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    Catcalling, or street harassment, as it’s officially known these days, doesn’t usually find its way onto many lists of “Planet Earth’s most Pressing Problems.”

    This is probably why whenever a feminist complains in the press about some guy yelling obscenities at her on a city street, she is met with an army of eye rolls that seem to say: “Aren’t there more important causes you girls can focus your efforts on?”

    To which this feminist would like to respond: No, not really. After all, what’s more important than a person’s right to a pleasant stroll down the street? Equal pay for equal work doesn’t count for much if you can’t walk to your job unmolested by leering creeps.

    American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson is often credited with writing the popular inspirational quote sewn onto many a throw pillow: “Life’s a Journey, not a Destination.” But it’s obvious that Emerson, a man, was never a victim of cat calling.

    Because when you’re a woman — i.e. when your walk to work, school or the corner store is, at some point in your life, invariably interrupted by a guy hollering “Suck it beautiful!” out of a car window, it’s the destination, not the journey that you celebrate.

    All this is to say I wholeheartedly support French politician Marlene Schiappa’s new campaign to target street harassers and cat callers in France.

    Schiappa, France’s official Secretary of State in charge of Equality between Women and Men, and the youngest member of President Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet (she’s 34 years old), would like to see French authorities apprehend street harassers on the spot and issue them a steep fine. In other words, she’d like to see street harassers and cat callers — overwhelmingly men who shout at, grope, and follow women on the street — publicly shamed in a similar fashion to shoplifters and people who refuse to pick up after their dogs.

    Read more:

    A condo party registry would help separate the partiers from the parents: Teitel

    Spending big money on millennial weddings? Blame the boomers: Teitel

    Schiappa doesn’t appear to have worked out the details of a policy targeting street harassment (for example, how it will be written so as not to infringe on free speech rights), but the general idea behind it is a promising one: shift the shame and embarrassment women feel when they are cat called back onto the guys doing the cat calling.

    Not only would such a policy give street harassers a dose of their own medicine, but the threat of a stiff monetary penalty might dissuade them from harassing people, even if such a penalty was rarely doled out.

    With any luck, it would also help dispel the myth that street harassment is no big deal and that women need to toughen up. This is a myth I once believed myself, because I was a) insensitive and b) extremely lucky.

    Most of the crude dudes I’ve stood up to in my life were pretty easy competition: teenage boys who became immediately bashful and remorseful when confronted about their inappropriate behaviour and idiots shouting from cars who disappeared in an instant (my profanity laced retorts a distant echo in their ears).

    But I’ve since come to realize that not all cat callers fit neatly into the category of all bark and no bite. Some get angry when rejected. Others follow you. Some, practically foaming at the mouth, call you a f---ing dyke after you refuse to give them your phone number outside a Pita Pit at one o’clock in the morning (true story).

    Others follow you, egged on by a group of their rowdy peers. This latter scenario is one all too familiar to Marlene Schiappa herself. The politician told NPR recently that as a teen in Paris, she and her sister “took alternative routes” to avoid “bands of boys” prone to cat calling and groping women on the street.

    In the end, the French leader’s proposal to crack down on street harassment in her nation may amount to nothing more than a series of debates and columns like this one. And no doubt backlash from conservatives who demand to know why a feminist in a first-world country is complaining about men making lewd remarks in a jewel of a democracy like Paris when she could be fighting to end the far worse subjugation of women in the far East (that a feminist is capable of doing both of these things at the same time, conveniently never seems to cross their minds).

    But Schiappa’s proposal will be successful even if it changes no laws, because it will redefine street harassment in the public conversation, from an inalterable fact of urban life to a problem that can and should be corrected.

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    After arriving to find his venue’s locks had been smashed, the owner of Comedy Bar opted to pull the plug on a late-night “No Fascist” show last weekend.

    Gary Rideout Jr., the Bloorcourt venue’s co-owner and artistic director, says he took action to protect the safety of his staff and patrons in the event that the show became an unsafe space used for fighting between opposing political groups.

    Initially booked for Saturday night, the “No Fascist T.O. Comedy Show” was organized by local comic Danny Polishchuk — writer and actor in Filth City— and had plans to give the proceeds it raised to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The event was also promoted as a “free speech comedy show.”

    On the day the event was supposed to happen, Rideout Jr. was made aware of a Facebook post which referred to this standup comedy show as “crypto-fascist,” and said his box-office line had received several callers voicing concerns that people involved in the show may have ties to extreme political groups.

    When he arrived at the club around 4 p.m., Rideout Jr. found the venue’s locks had been jammed. He said he did not report the broken locks to the police because his top priority was reopening in time for his early evening shows. He also said he didn’t think there was any way to prove who was responsible for the damage, which cost him more than $400 to fix.

    After assessing the physical damage done to the venue and the calls received, Rideout Jr. cancelled Polishchuk’s show.

    “Whether they were coming or not or whatever, it was not worth the risk. My bartenders are five-foot-tall, 100-pound women, you know what I mean?” he said. “They don’t need theoretically, possibly a white supremacist group showing up, or an anti-fascist group showing up to fight the white supremacist group . . . it’s just a comedy show.”

    Polishchuk’s promotional art at the top of his event page seems to borrow substantially from that of the “No Fascist T.O. Diversity Rally” which successfully pushed for the closure of “The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses” event at Ryerson University a few weeks ago, calling it “bigoted.” Faith Goldy, then of The Rebel, and controversial U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson were supposed to speak at the event, which the school ultimately shut down citing safety concerns. (The event has been moved to Canada Christian College and rescheduled for Nov. 11.)

    “Free speech is obviously the most important thing in terms of being a comedian,” said Polishchuk, who thinks that the event should have been allowed to continue. “The moment you’re not allowed to say things and people threaten you, it flies in the face of everything that comedy is about.”

    While he used borrowed branding, the comic maintains there was nothing unusual about the event he wanted to host on Saturday. “There were 20 comedy shows in Toronto on Saturday night, all the same, except one of them was called the pro-free speech show and that’s the one that go cancelled because of threats of violence and actual violence,” he said.

    His event’s description includes a disclaimer that “If you're an ACTUAL NAZI or WHITE SUPREMACIST or anything of this sort you ARE NOT WELCOME.”

    “The thing now is obviously I’m against Nazis in every form,” said Polishchuk, who is Jewish, “but if you don’t actually disavow them, maybe sometimes they think this is an event for them. I just didn’t want there to be any, like, confusion about what this was.”

    Polishchuk says he understands why Rideout Jr. made the call he did and thinks the way the venue handled the situation was “great.” He wants to reschedule the show for Nov. 11, but is still looking for a venue. He hopes to raise some money to help cover the cost of Rideout Jr.’s damaged locks.

    With files from Jaren Kerr

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    Every day Ken Teryan wakes up to smell the roses — both the real roses he sells in his Avenue Rd. shop, and the metaphorical roses reminding him that he owns one of no fewer than five flower shops competing for business on the same block.

    Kay & Young’s, Yang’s, Ken’s, Jong Young and Grower’s stand side-by-side on Avenue Rd. south of Davenport. Unlike the restaurants of Chinatown or the Danforth, there is no apparent logic to why they’ve congregated there.

    But the flower shops of “Av and Dav” have come to characterize the neighbourhood. The novelty draws regular customers from as far as Barrie, and even occasional tourists eager to check out Toronto’s “flower district.”

    “I think for Toronto, it’s great,” said Teryan, who owns Ken’s Flowers.

    “I would love to have cheese stores, five in a row. Or bakeries selling lots of croissants — that would be wonderful. For sure they would be the nicest croissants around,” he said, smiling broadly at the pastry-filled reverie.

    Teryan sees the tough competition and close proximity of the flower shops as an advantage to customers — and that keeps the shop owners on their toes.

    “It’s giving the signal to all of us to wake up early every morning, never sell anything dead, always keep the flower store so clean and nice and fresh,” he said. Neglect to do these things, and customers will simply go next door.

    Grace Young, owner of Kay & Young’s, the newest florist on the strip, agreed that the surrounding flower shops were a draw to setting up shop there.

    It seems to be working. On Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, the lines to get into any one of the Av and Dav flower shops get so long that the police show up to monitor crowds, Teryan said.

    It’s not unheard-of for small businesses in close proximity to become each other’s most serious competitors, and sometimes the contest gets tense. Last year a cocktail supply shop owner sued her direct neighbour, claiming he was trying to pass off his shop for her’s.

    Those who have lived near Av and Dav a long time might not remember exactly how or why the strip blossomed into flower row — but they’re not complaining.

    Diane Loeb, who has lived in the area for 38 years, recalls watching as produce shops and kitchen supply stores were replaced by florists over time.

    “Just the two minutes you take walking south through that block you’re hit with the most amazing scents and colours,” she said. “It lifts your spirits.

    “It’s amazing to me that five separate locations can keep going just a few yards from one another.”

    She sometimes worries that high-rise condo developers will change the landscape of the neighbourhood, and take the quaint flower shops with them.

    Loeb is a dedicated customer at Jong Young (“I always get a ‘hello’ when I go into my flower shop!”) and believes that each of the shops must thrive by carving out their own unique client base.

    Nevertheless, Milena Eglite, who owns Grower’s, described the competition between shop owners as “fierce.”

    With the alternatives right outside her door, Eglite said it can be especially difficult to contemplate minor price increases when things like hydro become more expensive.

    But she said the shops work hard to build their own unique base of customers. She serves hotels and shops in the nearby upscale Yorkville neighbourhood. Teryan, meanwhile, focuses on wedding orders.

    Rebecca Reuber, a strategic management professor at the University of Toronto, says “it’s probably not an easy existence” for the owners when similar businesses line up side-by-side.

    “You can’t be complacent because you have a competitor right beside you,” she said.

