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    BALTIMORE—Confederate monuments in Baltimore were quietly removed and hauled away on trucks in darkness early Wednesday, days after a violent white nationalist rally in Virginia that was sparked by plans to take down a similar statue there.

    Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh told The Baltimore Sun that crews began removing the city’s four Confederate monuments late Tuesday and finished around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.

    “It’s done,” Pugh told the newspaper. “They needed to come down. My concern is for the safety and security of our people. We moved as quickly as we could.”

    Workers used cranes to lift the towering monument to Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson onto a flatbed truck in the dark.

    Pugh said Monday that she had contacted two contractors about removing the monuments, but declined to say when they would come down, saying she wanted to prevent the kind of violence seen in Charlottesville, Virginia. Pugh said at the time that she wants the statues to be placed in Confederate cemeteries elsewhere in Maryland.

    Read more:

    Plaque honouring Confederate leader Jefferson Davis removed from Montreal building

    Cities accelerate Confederate statue removal after Charlottesville rally

    Donald Trump defends far-right extremists in astonishing tirade, again blames both sides for Charlottesville violence

    A commission appointed by the previous mayor recommended removing a monument to Marylander Roger B. Taney, the Supreme Court justice who wrote the Dred Scott Decision denying citizenship to African-Americans, as well as a statue of two Virginians — the Confederate generals Lee and Jackson.

    Instead, former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake put up signs calling them propaganda designed to falsify history and support racial intimidation.

    Baltimore’s swift removal of the monuments comes days after what is believed to be the largest gathering of white supremacists in a decade — including neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members. They descended on Charlottesville for a rally prompted by the city’s decision to remove a monument to Lee.

    Violent clashes broke out between white nationalists and counterprotesters and a woman was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of people who were there to condemn the white nationalists.

    A memorial service for 32-year-old Heather Heyer is scheduled Wednesday morning at a downtown Charlottesville theatre.

    Greg Baranoski was walking his dog in Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon neighbourhood just after midnight on Wednesday morning when he saw a crane. At first he thought it was having trouble making a particularly narrow turn, but quickly realized a crew was taking down the Taney statue. He said he and about a dozen others looked on as the crew worked. It took about 40 minutes, he said.

    “It was the fastest thing I’ve ever seen the city do,” he said. “It was amazing, really amazing.”

    Baranoski said that until recently, he admired the monuments as pieces of art even though he didn’t agree with “what they stood for.” But he said in the past few days, he’s come to believe that the monuments should be removed.

    “A lot of these monuments were placed here in the 19-teens and 20s, years after the Civil War, it was done to remind certain folks who is in power,” he said. “I was happy to see them go. Having them out of sight is good for the city, and I hope the city makes plans to do something with the empty pedestals.”

    Baranoski’s suggestion: Replace the Taney statue with one of Thurgood Marshall.

    “It’d be super poetic to replace the statue of Chief Justice Taney with Justice Marshall,” he said.

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    WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump on Tuesday ripped into business leaders who resigned from his White House jobs panel — the latest sign that corporate America’s romance with Trump is faltering — after his equivocal response to violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    “They’re not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country,” the president said at an impromptu news conference at Trump Tower in New York City.

    After his remarks, a fifth member of his manufacturing panel resigned: AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who said in a statement, “We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism.”

    The president denied that his original statement about the violence in Virginia on Saturday — saying “many” sides were to blame, rather than hate groups — was the cause of the departures.

    Read the latest on U.S. President Donald Trump

    “Some of the folks that will leave, they’re leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside” the United States, he said as he seemed to double down on his earlier comments.

    Read more: White nationalist groups are planning to be ‘more active than ever’ after Charlottesville violence

    Pressure mounts on Trump to address race-fueled clash

    Trump often has vivid words for victims. Not for the woman killed in Charlottesville: Analysis

    Trump also assailed the CEOs who left on Twitter as “grandstanders” and said he had plenty of executives available to take their place. The president added that he believes economic growth in the U.S. will heal its racial divide.

    But the parade of departing leaders from the informal panel seems closely linked to how the president responded to events that led to the death of a counterprotester that opposed the white supremacists.

    Among those who’ve left are the chief executives for Merck, Under Armour and Intel and the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

    Alliance president Scott Paul, in a tweet, said simply, “I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do.” Within minutes of the tweet on Tuesday, calls to Paul’s phone were being sent to voicemail.

    Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon joined the chorus, saying in a note Monday to employees, “(We) too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists.”

    But McMillon, whose business has customers on all sides of the political spectrum, plans to stay on a separate Trump advisory panel and said that the president’s followup remarks on Monday that named white supremacists were a step in the right direction.

    Corporate leaders have been willing to work with Trump on taxes, trade and reducing regulations, but they’ve increasingly found themselves grappling with cultural and social tensions amid his lightning rod-style of leadership. The CEOs who left the council quickly faced his wrath, while those who have stayed have said it’s important to speak with the president on economic issues.

    Like several other corporate leaders, Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, said that intolerance and racism have no place in U.S. society but that he intended to stay on the manufacturing council.

    “We must engage if we hope to change the world and those who lead it,” he said in a statement.

    A White House official downplayed the importance of the manufacturing council and a separate policy and strategy forum featuring corporate leaders. The official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations, said the panels were informal rather than a set body of advisers. The departures, the official said, were unlikely to hurt the administration’s plans to overhaul taxes and regulations.

    Many corporate leaders have faced a lose-lose scenario in which any choice involving politics can alienate customers, not to mention a U.S. president who has shown a willingness to personally negotiate government contracts.

    Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, one of only four African-Americans leading a Fortune 500 company, was the first to tender his resignation Monday.

    Trump criticized Frazier almost immediately Monday over drug prices, and again Tuesday for having factories overseas. Merck has 25,000 U.S. employees in all 50 states and has invested $50 billion in research and development since 2010, primarily in the United States.

    Then came resignations from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and then Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. On Under Armour’s Facebook page Tuesday, customers who supported Trump threatened to boycott the athletic clothier.

    Austan Goolsbee, the former chief economist for President Barack Obama, said the departures suggest the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville could alienate those who work for the companies, and those who buy the products and services that they sell.

    “It’s certainly a sign that Trump’s more controversial stuff isn’t playing well with companies selling to middle America,” said Goolsbee, now a professor at the University of Chicago.

    There had already been departures from two major councils created by the Trump administration that were tied to its policies.

    Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the manufacturing council in June, and two other advisory groups to the president, after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger resigned for the same reason from the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

    The manufacturing jobs council had 28 members initially, but it has shrunk since it was formed earlier this year as executives retire, are replaced, or, as with Frazier, Musk, Plank, Paul and Krzanich, resign.

    So far, the majority of CEOs and business leaders that are sitting on the two major, federal panels, are condemning racism, but say they want to keep their seats at the table.

    “Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering, and we will remain active champions for these efforts,” said a spokesman for Campbell Soup for CEO Denise Morrison. “We believe it continues to be important for Campbell to have a voice and provide input on matters that will affect our industry, our company and our employees in support of growth.”

    Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg also will remain. So will Michael Dell, the head of his namesake computer company. Both companies contract with the government.

    Lawrence Summers, once the chief economist at the World Bank and senior Treasury official, wondered when more business leaders will distance themselves from Trump.

    “After this weekend, I am not sure what it would take to get these CEOs to resign,” he tweeted. “Demonizing ethnic groups? That has happened.”

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    The CN Tower has opened to the public after a smouldering fire in the antenna mast of the CN Tower above the observation deck.

    Firefighters responded to the scene just after 4 a.m., and tweeted that it was extinguished around 7 a.m. It took four crews up in the antenna to snuff the fire.

    Fire Chief Stephan Powell said the fire had been “in one of the conduits that’s carrying electrical (wiring) within the mast,”

    “It’s not a wood fire,” Powell said, explaining that the fire was “more like a tar-like substance” that was “most likely the insulation on the conduit.”

    The exact cause of the fire is not yet known.

    Platoon Chief Kevin Shaw said at the scene that their plan was to release CO2 into the affected area in the hopes that it would extinguish the fire. To get to the area, firefighters were shuttled up as far as they could go in the elevators before climbing ladders up into the antenna.

    The antenna is a small area to work in, which made for a “challenge” for fire crews, Shaw said. He compared it to the “inside of a silo,” saying “there’s not a lot of room up there.”

    “This is the first time we’ve had something like this,” he added.

    Neil Jones, chief operating officer with the CN Tower, said workers in the tower initially got a signal on an alarm panel letting them know about the fire up top, and they sent an electrician to investigate before calling Toronto Fire.

    The other personnel were cleaners, and they were all safely evacuated.

    Paramedics confirmed that there have been no injuries reported.

    Jones said that one antenna was shut down, and that it could be affecting broadcasters.

    “What happens is most of the broadcasting will switch over to other buildings and … it’ll affect probably the distance it’s reaching right now,” he said. “All of our broadcast experts are in there right now, they’re working with Toronto Fire right now to get it up and running as soon as possible.”

    Jones said the CN Tower will be open to the public today once Toronto Fire gives the all clear and tower personnel are able to replace the affected cable.

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    They were all friends until the Charlottesville protest happened on the weekend.

    Then the so-called “alt-right” bared its fangs, running afoul of Canada’s more euphemistic brand of racism.

    The rally to Unite the Right ended up fracturing it instead — at least in Canada.

    Exhibit A is the exodus at The Rebel news site, the Canadian Tiki torch bearers of the far right, whose contributors celebrate the deaths of desperate migrants at sea.

    An exodus so fast it was hard to keep up with all the names by Tuesday evening.

    On Monday, Ezra Levant condemned Richard Spencer, the founder of the supremacist “alt-right” group in a letter to staff and tried to differentiate his philosophy from that of the Charlottesville supremacists.

    Then, The Rebel co-founder Brian Lilley went one step further and left the site altogether because “he’s no longer comfortable with it.”

    On Tuesday, key contributor Barbara Kay jumped ship, writing a wishy-washy goodbye, still claiming admiration for Levant and reporter Faith Goldy, whose characterization of Charlottesville protesters as “rising white racial consciousness” left even conservatives uncomfortable.

    Soon after, contributor John Robson was out, saying he found the tone at The Rebel “too unconstructive.”

    Perhaps this marks the end of The Rebel as we know it.

    What went wrong between the natural bedfellows conjoined by their demonization of “the other”?

    It’s now exposed: Not all whites are equal. And U.S. President Donald Trump’s unhinged press conference on Tuesday in which he once again drew a false moral equivalence between racists and counter-protesters, just cemented that thinking.

    White supremacists openly espoused neo-Nazi ideology that singled out Jews as being an inferior, unwanted race or class of people. It was made clear: Jews do not belong.

    Now, after years of spouting vitriol about Muslims, about Roma, about Black people, about immigrants, Levant’s note said: “We are not white supremacy. That term now effectively means racism, anti-Semitism and tolerance of neo-Nazism.”

    “Like many of you, I had family that fought the Nazis, I never want to be in the same room as one,” Lilley said.

    Cue the slow clap.

    The likes of Levant and other “white-passing” Jewish people of the far right, are finally realizing that although many of them enjoy the privileges of white people, white supremacy casts upon them the same contemptuous gaze as it does on Black and brown people, that their common divisive ideology was not sufficient glue for true alignment.

    Lilley has interviewed me in the past for his Bell Media radio show and he was not hostile; in fact he was friendly and reasonable. However, if he had grown uncomfortable with The Rebel’s ideology, it’s taken far too long for him to show it. And given his contempt of General Roméo Dallaire’s work on child soldiers, I can’t bring myself to feel grateful that the hard right has fewer champions.

    The folks at The Rebel had probably failed to understand the underlying differences between ideologies under the umbrella of white nationalism.

    “There has been this bizarre infighting that has gone on within the alt-right groups,” says Lily Herman, a New-York based writer, who recently wrote a piece called “We need to talk about the anti-Semitism at the Charlottesville protest.”

    “What do you do when you have white nationalists who are Jewish?”

    “Jews actually did fight with the Confederate army in the Civil War which a lot of people don’t know. There were almost equal number of Jews fighting on both sides.”

    Herman, who grew up Jewish in Jacksonville, Fla., a place she calls the “Southern tip of the Bible Belt,” also identifies as white. However, she’s puzzled by Jewish white nationalists.

    “You know this history of Jewish people in western civilization, so why are you supporting these people who when they say ‘white people’ they mean a ‘pure’ white race?”

    There have been incidents of anti-Semitism from The Rebel contributors and Levant was by all accounts sensitive to accusations of being a Nazi apologist. Here, I’m going by what reporter Jonathan Goldsbie writes in Canadaland. I must confess I lost interest in Levant’s brand of journalism long ago and have not kept close track of goings-on there.

    Levant’s memo says flying Nazi flags, chanting Nazi slogans and the Nazi salute makes the alt-right racist.

