming to Orlando, so we didn’t know what to do. As we were driving here, I thought, ‘This is a stupid thing to do.’ I called our travel agent in the Netherlands, and also the same company here, to see if they could get us out, but they never even called me back or answered my emails. The woman at our hotel tried to book us somewhere else, but everything was filled.”

    They tried one shelter, but were told there was no food and that they could not leave if they went in.

    “It was terrifying, so we came here,” she said. “You can come and go. People have been very nice to us.”

    Not far away, Bill and Jane Borum, both native Washingtonians and retirees, were also trying to get comfortable on newly-purchased lounges and reading to pass the hours. They live in a condo at the Bay Colony highrise in Fort Lauderdale, just steps from the ocean, and left when the evacuation order was issued. They thought about driving north to get out of harm’s way, but “we really didn’t have any place to go,” said Jane, who attended Alice Deal Junior High and Wilson High School in Northwest Washington “many years ago” and retired to South Florida with her husband a few years ago.

    “We saw that all of Florida was going to be covered (by the storm), so that didn’t make sense,” she said. “My girlfriend was going to stay with relatives in Tifton, Georgia. She left here at 7:30 Thursday morning and didn’t get there until 11:30 at night. The traffic was a mess. We didn’t want to do that.

    “Our kids in Maryland wanted us to fly home, but we couldn’t get on a flight, so now we’re here,” she added. “It’s our first time in a shelter, and the last, I hope.”

    Some hit the road but did not want to go too far. Joseph “Tony” Vincent, 82, braked his 3-wheeled bicycle to a stop in the Naples Mobile Home Park. He has seen many storms and planned to hit the road for Irma, but he was not heading far away — he has weekend room reservations at a modest motel just outside the park, along Tamiami Trail.

    “I seen Hurricane Donna blow the river completely out of its banks in Fort Myers,” he declared Friday morning. “A two-storey frame house swayed in the wind. This one is even bigger. I’m not dumb. My mama didn’t raise no fool.”

    Vincent said that even if he had the money, he wouldn’t leave his home state over a hurricane.

    “Hell, you’d be safer here than taking a car on those roads. You might be killed before you get to Atlanta,” he scoffed.

    Other Florida fixtures hunkered down. The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens — otherwise known as Zoo Miami, which sprawls across more than 700 acres and has more than 3,000 animals — closed down on Thursday but said it would not be moving its animals.

    “We don’t evacuate our animals since hurricanes can change direction at the last minute and you run the risk of evacuating to a more dangerous location,” the zoo said in a statement. “Furthermore, the stress of moving the animals can be more dangerous than riding out the storm. The animals that are considered dangerous will stay in their secure night houses, which are made of poured concrete and welded metal.”

    When Hurricane Andrew struck, the zoo was hit hard. Tropical birds were missing, cages torn apart and animals traumatized — through, miraculously, most of the animals were unharmed.

    Across the main arteries out of Florida, some trips took more than twice as long as normal. At one point late Thursday night and into Friday, so many cars clogged the Florida Turnpike that it took four hours to go 32 kilometres. People who fled the state trekked into Georgia and South Carolina. Atlanta’s downtown was turned into a temporary home for many evacuees, some of whom spent all night making the trip from South Florida. In South Carolina, the attorney general’s office reported more than 200 complaints from residents about price-gouging related to gasoline.

    Fleeing to safer ground was not an option for many in the Caribbean, where Irma had the prime minister of tiny Barbuda grasping for a word to describe the devastation. The island, said Gaston Browne, was now “rubble.” France’s minister for overseas territories, Annick Girardin, described “scenes of pillaging” on St. Martin as people cleaned out stores and roamed the streets in search of food and water.

    On Haiti’s northern coast, the mayor of the city Fort Liberty, Louis Jacques Etienne, called it a “nuclear hurricane.”

    “Crops are destroyed, cattle is dead, and my cities are broken. It is bad. Very very bad,” he said.

    Even as this region struggled to grasp the toll of what had happened, another powerful hurricane was following in Irma’s wake. Hurricane Jose loomed as another threat, with the National Hurricane Center saying late Friday that it was “now an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane” expected to bring life-threatening flooding to the Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands and other areas already left reeling by Irma.

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    Premier Kathleen Wynne is cornering Ontario’s recreational marijuana market by restricting sales to 150 LCBO-run stores.

    The standalone cannabis outlets, separate from provincially owned liquor stores, and a government-controlled website will be the only place weed can lawfully be sold after Ottawa legalizes it on July 1.

    In a move that will close scores of illegal “dispensaries” that now dot Ontario cities, the LCBO will get its product from the medical marijuana producers licenced by Health Canada.