    But businesses may also benefit from their neighbours’ high reputations, Reuber said, which can help to turn areas of the city into “destinations” for certain products or services.

    “It’s probably in your interest that the competitor is quite good,” she said.

    With all five flower shops boasting reviews by customers who claim theirs is the best one, the flower shops at Av and Dav seem to be doing well by that measure.

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    OTTAWA—The NDP is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “immediately remove” from caucus a Calgary MP accused of sexually harassing a young female staffer, then offering her money to stay silent with her allegations.

    Shiela Malcolmson, the NDP’s Status of Women critic, said Tuesday that Trudeau must maintain a strict stance on alleged sexual harassment so that he doesn’t dissuade women from entering the political arena.

    “What I’m looking for is the prime minister to line up with his very public commitments to feminism and to creating a safe place for women in a political environment,” Malcolmson told the Star.

    “We want the prime minister to walk his talk and remove MP Kang from the Liberal caucus until the allegations have been investigated,” she said, questioning whether Kang’s continued presence in the Liberal fold, and the government’s refusal to discuss the allegations in detail, mean Trudeau is betraying his stated “zero-tolerance” policy on harassment and misconduct on Parliament Hill.

    “How did the prime minister move from zero tolerance in the past to no comment now?” she asked.

    “There is no rationale.”

    Her call for Trudeau to act came after allegations emerged that Kang, a rookie MP from Calgary, sexually harassed a 24-year-old woman who worked for more than four years in his constituency office.

    The woman’s father told the Star Monday that Kang then offered to pay her as much as $100,000 to stay silent with her allegations, which he said included unwelcome hugs and hand-holding, as well as an incident in June when he offered the woman wine and tried to take off her jacket.

    Read more:Liberal MP offered woman $100K to keep quiet about sexual harassment claim, father alleges

    Kang did not respond to requests for comment this week. On Tuesday, a staffer in his Calgary office said the MP would not be commenting and directed all questions to the government whip’s office in Ottawa, which is responsible for the discipline of Liberal party members.

    None of the allegations against Kang has been proven.

    Earlier this month, the Hill Times revealed that Kang is being investigated by the House of Commons human resources officer for alleged sexual harassment. The government whip’s office has confirmed it received the allegations.

    “We were made aware of the allegations and referred them, as per the House of Commons process, to the chief human resources officer (Pierre Parent),” the government whip’s chief-of-staff, Charles-Eric Lépine, said in an email on Monday.

    He declined to answer any more questions on the matter on Monday and Tuesday.

    It is not clear if Lépine was referring to the allegation of sexual harassment, the alleged offers of money, or both.

    According to the woman’s father, Hamilton MP and deputy government whip Filomena Tassi travelled to Calgary in June, shortly after the alleged victim came forward to her boss in Kang’s office, to interview her about what allegedly occurred.

    It is unclear when the whip’s office informed Parliament’s human resources office of the allegations.

    The office investigates claims of harassment, abuse of authority, misconduct and sexual harassment among MPs and Parliamentary employees, including workers in politicians’ constituency offices.

    According to Parliament’s policy on preventing harassment, there is no requirement for the whip to pass allegations to human resources; it is a matter for his or her discretion.

    If a complaint is determined to meet the policy’s recommendation of harassment, then the whip or human resources officer will attempt to find a solution through mediation, usually without the help of a third party, the policy says.

    But if one of the parties doesn’t want meditation, or refuses to endorse any agreement that comes out of it, an investigation will take place.

    Each party has 15 days to appeal the conclusion of an investigation, the policy states.

    After that, the investigation file is kept in a locked cabinet for five years, then destroyed.

    During the 2016-17 fiscal year, the office received 19 cases and deemed two serious enough for investigation, according to its most recent annual report. Both cases were found to be “not substantiated.”

    Trudeau was asked about Kang’s case on Monday. The prime minister told reporters “that our whip’s office and the human resources of the Parliament of Canada are engaged, as they must be, in this process, and I have no further comment to make at this time on the independent process that is being undergone.”

    In March 2015, when he was leader of the third-place Liberals, Trudeau booted two MPs from caucus over allegations of sexual misconduct from two female New Democrat MPs.

    Former fisheries minister Hunter Tootoo was also blocked from returning to caucus last year after he resigned from cabinet to enter treatment for alcoholism. It was later revealed that he was in a sexual relationship with a young female staffer.

    Findings of sexual harassment and inappropriate relationship have also occurred in the Senate. Former Sen. Don Meredith resigned in disgrace in May, just as the Red Chamber was poised for an historic expulsion vote, after his sexual relationship with a teenage girl was reported by the Star and later substantiated in a report by the upper house’s ethics officer.

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    The Air Canada Centre — home of the Maple Leafs and the Raptors is getting a new name.

    MLSE announced Tuesday that their Bay St. arena will be named the Scotiabank Arena under a rights agreement finalized this week. The name change takes effect in July 2018, and ends a naming rights deal with Air Canada that had lasted since the building opened in 1999.

    Reports say the bank will pay a total of $800 million over the course of the 20-year deal.


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    As Toronto planners tell it, midrise development could well be this city’s saviour. Lining the main streets with four- to 11-storey buildings, they argue, would provide housing for thousands without overwhelming the neighbourhoods of which they are part.

    So why are so many midrise projects greeted with howls of outrage by disapproving locals and/or unimpressed planners? Each one is treated as if it were an affront to civic good taste and municipal well-being. Getting the go-ahead for something as benign as a six-storey condo can be as arduous and expensive as a 60-storey tower.

    The latest example is, of course, an eight-storey condo proposal for 321 Davenport Rd. It has turned neighbourhood luminaries including author Margaret Atwood and businessman Galen Weston into nattering nabobs of NIMBYism. Opponents of the project insist it will ruin the Annex and destroy their quality of life.

    Hmmm. This isn’t the first time such arguments have been heard. Who could forget the saga of 109 Ossington Ave? Though not as august as the Annex, neighbourhood NIMBYs came out in force to fight the six-storey, 85-unit, condo. Though it replaced a used-car lot — a used-car lot! — residents complained it was too high, that it would block the sun, increase congestion and contribute to the gentrification of a street whose inhabitants apparently revelled in its griminess.

    Naturally, the fight ended up at the Ontario Municipal Board, which added years and considerable expense to the process. Finally, in 2015, the OMB approved it with minor modifications. Now, as buyers move into the recently finished building, it’s clear the condo is one of the best things to happen to Ossington this century. Given the quality of much of the architecture on the street, 109 stands out for just one thing — design excellence.

    Hard to say whether 321 Davenport will reach the architectural standard of 109 Ossington — drawings depict a showy glass slab — but don’t be surprised if it also ends up at the OMB.

    “Building midrise is always harder because you’re going to be in someone’s backyard,” notes Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale - High Park), veteran of many a midrise battle. “The impacts are more intimate. Towers are easier. With midrise there’s a lot more fiddly work involved.”

    To make matters worse, though the city supports midrise development, it can’t always see its way clear to approving it.

    “It’s very difficult to get anything done,” laments Toronto’s acknowledged midrise master, architect Roland Rem Colthoff. His practice, RAW Design, the go-to firm for residential that isn’t tall, has completed projects across the city as well as Hamilton, Ajax and beyond.

    “I love my work,” he says, “but there are a lot of frustrations. Planners can’t see past their own policies. When I started, midrise guidelines were fresh off the press. I went to many meetings where city planners extolled the virtues of midrise. But after a two-year honeymoon, we were back to the same old routine; the proposal is too tall, too dense, too this, too that . . . It doesn’t allow them to approve buildings that are generally good and generally in compliance. The guidelines are treated as hard lines.”

    Though informed by the best of intentions, those guidelines have become as much an impediment to city-building as an impetus, a limit as much as a liberation. Colthoff recalls being hauled before the Ontario Municipal Board in a dispute over a three-foot difference in the height of a building.

    Toronto’s midrise study states: “Through an as-of-right zoning strategy . . . the City will provide a level of certainty to the development process . . . Land owners and developers working within this new regulatory framework will know how much they can build and the general timeframes they can expect for the application process. In return, they will be expected to build to a high standard of design excellence.”

    As Lorna Day, director of Toronto’s urban design department, points out, “The city has started to rezone areas to give some predictability to developers. Typically, midrise sites are more embedded in the neighbourhood.”

    Those sites, she adds, are restricted to main streets, or, in city parlance, avenues. The idea is that midrise structures will serve as a buffer between the busyness of the avenues and the quieter neighbourhoods behind. St. Clair West, Eglinton and Dupont are avenues, but Ossington is not. Neither is Davenport.

    Regardless, the future of midrise is looking up. “There have been 171 applications or approvals since the guidelines were issued in 2012,” says Day. We’re starting to see a constituency of people who find midrise a desirable way to live. The neighbourhoods have already marketed themselves.”

    Christopher Hume’s column appears weekly. He can be reached at

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    A multimillion-dollar claim seeking damages against Omar Khadr for the death of a U.S. special forces soldier should be dismissed because it relies on false information and a conviction before Guantanamo’s controversial military courts, documents filed Tuesday state.

    Nathan Whitling, Khadr’s lawyer, wrote in the statement of defence to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that the Utah claim for $134.1 million (U.S.) “would never have existed but for the unlawful detention, abuse, torture, and other mistreatment of (Khadr) in Bagram and GTMO.”

    Khadr, now 30, was shot and captured in Afghanistan by U.S. forces on July 27, 2002, at the age of 15. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer was fatally wounded during the firefight AND Sgt. Layne Morris was hit by shrapnel and lost sight in one eye. Khadr, grievously wounded and also blinded in one eye, was transferred to the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan, where he received life-saving medical treatment and was interrogated for nearly three months before his transfer to Guantanamo, also known by the acronym GTMO.