    I say being anti-immigration, demonizing people based on identity and then claiming not to believe in identity politics, makes the far-right hypocritical, xenophobic — and racist.

    For all the pains Levant takes to draw out the differences, the only line he has drawn to separate his far right from Richard Spencer’s alt-right is one “ism”: Nazism.

    Other than that, they still look like mirror images to me.

    Shree Paradkar writes on discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar

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    If you’re flying out of Pearson Airport’s Terminal 3 Wednesday give yourself extra travel time as technical problems continue with the baggage system.

    “Intermittent technical issues with Terminal 3 baggage are ongoing this morning, and will affect some departing flights,” the airport tweeted Wednesday morning.

    “Our team is working hard to resolve the issue and return the Terminal 3 system to normal operation. We apologize for the delay.”

    The airport reported the mechanical problem that slowed down baggage input Tuesday evening, and since then, has left travelers waiting for several hours.

    “Have been stuck on an @airtransat plane at @TorontoPearson for 2.5 hours, with an 8 month old. Got water an hour ago. Getting unacceptable,” tweeted one passenger.

    “2 hr + delay on our transat flight @torontopearson because the baggage belts haven't been working properly. This is crap. Utterly crap,” said another Twitter user.

    The airport says that they have called in additional staff who are using a simplified process to speed up check-in as the technical issues are being resolved.

    There is no information on the exact flights affected but Pearson Airport says “passengers can also consider checking in online and flying with carry-on only to bypass some of these issues.”

    Read more:

    700 baggage handlers, ground crew at Pearson Airport on strike

    Expect a longer wait at Pearson Airport as enhanced security begins today for U.S.-bound flights

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    EDMONTON—A woman who lost her engagement ring 13 years ago while weeding her garden on the family farm is wearing it proudly again after her daughter-in-law pulled it from the ground on a misshapen carrot.

    Mary Grams, 84, said she can’t believe the lucky carrot actually grew through and around the diamond ring she had long given up hope of ever finding again.

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    “I feel relieved and happy inside,” Grams said Tuesday from her home in Camrose, southeast of Edmonton.

    “It grew into the carrot. I still can’t figure it out.”

    Grams said she never told her husband, Norman, who died five years ago, that she had lost the ring, but she mentioned it to her son.

    Once she realized it was missing she spent hours looking through the garden for the keepsake, but to no avail.

    “I got on my hands and knees and looked all over and I could not find it. I looked for days and days.”

    Colleen Daley found the ring while harvesting carrots for supper with her dog Billy at the farm near Armena, Alta., where Grams used to live. The farm has been in the family for 105 years.

    Daley said while she was pulling the carrots she noticed one them looked kind of strange.

    She was going to feed it to her dog but decided to keep it and just threw it in her pail.

    When she was washing the carrots she noticed the ring and spoke to her husband, Mary’s son, about what she had found.

    “Mary had kept it a secret that she had lost her ring,” Daley said.

    They quickly called Mary in Camrose about their find.

    “I said we found your ring in the garden. She couldn’t believe it,” Daley said. “It was so weird that the carrot grew perfectly through that ring.”

    Grams said she was eager to try the ring on again after so many years.

    With family looking on she washed the ring with a little soap to get the dirt off.

    It slid on her finger as easily as it did when her husband gave it to her.

    “We were giggling and laughing,” she said. “It fit. After that many years it fits.”

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    Get ready: The surf is crashing into this year’s Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).

    After attending an East Coast Kitchen Party in New Brunswick, the CNE’s director decided to bring it to the fair. The CNE is hosting the event for the first time on Saturday and Sunday.

    “They just loved it and they thought ‘what a cool opportunity to bring some East coast love to the CNE,’” said Jed Corbeil, an organizer for the event.

    “It’s a maritime kitchen party where you’ll have communal tables and east coast hospitality.”

    On offer will be East coast booze and entertainment, local food trucks with their take on the region’s best eats and an oyster shucking competition.

    East coast cuisine has been getting more love from the rest of Canada of late, said Simon Thibault, author of Pantry and Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food.

    “People are looking to this area because we’ve always had this reputation for a few things one has been pristine oceans in terms of seafood,” said Thibault, adding it’s not all fish and chips out there.

    Eight food trucks offer more traditional foods — such as fries with dressing and gravy, Halifax donairs and Acadian meat pie — and some more creative takes, from a shrimp corn dog to a lobster bomb and Halifax donair tacos.

    East coast chef Michael Smith, who hails from Prince Edward Island, will also be at the CNE for his eighth year in a row, sharing his cooking secrets on Saturday at the Celebrity Chef Stage.

    Tickets for a VIP dinner on Saturday night are also available for guests who want to eat whole lobster in a more upscale setting with prime views of live entertainment.

    “We decided to have a VIP tent to have a really nice high-end lobster boil and oyster bar,” Corbeil said.

    Visitors can also get “screeched in,” a Newfoundland tradition to make outsiders honorary members of the province that involves taking a shot of rum, reading a passage and kissing a cod. The CNE’s cod is wooden, they also have a wooden puffin to kiss, Corbeil said.

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    Shaming people on the internet is never something I’ve had a taste for, even when those being shamed have made genuinely stupid, offensive mistakes — like laughing at sexist or homophobic jokes. I’d give you a few specific examples of this, but I don’t even want to mention the names of the shamed. They’ve paid their dues.

    What I will say is that I don’t think a guy who makes a penis joke at work is necessarily a misogynist, nor is a diehard fan of Duck Dynasty necessarily a homophobe (neither one, however, is likely a card-carrying member of Mensa).

    I’ve been called both a feminist Uncle Tom and a lesbian Uncle Tom for my aversion to social media shaming, which I suppose is a kind of meta-shaming — “For shame, you will not shame!”

    Read more:

    ‘What about the alt-left?’: Donald Trump doubles down on his widely condemned remarks blaming ‘both sides’ for Charlottesville violence

    Social media helps expose white nationalists at Charlottesville rally

    The ‘many sides’ of injustice in Charlottesville riot: Paradkar

    But in light of horrific events in Charlottesville, Va., this weekend, I firmly believe that a shame-pass is in order. If you recognize one of the participants photographed marching in the Unite the Right demonstration where an anti-racist protester was murdered and you have access to the internet, please: Shame away.

