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TOPSTORIES
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    TORONTO—A murder trial has heard that the final cellphone call from a Toronto woman who vanished five years ago connected with a cell tower near the home of a man accused of killing her.

    Danielle Fortier, who works with Rogers Communications, says that call was made at 7:03 p.m on July 3, 2012, and no texts or messages have been sent from the phone since then.

    Dellen Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Mark Smich, 30 of Oakville, Ont., are facing first-degree murder charges in the presumed death of Laura Babcock, whose body has not been found.

    The Crown contends that Babcock was killed because she was the odd woman out in a love triangle with Millard and his girlfriend.

    Court has heard that Millard was sleeping with several women at the time of Babcock’s disappearance and didn’t care much about the animosity between Babcock and his girlfriend.

    Both Millard and Smich have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

    Read more:

    Laura Babcock had an intense fear of death since childhood, court hears in murder trial for Dellen Millard and Mark Smich

    Accused killer Dellen Millard appears to be getting comfortable acting as his own lawyer: DiManno

    Trial into Laura Babcock's murder hears of bitter text message exchange: DiManno


    Laura Babcock’s final cellphone call connected with cell tower near Dellen Millard’s home, court hearsLaura Babcock’s final cellphone call connected with cell tower near Dellen Millard’s home, court hears

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    A coalition of unions is using Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown own campaign commercial in a new attack ad against him.

    Working Families — funded by public- and private-sector unions — released its latest TV spot Thursday, entitled “Can You Believe Patrick Brown?”

    The 30-second commercial hacks Brown’s slick ad from earlier this year that was designed to showcase the Tories’ moderate direction.

    “It doesn’t matter who you are; it doesn’t matter where you’re from; it doesn’t matter who you love,” says Brown, as a Working Families graphic splashes across the screen reminding viewers that “Patrick Brown Opposed Marriage Equality” as a Conservative MP in Ottawa.

    “It doesn’t matter if you belong to a union,” he says, as the words “Patrick Brown Voted To Restrict Unions” are superimposed over his photograph.

    “It doesn’t matter how much you make,” Brown intones, as “Patrick Brown Wants Minimum-Wage Hike Delayed” appears on screen, a reference to his concerns over the $11.60 hourly wage jumping to $14 in January and $15 in 2019.

    “It doesn’t matter where you worship,” he continues, as “Patrick Brown Supported A Burka Ban” is emblazoned across footage of him at a temple and marching with Sikhs in the Khalsa Day parade.

    “You have a home in the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario,” the PC leader concludes.

    It’s the second ad targetting Brown by Working Families, an influential coalition that has helped swing the last four Ontario elections to the Liberals with attack ads against the Tories.

    With voters headed to the polls on June 7, 2018, the unions have been hammering the Tory leader on his voting record as an MP in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government between 2006 and 2015.

    Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) suggested Working Families is just doing the Liberal premier’s bidding.

    “Life is good for Kathleen Wynne’s well-connected friends and they’ll do and say anything to keep it that way,” said MacLeod, who has also been critical of Working Ontario Women, a similar anti-Tory group bankrolled by the Service Employees International Union.

    Last week, Working Families depicted Brown as a cartoon weathervane atop the legislative assembly whose views on major issues constantly change.

    “Patrick Brown will say anything to get elected. He now says he’s pro-choice, but when it counted Patrick Brown had a 100 per cent pro-life voting record,” said the announcer.

    “He now says he supports equal marriage, but when it counted he voted against it,” he continued.

    “He now says he welcomes labour into his party, but when it counted his votes hurt working people. When it counts for us, Patrick Brown can’t be counted on. He just blows with the winds of political opportunity.”


    Unions using Patrick Brown's ad against himUnions using Patrick Brown's ad against him

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    A 50-year-old woman detained by Canadian immigration officials in a maximum-security jail in Milton died on Monday, according to a brief news release from the Canada Border Services Agency.

    The agency, which has the power to arrest and jail non-citizens, would not disclose the woman’s identity, country of origin or her cause of death, as per its usual protocol.

    The woman is the 10th person to die in immigration detention in the last five years and at least the sixteenth since 2000.

    Immigration detainees are not criminally charged, but are detained on an indefinite basis, either because they have been deemed a danger to the public, are unlikely to show up for their deportation or because their identity is in doubt.

    The average length of detention last year was 19.5 days, but there is no limit to how long someone can stay in detention and some cases drag on for months or years.

    In Ontario, immigration detainees are held either at the Immigration Holding Centre, a minimum-security facility in Etobicoke exclusive to immigration detainees, or in maximum-security provincial jails, where they are treated as sentenced criminals and those awaiting trial are.

    An immigration detainee’s detention is reviewed every 30 days by the quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board, but where the person is detained is at the sole discretion of CBSA officers and is not subject to any oversight.

    This aspect of the system was recently criticized by Superior Court Justice Alfred O’Marra, who ordered longtime immigration detainee Ebrahim Toure, who had spent four-and-a-half years in a maximum-security jail, to be transferred immediately to the less-restrictive Immigration Holding Centre.

    The woman who died on Monday was detained at the Vanier Centre for Women, where she was apparently “found in medical distress and immediately taken to hospital,” according to the agency’s release.

    She died “shortly thereafter.”

    The CBSA did not clarify whether she died at, or on the way to, the hospital, nor did it say to which hospital she was taken.

    It also had not responded at press time to the Star’s questions on how long the woman had been detained nor the grounds for her detention.

    Canada’s immigration detention system has come under increased scrutiny this year, in the wake of a number of high-profile court challenges.