    Morris and Speer’s widow, Tabitha, brought a wrongful-death suit against Khadr, winning by default in 2015. (Khadr was detained at the time in Canada.) They are appealing to the Canadian courts to enforce the ruling.

    But Whitling wrote that part of their claim, stating that Khadr was the only person alive in the compound in Afghanistan when Speer was hit by a grenade, is false.

    “The evidence before the military commission confirmed that there was a combatant alive in the compound and firing his weapon at the U.S. combatants entering the compound, which individual was . . . in the same area from which the grenade had been thrown.”

    Khadr accepted a Pentagon plea deal in Guantanamo in 2010 for an eight-year-sentence and a chance to be repatriated to Canada in exchange for admitting that he threw the grenade. He said upon his return that he considered the plea deal the only way he would ever leave Guantanamo — and that he is unsure about his memories of the firefight. His lawyers have argued based on where he was in the compound, it would have been impossible for him to have thrown the grenade that hit Speer.

    Whitling, in his statement of defence against the Utah suit, further argues that Canada cannot enforce a judgment based on a conviction under the military commissions at Guantanamo.

    “The supposed U.S. common law of war relied upon by the U.S. prosecutors did not exist at the time of the alleged conduct (by Khadr), does not exist today, and is unknown to the international community of nations,” he wrote.

    Khadr received an apology, and along with his lawyers was given a $10.5-million settlement from Ottawa for his mistreatment by Canadian officials while held as a minor in Guantanamo.

    Canada’s Supreme Court has harshly condemned the federal government for its mistreatment of Khadr — under both past Liberal and Conservative governments.

    Khadr lives now in Edmonton, was recently married and plans to attend courses this fall to become a nurse.

    On Thursday, Whitling will ask an Edmonton judge to relax Khadr’s bail conditions to allow him to visit his sister, Zaynab, without supervision, when she visits Canada.

    Khadr can only have contact with Zaynab if his lawyers or bail supervisor is present and he argued in an affidavit before the court that this restriction is no longer required. “I am now an adult and I think independently,” he writes in the affidavit. “Even if the members of my family were to wish to influence my religious or other views, they would not be able to control or influence me in any negative manner.”

    He is also requesting fewer restrictions on his movement and access to the internet.

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    Jagmeet Singh wears a turban as mandated under the code of conduct for Sikh males.

    It is an article of faith, sacred, steeped in tradition and martial history, essentially intended to protect hair that must be kept in a natural, unaltered state: Uncut.

    (It should be noted that in India, home to 22 million Sikhs, roughly half the male population do not wear a turban.)

    A far cry from the face-concealing veil for Muslim women, the niqab — in Arabic, naqaba: Meaning to pierce, bore a hole or perforate.

    As in the netting panel that at least allows women to at least see, if not their own feet.

    There is no Muslim religious commandment compelling adult females to cover their faces, though it’s the law of the land in ultra patriarchal regimes such as Saudi Arabia.

    Intriguing then — and distressing to many of us — that Singh, the apparent front-runner for leadership of the federal NDP, has wrapped the vile niqab in a chimera of Charter rights and freedoms and Quebec human rights law.

    Last week, prior to the only French debate of the NDP leadership race, Singh told the Star he is unequivocally opposed to Quebec’s Bill 62, tabled two years ago, which would require anybody offering or receiving public services to do so with faces uncovered. The bill is admittedly confusing in proposed amendments, one of which might extend the face covering ban to public transit.

    Quebec is formally a distinct province where, given its past subordination to the Catholic Church, secularism is now vigorously embraced. The national assembly has the authority — unless the Supreme Court of Canada would dare to say differently — to pass laws enshrining secularism.

    Normally, hardcore NDPers talking to other hardcore NDPers would hold minimal interest for me. But the religious accommodation genie has come out of the bottle again — it never really went back in, even after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pulled the plug on a four-year legal fight by the previous Conservative government to force removal of the niqab when taking the citizenship oath, withdrawing a Stephen Harper request to the Supreme Court to hear an appeal on an issue lost in Federal Court.

    Equally dismaying are those Canadian women — including NDP leadership contender Niki Ashton — who either waffle over the niqab as a woman’s dress choice which should not be dictated by any government, or outright defend its virtues as a feminist protective against sexual objectification.

    This is absurdist, revisionist twaddle.

    How very disheartening that even highly intelligent people, when women’s rights clash with multicultural rights — religious accommodation — would cleave to the latter, which makes them precious little different from burka enslavers in Afghanistan.

    I’ve said it before and will repeat it again: Any woman who wears a niqab, purportedly because she chooses to do so and isn’t doing a man’s bidding, contributes to the erosion of all women’s rights in a secular society. A woman who opts not to show her face in public perpetuates the hideous concept that the rest of us are less virtuous, that our faces are so intimate a feature they should be hidden. She renders us lesser beings and thus unequal.

    There is enough ghettoization around. These women want to ghettoize their faces.

    Any society which buys into this fallacy is inheritently anti-woman, paternalistic and inside-out reactionary. As Trudeau famously said about his gender parity cabinet two years ago: “Because it’s 2015!”

    Canada did not invent civil rights nor perfect them, though we’ve arguably aggrandized multiculturalism beyond any reasonable doctrine. Trudeau prattles endlessly about “Canadian values” but goes berserk at the suggestion that those values might actually be even marginally codified.

    Perhaps we should pay heed to what other countries, with much longer histories of democracy, have decided on the niqab.

    Belgium, hardly a retrogressive nation, has banned it as incompatible “with social communication and more generally the establishment of human relations, which are indispensable for life in society.”

    That was the argument put before the European Court of Human Rights which last month unanimously ruled a niqab ban does not violate human rights.

    The European court, if anything, is often criticized for its over-weaning vigilance on human rights. The panel that heard this case included judges from Iceland, Estonia, Turkey, Montenegro, Monaco and Moldova. It is not a European Union institution; rather part of the Council of Europe, a 47-member state international organization founded in 1949 with the aim of upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

    They concluded the Belgium ban did not break any international rules forbidding discrimination.

    The decision noted the ban was “necessary in a democratic society” trying to protect “the rights and freedoms of others” and seeking to guarantee the conditions of “living together.”

    Belgium, as a state, had argued that it considered a full-face veil incompatible “with social communication and more generally the establishment of human relations, which were indispensable for life in society.”

    Whether a full-face veil is acceptable to the Belgian public, the court concluded, is a matter for state authorities to decide and not an international court. The woman who brought the case can appeal the decision to the Grand Chamber of the Court.

    The European court decision follows a rejection of a similar challenge against the veil ban in France. Two years ago, the court upheld the French ban in a country that is home to an estimated 5 million Muslims, but where only about 1,900 (according to 2009 research) women were affected by the proscription, a figure which has reportedly dropped by half “thanks to a major public information campaign,” French officials told the judges.

    Lawyers for the complainant insisting outlawing the full-face veil was contrary to six articles of the European convention; that forcing its removal was “inhumane and degrading, against the right of respect for family and private life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of speech and discriminatory.”

    The European Court of Human Rights has also upheld France’s ban on head scarves in education establishments and a regulation requiring removal of scarves, veils and turbans for security checks.

    It’s ironic that some of the same people who passionately insist there should never be any curtailment of religious rights in the public realm simultaneously justify limiting free speech that is hateful.

    The niqab is hateful.

    Blinded by fervency, the NDP — and to a considerable extent the Liberals — have turned themselves into doctrinal pretzels.

    Outgoing NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s defence of the niqab during the last federal election contributed to the party’s plunging fortunes at the polls. He told the CBC Radio earlier this year his niqab stance “hurt us terribly . . . the polling that we did showed we dropped over 20 points in 48 hours here in Quebec because of the strong stand I took on the niqab.”

    The party lost most of the Quebec seats it had gained during the “Orange Wave” 2011 election under Jack Layton.

    Canadians have made it clear over and over in public polling that face veils are an affront to our values: 82 per cent of respondents in favour of removing the niqab during citizenships oaths, according to a 2015 Privy Council Office poll, but one from among many such pulse-takings with the same general results.

    That does not make an overwhelming majority of Canadians bigoted or intolerant or Islamophobic. It makes the NDP tent and the Liberal tent on this particular issue much too small and insufferable.

    Jagmeet Singh doesn’t care much for majority opinion. He told the Star last week: “Human rights shouldn’t be a matter of popularity. (Rights are) not supposed to be subject to the whims of the majority.”

    The sentiment is not wrong. But its application in this niche controversy is.

    But one reason why the NDP will never form a majority Canadian government.

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

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    At SickKids hospital, a room with six babies is tremendously quiet—but far too full.

    “There’s no space for the equipment, there’s no space for the families,” said Dr. Estelle Gauda, head of SickKids’ neonatology division.

    “There’s just nowhere to breathe.”

    Swaddled in animal-patterned blankets, tubes run through the pre-term babies’ mouths and noses, helping the tiny humans stay alive. Screens monitor their levels as nurses feed and assess their status. The room has been specially constructed to create quieter acoustics and softer lighting, in order to decrease stimulation for the miniature patients.

    Born 24-25 weeks into their pregnancy, these premature infants can weigh as little as 500g at birth. They’ve been transported here from all across Ontario, often because they need neonatal surgeries that only SickKids can provide.

    Having six babies in one room is typical at SickKids these days, she said, but that’s not the norm for neonatal care. At Mount Sinai and Sunnybrook, for example, each baby has their own room (with exceptions for multiples). Gauda said she’d like to see four babies in each room at SickKids, potentially by making other rooms available.

    Hospitals across Ontario have seen a surge in infants needing high-level intensive care this summer, says the Ministry of Health, with Toronto’s level 3 NICUs—which care for the most seriously sick infants—hit hardest. While there’s been a surge in the past two months, Gauda said NICU capacity has been a “constant problem” at SickKids since she started at the hospital in March.