    Only those 19 and older will be allowed to purchase or possess marijuana and pot consumption will be limited to private homes.

    Smoking weed will continue to be illegal in any public space, including parks, workplaces and motorized vehicles.

    Prices will be kept competitive to curb the black market.

    The government expects a boost in tax revenues.

    Finance Minister Charles Sousa, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, and Health Minister Eric Hoskins unveiled the plan Friday at Queen’s Park after months of work from Ontario’s cannabis secretariat.

    The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which runs the province’s 651 liquor stores, using workers who are members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, will oversee all retail sales and run the online service.

    But the branding of the government’s new pot chain will not necessarily include the LCBO’s name.

    Read more:

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    Winners, yes, but more losers under province’s pot plan

    Ottawa earmarks $274M for policing, border enforcement when pot is legalized

    “When it comes to retail distribution, the LCBO has the expertise, the experience and the insight, to ensure careful control of cannabis, to help us discourage illicit market activity and see that illegal dispensaries are shut down,” said Sousa, who has not yet determined how much tax revenue legalized weed will bring in.

    Naqvi said the government has “heard people across Ontario are anxious about the federal legalization of cannabis.

    “The province is moving forward with a safe and sensible approach to legalization that will ensure we can keep our communities and roads safe, promote public health and harm reduction, and protect Ontario’s young people,” the attorney general said.

    There will be 40 LCBO weed stores in place across the province on July 1, 2018, 80 by 2019, and 150 in 2020.

    “We will draw upon our decades of experience and work in partnership with the government to deliver on its objectives,” said LCBO president and CEO George Soleas, stressing the Crown corporation supports “moderate consumption.”

    OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas hailed the Liberals for “a prudent plan.

    “There is no downside to today’s announcement; it’s a model that we encourage other provinces to emulate,” said Thomas.

    Online sales will begin next July after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government legalizes recreational marijuana.

    The premier has long maintained the LCBO should run things, because the booze monopoly has staff trained to keep underage drinkers from buying alcohol and has a tightly controlled distribution channel.

    She was an early opponent of the illegal storefront weed shops, some of which are supplied by, or operated by, organized crime gangs.

    There are about 75 in Toronto and the announcement should provide police and municipalities with the clarity they have been seeking to close them down.

    Toronto Mayor John Tory said he was hopeful the illegal storefronts would voluntarily cease operating without police intervention and that the province would provide the city the resources it needs for enforcement.

    “I am generally satisfied that the government of Ontario’s approach will help keep neighbourhoods safe and address public health concerns,” said Tory.

    “While I support the legalization of marijuana, I do not think the people of Toronto would support future widespread location of outlets for the sale of marijuana in residential neighbourhoods or in certain retailing areas.”

    Jodie Emery, co-owner of Cannabis Culture, said the government should have allowed the storefronts to continue.

    “Do not criminalize the existing industry. This is deeply disappointing,” said Emery, warning a government monopoly will not end the black market.

    “This is doomed to fail,” she said.

    Canadian Federation of Independent Business president Dan Kelly also panned the “public-sector monopoly,” saying “an above-ground, regulated private sector could stay much closer to customers’ preferences and would guard against an underground industry.”

    Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner accused the Liberals of trying to change the channel from the Sudbury byelection bribery trial that began Thursday.

    “This announcement at this time is a cynical ploy by the Liberals to divert attention from their ongoing legal scandals,” said Schreiner.

    NDP MPP Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay) said questions remain about a plan “rushed out the door for political cover.”

    “We’re left to ask if the number of locations is correct, where they’ll be located, how communities will be involved in the decision process, and how pot products will be priced and taxed,” said Bisson.

    Progressive Conservative MPP Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock) said she is “concerned about issues of public safety, including ensuring that there are strong measures to crack down on drug-impaired driving.”

    The government is expected to unveil next week new road safety rules to curb impaired driving.

    Other jurisdictions that have legalized weed have seen a spike in such offences, so the province will try to preempt this using heftier penalties and new testing machines.

    As it stands, the only legally available marijuana is prescribed by a medical doctor and comes from 58 producers licensed and inspected by Health Canada.

    The product can only be delivered directly to patients’ doors by Canada Post or a courier.

    With files from Jennifer Pagliaro

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    Metrolinx is proposing changes to its privacy policy after the Star revealed the provincial transit agency had quietly shared Presto fare card users’ travel data with the police.

    Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said that the agency, which operates the Presto system used by the TTC and 10 other transit agencies in Ontario, has always complied with privacy legislation.

    But she acknowledged that there could be ways to improve its protocol around giving the data of its passengers to law enforcement.

    “We know that privacy and the protection of personal information are highly important to our customers and we share that concern,” said Aikins.