    In April, Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer released Kashif Ali, who had spent seven years in maximum-security jail because immigration officials were unable to deport him, saying Canada could not “purport to hold someone in detention forever.”

    In August, Justice Edward Morgan ordered the immediate release of an immigration detainee whom, he said, was jailed “for no real reason at all.”

    The Liberal government has vowed to improve the system, saying it intends to reduce the use of maximum-security jails and expand alternatives to detention. The Liberals are detaining fewer people for immigration purposes than the Conservatives did under Stephen Harper, according to the most recent statistics

    But they have not made any policy changes to a system that has been widely criticized by human rights organizations.

    “People keep dying in immigration holding centres and maximum-security prisons,” said Nisha Toomey, spokeswoman for the End Immigration Detention Network.

    “People will stop dying when the Canadian government stops leaving them there to die.”

    This latest immigration detention death is the fourth since March 2016, when Melkioro Gahunga and Francisco Astorga both died in a single week.

    Gahunga, a 64-year-old Burundian refugee, reportedly hanged himself at the Toronto East Detention Centre, while Astorga, a 39-year-old Chilean migrant, died after overdosing on fentanyl and methamphetamine, according to a coroner’s inquest into his death.

    A 24-year-old man died at the Edmonton Remand Centre in May 2016.

    His identity, country of origin and cause of death have never been disclosed.


    50-year-old woman dies in immigration detention50-year-old woman dies in immigration detention

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    A veteran truck driver and father of nine who worked tirelessly to support his family in northeastern Ontario was one of three people killed in a pileup that set off a massive fireball on a highway north of Toronto, his grieving wife said Thursday.

    Nikiyah Mulak-Dunn said she first feared the worst for her husband Benjamin Dunn after a friend pointed out images in the media of what appeared to be his truck engulfed in flames.

    Related story:At least three people dead following collision, explosion on Hwy. 400

    Provincial police later confirmed the grim news, plunging the family into despair and uncertainty, she said. Grief counsellors have been at the family's North Bay home to help Mulak-Dunn talk to her children, who are between one and 16 years old, about the loss of their father, she said.

    “It's just been devastating,” she said. “I don't know where we're at right now, we're just trying to process and we're all in shock and disbelief and just pretty traumatized, I'd say, so it's going to have to be day by day.”

    She said her husband — who was the family's sole breadwinner — had been working as a trucker for at least a decade and drove that same route regularly. He also juggled two other jobs as a miner and a welder, she said.

    “He was just a devoted and hardworking husband and father and he would just do anything for anyone if they asked and even if they didn't ask, he was a very caring, intuitive person. He loved people and cared about them a lot.”

    Friends have rallied behind the grieving family, organizing meal trains and offering to plow their driveway all winter, Mulak-Dunn said. Others have launched online fundraising campaigns.

    Police have not publicly identified those killed Tuesday night in the multi-vehicle crash on Hwy. 400 that set off a massive fireball and sent motorists running for their lives.

    That stretch of highway south of Barrie was closed for more than 24 hours after the crash, which police have said involved at least four transport trucks and two fuel tankers that spilled thousands of litres of fuel on the road.

    Police said the impact sent a wave of fuel and flames rushing down the highway, leaving behind charred, twisted metal and debris. One lane of the northbound highway will be closed again sometime Thursday for an environmental cleanup, they said.

    The cause of the crash remains under investigation but police suggested the blame may lie with the driver of a transport truck they say crashed into slowing traffic.

    Just days earlier, provincial police had sounded the alarm about fatal collisions caused by distracted truck drivers.

    The force said last week that since Jan. 1, its officers have tracked more than 5,000 transport truck-related collisions that have left 67 people dead.

    The Ontario Trucking Association has said the industry is committed to road safety, noting that there has been a 66 per cent decrease in the fatality rate from large truck collisions between 1995 and 2014 despite a 75 per cent rise in large truck vehicle registrations.


    ‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash

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    Canada’s Indigenous population, Statistics Canada has recently reminded us, is growing at a rate that dwarfs that of the country’s non-Indigenous population.

    It is also a younger population. Close to 30 per cent of the Indigenous population is under 15, almost double the non-Indigenous percentage in that age group.

    And that youth too often starts behind.

    Canadian children who identify as First Nations, Metis or Inuit make up about 8 per cent of all Canadians aged 4 years and younger, yet they make up more than half the pre-schoolers in foster care.

    Of all children in foster care in this country, more than four in 10 are Indigenous.

    Children only get one childhood, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Thursday. So there must be some urgency in righting wrongs.

    But official Ottawa is where urgency goes to die.

    Two of the most vital measures of Indigenous reconciliation, the gap in child welfare funding and the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, have returned to centre stage this week.

    To listen to those seeking change in recent days is to hear the quintessential Canadian laments about stifling bureaucracy, overlapping jurisdictions and work being done at cross purposes.

    Bellegarde was in the capital Thursday for a “day of action” to press the government on a gnawing wound for Indigenous leaders, the continued foot-dragging by the Liberals who have been ordered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to stop discriminating against Indigenous on-reserve children on funding for health and welfare.

    Cindy Blackstock of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the AFN won a ruling against the government in January, 2016, and Ottawa has not moved despite three binding orders of non-compliance.

    It is a case of discrimination, nothing less.

    “Everybody gets it,” Bellegarde said. “Let’s get it done.’’

    Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott wants to move and she will convene an emergency meeting with the provinces in early 2018 to deal with the “crisis-level’’ rates of Indigenous children in care.

    The status quo is not working and reform of the child welfare system is immediately needed, she wrote in a letter to the provinces released this week.