    “(The NICU) is overcrowded. It’s not up to standard with respect to space around babies, as well as allowing the best environment that we can create to decrease the state of families,” said Gauda, who said they’ve been having continuous conversations about needing more capacity.

    With better technologies, smaller and sicker babies are surviving more often, she said, but that means they often have to stay in the NICU for longer.

    Some hospitals with lower level NICUs are also often full, she said, so even if babies can be moved out faster, sometimes there’s nowhere for them to go.

    “There’s just demand everywhere,” said Gauda.

    Health ministry spokeperson David Jensen, told the Star last week he’s not aware of what caused Ontario’s recent sudden increase in NICU demand, but says there is no public health issue contributing to the surge.

    On Monday afternoon, there were 36 infants in SickKids’ NICU—two more than the government provides funding for.

    SickKids has 42 physical NICU beds, but the ministry only provides funding to staff 34 of them. In the past two months Gauda said SickKids has been treating about 38 NICU babies every day, and sometimes as many as 40. The unit has a flexible staffing model that can accommodate around 38 babies at a time, sometimes by bringing in nurses from different units. They make it work, she said, but it can be stressful.

    SickKids has had to move one baby to Ottawa in the past six weeks, she said, and at one point considered moving a baby out of province before they found space.

    “We are trying to present the best face that we can, but we also know that behind the scenes there are a lot of things that are stressed,” she said.

    Walking through the unit, Gauda points out the transport office, where calls “continuously” come in for babies who need to be brought to the hospital.

    A spokesperson said SickKids offers “the most comprehensive set of critical care services to the neonatal population in Ontario”—particularly those requiring complex surgery and sustained life support. SickKids is also the only hospital in Toronto that can do surgery on newborns.

    SickKids received a one-time $1.3 million in November 2015, in response to pressures from a growing volume of neonatal cardiac surgeries, a statement from Megan Primeau, spokesperson for the Toronto Central local health integration network said. The statement says the current surge is mainly from non-surgical cases across all three of Toronto’s level 3 NICUs and that local capacity improved over the weekend.

    Down the hall, Gauda points out another room, where babies who’ve had complications during delivery are undergoing “therapeutic hypothermia” their body temperature is cooled down for a few days to slow down brain activity to help with recovery in case of potential brain injury. About 70 babies undergo this therapy each year, said Gauda, and just a few weekends ago, there were five babies in the sub-unit.

    Over the past week, a surge in babies needing high level intensive care has drawn concern from doctors and parents. On Monday, the Ontario NDP called on the government to immediately increase funding for the province’s hospitals in light of the “crisis in neonatal intensive care.”

    Mount Sinai Hospital added two extra beds to its NICU over the weekend, and has plans to add two more by September; SickKids and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre also plan on adding two beds to their NICUs.

    Long term, Gauda said SickKids is in conversations and negotiations with the ministry of health about getting more resources for the neonatal unit. That might mean more money, she said, but it also could mean allocating money in different ways. It’s not just a SickKids issue, she said; the problems stem from demands across the province.

    “Not only do we have to improve the capacity here, but we have to improve the capacity of the other level 2 nurseries and the other level 3 nurseries,” said Gauda. “It has to be a really orchestrated system that has to be in place.”

    SickKids says that on average, the cost per day for a bed in its NICU is around $2,100.

    The hospital says it hopes to rebuild its neonatal unit as part of its “Project Horizon” redevelopment plans, although that will not be complete for another 10 years.

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    It was June 2015, and Justin Trudeau, then leader of the third party and struggling in the polls, made what was seen by many at the time as a rather impulsive promise.

    He quickly pledged to implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that had been released that day by Justice Murray Sinclair.

    Monday, more than 26 months after his pledge of reconciliation, a United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination reported it was “alarmed” that the Trudeau government continues to ignore multiple decisions by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to close the gap in funding for child and family services of Indigenous children.

    Read more:

    Cabinet shuffle only targeted isolated trouble spots: Hébert

    Trudeau shuffles ministers, overhauls Indigenous Affairs, brings friend O’Regan into cabinet

    Judy Foote resigns cabinet to help family face cancer

    That’s quite a gap between expectations and delivery.

    Also Monday, Trudeau arrived at Rideau Hall and announced he would dissolve the “creaky old structures” of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs department, announced plans to kill the Indian Act and put one of his most trusted ministers into one of two new Indigenous portfolios.

    Are we about to witness yet another gap between expectations and delivery?

    There could be no loftier goal than Indigenous reconciliation and Trudeau’s government deserves credit for making it a priority.

    But there can be no tougher task for a government than trying to undo history, toss off the yoke of colonialism, address grievances and mistrust and deliver much-needed services quickly while dealing with an entrenched bureaucracy.

    All are needed to effect real change.

    When expectations collide with reality things can actually get worse.

    Trudeau either made history Monday or made an admission that, mid-mandate, true reconciliation and timely delivery of services remain as elusive as ever.

    The prime minister, of course, would never say the latter, but he did concede it would come as no surprise “that there are real challenges in terms of changing a relationship and improving a relationship and services that have foundered for decades, if not centuries.”

    Hayden King, an Anishinaabe educator in the faculty of arts at Ryerson University, told me there is a concern that this move is just another Liberal symbol that will be “wrapping us up in process.”

    Promises have been heard and discarded for decades. Under this government, the promises are yardsticks that allow Indigenous leaders to push for accountability.

    “I never invest in any hope in a Canadian government,” King says, “because there is a mountain of empirical evidence that governments since 1867 have been acting to extinguish Indigenous rights and communities.”

    Then there is Cindy Blackstock and her relentless fight to provide fairness for Indigenous children.

    She took the government to the human rights tribunal and won in February 2016. The tribunal ruled that Ottawa discriminated against Indigenous children by underfunding child welfare services and not providing the same level of health care on reserves as the rest of the country.

    In response, the Trudeau Liberals have spent more than $700,000 fighting the original order and three subsequent non-compliance orders, according to numbers obtained by NDP leadership candidate Charlie Angus.

    In June, the government took the tribunal to Federal Court over a ruling that linked inadequate health care to two suicides of 12-year-old girls in Wapekeka First Nation.

    “I look at this from a kid’s perspective,” Blackstock said. “Instead of helping me, Justin Trudeau is actually violating the law to thwart me. What kind of message is that sending to kids?”

    The ministers involved in that challenge are Carolyn Bennett and Jane Philpott, the two ministers appointed to the Indigenous files by Trudeau Monday.

    Their real task will be turning around a bureaucracy that sees itself as protectorate of the Canadian population, which puts it on a collision course with Indigenous needs and aspirations.

    It narrowly interprets court or tribunal rulings, it strangles political intentions with its own form of inertia, it is steeped in paternalism and it guards information, as Blackstock says, as if child welfare was a national security issue.

    The good news is that Philpott, as the minister of Indigenous services, said her first priority would be child and family services and health care.

    The better news is that this is a woman who is not only compassionate, but highly competent and clearly tough enough to deal with a bureaucracy if her hardball negotiating tactics with the provinces on health care funding are any gauge.

    The best news is that Philpott is not a woman who will want to preside over more symbolic actions. A woman of substance will want to deliver substance.

    Tim Harper writes on national affairs. He can be reached at or Twitter: @nutgraf1

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    Outraged by the latest delay on your TTC commute? Tweeted at the TTC to share your anger? Then you’ve probably come across Ron Sly.

    Sly, 32, is one of six TTC customer service representatives who run the transit agency’s Twitter account @TTChelps for commuters who have questions about the service, complaints or compliments for employees who went above and beyond the call of duty. The account is active seven days a week, starting at 7 a.m.

    Sly has been on the job for two months, and despite the frustration he sometimes faces from passengers, he says he loves interacting with people all day.

    “Everyone gets a response basically, we work at it until we can solve it,” Sly said. “We’re a big massive corporation that you’re sending your issue into, but everyone is treating your issue as the most important one of the day when they’re working on it.”

    His Twitter signature is RA with a little rocket emoji beside it, and his everyday interactions with customers range from helping people find the right bus stop to apologizing to angry passengers when there’s a delay.

    The TTC has a customer service department with a staff of about 20 people, who, apart from running the Twitter account, answer the phones, write emails and letters, and speak to people in person.

    According to Sue Motahedin, the head of the customer service team, the TTC gets an average of 150 complaints per day.

    It depends on the week and transit conditions, but the most common complaints are usually service delays, streetcar issues, employee discourtesy, service and route changes and vehicle operation complaints. Once in a while, compliments make the top category, Motahedin said.

    When unexpected service interruptions happen — like on Aug. 10 when signal issues on Line 1 caused delays of at least 40 minutes for morning subway users that prompted even the mayor to apologize — the TTC can get more than 500 complaints in a day.

    Sly and the rest of the customer service team are on the front lines, trying to answer all of them.

    “When an issue arises that is a surprise to us, instead of 100 in a day you respond to 500 in a day, and they’re all really angry,” Sly said. “Unfortunately there’s not much we can do but make sure that they’re heard.”

    Sly said reading hundreds of angry tweets can get overwhelming, especially on rough days. But in those situations, he always reminds himself that tomorrow is a new day.

    “The vast majority of TTC trips are completed without a problem so we just take some solace in that and start again the next day,” he said.

    Sly recalled one interaction he had with a man who tweeted a gif of Zach Galifianakis flipping the bird during a rough morning on the TTC. Sly responded with a gif of Taylor Swift saying ‘sorry,’ and the passenger responded with a gif of Steve Harvey smiling.