    “We felt it was important to conduct a thorough review and consultation to balance the need to protect the privacy of our customers and our efforts as a good community partner.”

    The proposed changes, which Metrolinx intends to post online next week for public consultation, reflect largely recommendations made by experts who warned that the existing policy could lead to violations of transit users’ privacy.

    According to Aikins, the proposals include: changing the written information provided to Presto users to explicitly state under what circumstances Metrolinx will share private information with law enforcement; requiring police officers to get their supervisors to sign off on requests for cardholders’ information; notifying cardholders when police have asked for their information, and tracking and publishing annual statistics about how many requests the agency received and how it responded.

    Aikins said Metrolinx came up with the proposed reforms after a review that included examining the privacy policies of other transit agencies, telecommunications companies and financial institutions.

    Former three-term Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian said that the proposed reforms are “an improvement, but they don’t go far enough.”

    She said her main concern was that the reforms stop short of requiring police to provide a warrant to obtain Presto users’ information.

    While exceptions should be made in emergencies, such as missing persons cases, in all other instances “you need judicial oversight,” said Cavoukian, who is now the distinguished expert-in-residence at Ryerson University’s Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence.

    “You shouldn’t be giving customers’ personal information . . . to law enforcement unless there is a legitimate case. And if there is a legitimate case, you go to a judge and you get a warrant.”

    The agency couldn’t immediately provide updated statistics about how many requests for Presto users’ information it has received from law enforcement.

    However, the Star reported in June that, since the start of the year, the agency had received 26 requests for Presto usage data, which show where and when a passenger taps their fare card as part of a transit trip. The agency has said that it doesn’t share any other information that it collects from Presto users, such as email addresses, phone numbers, or financial details.

    The agency granted 12 of the 26 requests. Six of them were related to criminal investigations, and six were missing persons cases.

    In only two cases did police produce a warrant.

    In the 14 instances where requests weren’t granted, Metrolinx either turned down the application or it was withdrawn by police.

    At the time, the agency said that it did not always notify users police had asked for their data.

    The public will now have a chance to provide feedback about the potential reforms. Metrolinx also plans to consult with privacy experts, academics, law enforcement, and representatives from other transit agencies. The agency is expected to report back on potential changes to its privacy protocol at its December board meeting. After receiving input from the board, it will report to the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner.

    Roughly 3 million transit riders in Ontario now use Presto, according to Metrolinx. The TTC intends to complete its move to the fare-card system sometime next year, and phase out older forms of payment such as tickets and tokens.

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    This story is part of the Star’s trust initiative, where, every week, we take readers behind the scenes of our journalism. This week, we focus on how Freedom-of-Information requests can lead to public interest stories.

    In order to hold governments to account and shine a light on issues of public interest, reporters have for years used provincial and federal access-to-information legislation.

    For a fee of $5, these laws allow citizens to ask governments and various governmental organizations to provide information, such as emails, memos, and studies. The idea is that the public should be able to scrutinize the actions of government to ensure our democracy is functioning properly.

    In practice, the laws are not without problems and observers and users of the legislation have long complained that it is an expensive system fraught with delays and bureaucracy. However, when it does work, journalists, acting for the public, can uncover valuable insights on how governments operate.

    At the Star, Freedom-of-Information requests have led to stories about carding by Toronto police, how mayoral staff reacted to former mayor Rob Ford’sinfamous crack-smoking scandal, and federal government preparations for the ongoing NAFTA talks, to name just a few.

    Recently, documents obtained by the Star’s transportation reporter Ben Spurr through a Freedom-of-Information request revealed how Ontario’s transportation ministry pressured Metrolinx to approve a new $100-million GO Transit station in Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca’s Vaughan riding. The documents also showed the ministry pressed for another station that would be part of Toronto Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” plan with a price tag of $23 million.

    The records Spurr uncovered consisted of more than 1,000 pages, including reports, briefing notes and emails between Metrolinx officials and transportation ministry staff that exposed how Metrolinx approved the stations — Kirby in Vaughan and Lawrence East in Toronto — even though an analysis determined they would decrease ridership on the GO system if built.

    How did Spurr get the story? His curiosity was piqued in June 2016 when the Metrolinx board approved 12 new GO Transit stations but didn’t release detailed feasibility reports right away. It wasn’t until almost nine months later that the reports were made public. In the interim, Spurr had heard grumblings that research didn’t support the construction of Kirby station.

    So Spurr filed a Freedom-of-Information request to Metrolinx in March 2017 asking for emails to and from then-CEO Bruce McCuaig that pertained to Kirby station, as well as any briefing notes prepared for senior staff about the station.

    Metrolinx asked for $714 to provide the records, which was later reduced to $625. The Star ended up paying half of that, the agency waived the rest. Spurr received the documents in late August. While heavily redacted, the records also contained correspondence about the proposed Lawrence East station raising more questions for Spurr.