    Philpott pledges Ottawa will step up and she concedes that much provincial work is already being done.

    As recently as June, Philpott was being accused of trying to quash provisions of the tribunal ruling, even as she maintained the government was merely trying to “clarify” provisions in an application for a judicial review.

    The provincial involvement is needed, but it raises the jurisdictional mess of 13 bilateral agreements.

    Ottawa, however, could move immediately and comply with the tribunal. The AFN has calculated $155 million is needed immediately to close the gap with off-reserve spending.

    A day earlier, more frustration was aired, this time from the national inquiry, a key to the Liberal reconciliation endeavour, but now an inquiry which has drawn national attention only for its false starts, postponed hearings, firings and resignations.

    It too is straddling jurisdictional lines legally, simultaneously holding 14 joint inquiries because each province and territory allowed it to probe within their jurisdiction.

    It is also trying to do things differently, de-colonizing the system on the go, as it put it in its interim report. The inquiry system it is working under is unable to respond quickly or flexibly based on “Indigenous worldviews.”

    It bared its list of frustrations.

    Federal privacy laws mean that Ottawa would not give the inquiry the contact information for victims’ families and survivors who were involved in the pre-inquiry period.

    Federal insistence on security clearances means it takes on average four months to hire someone and procurement policies mean it can take eight months to open an office. Even then, the inquiry said in its interim report, the offices opened without the telephones, computers and Internet service needed because of foot-dragging by bureaucrats.

    And Ottawa’s contract policies have meant it has been slow to pay cultural advisors or elders at the hearings or make timely payments for travel or out-of-pocket expenses. That makes it difficult to hire and keep Fire Keepers or Knowledge Keepers, positions that need to be filled if the inquiry is to deliver a family-first, non-colonial process.

    This government may have its heart in the right place when it comes to Indigenous reconciliation. But muscling aside an entrenched bureaucracy that slows, rather than speeds, action, will take more than that.

    Tim Harper writes on national affairs. tjharper77@gmail.com, Twitter: @nutgraf1


    Ottawa’s all talk and no action on Indigenous reconciliation: Tim HarperOttawa’s all talk and no action on Indigenous reconciliation: Tim Harper

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    The creation of an inspector general to monitor police services, penalties for officers who fail to co-operate in police watchdog investigations, and the ability to suspend officers without pay were part of an announcement Thursday to revamp policing and the police oversight system in Ontario.

    “The changes we are proposing today represent the largest transformation to Ontario's policing and community safety in over 25 years,” said Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Marie-France Lalonde, along with Attorney General Yasir Naqvi.

    The ability for chiefs to suspend officers without pay has been called upon for years, including by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. Ontario is currently the sole province in Canada that requires suspension with pay except when an officer is sentenced to jail time.

    Read more:

    Family of man shot dead by Durham police eager to provide inquest with new details

    Andrew Loku coroner’s inquest revealed crucial new details

    Here’s what Chief Saunders should do with the 3 cops acquitted of sex assault: DiManno

    Chief Saunders defends decision not to notify police watchdog after teen beaten in Whitby

    Circumstances in which an officer can now be suspended without pay in Ontario include when the officer is in custody or the subject of bail or other court conditions that prevent them from performing their usual police duties, as well as if charged with a serious offence that was not committed in the course of their duties.

    Changes to police oversight announced by the government Thursday include establishing penalties for officers who don't comply with oversight investigations, as well as setting timelines for investigations and reporting the results to the public.

    The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the arm's-length agency that probes police-involved death, serious injury and allegations of sexual assault, has often faced criticism for taking too long with its investigations. Naqvi also said Thursday the SIU, which falls under the jurisdiction of the attorney general, would be rebranded as the Ontario Special Investigations Unit.

    Other proposed changes include:

    Greater SIU powers of investigation: The changes give greater strength to the SIU, expanding its powers to launch investigations not only into the behaviour of on-duty current police officers, but former officers, special constables (such as those working for universities) and in certain circumstances, off-duty officers and members of First Nations police services

    Expanded SIU powers to lay criminal charges: The watchdog would be able to lay any criminal charge uncovered during an investigation — regardless of whether it is directly related to the death, serious injury or allegation of sexual assault that triggered the probe.

    Independent police complaints province-wide by 2022: Within the next five years the Ontario Policing Complaints Agency (formerly the Office of the Independent Police Review Director) would no longer refer its complaints back to police service where the complaint originated for an investigation. The agency would instead investigate almost all of these complaints itself.

    Penalties for non-cooperation: Both the SIU and the newly named Ontario Policing Complaints Agency would also be able to impose penalties for officers who fail to co-operate with its investigations. A non-cooperative officer could face a $50,000 fine, a year in jail, or both.

    Limiting police officers working for watchdogs: The legislation would give the government the ability to put a cap on the number of former police officers who could work within an investigative team on the SIU or who could be employed by the newly named OPCA.

    The new office of the inspector general would have the power to oversee and monitor police services and police services boards, the government said Thursday, and would be able to review complaints, including against board members and chiefs of police.

    “I want that person's name immediately, because I will be the first one reaching out to that person,” Joanne MacIsaac, whose brother Michael was shot and killed by Durham police in 2013, told the Star.

    Many of the oversight recommendations were in response to an independent review conducted by Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch.

    Last spring, the judge recommended major changes to Ontario's police watchdogs, including the SIU, which probes deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault involving police.

    The same day Tulloch released his comprehensive report to improve police oversight, Naqvi announced action on some of the key recommendations, including more transparency and the collection of race-based statistics by the SIU and the two other watchdogs.