    Shame away, because carrying Tiki torches in the name of white supremacy, as Unite the Right racists did this weekend, is not a mistake or a lapse in judgment. It’s not a slip-up akin to laughing at the wrong joke or living for a brief moment on the “wrong side of history.” No, it’s a loud and proud commitment to hatred, and a direct threat to the way of life of every decent person on this earth.

    Identifying that threat and exposing those who would make it is not grandstanding or virtue signalling. It’s nothing but necessary in a nation whose leader refuses to condemn voices of hate because without those voices he wouldn’t be a leader.

    In light of this weekend’s events, a number of social media users have taken to Twitter, specifically the shaming account YesYoureRacist, to identify by name some of the young men photographed marching for hate in Charlottesville. Even preternaturally laid back actress Jennifer Lawrence joined the shaming party, tweeting the following early this week, alongside a photo of some of the white supremacist marchers: “These are the faces of hate. Look closely and post anyone you find. You can’t hide with the internet you pathetic cowards!”

    No, they can’t. Since social media users set out to shame Unite the Right participants this week, one white supremacist marcher lost his job at a restaurant and another was publicly denounced by his father who wrote in a post online that his son will not be welcome at home until he sheds his white nationalist views. Peter Cvjetanovic, a university student photographed carrying a Tiki torch at the Friday night rally, his face contorted in what looks like an expression of rage, told the press his life has spiralled out of control since the photo went viral. He is no longer just a white nationalist. He’s an internationally known and reviled one.

    Social media has come under intense scrutiny since Donald Trump rose to power in the United States. Facebook and Twitter are routinely denounced as engines of fake news and misinformation and indeed they are these things. But they are also invaluable at a time like this because the mass shaming that they enable delivers a clear message to men such as Cvjetanovic still operating in the shadows that should they choose to come into the light and bare their hatred to the world, they will lose friends, family and, probably, work. Life will be as hard for them as they’d like to make it for others. So they’d do best to keep their bile where it belongs: buried deep within.

    Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump’s top trade official opened the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with harsh criticism of the deal, saying it has “fundamentally failed” many Americans and cannot not be fixed with mere “tweaking.”

    “We cannot ignore the huge trade deficits, the lost manufacturing jobs, the businesses that have closed or moved, because of incentives, intended or not, in the current agreement. The numbers are clear,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in his introductory speech. “The U.S. government has certified that at least 700,000 Americans have lost their jobs due to changing trade flows resulting from NAFTA. Many people believe the number is much, much bigger than that.”

    Trump, Lighthizer said at a hotel in Washington, “is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions and a couple of updated chapters. We feel that NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement.”

    Lighthizer’s remarks underscored the vast gulf between the U.S. and the other two parties to the agreement, Canada and Mexico, whose representatives hailed NAFTA in their own opening statements at a hotel in Washington.

    Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called NAFTA “an engine of job-creation and economic growth,” and she argued that trade between Canada and the U.S. has been “almost perfectly” balanced — though she pointedly noted that Canada does not believe trade deficits or surpluses are the best way to measure if a trade relationship is working.

    “Canada is and always has been a trading nation. Our approach stems from one essential insight. We pursue trade, free and fair, knowing it is not a zero-sum game,” Freeland said.

    Freeland called NAFTA a “landmark pact,” saying it had produced significant growth in the Canadian economy. She argued that it had also helped the U.S. economy grow.

    “It is worth pointing out that we are the biggest client of the United States. Canada buys more from the U.S. than China, the U.K. and Japan combined,” she said.

    Freeland delivered her remarks in not only French and English but Spanish. She said Canada would try to cut red tape, harmonize regulations and make NAFTA “more progressive” on labour, the environment, gender and Indigenous people.

    Lighthizer conceded that “many Americans have benefited from NAFTA,” referring specifically to the importance of the Canadian and Mexican markets for U.S. farmers and ranchers. But he said the deal had harmed “countless” others, pointing to factory workers.

    And he refused to concede that trade with Canada was balanced.

    “In recent years, we have seen some improvement in our trade balance with Canada. But over the last 10 years, our deficit in goods has exceeded $365 billion,” he said.

    The remarks opened the first round of the multi-round negotiations that the three countries are ambitiously attempting to conclude by the beginning of 2018.

    This round will run from Wednesday to Sunday. The next round will likely occur in Mexico in September, the third round in Canada after that.

    The negotiations are happening at the insistence of Trump, who campaigned on a promise to alter or terminate the deal. Trump has called NAFTA the worst trade deal in American history.

    A senior U.S. trade official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters Tuesday that the talks would begin with each country submitting large quantities of proposed text for a revised agreement. They will put “brackets” around the areas on which there is not yet agreement.

    There is broad agreement on the need to modernize the 23-year-old agreement to include provisions on the digital economy that did not yet exist when the original terms were negotiated.

    But there are also major disagreements. One Canadian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called the situation “volatile.”

    “I know we all agree NAFTA needs updating. It’s a 23-year-old agreement, and our economies are very different than they were in the 1990s,” Lighthizer said — but “after modernizing, the tough work begins.”

    The U.S. wants to do away with the “Chapter 19” provisions that create an independent system, outside national courts, for resolving NAFTA disputes. Canada wants to keep it.

    Read more:

    9 key terms you’ll need to know as NAFTA negotiations start Wednesday

    Here’s what to expect as crucial NAFTA talks between U.S., Canada and Mexico begin this week

    Trump wants a victory on NAFTA. His voters disagree on what that should mean

    The U.S. wants Canada to reduce its dairy protectionism; Canada has vowed to protect its supply management system.

    And Canada has a number of demands that may be tough sells with the Trump administration: freer cross-border movement of professionals, new chapters on gender rights and Indigenous peoples, tougher environmental rules, and more access for Canadian companies to U.S. government contracts.

    Trump has made “Buy American” one of his key mantras, endorsed a proposal to cut legal immigration in half, and rapidly slashed environmental regulations.

    It seemed likely, as usual, that the subject of continental trade would receive more attention in Canada than the U.S., whose news coverage this week has been consumed with the fallout from the weekend violence at a white supremacist event in Charlottesville, Va. None of Trump’s eight tweets on Wednesday morning was about NAFTA.

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    A civilian oversight agency is being asked to investigate two Ontario police forces after a Toronto police officer and his brother were charged in the brutal beating of a black teen.

    Lawyers representing Dafonte Miller and his family have filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director in connection with the December 2016 incident and how it was investigated.

    They allege Toronto police and Durham regional police tried to cover up the attack on Miller and “blindly” accepted the accounts of Michael Theriault, an off-duty Toronto constable, and his brother Christian Theriault.