    The records were eye-opening.

    “Senior Metrolinx officials candidly discussed through emails what they described as the minister’s disappointment that stations they thought he wanted weren’t headed for approval. They also discussed performing an ‘alternative analysis’ that could see the two stations approved,” Spurr said. “I found this concerningbecause Metrolinx is supposed to be an arms-length agency.”

    Spurr was also surprised to read emails showing that Metrolinx was blindsided when the transportation ministry sent draft press releases indicating the minister would announce new GO stations the Metrolinx board had already voted not to approve, namely Kirby and Lawrence East.

    Despite what the documents revealed, the story didn’t go to print right away. In order to be fair to all the subjects of the story, Spurr alerted Del Duca’s office, Metrolinx and Mayor John Tory’s office and sent each a list of questions. “None of them answered my individual questions. They instead sent statements that addressed some points I had raised, but not all,” Spurr said.

    Spurr quoted in his story an emailed statement from Del Duca’s office that said the station approvals were based on “initial business case analysis, extensive consultation with municipal and regional representatives, community engagement, and collaboration between the ministry of transportation and Metrolinx.”

    Julie Carl, the Star’s senior editor of national and urban affairs and social justice, says sometimes, as in this case, requests reveal unexpected details that add new dimensions to stories.

    “Ben’s story is a great example of this. His FOI request revealed the shocked reactions of Metrolinx officials when they found out the minister intended to announce the two new stations the agency’s board hadn’t approved,” said Carl.

    At other times, the results of Freedom-of-Information requests provide only part of a story, meaning reporters have to rely on other sources to get a fuller picture.

    “We may receive just part of the puzzle so we have to figure out the missing pieces,” she said, adding that doing due diligence before publishing cuts down on the odds the Star will get it wrong and ensures subjects of the story are given a fair amount of time to respond.

    “We think this is so important — we phone, email, knock on their doors and leave letters explaining what we are doing and provide questions we would like them to answer,” Carl said.

    “We give them every opportunity to have their say.”

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    With Harvey’s floodwaters rapidly flowing into the Houston hotel where she worked, Jill Renick reportedly made a frantic cellphone call to a fellow employee: “I’m in an elevator. The water is rushing in. Please help me!”

    Those words were among the few clues Renick’s family and friends had to go on for a week and a half, when repeated searches of the Omni Houston Hotel failed to turn up any sign of her and desperate calls to shelters and hospitals were similarly fruitless.

    Worst fears were confirmed with the discovery of a body in the ceiling of the hotel basement near elevators Thursday, and police say they believe it to be that of the 48-year-old Renick.

    Read more:

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    ‘This is the face of Houston’: Flood cleanup marked by friendliness, lack of crime

    “We are heartbroken. To know Jill is to have loved her,” her sister, Pam Eslinger, said in a statement issued on behalf of the family. “She could light up a room just by walking in and adored life.”

    Renick’s disappearance had been among the most baffling mysteries in the wake of Harvey, which has killed at least 74 people after hitting the Texas coast Aug. 25 and dropping more than 129 centimetres of rain. At least 22 people in Houston remain missing.

    Renick, who was director of spa services at the four-star hotel, was last heard from Aug. 27, police said, when she made the call to a co-worker saying she was stuck in a service elevator that was rapidly filling with water. Eslinger, who has said she spoke with employees, detailed the call to Dallas television station KTVT.

    Renick had stayed the night with her dog in a fourth-floor room at the hotel but left to help guests evacuate as water poured into the lobby and basement. After her cellphone call, there was no sign of Renick. Her dog was found in the hotel room and her car in the parking lot.

    Attempts by the police dive team and the Houston Fire Department to locate Renick were unsuccessful because of the severe flooding. A hotel employee finally spotted the body early Thursday.

    “She was loved by so many people,” said the family statement, “and we will feel the impact of her absence in our hearts forever.”

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    Canada is edging closer to the July 2018 target date for the legalization of marijuana in a haze of political smoke.

    With every new development, the gap between the political narrative attending the initiative and its actual implementation is harder to bridge.

    Take the federal government’s talking points. They have greatly evolved since Justin Trudeau was campaigning on university campuses in the last election campaign. Logic has not always benefited from that evolution.

    To hear the prime minister these days, the point of the policy is to make it harder for minors to buy marijuana. Clearly, Canada is making its peace with marijuana the better to fight it.

    According to Trudeau, that will be achieved by imposing stiffer penalties on those who sell weed illegally and/or drive under the influence. There is a commitment to government-funded public education campaigns to drive home the health risks associated with marijuana.