    Naqvi reiterated the government's commitment Thursday to comply with another key Tulloch recommendation, saying the government is working toward posting previously secret SIU investigation reports.

    Many of the policing changes will form part of the Safer Ontario Act, which replaces the current Police Services Act. Changes to police oversight will be included in the new Police Oversight Act and Ontario Policing Discipline Tribunal Act.

    Currently, police oversight forms just a small part of the Police Services Act. Another Tulloch recommendation was that oversight should be in a separate piece of legislation.


    ‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’

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    The usual seasonal bounce in re-sale homes between September and October was more pronounced than usual this year in the Toronto region, growing 12 per cent.

    But there were still 2,597 — about 27 per cent — fewer sales this October compared to the same month last year.

    Home prices also rose 2.3 per cent year over year in October, but new numbers from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) on Thursday showed some areas are doing better than others.

    Read More:The Star looks at the present and future of Toronto housing

    The average price of a home — including all housing types from apartments to detached houses with yards — rose 2.3 per cent to $780,104, compared to $762,691 last year.

    But detached house prices were down 2.5 per cent across the region — a 4 per cent decline in the 905 area to an average price of $910,488 and, a 1.1 per cent drop in Toronto to about $1.3 million.

    Condos, however, continued to perform well, up 21.8 per cent across the region to an average price of $523,041.

    The divide between the City of Toronto and the surrounding region is a function of the housing stock that's on the market, said Jason Mercer, TREB's director of market analysis.

    In the 905 there are more detached homes on the market, he said, "so you haven't seen as much upward pressure on prices there."

    TREB's annual survey will show how the new mortgage stress tests introduced last month are impacting consumers' buying attitudes, said Mercer.

    "While the number of transactions was still down relative to last year's record pace, it certainly does appear that sales momentum is picking up," board president Tim Syrianos said in a press release.

    Royal LePage agent Elli Davis, said the number of homes she sold last month was almost identical to the same period last year. After a lull in the summer, buyers are starting to come back to the market, she said.

    "Condos under $500,000 are flying," said Davis.

    There is also scarce supply to feed the demand from downsizing buyers for condos priced between $1 million and $3 million.

    "We have very little supply, so when a listing comes out everybody's running to it," she said.

    Some sellers still haven't adjusted to the new market realities and are pricing their properties in the expectation of selling for the prices their neighbours garnered earlier this year or last year, she said.

    Some are struggling with whether to sell their home before buying another.

    "A lot of people are still buying first, but they have to be cognizant of what their property will sell for so they can be realistic when we get to that point," said Davis.

    South of Bloor St., from Etobicoke to the Beaches, houses are still selling in multiple offers and two- and three-bedroom condos are being snapped up, said Ara Mamourian broker-partner at Property.ca in Leslieville.

    "But what's really going nuts is the rental market right now," he said. "We can't keep a rental property on the market for more than 24 hours without at least two or three applications on it."

    Some consumers have been priced out of the home ownership market, said Mamourian.

    "They don't have the down payment money, but they certainly do have the monthly cash flow to float a nice, high-quality rental. That's why we're seeing the $3,000- to $4,000-a-month rental market really do well," he said, adding that it's difficult to find a one-bedroom apartment for under $2,000 a month.

    "We're seeing folks double up, taking on roommates, taking on two-bedroom apartments for $1,200 to $1,300 each, versus a one-bedroom that would cost them $2,000," he said.

    In Oakville, where ground-level housing comprises the largest share of the market, things are slower, said Century 21 Miller agent Jamie Vieira.

    "Everybody assumed that we'd get busy because of the mortgage rules coming in effect Jan. 1, so there would be some rush to buy but that doesn't seem to be happening," he said.

    "We have a lot of inventory sitting around and (sellers) trying to wrap their heads around the price. September was slow too," said Vieira, adding that prices are nowhere near what they were in March and April when the Toronto region housing market peaked.

    TREB reported 888 active listings this October compared to only 400 last year. While the average Oakville home price of about $1.09 million is up about $43,000 year over year, the median price fell $67,500.

    "We're up at the peak inventory we had at the end of June and sales are 45 per cent down. Take those two things combined and it's not a good market," said Vieira.

    In April Toronto region home prices peaked at 33 per cent above the previous year. But the provincial government's Fair Housing policies, including a foreign buyers tax, immediately cooled the market.

    That was followed by two hikes in the Bank of Canada rate and, more recently, more mortgage stress testing rules by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

    The CHMC warned last month that the country's hottest housing markets remain “highly vulnerable” with evidence of moderate overvaluation and price acceleration in Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, Victoria and Saskatoon.


    Detached Toronto home prices fall, while condo prices soar in OctoberDetached Toronto home prices fall, while condo prices soar in October

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    NEW YORK—CNN is reporting that eight current or former House of Cards workers claim that Kevin Spacey made the production a “toxic” workplace and one ex-employee alleges the actor sexually assaulted him.

    The workers’ identities were withheld from Thursday’s report because they fear professional fallout, the cable news channel said.

    Among them is a former production assistant who alleged that Spacey assaulted him during one of the Netflix show’s early seasons, and CNN reported that all of the people described Spacey’s behaviour as predatory.

    Read more:

    Kevin Spacey seeking ‘evaluation and treatment’ amid sexual assault accusations

    House of Cards producers press pause on filming in wake of Kevin Spacey allegations

    Actress Paz de la Huerta accuses Harvey Weinstein of raping her twice

    The report accuses Spacey of allegedly targeted staffers who were typically young and male with nonconsensual touching and crude comments.