    “It was short interaction, the TTC kind of ruined his morning, but with a little bit of humor and light-heartedness we can hopefully turn it back around and make it a positive experience,” Sly said. “It’s an interesting challenge on Twitter because you have less than 140 characters to judge what their tone is and how they’ll respond, you don’t want to send a light and fun message to someone who is very upset.”

    Robyn Crosby, a 38-year-old Fort York-area resident, tweets at the TTC about once a month, and said her communication with them has always been positive.

    “They’re always polite, they said ‘it happened to me yesterday,’ and that made me feel like they could relate to my issue,” Crosby said about an interaction she had with the Twitter account last week.

    Both Sly and Motahedin said they want people to know there are real people running the account, who answer the tweets and care about customer experience.

    “We are people behind the computer screen who are doing our very best to help,” Motahedin said. “We totally understand when people are frustrated, we’re all TTC riders ourselves.”

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    Every day Ken Teryan wakes up to smell the roses — both the real roses he sells in his Avenue Rd. shop, and the metaphorical roses reminding him that he owns one of no fewer than five flower shops competing for business on the same block.

    Kay & Young’s, Yang’s, Ken’s, Jong Young and Grower’s stand side-by-side on Avenue Rd. south of Davenport. Unlike the restaurants of Chinatown or the Danforth, there is no apparent logic to why they’ve congregated there.

    But the flower shops of “Av and Dav” have come to characterize the neighbourhood. The novelty draws regular customers from as far as Barrie, and even occasional tourists eager to check out Toronto’s “flower district.”

    “I think for Toronto, it’s great,” said Teryan, who owns Ken’s Flowers.

    “I would love to have cheese stores, five in a row. Or bakeries selling lots of croissants — that would be wonderful. For sure they would be the nicest croissants around,” he said, smiling broadly at the pastry-filled reverie.

    Teryan sees the tough competition and close proximity of the flower shops as an advantage to customers — and that keeps the shop owners on their toes.

    “It’s giving the signal to all of us to wake up early every morning, never sell anything dead, always keep the flower store so clean and nice and fresh,” he said. Neglect to do these things, and customers will simply go next door.

    Grace Young, owner of Kay & Young’s, the newest florist on the strip, agreed that the surrounding flower shops were a draw to setting up shop there.

    It seems to be working. On Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, the lines to get into any one of the Av and Dav flower shops get so long that the police show up to monitor crowds, Teryan said.

    It’s not unheard-of for small businesses in close proximity to become each other’s most serious competitors, and sometimes the contest gets tense. Last year a cocktail supply shop owner sued her direct neighbour, claiming he was trying to pass off his shop for her’s.

    Those who have lived near Av and Dav a long time might not remember exactly how or why the strip blossomed into flower row — but they’re not complaining.

    Diane Loeb, who has lived in the area for 38 years, recalls watching as produce shops and kitchen supply stores were replaced by florists over time.

    “Just the two minutes you take walking south through that block you’re hit with the most amazing scents and colours,” she said. “It lifts your spirits.

    “It’s amazing to me that five separate locations can keep going just a few yards from one another.”

    She sometimes worries that high-rise condo developers will change the landscape of the neighbourhood, and take the quaint flower shops with them.

    Loeb is a dedicated customer at Jong Young (“I always get a ‘hello’ when I go into my flower shop!”) and believes that each of the shops must thrive by carving out their own unique client base.

    Nevertheless, Milena Eglite, who owns Grower’s, described the competition between shop owners as “fierce.”

    With the alternatives right outside her door, Eglite said it can be especially difficult to contemplate minor price increases when things like hydro become more expensive.

    But she said the shops work hard to build their own unique base of customers. She serves hotels and shops in the nearby upscale Yorkville neighbourhood. Teryan, meanwhile, focuses on wedding orders.

    Rebecca Reuber, a strategic management professor at the University of Toronto, says “it’s probably not an easy existence” for the owners when similar businesses line up side-by-side.

    “You can’t be complacent because you have a competitor right beside you,” she said.

    But businesses may also benefit from their neighbours’ high reputations, Reuber said, which can help to turn areas of the city into “destinations” for certain products or services.

    “It’s probably in your interest that the competitor is quite good,” she said.

    With all five flower shops boasting reviews by customers who claim theirs is the best one, the flower shops at Av and Dav seem to be doing well by that measure.

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis announced Tuesday that he is freezing President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, saying that he will first establish a panel of experts to provide advice and recommendations on how to carry out Trump’s direction.

    The Pentagon confirmed the move in a statement attributed to Mattis, saying that the Pentagon will develop a study and implementation plan “as directed.” Soon-to-be arriving political appointees at the Defence Department “will play an important role in this effort.” The plan will address both the potential for transgender people looking to serve in the military for the first time, and transgender troops who already are serving.

    “Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield,” Mattis said. “To that end, I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction.”

    Mattis added that panel members “will bring mature experience, most notably in combat and deployed operations, and seasoned judgment to this task.” The panel will “assemble and thoroughly analyze all pertinent data, quantifiable and non-quantifiable.”

    The Pentagon chief said that once the panel makes its recommendations and he consults with the secretary of homeland security, he will provide his advice to Trump. In the meantime, current policy regarding transgender service members will remain in place, Mattis said, meaning that those already serving can continue to do so.

    The issue has been especially sensitive since Trump announced on Twitter on July 26 that “after consultation with my Generals and military experts,” he would not allow transgender to serve in the the U.S. military “in any capacity.” White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders clarified later that day that no change would be made until an implementation policy was developed.

    Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, added the following day that transgender service members already serving will be treated with dignity and respect as the Pentagon sorts out its new policy, but that it would carry out Trump’s direction.

    Mattis had left the door open to some transgender service members continuing to serve, referring Aug. 14 in remarks to Pentagon reporters to Dunford’s statement when asked whether any transgender people would be forced out of the military.

    “The chairman immediately went out and said immediately, ‘Everyone stand fast until we get the direction,’ ” Mattis said. “I understand that this is probably more about your suspicion about what could be coming, but the fact is, we have received no direction that would indicate any harm to anybody right now.”

    The Obama administration repealed its ban on transgender service member serving in July 2016. A Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Pentagon found that there were between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender people among the 1.3 million on active duty, but Mattis has questioned whether the study is accurate.

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    The Air Canada Centre’s days are numbered. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment announced Tuesday that as of July, the building that is home to Leafs and Raptors games will be known as Scotiabank Arena.

    And you know, there wasn’t a wet eye in the city when the news got around. Along Bay St., you could hear a resounding yawn emanate from Torontonians, a breeze sweeping under the rail bridge created by the co-ordinated shrugging of shoulders.

    One corporation who has nothing whatsoever to do with the building or its purpose will be exchanged for another. Who cares?

    Well, presumably Scotiabank cares, enough to pay a reported $800 million over 20 years for the naming rights. And it’s probably a good bet that MLSE, recipients of that money — roughly equivalent to the price of a pair of Leafs season tickets! — are excited about it. But I can’t say I can muster up any real emotion about it at all.

    And I’m a sentimental guy. Longtime readers will know I’m prone to getting misty eyed and eulogizing rusty old boats as they’re hauled out of the harbour and waxing nostalgic for half-abandoned malls. I’ve spent quiet moments reflecting on the removal of parking meters. I tend to notice the changing city and want to commemorate it.

    Back when Maple Leaf Gardens first closed, and then when it was announced it was being replaced by a grocery store, I was livid. It felt like some sacred ground was being sold out. I admit I still call the place the Blue Jays play the SkyDome, not in some grand anti-corporate protest gesture, but because it seems like the actual name of that building in my mind.

    And yet, the name Air Canada Centre holds no poetry, stirs no emotions, conjures no affection. From the time it opened and the building got its name, it was a pure cash transaction. A billboard we were all supposed to pronounce. From the beginning, it was a name completely divorced from the form, purpose and ownership of the place it named. So who cares?

    Gather ’round children, and I’ll tell you how, once upon a time, this would have seemed weird. Back when our phones were connected to the wall by a cord, and we all tied onions on our belts, the names of buildings were usually related directly to what they were or what they were used for or to who used them. So, for instance, the Toronto Maple Leafs played at Maple Leaf Gardens and the New York Yankees played at Yankee Stadium. The mall in downtown Toronto called the Eaton Centre had a giant department store in it called Eaton’s.

    Not every place was named for a tenant, but you could still often figure out the purpose (and often the location) of a building by what it was called: The Blue Jays originally played in a stadium at Exhibition Place called Exhibition Stadium, and then moved into a dome that opened up its roof to the sky called SkyDome.

    You see, the names seemed to mean something. Some of them were stupid names, but they were connected to what you’d do or see in them. Which might, eventually, be the kind of thing you’d eventually grow attached to. You know, a name that would evoke memories of what you experienced in a place.

    No one that I know of ever took an airline flight in the Air Canada Centre. And pity the person who wakes up out of a Rip Van Winkle slumber and goes into the new building on Bay marked Scotiabank next year looking for a mortgage. (Although, of course, if old Van Winkle decides to buy Leafs tickets while he’s there, he’ll need a mortgage, so there is that.)

    But here in 2017, no one names their sports venue after its location or after the team that plays in it anymore. Now the names are ads. Often enough, they are ads for the same products. In the NHL, as of 2018, there will be seven Canadian teams: two play in arenas named after Rogers, two in arenas named for Bell, and two in arenas named for Scotiabank. There’s one more that plays in an arena that used to be named for Scotiabank.

    Oddly, the team whose home is in the TD Garden, named for the Toronto Dominion Bank, plays in Boston. And BMO field, named for the Bank of Montreal, is in Toronto.

    Anyhow. Scotiabank Arena. It’s boring, but it’s probably fine as corporate sponsorships go. It feels, in a way, like Leafs and Raptors fans dodged a bullet. Because over the past decade or so, many of the corporate names attached to sports venues sound plain silly.