    Fair enough, but those are all measures a health-conscious federal government could have undertaken without jumping through the hoops of legalizing the substance.

    The oft-missing link in the Liberal talking points is how Trudeau’s stated goal ties in with the legal sale of marijuana.

    Proponents of the plan talk of the need to replace a thriving underground market with a regulated one. The calculation, or at least the hope, is that legal competition will accomplish what judicial repression has so far failed to achieve. But to do that one must be willing to use means on par with policy ambitions.

    In the federal/provincial division of labour, setting the legal marijuana business on a competitive footing is left to the discretion of individual provinces. It is a politically uncomfortable task for which none is particularly enthusiastic.

    Cue the government of Ontario.

    On Friday it became the first to come up with a template to sell marijuana.

    As Canada’s largest province, Ontario stands to set the tone for much of the rest of the country. Many of its sister provinces are still seeking advice from experts and/or sounding out constituents.

    Quebec, for instance, has yet to decide something as basic as whether to apply the legal age to buy alcohol to marijuana. Ontario is set to use age 19 for both categories.

    But the Ontario blueprint falls well short of the purported goal of driving out of business those who sell weed illegally.

    If anything over the next few years, it stands to fatten the golden goose that is the marijuana black market rather than kill it.

    The plan is to establish a government monopoly on the selling of marijuana. The LCBO would run the operation in stores distinct from its liquor outlets. Ontario would open 80 pot shops by July 1, 2019 and another 70 over the following year.

    It would take a lot more than 150 outlets and quite a bit longer than two years to flood the market with legal marijuana in a province the size of Ontario.

    For the sake of comparison, Colorado, with a population of less than six million people, initially opened 136 venues for the purpose of legally selling marijuana.

    Ontario, with more than double that population and a larger territory, is planning to offer little more than the same number. It is as if a cheese artisan set out to drive Kraft out of business by setting up a stall at the St. Lawrence market in Toronto.

    At the same time Ontario would clamp down on illegal storefront dispensaries.

    Under the guise of creating a state-run monopoly, the province is running the risk of creating more demand for the services of the very people it purports to drive out of business.

    I have never tried marijuana. Not even in high school when everyone else seemed to be partaking in the weed experience. But that was not for lack of availability.

    I cannot think of a time at any point in my adult life when I could not have easily procured a joint. That is particularly true of the period over which I was raising teenagers.

    Unless they have been living on another planet, the provincial and federal politicians who are debating the upcoming legalization of marijuana must be familiar with the omnipresence and the reach of the underground market. And they must know that half-hearted measures tend to yield costly failures.

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    Doug Ford, ex-city councillor and brother of the late Rob Ford, has confirmed he wants a mayoral rematch with John Tory next year.

    “Robbie, this one is going to be for you,” Ford told a huge crowd at the annual “Ford Fest” party in their mother’s sprawling Etobicoke backyard.

    “I will be running for mayor of Toronto,” he said to deafening cheers from “Ford Nation” fans.

    Tory “is all talk and no action and broken promises,” said Ford, 52, after speeches by councillors nephew Michael Ford, Vince Crisanti and Giorgio Mammoliti, and Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton.

    Ford accused Tory of letting city spending “skyrocket” and vowed as mayor he would give Toronto the lowest taxes in North America and end the “war on the car.”

    Tory said Friday he welcomes a rematch and holding up his record to Ford’s in the scandal-filled 2010-2014 council term in which Doug was Ward 2 councillor and Rob was mayor.

    “The council was dysfunctional. The relationship with the other levels of government (was) in tatters. The reputation of the city was being challenged every day in media around the world.

    “I think people will have to think long and hard about whether they want to go back to the old way and to the chaos that we saw just three short years ago.”

    The actual campaign for the Oct. 22, 2018 election does not start until May 1, so Ford is a sort of shadow candidate until then. He can talk about his intention to run but cannot fundraise, buy ads, post election signs or otherwise spend money on his mayoral quest.

    Ford had been toying with running for Patrick Brown’s Progressive Conservatives in the June 7, 2018 provincial election.

    Sources have told the Star that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals were keen to have Ford as an opponent they could accuse of wanting to bring the right-wing politics of U.S. President Donald Trump to Ontario, and that some PCs were keen for him to choose a rematch with Tory instead. Ford denied those allegations.

    Others have said the co-owner of Deco Labels & Tags was dissuaded from running provincially when PC officials told him that, if elected and elevated to cabinet, by law he would have to put his shares in the family company in a blind trust.

    Ford was elected as city councillor, serving as his brother’s sidekick and top adviser, promising to find billions of dollars in waste at city hall. At one point he wanted city staff to put a connecting door between the mayor’s office and his adjoining council office.