    Netflix and Spacey’s publicist didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Production of House of Cards was previously suspended.

    The fallout stems from last weekend’s BuzzFeed News report in which actor Anthony Rapp said that Spacey attempted to seduce him in 1986, when Rapp was 14.

    Spacey apologized earlier this week for the incident but said he didn’t recall what might have been “drunken behaviour.” In a statement Wednesday, Spacey’s publicist said he’s seeking unspecified treatment.


    Eight ‘House of Cards’ workers accuse Kevin Spacey of harassment, report saysEight ‘House of Cards’ workers accuse Kevin Spacey of harassment, report says

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    The province has committed to new legislation that will require accreditation for forensic laboratories operating in Ontario in the wake of a Star investigation that revealed thousands of child protection cases across the country had relied on faulty evidence from the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk lab.

    The new Forensic Laboratories Act, announced Thursday as part of a broader government effort to modernize policing in Ontario, aims to create better oversight of forensic labs to ensure they meet mandated standards going forward and is the first legislation of its kind in Canada.

    It’s a move Toronto criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown called a “really great step forward,” but one that’s “long overdue.”

    Read more:Judge rejects proposed class-action over Motherisk drug-testing scandal

    “There was certainly a need for forensic lab accreditation and better controls over the evidence that’s being presented in criminal courts,” he said. “Hundreds of people have been impacted by faulty scientific evidence in the court rooms.”

    As revealed by a Star investigation thousands of child protection cases and at least eight criminal cases across Canada relied on the results of Motherisk’s discredited hair-strand drug and alcohol tests between the late 1990s and early 2015. At the same time, the lab was earning millions of dollars in revenue. The Hospital for Sick Children closed the Motherisk lab in 2015.

    The revelations followed another Sick Kids scandal, which also highlighted the risks of faulty science, involving disgraced pathologist Charles Smith, whose mistakes tainted more than a dozen criminal cases.

    Under the province’s new accreditation framework forensic labs will be subject to proficiency testing, annual audits, performance reports and surveillance visits.

    “Our government is committed to holding forensic laboratories in Ontario to a consistently high standard,” said Yanni Dagonas, a spokesperson for Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde, in a statement.

    It’s unclear how many labs will be affected by the new legislation given the current lack of oversight, but the government is proposing a transitional period of up to two years to give laboratories time to go through the accreditation process, which can take between 18 and 24 months, he said.

    Once the new accreditation standards come into force accreditation bodies would be able to issue warnings, suspend lab activities and revoke accreditation if labs fail to comply with the rules.

    The proposed legislation also says unaccredited labs that conduct testing covered by the act could be subject to fines of up to $30,000 for a first offence.

    Though Brown said most of his concerns regarding standards for forensic labs were addressed during government consultations earlier this year, he is concerned the new legislation won’t address the admissibility of evidence from labs that may not be accredited and instead leave it up to the courts’ discretion.

    “The problem in the past is that the courts have failed to properly scrutinize evidence from non-forensic lab sources,” he said, pointing to the case of Tamara Broomfield, who was tried in 2009 and convicted for breaking her son’s bones and feeding him cocaine, as an example.

    In that case, which blew the lid off the Motherisk scandal, Motherisk tests on her son’s hair, which claimed to show he had consumed high levels of cocaine over 15 months, were admitted by the court.

    “That was done by a lab that wasn’t forensically accredited and nobody raised that issue at her trial and part of the problem is that they lacked the scientific literacy to do that,” Brown said, adding, “we can’t simply rely on the word of experts because … sometimes the experts can lead the courts astray.”

    Brown, who is also a Toronto director with the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, tried to have Broomfield’s case reopened in 2010. Her cocaine-related conviction was eventually overturned in 2014, prompting the Star’s investigation.

    Many other cases that relied on Motherisk tests are now under review as well. Altogether, the disgraced lab performed tests on more than 25,000 people in Canada.

    Brown said he hopes to see the new rules enforced as soon as possible.

    “Cases are taking place everyday in the criminal court system and the family court system that are relying on forensic evidence and we want to make sure that the way this evidence is being presented in court and the standards that underlie the science are sound,” he said.

    With files from Rachel Mendleson


    New rules will require forensic labs to be accreditedNew rules will require forensic labs to be accredited

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    Alleged serial rapist Harvey Weinstein has been blacklisted by his peers and ousted from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But there remains one very exclusive group that will have him: the Edenbridge Bonfire Society.

    The EBS is world famous for lighting up enormous effigies of widely loathed figures on Guy Fawkes Day, such as U.S. President Donald Trump and disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter. The group recently announced that Weinstein’s image has been selected to burn in this weekend’s Guy Fawkes celebration, in what will be a demonstration of a career gone up in flames. Meanwhile, two other Hollywood big shots — director James Toback and producer Brett Ratner — stand accused of sexual misconduct, though neither one has had his likeness scorched in public. But tomorrow is another day.

    If I were a predatory Hollywood producer I’d be very afraid. Only a truly committed cynic could argue that attitudes have not shifted in favour of victims of sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry, in light of the recent allegations. And yet, despite this weekend’s symbolic burning at the stake, there is still great reason to be cynical about our culture’s attitudes toward victims of sexual assault. Even though we have made significant strides at condemning abuse in one area of entertainment, we remain virtually silent when it comes to condemning it in another area: the world of adult entertainment.