    Back in the 1990s, David Foster Wallace satirized the rising corporate naming rights trend in his novel Infinite Jest, depicting a future in which years were marked not by numbers but by names such as Year of the Trial Sized Dove Bar or Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment. Some sporting facilities are making the parody look less like ad absurdum and more like prophecy.

    Look at Arena (since renamed) in Phoenix, Petco Park in San Diego, Coliseum in Oakland. Look at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, or the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Look at the KFC Yum! Center in Kentucky.

    The name Scotiabank Arena may smoosh two words together in the branding of the bank, but at least it doesn’t have any punctuation in the middle of it.

    The new name is a yawn. So was the old one. Let’s hope the games played inside the building are more exciting.

    Ten oddly named sports stadiums

    Branding rights run amok. The new Scotia Bank Arena (that’s the Air Canada Centre until July 1) has nothing on these arena names.

    Guaranteed Rate Field: Chicago White Sox, MLB

    Smoothie King Center: New Orleans Pelicans, NBA

    Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome: Minnesota Vikings, NFL

    Talking Stick Resort Arena: Phoenix Suns, NBA

    KFC Yum! Center: Louisville Cardinals, NCAA

    Quicken Loans Arena: Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

    Petco Park: San Diego Padres, MLB

    Sports Authority Field at Mile High: Denver Broncos, NFL

    Whataburger Field: Corpus Christi Hooks, AA baseball

    University of Phoenix Stadium: Arizona Cardinals, NFL

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    Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca acknowledged Tuesday that “concerns have been raised” about Metrolinx’s decision to approve two new GO Transit stations despite internal reports that recommended they not be built.

    But in a letter to the transit agency’s chair, Del Duca stopped short of saying that the two stops, one of which is in the minister’s riding, should be removed from the list of 12 new GO Transit stations the province plans to build over the next decade.

    This week a Star investigation revealed that last year, Del Duca’s ministry pressured Metrolinx, an arm’s-length agency of the provincial government, into approving the two stations: Kirby, in the minister’s riding of Vaughan; and Lawrence East, a station in Scarborough backed by Mayor John Tory as part of his “SmartTrack” plan.

    Kirby would cost $98.4 million to build, while Lawrence East would cost about $23 million.

    “As we have always said, all proposed new stations require additional technical and planning analysis, environmental assessments, preliminary and detailed design and extensive community engagement,” Del Duca said in his letter Tuesday to Metrolinx board chair Rob Prichard.

    “That said, it is clear that concerns have been raised about the process by which the Kirby and Lawrence East stations were ultimately approved.”

    Del Duca wrote that he expects Metrolinx “will not enter into any contractual obligations” for either station until the agency is satisfied that land use policies and updated GO Transit service concepts justify building the stops.

    If the agency’s board and management aren’t convinced that the evidence supports the stations, then they “should be deferred to the next round of consideration at a future date,” the letter said.

    Del Duca didn’t specify what he meant by “concerns” about the stations. His office declined to answer follow-up questions Tuesday afternoon.

    A spokesperson for Metrolinx also declined to answer questions, but said the agency “will respond appropriately” to Del Duca’s memo.

    While the letter is the clearest acknowledgment yet from the provincial government that there may have been irregularities in the station approval process, Del Duca signalled he still supports building the stop in his riding.

    He wrote in the letter “there are several significant residential and employment developments” planned nearby, and the people “living or working in these new communities would likely be inclined to access a GO station at Kirby.”

    However, initial business cases Metrolinx commissioned last year showed both Kirby and Lawrence East would actually lead to a net loss of ridership on the GO network. They determined neither would attract enough new passengers to offset the number of riders who would stop taking the train because of the longer travel time the new stations would entail.

    Documents the Star obtained through a Freedom of Information request show the Metrolinx board voted at a secret meeting on June 15, 2016 not to build the two stops, but changed course after the transportation ministry unexpectedly sent the agency copies of press releases indicating that the following week the minister would announce the stations were going ahead.

    Metrolinx then redrafted reports to support the two stops, and days later the board reconvened in public and approved them as part of a package of 12 new stations under the $13.5-billion regional express rail expansion.

    Metrolinx didn’t publish the station business cases until nine months after the vote, by which time the Kirby report had been altered to appear more supportive. The agency never released a separate June 2016 report that explicitly recommended against building the two stops. The Star obtained a copy two months ago.

    At an unrelated announcement Tuesday morning, Premier Kathleen Wynne didn’t respond directly when a reporter asked whether she believed Del Duca had interfered in the approval process for political purposes.

    “Let me just be clear. Those stations will not be built unless the evidence is there,” she replied.

    “There has not been a final decision made.”

    In the wake of the Star’s investigation, critics have called for Metrolinx’s governance procedures to be overhauled to ensure greater accountability.

    “Every board meeting of Metrolinx should be open to the public. Every decision they make and its rationale should be transparent,” Ontario NDP urban transit critic Cheri DiNovo said Monday.

    In response to those calls, Wynne said Tuesday: “We can have that conversation.”

    She added that “there are public consultations and public meetings that Metrolinx holds.”

    Tory defended his support for the Lawrence East stop on Tuesday during a media availability in Scarborough.

    “I make no apologies whatsoever. In fact, I see it as an important part of my job to fight for every transit stop that I can get in the city of Toronto, whether it’s one that forms part of a TTC route or a GO transit route,” he said.

    For several months, in defence of building Lawrence East, Tory’s office has referenced a city analysis that appears to never have been published.

    The city provided the two-page analysis to the Star on Monday. It challenges some of the numbers in the Metrolinx business case for Lawrence East, but still concludes it would cause a net loss of GO ridership.

    It’s unclear why the city analysis, which city spokesperson Jackie DeSouza says was written in June 2016, was never published but used to brief the mayor’s office.

    Tory resisted the idea that there has been a lack of transparency in the transit planning process.

    “As far as I’m concerned, the reports that underlie a lot of those decisions, I’m quite happy that they should be made public,” he said. “You won’t find me resisting the release of those transit reports.”

    Tory said that until the Star’s report he was not aware the Metrolinx board originally voted against Lawrence East and Kirby.

    On Monday, the Progressive Conservatives asked the Ontario auditor general to perform a “full value for money audit” of Kirby and Lawrence East. A transit advocacy group made a similar request to the same provincial watchdog last week.

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    Margaret Atwood declined to comment Monday when the Star emailed her asking about her opposition to a proposed eight-storey luxury condo building in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood.

    But after the story was posted on the Star’s website, the literary icon went on the defensive on Twitter — in some cases sparring with critics who piled on and accused her of NIMBYism and ignoring Toronto’s affordable housing crisis.

    Some of the exchanges got a little testy, such as when Shawn Micallef, an author/urbanist and Toronto Star columnist, tweeted that Atwood had “strengthened the anti-housing backbone in this city with this politically sledgehammer opposition to an 8 storey bldn.”

    Read more:

    Atwood and neighbours are authors of a great NIMBY story: Teitel

    Midrise housing has bright future in Toronto — whether residents like it or not: Hume

    Atwood tweeted: “Now you’re just being silly. Or, I dunno – are you working for the developer or something?”

    Micallef responded that he was “in nobody’s pocket” and on Tuesday followed through on his promise to send her his latest book about Toronto.

    A sample of some of Atwood’s other tweets from Monday evening:

    In response to a tweetstorm by Globe and Mail architecture critic Alex Bozikovic attempting to explain Toronto’s population growth and zoning, Atwood tweeted:

    “To repeat: The neighbours don’t want the building to go right to the lot line + kill their trees. And Y to 8 storeys that respect setbacks.”

    When some Twitter users suggested age was a factor in the neighbourhood objection to the development, she responded:

    As part of a larger conversation, many people replied to Atwood’s tweets asking her to clarify her position, so she did.

    “Nobody is blocking the building. Many are trying to modify it. Have you seen the proposal?”

    “Maybe you should calculate the profit involved for the developer in destroying my neighbours’ trees.”

    “‘House others’ make it sound as if those housed are homeless. For a couple of million per unit, that’s far from the truth.”

    Many complained that Atwood and her neighbours had fallen prey to NIMBYism.

    In response to a tweet that suggested the city must build up, not out to accommodate the next generation, Atwood tweeted:

    “But what are you suggesting I do? Right now? Jump off a bridge to create space? But some rich person would reno my house. You know it.”

    “You want me to sell my house to a developer who’d put an apartment building on it? You think I bear some personal guilt for housing cycles?”

    Followed shortly by:

    “Never mind. Once I’m dead, market forces will take over, and I will doubtless be tortured in Hell for living in the wrong place.”

    Atwood later offered an alternate solution:

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    WASHINGTON—Two Canadian men are among more than a dozen people indicted Tuesday by a grand jury in Washington, D.C., for attacking protesters in May 2017 during a U.S. visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    The indictments charge the defendants with attacking peaceful demonstrators who had gathered on May 16 outside the home of the Turkish ambassador to await Erdogan’s arrival after he had met with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House.

    The two Canadians named in the American court document are Mahmut Sami Ellialti and Ahmet Cengizhan Dereci.

    Read more:Two Toronto men charged in beating of anti-Erdogan protesters in Washington

    In June, police in the U.S. capital issued arrest warrants for Ellialti on charges of felony aggravated assault and felony assault with significant bodily injury and Dereci on charges of felony assault with significant bodily injury and misdemeanour assault or threatened assault in a menacing manner.

    Sixteen of the defendants named in Tuesday’s indictment had already been charged on June 13. Two of the defendants were arrested in June and face an initial court hearing on Sept. 7. The rest remain at large, including the two Canadians.

    The pair told the CBC last year that they are staunch supporters of Erdogan and had voted to elect him.

    “Recep Tayyip Erdogan was chosen by the Turkish people. We voted for him and we want him to be our president,” Dereci said at the time.