    When the Star in March 2013 revealed then-mayor Rob Ford had attended a naval gala incoherent, and had a substance abuse problem that worried those around him, Doug Ford branded the assertions lies meant to keep the “gravy train” running at city hall.

    Ford likewise dismissed as nonsense later allegations that his brother was caught on videotape smoking crack cocaine with gang members who sold drugs and guns. Doug Ford has said he became aware of his brother’s addictions only after Rob Ford confessed them in November 2013.

    As councillor Doug Ford could claim success in helping convince city council to pass austerity budgets, contract out garbage collection between the Humber River and Yonge St. and extract deep concessions from city workers in new contracts.

    However, his behind-the-scenes push for a remake of Toronto’s east waterfront with a ferris wheel and boat-in hotel dealt his brother his first major policy loss. Doug Ford’s “cut the waist” challenge, in which he and his brother publicly competed to lose weight, embarrassed the mayor who failed to shed pounds and was peppered with reporters’ questions about his scandals.

    Rob Ford successfully went to rehab but had to abandon his 2014 mayoral re-election campaign after being diagnosed with a rare aggressive cancer. Doug Ford took his brother’s place late in the campaign and received 330,610 votes to 394,775 votes for Tory. Rob Ford, who was re-elected to the council seat he had held for a decade, died in March 2016.

    With files from Jennifer Pagliaro and Betsy Powell

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    JUCHITAN, MEXICO—One of the most powerful earthquakes ever to hit Mexico was followed by a Gulf coast hurricane, dealing a one-two punch to the country that killed at least 63 people as workers scrambled Saturday to respond to the twin national emergencies.

    The 8.1 quake off the southern Pacific coast just before midnight Thursday toppled hundreds of buildings in several states. Hardest-hit was Juchitan, Oaxaca, where 36 people died and a third of the city’s homes collapsed or were uninhabitable, President Enrique Pena Nieto said late Friday in an interview with the Televisa news network.

    In downtown Juchitan, the remains of brick walls and clay tile roofs cluttered streets as families dragged mattresses onto sidewalks to spend a second anxious night sleeping outdoors. Some were newly homeless, while others feared further aftershocks could topple their cracked adobe dwellings.

    Read more: Hurricane Katia makes landfall in Mexico following earthquake that killed at least 61

    “We are all collapsed, our homes and our people,” said Rosa Elba Ortiz Santiago, 43, who sat with her teenage son and more than a dozen neighbours on an assortment of chairs. “We are used to earthquakes, but not of this magnitude.”

    Even as she spoke, across the country, Hurricane Katia was roaring onshore north of Tecolutla in Veracruz state, pelting the region with intense rains and maximum sustained winds of 120 km/h.

    Veracruz Gov. Miguel Angel Yunes said two people died in a mudslide related to the storm, and he said some rivers had risen to near flood stage, but there were no reports of major damage.

    Veracruz and neighbouring Puebla states evacuated more than 4,000 people ahead of the storm’s arrival.

    The Hurricane Center said Katia could still bring 7.5 to 15 centimetres of additional rain 25 to 37 centimetres to a region with a history of deadly mudslides and flooding.

    Pena Nieto announced Friday that the earthquake killed 45 people in Oaxaca state, 12 in Chiapas and 4 in Tabasco, and he declared three days of national mourning. The toll included 36 dead in Juchitan, located on the narrow waist of Oaxaca known as the Isthmus, where a hospital and about half the city hall also collapsed into rubble.

    Next to Ortiz, 47-year-old Jose Alberto Martinez said he and family members have long been accustomed to earthquakes. So when the ground started moving, at first they simply waited a bit for it to stop — until objects began falling and they bolted for the street.

    “We felt like the house was coming down on top of us,” Martinez said, accompanied by his wife, son and mother-in-law.

    Now, he didn’t feel safe going back inside until the home is inspected. Right next door, an older building had crumbled into a pile of rough timbers, brick and stucco, while little remained of a white church on the corner.

    Rescuers searched for survivors Friday with sniffer dogs and used heavy machinery at the main square to pull rubble away from city hall, where a missing police officer was believed to be inside.

    The city’s civil defence co-ordinator, Jose Antonio Marin Lopez, said similar searches had been going on all over the area.

    Teams found bodies in the rubble, but the highlight was pulling four people, including two children, alive from the completely collapsed Hotel Del Rio where one woman died.

    “The priority continues to be the people,” Marin said.

    Pena Nieto said authorities were working to re-establish supplies of water and food and provide medical attention to those who need it. He vowed the government would help rebuild.

    “The power of this earthquake was devastating, but we are certain that the power of unity, the power of solidarity and the power of shared responsibility will be greater,” Pena Nieto said.

    Power was cut at least briefly to more than 1.8 million people, and authorities closed schools in at least 11 states to check them for safety.