    Two of pornography’s mega stars — men who are arguably more famous internationally than Harvey Weinstein — are facing allegations of serial harassment and sexual assault. Ron Jeremy is a 64-year-old porn legend, and James Deen is a 31-year-old porn legend in the making. Both men have made appearances in mainstream entertainment: Deen starred alongside Lindsay Lohan in the 2013 Paul Schrader film, The Canyons, and Jeremy’s long-standing pop culture status needs no explanation.

    Both men are also alleged serial abusers. Multiple women, including a former partner, have accused Deen of sexual assault, and Jeremy faces multiple accusations of groping (in addition to an accusation of rape by a former co-star). Last year, a webcam model known as Miss Lollipop tweeted the following: “Not my 1st, but at a my 1st adult con, posing for a photo w ron jeremy — he slips his finger under my panties and into my vagina. #notokay”

    Former porn actress turned professional writer Aurora Snow outlined the well-known reality of allegations against Jeremy and Deen in a piece in the Daily Beast this week. Snow wondered, understandably, why the two stars (who deny the allegations against them) appear to have been spared the public evisceration their Hollywood counterparts are now enduring. Unlike Weinstein et al, porn industry insiders and fans have not excommunicated Jeremy and Deen nor burned their images in a gigantic bonfire.

    Nor has mainstream entertainment. In fact, Esquire magazine, a publication that has been critical of Weinstein in recent weeks, published a glowing interview with Jeremy in September, positioning the porn legend as a “feminist” who “cares deeply about animals.”

    Esquire editor Nate Erickson writes: “Social media has helped him (Jeremy) reveal another side: a guy who understands civil rights better than our own president.”

    He’s also a guy, Erickson fails to mention, who, like the president, stands accused of groping multiple women.

    So what gives? Why are we eager to burn a replica of a bathrobe-clad Weinstein but we appear content to let Jeremy and Deen go unscathed?

    The answer can’t be that in cases of sexual abuse, we believe the accused should be given the benefit of the doubt. After all, Weinstein certainly doesn’t have the benefit of the doubt. What he does have, however, is a lineup of sympathetic accusers. Weinstein’s accusers, many of them A-list actresses, are beautiful, intelligent, moneyed and seemingly trustworthy.

    Many of Jeremy and Deen’s accusers, on the other hand, have participated in the adult entertainment industry. They are exactly the kind of women about whom men have zero qualms making statements such as “She was asking for it” and “Well, what did she expect? Look what she does for a living.”

    Of course beautiful, “dignified” women, like Angelina Jolie and Lupita Nyong’o, are in no way immune to sexual predatory behaviour by powerful men. But their claims are, as evidenced by Weinstein’s fall, taken far more seriously than the claims of women who are paid to act in the buff.

    What this may mean is that despite all of the inspirational social media campaigns (#Metoo) and endless talk show chatter around the Weinstein allegations, our attitudes have not shifted in favour of victims of sexual assault. They’ve shifted, rather, in favour of sympathetic victims of assault: women who have done Shakespeare — not porn.

    This is a step, forward yes. But it’s a small one. And until we are prepared to issue sympathy to every kind of victim, and condemnation to every kind of creep, we won’t make it very far.


    Condemnation of sexual assaults can’t be selective: TeitelCondemnation of sexual assaults can’t be selective: Teitel

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    Here’s hoping the custodial staff at city hall have access to some kind of industrial-strength cleaning solvents. They’ll need them, and plenty of hot water, to rid the government chamber of the scummy residue of the appointment process that took place Thursday.

    At the end of it, Lucy Troisi, a former manager with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, lifelong resident of Ward 28, and head of the Cabbagetown Youth Centre was appointed to replace the late Pam McConnell as councillor for the remainder of this term until next fall’s municipal election. In her remarks to council, Troisi seemed like a friendly and competent woman — if one also mildly unprepared on some questions about electoral redistricting she admitted she hasn’t even thought about — and her resume certainly appears to qualify her to serve in the role. I hope it is no slight to her to note she was carried into office on an avalanche of slime.

    What happened here was disgusting on multiple levels. A bunch of city councillors appointing a representative for the people of Ward 28 rather than allowing them to elect one themselves. A lineup of well-spoken, earnest, qualified candidates making their case to a deliberative body full of people who had already determined their votes before the first speech was made. And a majority of council, shepherded by council’s budget chief Gary Crawford, using the death of a long-serving advocate for one downtown ward as an opportunity to crap on her legacy.

    In a nutshell: McConnell was famously one of council’s longest-serving members, and one of its most reliably progressive in her actions and votes, a member of the NDP, a vocal supporter of LGBT rights, and most of all an anti-poverty campaigner who recently spearheaded the mayor’s anti-poverty strategy. She voted, repeatedly, against the Scarborough subway, against keeping up the eastern Gardiner and various other Fordisms, she has never been a supporter of any low-tax agenda.

    When council decided to appoint someone to replace her instead of holding an election, a man who had worked closely with McConnell on that anti-poverty strategy emerged as the obvious successor. His name is Michael Creek: an openly gay man, living with a disability, who was formerly homeless and has emerged as a strong activist working with various levels of government to address poverty. He drew the endorsement of McConnell’s family, of dozens of residents' associations and community service organizations in the ward, of the city councillors in the closest neighbouring wards. He had worked closely with her and knew the files.

    There is a tradition, and I think a moral obligation, when council appoints someone, to respect the voters they are giving representation to by trying to find someone who will carry on the work of the councillor they are replacing, and stay to the same political leanings. When there was talk of appointing a replacement for Rob Ford (though ultimately an election was held after he died), this was front of mind. When a replacement was appointed for Ron Moeser, ideological consistency and the wishes of Moeser’s widow were cited as highly important by councillors across the political spectrum. I have seen council do the same in the past, replacing Doug Holyday and others after they resigned to pursue other offices.