    All 19 defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, a felony punishable by a statutory maximum of 15 years in prison. Several face additional charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

    Several are members of Erdogan’s security detail who returned with him to Turkey, so it is unclear if any will face legal repercussions in the United States. However, they could end up being threatened with arrest if they return to the U.S. If any are still in the country, they could be expelled if Turkey refuses to waive diplomatic immunity.

    Video of the protest showed security guards and some Erdogan supporters attacking a small group of protesters with their fists and feet. Men in dark suits and others were recorded repeatedly kicking one woman as she lay curled on a sidewalk. Another wrenched a woman’s neck and threw her to the ground. A man with a bullhorn was repeatedly kicked in the face.

    After police struggled to protect the protesters and ordered the men in suits to retreat, several of the men dodged the officers and ran into the park to continue the attacks. In all, nine people were hurt.

    Police detained two members of Erdogan’s security detail, but released them shortly afterward. Two other men were arrested at the scene — one was charged with aggravated assault and the other was charged for assaulting a police officer.

    American officials strongly criticized Turkey’s government and Erdogan’s security forces for the violence; the State Department summoned Turkey’s U.S. ambassador to complain. The Turkish Foreign Ministry then summoned America’s ambassador to protest the treatment of the detained security guards.

    Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said at the time that Erdogan’s security team moved in to disperse the protesters because “police did not heed to Turkish demands to intervene.” The Turkish Embassy claimed the demonstrators were “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the president.

    With files from The Canadian Press

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    LAKE CHARLES, LA.—Western Louisiana residents braced for more wind and water early Wednesday as tropical storm Harvey made its second landfall after dumping record rainfall on Texas.

    The storm came ashore just west of Cameron, Louisiana, bringing maximum sustained winds near 45 mph (72 km/h), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Harvey had lingered over Texas for days before meandering back into the Gulf of Mexico.

    Read more: Harvey causes chaos in Houston, 6 family members feared dead after van swept away

    Rangers, Astros feud over Harvey-related schedule change

    Forecasters say another 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 centimetres) of rain could fall in western Louisiana.

    “We are starting to get down to the end of the tunnel of all this rain,” Meteorologist Roger Erickson said.

    Erickson warns that some coastal rivers won’t be able to drain effectively because Harvey’s winds are pushing in storm surge, aggravating flooding in areas already drenched by more than 20 inches (51 centimetres) of rain. Gusts up to 50 mph (80 km/h) are predicted for coastal areas and up to 40 mph (65 km/h) in Lake Charles and along the Interstate 10 corridor.

    Cameron Parish’s Office of Emergency Preparedness said a curfew was in effect until the threat had passed and checkpoints have been set up at entry points into evacuated areas.

    State offices in 28 parishes and most Baton Rouge area schools won’t open Wednesday in anticipation of possible severe weather. Gov. John Bel Edwards urged people to remain alert but said the state is responding well to less severe conditions in its own borders.

    “You never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at us, but with the people in this room, I’m confident we can handle it,” he told local and state officials during a visit Tuesday to Lake Charles, which is near the Texas border.

    Edwards said Louisiana also has offered to shelter storm victims from Texas. He said he expects Texas officials to decide within 48 hours whether to accept the offer.

    President Donald Trump answered Harvey’s wrath by offering in-person assurances to those in the storm zone that his administration will work tirelessly to help the region recover from the massive flooding and storm-inflicted destruction.

    “We are going to get you back and operating immediately,” Trump told an impromptu crowd that gathered outside a Corpus Christi fire station about 30 miles from where the storm made landfall Friday.

    The president kept his distance from the epicenter of the damage in Houston to avoid disrupting recovery operations. But he plans to return to the region Saturday to survey the damage and meet with some of the storm’s victims, said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

    Harvey’s devastating flooding brought back tough memories in New Orleans as Tuesday marked the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Mayor Mitch Landrieu opened his Tuesday news conference with a moment of silence for Katrina victims and words of support for Harvey’s victims in Texas and southwest Louisiana.

    “We’ve got to save our house,” New Orleans resident Israel Freeman said as he loaded sandbags for his mother’s home into his Cadillac. “She already went through Katrina. She built her house back up. We just had a flood about two, three weeks ago. She just recovered from that.”

    Bradley Morris lives in a ground-level house in New Orleans and was “preparing for the worst.”

    “There’s plenty of puddling and stuff already,” he said, “so I just assume that we’re probably going to get a taste of what we had a couple weeks ago.”

    Landrieu urged residents to stay home Tuesday because of the threat of potential high water. Some New Orleans neighbourhoods flooded earlier this month during a deluge that exposed problems with the city’s pump and drainage system. On Tuesday, rains flooded a few of the city’s streets, but not to the same extent.

    New Orleans officials planned to reopen government buildings and public schools Wednesday, a day after they were shut down amid fears of flooding rain from Harvey.

    “The weather outlook got a little bit better for us,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. He cautioned however, that a change in the forecast could mean a change in plans.

    About 500 people were evacuated in southwest Louisiana’s most populous parish early Tuesday, as a heavy band of rain pushed waterways out of their banks, Calcasieu Parish spokesman Tom Hoefer said. He said as many as 5,000 parish residents were affected by the flooding, but not all of those people have flooded homes. Some are just cut off by flooded roads.

    Evacuations continued Tuesday in some rural areas outside Lake Charles, with authorities working to empty a flood-prone subdivision near the town of Iowa. Officials in Acadia Parish advised residents near the Mermentau River and Bayou Nezpique to leave.

    Family members and authorities in Texas have reported at least 18 deaths from the storm, and 13,000 people have been rescued in the Houston area and surrounding cities and counties in Southeast Texas. Houston's largest shelter housed 10,000 of the displaced — twice its initial intended capacity. Authorities expected the human toll to continue to mount, both in deaths and in the tens of thousands of people made homeless by the catastrophic storm that is now the heaviest tropical downpour in U.S. history.

    No Harvey-related deaths were immediately reported in Louisiana, according to a spokesman for Edwards.

    0 0

    It was an icy day in March 2015 when two 10-year-olds at a Toronto Catholic school engaged in a pushing prank that went wrong. Their shoves sent a classmate toppling to the ground, causing him to break his arm.

    Two years later, the two children have been named by the school board’s insurer in a lawsuit arising from the incident, raising alarm about legal liability of students involved in schoolyard skirmishes.

    In the wake of the case, trustee Mike Del Grande wants the Toronto Catholic District School Board to advise parents of the risks of lawsuits and to make sure they have liability coverage as part of their property insurance.

    “This is the litigious atmosphere we’re in now and this is a warning that you should check your insurance policies,” he told the Star.

    “This stuff can go on and it’s under the radar and nobody knows about it until they’re in it.”

    Standard policies for homeowners, condo dwellers and tenants typically include liability coverage for policyholders and their children.

    It’s a sobering example of what can happen, even between children who are classmates and attend each other’s birthday parties, said Del Grande, who learned about the situation from the parents of the two children named in the lawsuit.

    “It’s ludicrous to put parents in that type of position. It’s unfair, it’s unconscionable,” he said.

    Parents of both children, a boy and a girl who were in Grade 5 at the time and are starting Grade 8 next week, confirmed details in conversations with the Star on condition that neither they, their children or the school were named.

    One of the children was interviewed by his family’s insurance adjustor this summer after notice that the school board’s insurer had filed a cross-claim for damages against both kids. He was asked to recall events from more than two years earlier.

    The other mother said her family does not have liability coverage.

    Experts in insurance law say although the action may seem shocking to many, naming minors in lawsuits is not uncommon and is usually aimed at triggering a parent’s insurance policy to cover costs of a settlement.

    The statement of claim in this case alleges that on that March day in 2015, the two kids had been going around the schoolyard pushing other children. When they approached the boy, he told them he didn’t want to be pushed, but they did it anyway. The fall broke his upper arm.

    In an interview, the mother of one of the kids described it as “a game” among students in which one person crouches behind the victim, and another one pushes them, sending them falling backward. Both parents said their children had not intended to cause harm. When it became apparent the boy was hurt, the boy involved in the pushing helped take him to the school office, his mother said.

    They found out the next day the boy’s arm was broken.

    The parents were contacted by police after the incident was reported, but no charges were laid, said one of the mothers. The injured child left the school before the end of the year, she added.

    Two months after the incident, she said her family received a series of lawyer’s letters indicating her son would be held responsible, and suggesting they advise their insurer.

    The injured boy suffered “great pain” as a result of the broken arm, while his mother was forced to take time off work and pay for child care and medical expenses as a result of the injury, lawyer Jane Lo of Toronto firm Klaiman Edmonds wrote in one letter on behalf of her client.

    “I have instructions to resolve this dispute in the amount of $5,000 in exchange for not naming (the boy) in the action,” Lo wrote in another letter, dated June 1, 2015. “My client will be willing to provide a release for that purpose.”

    The family did not respond to that proposal or follow-up letters, including one in July that warned if they failed to do so “we may commence a lawsuit without notice to you.”

    When they heard nothing further, they figured the matter had “blown over,” said his mother.

    Asked about the letters on Tuesday, Lo told the Star her client “felt that there was liability on the part of the children and we wanted to see if there could be a quick resolution. Unfortunately they didn’t accept the offer and we had to continue on with the action.”

    She declined to comment further.

    The families of the two pupils said they were not informed when, eight months after the incident, in November 2015, the injured child and his mother filed legal action against the school, its principal and the Catholic board, seeking a total of $600,000 in general and special damages, plus costs.

    They said they didn’t find out there was a lawsuit until March 2017, after receiving notice that the injured boy and his mother were adding the names of the other two pupils, now 12 and 13, to the lawsuit.