    Read more: Durham police launch an internal review of Dafonte Miller assault

    Toronto police officer, brother accused of misleading investigators in Dafonte Miller case

    The province’s police watchdog wasn’t notified of the alleged incident until months later and has since charged the brothers with assault and other offences.

    Among other things, the complaint filed with the OIPRD calls for police officers to face criminal consequences if they interfere with an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit.

    It is part of a broader push for police oversight made by a coalition of community and advocacy groups who say Miller’s case shows the need for immediate action.

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    The University of Toronto has told a white nationalist group they are not welcome to hold a rally on campus.

    The group — called the Canadian Nationalist Party — has set up a Facebook page promoting a gathering on campus in September to discuss the nationalist movement in Canada and the future of the country.

    “We have contacted the group to let them know they don’t have permission to use our space,” said university spokeswoman Althea Blackburn-Evans on Wednesday.

    The university’s president, Marc Gertler, said bigotry, hate and violence have no place campus and condemned the deadly clash between protesters and white supremacists in Virginia over the weekend that left one woman dead and 19 others injured.

    “As we prepare to welcome students, faculty and staff to our campuses for the start of another academic year, it is important that we reaffirm our collective and unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Gertler said.

    Read more: University of Florida denies request for white nationalist event, calls racist rhetoric ‘repugnant’

    He said those values “are cornerstones of outstanding scholarship, teaching, and learning, which can thrive only by embracing the broadest range of people and encouraging the free expression of diverse perspectives in an atmosphere of mutual respect.”

    The events in Virginia are an important reminder to speak out against acts of violence, he said.

    Heather Heyer, 32, died after a car slammed into a crowd of people protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. James Fields Jr., described as an admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, has been charged with second-degree murder in Heyer’s death. A memorial service was taking place Wednesday in Charlottesville for Heyer.

    “The academic community must continue to condemn acts of violence, intimidation, and the fostering of hate,” Gertler said in his statement, which didn’t mention the Toronto rally directly.

    The university said the group has not requested to book space at the campus. The school said they have reached out to Facebook to pull the event page down, although it still existed as of Wednesday morning.

    The group did not respond to a request for comment.

    The rally is scheduled to take place on Sept. 14, according to that online posting, which sparked a backlash on social media.

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    WASHINGTON—The last two Republican presidents — George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush — issued an implicit rebuke of the current president Wednesday, as party elders scrambled to limit the fallout from Donald Trump’s stance on neo-Nazis.

    “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms,” read the statement issued by Bush aides from Kennebunkport, Maine, site of the Bush family compound.

    The Bushes have largely kept on the sidelines during the Trump presidency. The younger Bush has maintained a strict policy of resisting the urge to inject himself into contemporary politics, deeming that unfair to the current national leader — whether that was Trump or, before him, Barack Obama.

    Read more: Donald Trump defends far-right extremists in astonishing tirade, again blames both sides for Charlottesville violence

    Trump’s council of CEOs is on the verge of disbanding over his defence of far-right extremists

    Charlottesville victim’s mother urges supporters to channel ‘anger into righteous action’

    The elder Bush turned 93 in June.

    But amid the uproar over Trump’s warmth toward neo-Nazis and white supremacists, the father-son presidents apparently could not hold their tongues any longer.

    Also on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., forcefully distanced himself and the party from Trump’s stance.

    “We can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred. There are no good neo-nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head,” McConnell said in a statement issued by his office, in part to denounce a rally planned by hate groups in Lexington.

    The Bushes rarely issue joint statements, underscoring the importance they placed on airing their views on this controversy. Their full statement read:

    “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms. As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.”

    While the Bushes’ rare joint statement didn’t mention Trump, their message was clearly aimed at distancing themselves — and the Republican Party — from the president’s comments about the violence in Virginia. On Saturday, a Nazi sympathizer rammed a car into a crowd of anti-fascist demonstrators, killing one woman and injuring 20 other people.

    The neo-Nazis and white supremacists chanted anti-Semitic slogans and waved swastika flags.

    Trump initially blamed clashes on agitators and bad actors on “many sides,” without mentioning neo-Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan or white supremacists by name. On Monday, after aides had invoked those labels, Trump did, too, in scripted comments that were criticized as belated but welcomed as a signal that Trump had shifted away from describing a moral equivalence between fascists and anti-fascists.

    He then proceeded to undo those efforts at damage control on Tuesday afternoon with a freewheeling news conference in the lobby of his glittering Trump Tower. He insisted that there were “very fine people” on that side of the clashes and accused the “alt-left” of provoking the violence.

    Before the Bushes and McConnell weighed in, House Speaker Paul Ryan was the highest-ranking Republican official to publicly distance himself — and the party — from the president. Trump’s critics, and many of his fellow Republicans, viewed those comments as a wink of approval toward fringe nationalists and white supremacists.

    “We must be clear,” Ryan tweeted. “White supremacy is repulsive . . . There can be no moral ambiguity.”

    Indeed, white supremacist leader Richard Spencer of Dallas, and David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, had welcomed Trump’s stance as an affirmation of their views and tactics.

    Trump had denounced racism and bigotry as evil and repugnant. But in equating the actions of neo-Nazis chanting Nazi-era slogans such as “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” to the actions of anti-fascist demonstrators, his critics say, he gave political cover to the worst fringe elements of American society.

    For GOP leaders, that has presented a challenge. Trump, as president, is leader of the party. But the party’s congressional majorities will be at stake in the 2018 elections and Trump’s approval ratings are already at a record low for any president in decades.

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    The Ontario Medical Association, which represents 29,000 doctors, may be the most dysfunctional professional group in the entire province, if not all of Canada.

    Since January, the powerful OMA has been torn apart by vicious infighting that saw the sudden resignation of its entire executive team, a nasty campaign of cyberbullying pitting doctors against doctors, the election of a slate of dissident doctors to lead the association and the resignation of nine hardline members of its governing council who claimed the OMA still muzzles dissenting voices.

    And now the OMA is on the verge of damaging its already-tattered reputation even more.

    That’s because the union is expected to launch a major public relations campaign soon aimed at winning the hearts and minds of taxpayers who the OMA fears — rightly — will be angered when they learn how much money some doctors are getting in OHIP fees.

    The OMA is considering such a campaign in the delusional view that it can appease vocal doctors who think the association can “control the narrative” and “minimize the damage” when OHIP billings are made public.