    The Interior Department reported that 428 homes were destroyed and 1,700 were damaged just in Chiapas, the state closest to the epicentre.

    “Homes made of clay tiles and wood collapsed,” said Nataniel Hernandez, a human rights worker living in Tonala, Chiapas, who worried that inclement weather threatened to bring more structures down.

    “Right now it is raining very hard in Tonala, and with the rains it gets much more complicated because the homes were left very weak, with cracks,” Hernandez said by phone.

    The earthquake also jolted the Mexican capital, more than 1,000 kilometres away, which largely lies atop a former lake bed whose soil amplifies seismic waves. Memories are still fresh for many of a catastrophic quake that killed thousands and devastated large parts of the city in 1985.

    Mexico City escaped major damage, though part of a bridge on a highway being built to a new international airport collapsed due to the earthquake, local media reported.

    The quake’s power was equal to Mexico’s strongest in the past century, and it was slightly stronger than the 1985 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said. However its impact was blunted somewhat by the fact that it struck some 100 miles offshore.

    The epicentre was in a seismic hot spot in the Pacific where one tectonic plate dives under another. Such subduction zones are responsible for some of the biggest quakes in history, including the 2011 Fukushima disaster and the 2004 Sumatra quake that spawned a deadly tsunami.

    In the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, tourists abandoned coastal hotels as winds and rains picked up ahead of Hurricane Katia’s landfall and workers set up emergency shelters.

    “The arrival of Katia may be particularly dangerous for slopes affected by the earthquake. Avoid these areas,” Pena Nieto tweeted.

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    COX’S BAZAR, BANGLADESH—With Rohingya refugees still flooding across the border from Burma, those packed into camps and makeshift settlements in Bangladesh were becoming desperate Saturday for scant basic resources as hunger and illness soared.

    Fights were erupting over food and water. Women and children were tapping on car windows or tugging at the clothes of passing reporters while rubbing their bellies and begging for food. Health experts warned of the potential for outbreaks of disease.

    The UN said Saturday that an estimated 290,000 Rohingya Muslims have arrived in the border district of Cox’s Bazar in just the last two weeks, joining at least 100,000 who were already there after fleeing earlier riots or persecution in Buddhist-majority Burma. The number was expected to swell further, with thousands crossing the border each day.

    “More and more people are coming,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan. With camps already “more than full,” the new arrivals were setting up spontaneous settlements along roadsides or on any available patches of land.

    Read more:‘Alarming number’ of 270,000 Rohingya have fled Burma violence, UN says

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    Within the camps “we are trying our best, but it is very difficult because every day we are seeing new arrivals” with nowhere to go.

    The exodus began Aug. 25 after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts in Burma’s northern Rakhine state. The military responded with what it called “clearance operations” to root out any fighters it said might be hiding in villages. The Burmese government says nearly 400 people have been killed in fighting it blames on insurgents, though Rohingya say Burmese troops and Buddhist mobs attacked them and destroyed their villages.

    Many of the newly arrived were initially stunned and traumatized after fleeing the violence. They are now growing desperate in searching for food distribution points that appeared only in recent days, passing out packets of biscuits and 25-kilogram bags of rice.

    One aid worker who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media said “stocks are running out” with the refugees’ needs far greater than what they had imagined. “It is impossible to keep up,” she said.

    At one food distribution point, women were volunteering to help keep order by tapping people with bamboo sticks to gently urge them back in line. Weary women carried infants in their arms while clutching other children to their sides, afraid they might be separated in the crowds.

    One 40-year-old man, faint with hunger, collapsed while waiting and could not stand again on his own strength when others tried to help him up. They drizzled water between his lips in an attempt to revive him, to no avail.

    At one camp, a mobile clinic set up for the first time Saturday had already seen 600 patients by the afternoon. Patients, mostly children, were coming in with severe diarrhea, fungal skin infections, ear infections and high fever, said Nasima Yasmin, the director of the clinic run by a well-known Bangladesh health group.

    Yasmin said their work was barely sufficient given the camp’s scale and requirements.

    “We need deep tube wells so that there is clean water and people can clean themselves. Also toilets are needed,” she said, adding that the sheer number of newcomers raised fears of a serious outbreak of disease.

    Refugee camps had already been filled to capacity before the influx. Makeshift settlements were quickly appearing and expanding along roadsides, and the city of Cox’s Bazar — built to accommodate only 500,000 — was bursting at its seams.

    There was an urgent need for more temporary shelters, Tan said. “We are seeing the mushrooming of these very flimsy shelters that will not be able to house people for too long,” she said.

    The UN has asked Bangladesh authorities to make more land available so they can build new relief camps.