    Frankly, council has no business appointing people to fill vacant council seats to represent wards. Elections should always be held, in my opinion. If there’s not enough time to hold an election, just leave the seat vacant and let staff serve constituency matters.

    But if they are going to appoint someone, trying to give citizens a representative who supports the same things they voted for most recently is a minimum obligation. Very basic human decency would dictate you don’t exploit someone’s death as an opportunity to defy voters and turn a political balance to your advantage.

    Indeed, Mayor John Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat tells me the mayor felt an “obligation to Pam McConnell to support Michael Creek.”

    Budget chief Crawford, representative of Scarborough Southwest, felt no such obligation. He began lobbying for Troisi, a more likely conservative-friendly vote. And convinced a majority of council to go along with him — including almost all of the mayor’s closest allies, even though the mayor himself voted for Creek.

    In his own speech, Crawford went out of his way to make it seem like somehow this wasn’t about political leaning — he spoke about McConnell’s proud legacy as his reason for supporting Troisi, prompting someone in the gallery to shout “how dare you.”

    Michael Thompson, representative of Scarborough Centre, went further, working himself up into high-raised-voice sanctimony about how McConnell’s legacy demanded a woman replace her.

    Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong did everyone the favour of being honest. He asked Troisi “point blank” he said, a lot of questions, and she said she’d “support the mayor’s agenda,” vote for low taxes, support the Scarborough subway extension, supported the Gardiner. Basically, on every question he said he asked her, she directly opposed what McConnell stood for. That’s what Minnan-Wong, a career-long opponent of McConnell’s, liked. “I would like someone who would vote the way I think this council should be going,” he said.

    In other words: let me use this woman’s death to overrule what she and the voters who elected her believed in so that my own political leanings have an additional council vote. It’s a vile sentiment. As disrespectful as it is anti-democratic. But you’ve got to admire that at least he didn’t pretend it was about something else, as so many others did.

    So Crawford got a majority of council to go along with him — the final vote was 24-19. In the process, he created a toxic split in the city council, with those who supported Creek believing a sacred line has been crossed. And Troisi will now serve on a Toronto-East York Community Council in which only one fellow member voted for her, and the others feel her appointment was a horrible injustice and an insult to the memory of their beloved colleague. And with many residents associations and community groups in the ward she represents feeling the same way.

    It’s hard to see why this was worth the anger and rupture for Crawford and his allies — it is very unlikely any vote this budget season will turn a different direction because of this one vote. If anything, it seems the poisoning of goodwill among the council minority will make building ad hoc coalitions harder.

    By the end, several councillors — including a few who voted for Troisi — swore they would never support an appointment rather than a byelection again. If they keep their word on that, then at least one good thing will have come out of this.

    Edward Keenan writes on city issues ekeenan@thestar.ca. Follow: @thekeenanwire


    Pam McConnell’s legacy sullied by Toronto councillors seeking political gains: KeenanPam McConnell’s legacy sullied by Toronto councillors seeking political gains: Keenan

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    Sgt. Christopher Heard, accused of groping two inebriated women after offering them rides home in his cruiser from the Entertainment District in separate incidents, turning off his in-car camera both times. Acquitted in criminal court last month but still facing Police Act charges.

    Suspended with pay: 18 months and counting.

    Constables Leslie Nyznik, Sameera Kara, Joshua Cabero, accused of sexual assault against a parking enforcement officer. Acquitted in criminal court in August. Police Chief Mark Saunders has still not indicated whether they will be charged under the Police Act.

    Suspended with pay: 33 months. (A Toronto police spokesperson told the Star on Thursday the officers remain on paid suspension and the internal investigation is “ongoing.”)

    Officer James Forcillo, convicted of attempted murder in the shooting death of teenager Sammy Yatim, verdict under appeal.

    Suspended with pay: 35 months.

    Suspended without pay upon conviction and sentencing in July, 2016.

    Constables Jeffrey Tout, Benjamin Elliott, Michael Taylor and Frank Douglas, criminally charged in January last year with 17 counts of obstruct justice and eight counts of perjury for allegedly planting heroin in a suspect’s car, then lying about it in court. Suspended without pay: 22 months and counting.

    Cops in Ontario suspended with pay who earned more than $100,000 in 2016, according to a CBC investigation: At least 15.

    We could go on. And on. And on.

    This is the only province in Canada where suspended police officers must continue to be paid their full salary until and unless they are sentenced to serve time.

    The landscape may change if a massive bill announced Thursday by the Liberals at Queen’s Park, including an overhaul of the Police Services Act, is ever actually passed, without dilution, and quite possibly not even then.

    As so much with this government, what’s promised — what’s unveiled with plenty of bells and whistles — turns out to be drastically less than avouched in both essence and detail.

    In a draft version of the bill posted online, the section dealing specifically with giving police chiefs authority to suspend officers without pay, would be only narrowly applicable to any of the aforementioned officers — those on-duty when the alleged criminal or discreditable conduct occurred. Nyznik, Kara and Cabero, for example, were off-duty.

    “The devil is in the details,” Mike McCormack, head of the Toronto Police Association, told the Star. “I won’t be going out there to beat the drum until I have a better understanding of what this actually means.”

    While the conversation was somewhat hypothetical, McCormack suggested that the only cases he could recall of officers who would be “caught” under the no-pay suspension provisions as outlined would be a couple of notorious criminal coppers: Richard Wills, the ex-Toronto officer convicted in 2007 of murdering his mistress, and Darin Cooper, the Toronto detective sentenced to 9 ½ years in 2001 for being part of a gang that robbed drug dealers during a three-month crime spree.