    As revealed by the Toronto Star this week, the OMA could soon voluntarily release the names of its top OHIP billers along with favourable stories about how hard those doctors work, how much they pay in taxes, staff and office overhead, along with their final take-home income. The OMA believes the public is clueless when it comes to understanding such things.

    Under the proposal, first reported by Star reporters Theresa Boyle and Jayme Poisson, the OMA would deliberately leak the information not to the Star, but to another newspaper it believes would provide “more favourable coverage.”

    “Definitely open to the idea. Better for us to control the message,” OMA president Dr. Shawn Whatley wrote last week on a Facebook forum for Ontario doctors. “We are discussing it this week.”

    The OMA issued a statement just before the Star’s story broke saying the union isn’t acting on the program at this time.

    Importantly, the OMA has opposed the Star’s legal efforts over the last two years to force the release of the names and OHIP billings of top-billing doctors. In June, an Ontario court ruled against doctors’ attempt to keep the names secret. The OMA says it will appeal the ruling.

    At stake here is the public’s right to know how its tax dollars are being spent — or misspent.

    Collectively, Ontario doctors bill nearly $12 billion a year. The vast majority of doctors are working flat out, putting in long hours in clinics and hospitals, working in underserved communities and emergency rooms.

    But questions linger about some of the biggest billers. How, for instance, can one doctor bill for 100,000 patients in a single year, as an audit last year by the provincial health ministry revealed. How can the top 12 billing doctors average $4 million a year? How did six claim to have worked for 356 days in a one-year period?

    Not surprisingly, the angry doctors are trying to portray the Star’s efforts to see the billing data released as a deliberate attempt to negatively smear all doctors.

    “Scoop the Star’s story. They spent a fortune fighting for this. Lick their lollipop before they have a chance to enjoy it,” wrote Dr. David Jacobs, vice-president of the Ontario Association of Radiologists, on Facebook.

    But a major flaw in the proposed OMA strategy is that it’s based on the mistaken belief that if it simply gives the data voluntarily to another news outlet then it will gain all sorts of favourable coverage that masks news of possible overbilling.

    The reality is, however, that regardless of where the OMA leaks its own data, taxpayers and politicians are likely to be shocked by the scope of billings. For example the Canadian Institute for Health Information released a report in April that estimates one third of all tests and treatments are potentially unnecessary.

    No amount of public relations “spin” will be able to counteract the possible public outrage to such revelations.

    Ultimately, the public deserves to know if there is fraud and waste, even possible criminal activity, within the OHIP system.

    If it wants to win the public’s trust and respect, the OMA should stop looking at this issue as merely a public relations exercise it can manipulate to their own advantage.

    Instead, it should work cooperatively with provincial authorities to release as much relevant billing information as reasonable. That would help the public in determining for themselves if their health dollars are being spent properly.

    Bob Hepburn’s column appears Thursday.

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    An historic education agreement signed on Wednesday between 23 First Nations and the province is being hailed as a step towards self-governance as it gives full educational authority to Indigenous communities.

    The Anishinabek Nation, a political organization of 40 middle and northern Ontario First Nations, has been working on the Anishinabek Education System plan for more than a decade and 23 of its member nations signed the agreement. The other 17 nations can come on board later if they chose.

    “Wake up, this is no longer a dream, this is a reality, the AES is here,” said Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee at a press conference at the Chippewawas of Rama First Nation.

    Under the agreement, teachers at participating First Nation schools will be paid the same as provincial Ontario teachers and for the first time, Anishinabek educators will be able to sign the graduation certificates of its students — before, provincial authorities did this.

    The province will work with the AES, the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body and regional education councils and local education authorities in every community. The AES will create education laws to govern itself and it will oversee the delivery of programs and services.

    On reserve schools, each First Nation has power and authority over education from junior kindergarten to Grade 12 and they will be in charge of creating the education councils and authorities.

    System-wide standards will be put in place and imposed, and, the AES will work with the provincial schools to ease the movement of students to off-reserve high schools. To go to high school, most Indigenous students in the Anishinabek Nation have to leave their communities.

    The agreement is called a major step forward to self-governance, according to federal Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett, who was at the Rama signing along with her provincial counterpart Minister David Zimmer and Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter.

    “This is the largest self-government agreement in Canada due to the number of First Nations involved,” Bennett said. “This marks a key step out from under the Indian Act.”

    The Indian Act is a piece of legislation that was signed in 1876 and governs nearly all aspects of life for Indigenous people in Canada — everything from who gets status as an Indigenous person to education, land and resources.

    The act also ensured nearly 150,000 Indigenous children were sent to residential schools — government funded and church-run institutions. For more than 100 years, children were taken from their culture, language and families and sent away to school. Many students were the subject of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Many were neglected and even starved in malnutrition experiments. The trauma from those days can be seen in generations of Indigenous families.

    “They beat us but they'll not beat us,” Madahbee said, recalling days from his own church run schooling. He urged Anishinabek nations to sign on and be a part of the AES.

    “We are not being co-opted into something,” he said, adding they have spent years hammering out details. “This will enhance our treaty rights with the Crown.”

    All students, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are enriched in understanding by the exchange of knowledge from Anishinabek nations in history, culture and perspectives, said Hunter. Provincial schools will be supported to advance Anishinabek practices.

    Hunter added that Indigenous elders — who hold an honoured and guiding place in First Nations culture — should always be part of a student’s day and not just for special events.

    About 90 per cent of 26,000 Anishinabek students attend provincially funded schools.

    Nearly 200 information sessions were held in Anishinabek Nations regarding the AES and ratification votes were held in communities.

    Anishinabek Grand Council Deputy Chief Glen Hare said he traveled more than 1 million kilometres to various communities to inform First Nations about the need for the AES. “I have eight grandsons to think about. Each one of us has to stand behind this paper and our kids,” Hare said.

    0 0

    Don’t expect the Danforth to build a wall and make the Beach pay for it.

    Following social media backlash this week, the Danforth Village Business Improvement Area has apologized and removed references to a “Make Danforth Great Again” slogan it originally posted at the height of the U.S. presidential campaign early last November.

    The slogan was featured in a Facebook video and on a page of the BIA’s website, both of which have been taken down.

    “In a continued effort to ‘Make Danforth Great Again’ the Danforth Village Business Improvement Area (DVBIA) has embarked on a window washing service for all its merchant members. Currently, 170 businesses are participating in the program,” the page read.

    It displayed Photoshopped images of Donald Trump on the Danforth next to a red wagon bearing the slogan. The images were overlaid with Trump quotes like: “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich,” and: “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy.”