    It’s not known how many Rohingya remain in Rakhine state. Previously the population had been thought to be roughly 1 million. Journalists in Rakhine state saw active fires in areas Rohingya had abandoned, adding to doubts over government claims that Rohingya themselves were responsible for setting them.

    Dozens of Rohingya have died in boat capsizings as they fled the violence. Those who trek days through the jungle to cross the land border face other dangers, including landmines.

    Landmines were planted years ago along parts of the border. Bangladeshi officials say Burmese soldiers have planted new explosives since the latest wave of violence began, though the Burmese military denies it.

    “It may not be landmines, but I know there have been isolated cases of Burmese soldiers planting explosives three to four days ago,” Lt. Col. S.M. Ariful Islam, commanding officer of the Bangladesh border guard in Teknaf, said Friday. He added that he was aware of at least three Rohingya injured in explosions.

    0 0

    MONTREAL—Simon Berube loves Quebec, its culture, French language and people, but he and his parents decided the best thing he could do for his future was to enrol in one of the province’s English-language junior colleges.

    Berube, 18, is a francophone and as such was not allowed to attend English primary or secondary school because of the province’s Bill 101 language law.

    But he and a growing number of his peers are choosing to attend Quebec’s pre-university English junior colleges, which are not subject to the law.

    “Some people want to travel, experience things in other parts of the world and English is the key,” Berube, who comes from Quebec’s Eastern Townships, said in an interview.

    Read more: StatCan revises census data after error over English speakers in Quebec

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    English junior colleges are in such a delicate position that some of them have an unwritten agreement with the Quebec government to avoid advertising their programs in francophone media or directly recruiting in French high schools unless specifically invited to do so.

    During a convention this weekend, Parti Quebecois delegates will debate and possibly vote on a resolution to cut funding to English colleges, known as CEGEPs, because they are attracting too many non-anglophones.

    If the PQ wins the fall 2018 election, further limiting access to English-language education could be part of its agenda.

    “Anglophone (colleges) shouldn’t be an open bar,” PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisee recently told reporters.

    It’s unclear whether Lisee supports the idea himself or brought it up in order to appease a restless base before Saturday’s confidence vote on his leadership.

    Quebec’s English community is used to having its institutions threatened by political parties trying to get votes, said Geoffrey Chambers, vice-president of an anglophone advocacy group.

    “It’s identity politics,” said Chambers, who is with the Quebec Community Groups Network. “I think it’s pandering to a very bad instinct.”

    Berube said he fully supports Quebec’s language laws, but doesn’t think they should extend to the CEGEP system.

    “French is part of Quebec,” said the second-year Dawson College student. “And if the French language is lost then the French culture in North America is basically lost and that’s something people have to understand.

    “But English is important to learn if you want to have a good job.”

    The CEGEP system was created in the late ‘60s and the schools offer two-year pre-university programs.

    In Quebec, high school ends after Grade 11 and students then enrol in a CEGEP. University programs for Quebecers are therefore three years instead of four as in the rest of the country.

    Government statistics reveal the percentage of CEGEP students from the French system enrolling in English colleges has doubled from five per cent in 1993 to 10 per cent in 2015.

    Those working for English CEGEPs know to lay low as not to attract attention.

    Marianopolis College, for instance, a private anglophone CEGEP in Montreal, refuses to say how many francophone students it has enrolled.

    Dawson, a CEGEP of 8,000 students located in downtown Montreal, wouldn’t give its number either.

    Donna Varrica, a spokeswoman for the college, said there is an “informal” agreement dating back 20 years that her institution won’t advertise its programs in francophone media or actively market to French high schools.

    Chambers said he’s not surprised.

    “There are lots of practices that are just conflict avoidance,” he said. “If you get a message from the minister saying this is not what they want you to do — don’t do it. It’s not like Dawson needs more students.”

    In fact, English schools like Dawson aren’t able to recruit as many students as they can because enrolment is capped, unlike in the French system, Chambers said.

    “Our (colleges) are already subject to a strangulation device. Enrolment should respond to the demand, but it doesn’t. Consequently, the acceptance threshold is creeping up.”

    Jana Abdul-Rahim, 17, is a newly accepted student at Dawson.

    Born in Quebec to Lebanese immigrants, she was also barred from attending English high school.

    “The first couple of years in high school I thought I would stick to French college,” she said. “Afterwards I realized I wanted to go to law school.

    “I plan on going into international law and when you’re working with the United Nations and similar organizations, English is more the language to use.”

    Chambers said if the PQ members don’t vote to cut funding to English CEGEPs over the weekend, they will likely keep trying to restrict access to English-language education.

    “They are creative,” he said about the PQ. “I think what you have to be worried about is the fact they want to do such a thing at all.”

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