    Ontario police chiefs have long advocated for suspensions without pay. It is certainly a matter of particular public revulsion — that single sentence appended to reports about police officers before the court or before a tribunal: “Suspended with pay.”

    Yet the specificity of when a police chief can do so renders the provision all but useless, with yet another bureaucratic layer of notice and appeal built in.

    The cluelessness of Marie-France Lalonde, community safety and correctional services minister, was evident when asked by reporters at the Romper Room briefing to clarify the unpaid suspension proposal. What is meant by “interim measure under specific circumstances”?

    “Ten months ago, I became the minister of community safety. And this was probably the most discussed . . . in trying to find the right balance. Where the officers, the chief and the public would all find a way.

    “The chief cannot, by default, choose this function. I want to be very clear that this will be made with the process. So, for instance, a chief of police feels that the officer should be suspended without pay. The chief would have to inform the officer within 60 days. The officer would have two choices: either agree to the suspension or don’t. If the officer chooses not to agree with this decision, then the (new Ontario Policing Complaints Agency) could, as an independent, make the final decision. We have to understand that there would be court proceedings, potentially, and a verdict at the end. So the suspension would have for the time of the duration. If the officer is found not guilty then it would be reimbursed.”

    That could take years.

    “This is moving forward,” Lalonde insisted. “After the impasse, this would give the chief a measure that they can suspend an officer for serious offences while not on duty. Certainly we want to expedite the process to ensure that the fastest decision is made in those cases.”

    Clear as mud.

    We should all have such generous and overarching protections from employers. Or not.

    In the private realm, termination for just cause is common, although firing a person when charges are laid — prior to a finding of guilt — can be reversed by the courts (even, possibly, by a human rights tribunal). In a decision last year, involving a man charged with two counts of sexual assault, an Ontario Superior Court ruled in favour of the discharged employee, making it clear that “criminal charges alone, for matters outside of employment, cannot constitute just cause.”

    Such cases are “fact sensitive,” depending on factors including the seriousness of the charge and the position of trust held by an employee. Radio personality Jian Ghomeshi, for instance, was canned by the CBC after management viewed a graphic video, for conduct deemed a “fundamental breech” of the national broadcaster’s “standard of acceptable conduct,” as stated in an internal memo — and was not reinstated despite acquittal on all criminal charges.

    Everyone is presumed innocent until proven otherwise — in a court of law, not the court of public opinion or the court of the workplace.

    If anything, police officers should be held to even higher standards of professional conduct, personal morality and behaviour which brings institutions of law enforcement into disrepute.

    This omnibus policing and safety bill contains many heartening reform proposals — especially public transparency by the Special Investigations Unit, which has been exasperatingly clandestine about investigations and would, if the bill is passed, be given an expanded mandate, called in whenever an officer fires at a person.

    But, except for allegations of serious misconduct or criminal charges — “serious” not defined — cops facing discipline, cops facing trial, would still be whiling away the days or shifted to desk-duty.

    According to figures compiled four years ago by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, on an average day there were 25,208 people behind bars in provincial and territorial jails, a tripling over three decades. Nearly 55 per cent of them were in pretrial custody — legally innocent, awaiting trial or bail.

    You’d have to look long and hard to find a cop among them. They’re getting paid to sit at home on their duffs.

    Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.


    Policing reform bill may still allow charged cops to keep getting paid: DiMannoPolicing reform bill may still allow charged cops to keep getting paid: DiManno

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter account was deactivated for 11 minutes Thursday night by a company employee on the last day on the job, Twitter said, raising serious questions about the security of a tool the president uses to set major policy agendas, aggressively go after his critics, and connect with his core voter base.

    The company has suspended other high-profile accounts in the past for violating its terms and conditions. It has also faced questions over why it has not previously suspended Trump’s Twitter account for violating its terms of service — a decision it defended by saying Trump’s position means his messages meet a higher standard for “newsworthiness.”

    But there has not been a case where an employee has acted alone to take down the account of a well-known person, seemingly on their own.

    The president is aware of the issue and the White House is in touch with Twitter, said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a delicate matter.

    Read more:

    Donald Trump blocks Star reporter Daniel Dale on Twitter

    Twitter won’t be banning Donald Trump. Here’s why

    Donald Trump Jr. puts rocks in all our Halloween bags with sneering tweet: Menon

    Twitter initially posted a statement Thursday night saying Trump’s “account was inadvertently deactivated due to human error by a Twitter employee.”

    For those few minutes, visitors to Trump’s account were simply met with the message, “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”

    “The account was down for 11 minutes, and has since been restored,” the statement read. “We are continuing to investigate and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again.”

    Two hours later, Twitter updated its statement, saying an investigation showed the deactivation “was done by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day.” Twitter said it would be conducting a full internal review.

    Trump has used the account since March 2009. He has tweeted more than 36,000 times and has 41.7 million followers.

    Trump has spoken publicly about his reliance on Twitter before. In an interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business Network last month, Trump credited his use of social media as among the reasons he was elected.

    “You have to keep people interested also,” he said. “You know, you have to keep people interested.”

    Twitter also serves as among Trump’s main tools for deflecting criticisms and attacks. In the same interview, Trump said, “When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing and I take care of it.”

    Trump conceded that those close to him try to steer him away from social media. But he insists on tweeting — spelling errors included — as a weapon against “fake news.”


    Twitter employee on last day of job deactivated Trump’s account, company saysTwitter employee on last day of job deactivated Trump’s account, company says