    “This past week, a recent candidate in the US elections heard about the great work being done in Danforth Village and decided to drop in and see what all the hype was about,” the page read.

    The red wagon has been used to carry window-washing supplies, said councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, who sits on the BIA’s board of directors. McMahon said the slogan will be removed from the wagon.

    Some Danforth residents and shoppers took to the BIA’s Facebook page to express their disgust after a photo of the wagon was posted to social media earlier this week.

    “I think you do a lot for our community, and I am generally a big fan,” one posted. “However your ‘Make Danforth Great Again’ slogan and campaign is in terrible taste and is offensive. You are channeling a racist and a fascist. You are alienating everyone who stands up for civil rights and true equality.”

    Another questioned on Twitter whether the BIA is “tone deaf” or “just like to steal slogans from White Supremacists.”

    In a statement, Louie Dapergolas, chair of the BIA, apologized “to anyone who has been offended or insulted by this,” adding that the video posted in November was meant as “satire.”

    “At the time, many of us believed that the idea that he would be elected President of the United States was outrageous. This video in no way suggests any support of Donald Trump or his beliefs, especially in light of what is currently happening in the United States,” the statement read.

    “Instead, it was made to promote our Window Washing initiative, which is an exciting collaboration between the Danforth Village BIA and Dixon Hall, a shelter on Danforth Avenue. This initiative gives shelter users an opportunity to engage in gainful, meaningful employment.”

    McMahon and councillor Janet Davis, also a member of the board, said they voiced their opposition to using the phrase during a meeting last fall.

    Davis called it “completely inappropriate” in the current political and social context.

    McMahon said the slogan did not reflect the diversity of the community, and of business owners in the area.

    “The BIA is an extension of the city and they should be remaining neutral in any election, let alone a contentious one and in another country,” McMahon said. “We’re trying to make the Danforth great again, like back historically. But obviously people weren’t thinking.”

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    U.S. Vice President Mike Pence expressed his support for Donald Trump in carefully worded remarks as the administration coped with the fallout over controversial statements from the president on the deadly weekend violence in Virginia.

    “The president has been clear on this, and so have I,” Pence said Wednesday during a news conference in Santiago, Chile. Pence went on to refer to his own forceful condemnation of white supremacists issued on Aug. 13 after the melee, saying, “I stand with the president, and I stand by those words.”

    Pence didn’t directly address a reporter’s question on the vice president’s opinion of Trump’s statement on Tuesday, when the president returned to his controversial position that there was “blame on both sides” for the weekend violence and likened the actions of white supremacists chanting anti-Jewish slogans to those of the people who came out to confront them.

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    The violence erupted as white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville over the weekend to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general in the Civil War, from a public park.

    One woman was killed and at least 19 others were injured after an Ohio man allegedly rammed a group of counter-demonstrators with a vehicle, and two Virginia state troopers who were observing the demonstrations died in a helicopter crash nearby. Photographs showed a group of whites using long metal poles to beat a black man crouching on his knees.

    Trump has faced intense criticism from business leaders and lawmakers in both parties since saying Aug. 12 that “many sides” bore blame for the melees that erupted in Charlottesville. Several corporate chief executives quit White House business panels in recent days and the president announced right after Pence spoke that he was disbanding business advisory groups on manufacturing and strategic policy.

    Even inside the White House, some staff were deeply dismayed by Trump’s comments Tuesday, according to a person close to the White House.

    Read more:

    Critics slam Trump after he declines to call out Charlottesville white supremacists, some of whom are his supporters

    UN experts say Charlottesville exemplifies rising racism in U.S.

    Former presidents Bush rebuke Trump’s stance on neo-Nazis

    Prominent Republicans continued distancing themselves from Trump on Wednesday, though in most cases without directly criticizing the president.

    “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms,” former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush said in a joint statement Wednesday without mentioning Trump.

    Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky followed the same course, releasing a statement Wednesday on “hate groups” without mentioning Trump or the president’s remarks.

    “There are no good neo-Nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms,” McConnell said. “We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head.”

    Trump criticized “alt-left” counter-protesters as “very, very violent.” Facing them, he said, “were people protesting very quietly the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I am sure in that group there were some bad ones.”

    Protesters objecting to Confederate generals could move on next to heroes of the American Revolution, he warned.

    “So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down too,” Trump said. “I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

    In a reference to a former Ku Klux Klan leader who has praised Trump’s comments, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday in a statement, “Many Republicans do not agree and will fight back against the idea that the Party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world.”

    0 0

    MONTREAL—A Quebec woman is taking legal action against her doctors after she delivered her 13-pound baby naturally in what court documents describe as a “traumatic and chaotic” childbirth.

    Documents filed in Quebec Superior Court on behalf of Anik Bourbeau and Pascal Lessard allege the baby was born with a permanently paralyzed arm and the mother was left with significant tearing and other damage following the 2010 birth.

    The documents allege the couple’s doctors failed to evaluate the size of the baby and recommend a caesarean section before Bourbeau gave birth, despite signs that pointed to the possibility of a large baby.

    They asking for $1.4 million in damages from the defendants, who include five of Bourbeau’s doctors and a hospital in Shawinigan, Que.

    The baby’s birth “took place in the context of a traumatic and chaotic birth that caused numerous damages to the plaintiffs, notably a permanent paralysis to the [baby’s] right arm,” the document reads.

    The amount claimed includes general damages, loss of income for both parents as well as future medical costs for the child.

    None of the claims have been tested in court. The law firm representing the defendants declined to comment, citing confidentiality.

    The documents allege the medical professionals did not do an ultrasound on Bourbeau to check the size of the baby despite her medical history, which included a difficult pregnancy in the past.

    “The defendants omitted to proceed to an evaluation of the child’s size, while the clinical evolution of Madame Bourbeau demanded it,” it reads.

    Doctors “did not obtain free and informed consent” from Bourbeau regarding the method of delivery and did not recommend a C-section despite the fact she had clearly expressed her willingness to have one, the document claims.

    According to the documents, the baby wasn’t breathing and weighed more than 13 pounds when he was delivered in December 2010.

    The case will be heard in Superior Court in May 2018.

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    The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal and Halton police are investigating a suspicious fire that heavily damaged a more than 120-year-old church in northeast Burlington.

    Burlington Fire was called to the Trinity Baptist Church at 4372 Appleby Line, just north of No. 2 Sideroad, around 1:20 a.m.

    The first crews on scene saw visible flames in the southwest corner of the building that eventually extended up the wall and got into the attic, destroying the roof, said Deputy Fire Chief Ross Monteith.