    However, last week, they were informed of another change — that their names were being removed from the plaintiffs’ legal action.

    “The school board hasn’t communicated anything to us,” said one mother. “We’ve never been contacted, we’ve been left on our own to deal with it.”

    The families feel “we’ve been thrown under the bus,” she said.

    In June, the Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange, which provides coverage for schools and is acting for the Catholic board, filed a cross-claim against the two children, arguing the school, principal and board should not be held responsible and the children should be accountable for all damages because they broke the rules.

    The cross-claim argues the students were “negligent” and did not respect the school’s “hands off” policy.

    Their statement of defence argues the alleged injuries and damages outlined in the suit are “exaggerated, remote and not recoverable at law.”

    Boyd Critoph, a lawyer representing the school board insurance exchange, refused to comment.

    “I am advised that our general policy is not to discuss issues relating to any of our ongoing cases with the media,” he said in an email.

    A Catholic board spokesperson, John Yan, said the board “is aware of the situation” but no one can comment on a case that’s before the courts.

    The insurance exchange, a non-profit co-operative, insures most school boards in the province with one notable exception. The Toronto District School Board left the carrier in January, citing cost savings, and now has policies with various carriers through broker Aon Canada.

    Last year the insurance exchange collected details about more than 85,000 incidents involving injuries and in turn potential liability, according to the website. Incident reports are filed when students, volunteers, visitors or other non-employees are injured on school premises or while under school supervision.

    Insurance lawyers say while age 10 is unusually young for such a lawsuit, suing a minor is not unusual and cross-claims are a tactic to spread liability and costs among defendants.

    One case that named a 7-year-old who hit another student in the head in a Toronto schoolyard in 1998 dragged on for 15 years before the injured child was awarded more than $4 million in damages.

    Aviva Canada sees “a handful to two handfuls” of lawsuits involving minors each year, which tend to arise from such situations as a hockey fight or prolonged bullying, says chief underwriter Mark Warnquist.

    Warnquist, who is also a lawyer, stressed he isn’t familiar with the Catholic board case and could not comment on it directly.

    “It’s unfortunate but what happens here is only the lawyers win,” Warnquist said.

    Catholic trustees last week discussed Del Grande’s motion to raise the issue publicly at their September board meeting, said chair Angela Kennedy.

    But the notice of motion was raised in private sessions rather than during the public part of their August meeting and is currently scheduled for their private session next month, she said. That was on the advice of board counsel because legal action is underway, she added.

    But Del Grande wants the issue aired in a public forum because of the implications for schools and families.

    “This whole thing seems to be operating in a climate of fear,” he said. He said despite supervision and the best intentions, kids do reckless things and injuries happen. “Where does it end?”

    Warnquist of Aviva says parents shouldn’t necessarily be alarmed.

    “But they should know that this scenario just highlights the kinds of things that can happen in today’s society and that’s one of the reasons you buy insurance.”

    Ontario school boards sell Student Accident Insurance, but it only covers injuries for the child who’s insured, not if they hurt someone else.

    Standard policies for homeowners and tenants typically include liability coverage of $1 million to $2 million for policyholders, their kids and other household members, he said.

    Coverage includes the cost of hiring a lawyer, which can surpass the cost of a settlement or judgment, and can run into six figures “even if you’re in the right.”

    0 0

    Six months before an alleged assault by an off-duty Toronto officer on teen Dafonte Miller, the director of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit asked police Chief Mark Saunders to “educate” his officers on their duties to notify the watchdog when a civilian is seriously hurt by police, according to correspondence obtained by the Star.

    SIU director Tony Loparco’s request to Saunders was spurred by a 2015 case where the watchdog alleges Toronto police neglected to notify the civilian agency about an incident warranting an SIU investigation, specifically the injuries of a man sent to hospital while bleeding out of his ears following a police raid.

    “A decision was made not to contact the SIU,” Loparco wrote in the June 2016 letter, obtained by the Star through a Freedom-of-Information request. “This was the incorrect decision.”

    Ontario’s Police Service Act states the SIU must be notified “immediately” of any incident that would reasonably be considered a serious injury, including when someone is admitted to hospital. But the watchdog — which investigates serious injuries and deaths involving police — only learned of the man’s injuries two and a half months later, and only after receiving a letter of complaint about the incident. The man was diagnosed with a perforated eardrum.

    Meanwhile, the delay “deprived” SIU investigators of important evidence, Loparco told Saunders.

    “It is my hope that you will implement appropriate educational requirements for your officers so that similar problems do not arise in the future.”

    Asked if any action was taken on Loparco’s request to educate officers on notification requirements, Mark Pugash, spokesperson for the Toronto police, said he would not discuss the specifics of the case.

    Toronto police take Loparco’s comments seriously, Pugash said, but is accountable to the Toronto police board.

    Toronto police have come under fire in recent weeks for failing to notify the SIU of serious injuries incurred by civilians in encounters with police, chief among them the severe alleged assault on Miller.

    The Black 19-year-old suffered a broken orbital bone, broken nose and will lose an eye following the December 2016 incident. The injuries were allegedly caused by an off-duty Toronto police officer Michael Theriault and his brother, Christian Theriault. Last month, both men were charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and public mischief following an investigation by the SIU.

    But the watchdog did not even know about Miller’s injuries until months after the alleged attack, and only then because Miller’s lawyer contacted the SIU. The delay has prompted accusations by Miller’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, of a deliberate coverup by police to protect the Theriault brothers, whose father is a veteran Toronto police officer working in the Professional Standards unit, which was the division that decided not to contact the SIU about Miller’s injuries.

    Saunders has denied allegations of a coverup, saying the SIU was not told because, based on the information his officers had at the time, notification was not required.

    Last week, the SIU announced it was charging Toronto police Const. Joseph Dropuljic with assault in a separate case involving injuries incurred by a young Black man. In that case, the SIU was not notified for 11 months after the incident, and only after the victim came forward to lodge a complaint.

    The repeated delays underscore what critics say is a need for stronger police oversight, including consequences for officers who don’t follow laws around the SIU.

    “This is what raises suspicions in people’s minds because they ask, ‘well, why didn’t they not notify the SIU?’” said Howard Morton, former director of the SIU and now a criminal defence lawyer.

    Earlier this month, Morton joined a coalition of rights groups, including the Ontario Human Rights Commission, calling for the immediate implementation of the recent report by Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch.

    That report made a series of recommendations aimed at stronger police oversight, including clarifying the rules around when police services must notify the SIU and officers’ duty to co-operate with investigations.

    At the completion of every SIU investigation involving Toronto police, the SIU director writes a letter to the chief with basic details of the investigation and its conclusion.

    Unlike the two recent cases involving Black men, the May 2015 incident prompting Loparco’s letter to Saunders did not result in a criminal charge against any Toronto police officer.

    According to the letter, the incident started with an attempted knifepoint robbery which led to an investigation involving Toronto’s Emergency Task Force (ETF). On May 30, 2015 the ETF executed a search warrant in the case.

    The location of the search warrant execution, and any identifying information about the injured man or officers involved, was redacted in the letter obtained by the Star. The letter also did not state who sent the complaint letter notifying the watchdog of the man’s injuries; Jason Gennaro, spokesperson for the SIU, said he could not say who wrote the letter due to confidentiality requirements.

    A team of seven ETF officers arrived at the home, found it unlocked then called out for the man wanted by police to exit the home. When he didn’t, the team went inside and found the man sleeping in the basement. The man refused the officers’ orders to show his hands then to get on the ground. One of the officers, spotting a knife beside the man’s bed, then deployed a Taser.

    The man fell to the ground but continued to thrash, according to the letter, so one of the officers pressed his ballistic shield onto the man’s back to immobilize him, allowing him to be handcuffed.

    When the man was brought outside, there was blood coming from his ears and he had a small cut above his eyebrow. He was taken to hospital where his cut was sutured and he was diagnosed with a perforated eardrum — the latter an injury typically seen in people who encounter a deafeningly loud sound.

    Loparco had to determine whether the man’s injuries were caused by the officers and wondered if a loud police distraction device called a “flash bang” has been used in their entry into the home. Citing witness and officer accounts, Loparco concluded it hadn’t been used and stated that the perforated eardrum was not attributable to police. He also said the force used by police was reasonable.

    However, Loparco noted that because the SIU was not immediately notified, the watchdog’s investigators could not go to the residence to conduct a probe to independently determine whether the loud distraction device had been used.

    According to Ontario’s Police Services Act, the SIU must be notified immediately of any incident “that may reasonably be considered to fall within its mandate.” The SIU uses what’s called the Osler definition of serious injury, which states it must be presumed someone is seriously injured when they, among other types of injuries, are admitted to hospital and suffering hearing loss.

    The man’s injuries “satisfied two separate presumptions contained within the definition. Thus, the SIU should have been notified,” Loparco wrote Saunders.

    Among Tulloch’s recommendations is to set out in law the Osler definition of serious injury. As it stands, serious injury is not defined in the Police Services Act.

    As reported by the Star earlier this year, Loparco has issued several complaints about Toronto police co-operation with SIU investigations within the last few years, including past failures to notify the watchdog of serious injuries. In some cases, Loparco will ask the chief to investigate an alleged incident of non-co-operation and report back.

    But police chiefs are not legally obligated to respond to these letters because the SIU has no authority under the Police Services Act to demand chiefs look into officer conduct.

    Morton said the provincial government must step in to enforce the laws outlining what’s expected of police when it comes to SIU co-operation. It’s not enough “to simply have a director out there in isolation hoping that if he writes to the chief there will be some education,” Morton said.

    Earlier this month, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said he will introduce legislation in the fall session of the legislature that will “transform Ontario’s police oversight system,” adding the bill will be introduced shortly after the provincial legislature resumes sitting.

    Wendy Gillis can be reached at

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