    No one was injured, but the original church building, built in 1890, was heavily damaged by the fire. Monteith said it was difficult for firefighters to navigate inside the old, tall building and at a certain point they had to refocus their efforts on saving the newer additions to the church, which escaped unscathed.

    It’s too early to know what caused the blaze. Monteith said damage is likely in excess of $500,000.

    Halton police spokesperson Sgt. Dana Nicholas confirmed the fire is considered suspicious.

    The word “ISIS” is visible in spray paint on the building. Nicholas said police are aware of the graffiti, but added it’s too early in the investigation to know if it’s related to the fire.

    At the height of the fire there were 40 firefighters on scene from 12 trucks. The rural area does not have hydrant access, so other fire crews from Milton and Hamilton shuttled water to the scene.

    Fire crews remained on scene putting out hot spots until about 10 a.m., Monteith said.

    According to the church’s website, the Trinity Baptist congregation moved to the Appleby Line church in 1975.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact Halton police at 905-825-4747 ext. 2316.

    0 0

    The death of an Ontario teenager in Cuba last month has been attributed to natural causes by local authorities, according to her Cuban death certificate.

    Alexandra Sagriff, 18, was found dead in her Varadero hotel room on July 6, while on a graduation trip organized by S-Trip, a private travel company geared toward high school students.

    Sagriff died of heart- and lung-related issues including acute pulmonary edema, acute myocardial infarction and ischemic heart failure, says a death certificate issued by Dr. Sergio Piera, director of Cuba’s Institute of Legal Medicine.

    No alcohol was found in Sagriff’s system, says the certificate, which was provided to the Star by S-Trip.

    Sagriff’s family declined to comment on the findings of the Cuban autopsy, but issued a written statement through S-Trip.

    “It is unfortunate and hurtful that there continue to be individuals who insist on talking about Alexandra in a way that questions her character and dishonours her memory,” her family wrote. “She was a loving and caring young woman who was always well respected and loved by all.”

    S-Trip has been in consistent contact with Sagriff’s family since the death, said Samia Makhlouf, a public relations professional working for S-Trip.

    Sagriff was a recent graduate of St. Theresa Catholic Secondary School in Belleville, and was preparing to attend Loyalist College in the fall, her family said shortly after her death.

    “Alex was an amazing young woman, she had a ton of friends, and has a ton of family who loves her,” her family said at the time.

    0 0

    No one’s laughing at Donald Trump anymore.

    Joke’s over. But why did it take so painfully long — and a civil rights disaster— for a toxic presidency to stop being even remotely funny?

    Trump’s buffoonery provided endless material for mockery on late night TV. But while his critics chortled, he had the last laugh on election night.

    Now, his demagoguery is no laughing matter. And it’s long past time for my American friends to stop snickering from the sidelines.

    In all seriousness, I appreciate political satire. Humour pricks the balloons of powerful politicians who take themselves too seriously.

    But years of TV laugh tracks have turned politics into a gong show. And a reality television star who had been auditioning for the role was waiting in the wings.

    The joke went too far. Will voters continue to laugh at the spectacle, or finally get serious about the tragedy being played out before their eyes?

    Humour exacts a price if it divides people instead of uniting them: When you’re laughing at roughly half the American people, you’re lining up against them — and making enemies of them in a culture war without end.

    All those skits on Saturday Night Live were on point, but ultimately unpersuasive. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert is supposed to be edgy, but tends to drive a wedge. The Daily Show’s humour is acidic, but it’s not activist.

    In the right therapeutic dose, hilarity is an antidote to absurdity. But Americans have overdosed on humour for too long, addicted to an incapacitating drug that anaesthetizes them from the pain of racism, inequality, and alienation.

    Laughing isn’t the answer anymore, because Trumpism isn’t all that funny — as even Jimmy Fallon discovered the other night. Give the Tonight Show host belated credit for his heartfelt monologue about the fallout from Charlottesville (even if he was trying to restore his lost credibility after famously tussling Trump’s hair in mid-campaign).

    Chortling is too easy. The harder challenge is change — winning elections and influencing people.

    More precisely, it’s not about changing presidents but changing the minds (and hopefully hearts) of the very voters who enabled and empowered him. Sitting back and laughing at Trump and his highly motivated base only forges a closer bond between them.

    The danger of mockery is that it suggests superiority over the stupidity of Trump’s supporters: We get it, we’re all in on the joke because we’re on the same wavelength — and so much wiser than the ones we’re laughing at.

    But if the other side is so dumb, why are they the ones in power?

    The answer is that they understand the power of political engagement. Instead of just laughing, highly motivated people of faith, affluence, or anger are too busy praying, fundraising and agitating.

    It’s impossible to spend two weeks in America, as I just did with American friends, without sharing their sense of despair. We’ve been there, which is why we have no right to feel superior.

    Torontonians went through a similar cycle of political chaos when Rob Ford was mayor. He too played buffoon on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show while we laughed about his not so funny addictions and predilections.

    Bad as they both turned out to be, Trump wasn’t a surprise. Unlike Ford — whose weaknesses weren’t widely understood by many voters — Americans knew what they were getting with Trump.

    They watched him in nationally televised prime time debates, they heard his racist and misogynist rhetoric, yet still they made him president. The problem isn’t so much Trump as the American people who put him there, and the opportunistic apparatchiks who keep him there.

    There’s nothing funny to be found in that political divide. Laughter alone isn’t a response, it’s a cop-out — akin to the Facebook fragmentation of online “likes,” or favouriting a Barack Obama tweet of a Nelson Mandela quotation.

    Twitter and Facebook define “engagement” as someone clicking on a link, which must be laughable for serious political activists. Clicking is akin to chortling — makes you feel better, but offers only the illusion of involvement.

    The truth about politics — whether in America or anywhere — is that clicks don’t count as votes, and elections aren’t won with laughs. If politics is just a joke, it will only desensitize and immobilize voters.

    Politics depends on participation. It’s about idealism and activism, not apps and gags.

    That means being informed and getting involved, donating time or money, and above all voting. It’s about tuning into the issues, not just TV skits. And screening the candidates on a ballot, not merely scrolling through a feed on Facebook.

    Yes, levity preserves sanity. But if hilarity serves only to release pent-up frustration, without any relief from a political crisis, it’s not helping anyone.

    And just as tears are not enough, jokes won’t change a thing.

    Martin Regg Cohn's political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. , Twitter: @reggcohn

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