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    NEW YORK—Fifteen states and the District of Columbia sued the U.S. government Wednesday to block President Donald Trump’s plan to end protection against deportation for young immigrants who New York’s attorney general labelled the “best of America.”

    The lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn asked a judge to strike down as unconstitutional the president’s action involving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

    It called the move “a culmination of President Trump’s oft-stated commitments ... to punish and disparage people with Mexican roots.”

    Read more: Trump ends Obama program that protects undocumented ‘DREAMers,’ putting 800,000 at risk for deportation

    ‘They know where we live’: Young ‘DREAMers’ react with fear and sadness after Trump ends protection

    The attorneys general who brought the lawsuit — all Democrats — represent states where the population of DACA participants — known as “dreamers” — ranges from hundreds to tens of thousands. They were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families who overstayed visas.

    Trump’s plan is “cruel, short-sighted, inhumane” and driven by a personal bias against Mexicans and Latinos, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said.

    He said the 42,000 New Yorkers with protected status under the program are largely model citizens.

    “They are the best of America,” Schneiderman said.

    “Dreamers play by the rules. Dreamers work hard. Dreamers pay taxes. For most of them, America is the only home they’ve ever known. And they deserve to stay here,” he added, using the term that came from a failed piece of legislation called the DREAM Act.

    Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum called the government’s action “indefensible” and said Trump was “playing chicken” by giving Congress six months to improve DACA or cancel it.

    Devin M. O’Malley, a Justice Department spokesman, said the agency looks forward to defending the administration’s position.

    Under former President Barack Obama, Justice Department lawyers concluded in 2014 that DACA is lawful.

    The lawsuit filed Wednesday says rescinding DACA will injure state-run colleges and universities, upset workplaces and damage companies and economies that include immigrants covered under the program.

    The lawsuit noted that Harvard University has over 50 DACA students while Tufts University has more than 25. Both schools are in Massachusetts.

    “The consequence of the president’s animus-driven decision is that approximately 800,000 persons who have availed themselves of the program will ultimately lose its protections” and be exposed to deportation, the lawsuit says.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday the program will end in six months so Congress can have time to find a legislative solution for people in the program.

    Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

    California, one of the most solid Democratic states, was noticeably absent.

    California Attorney General Xavier Becerra plans to file a separate lawsuit because a quarter of DACA recipients are California residents, his spokeswoman Bethany Lesser said.

    Under Trump’s plan, people already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their permits expire. If that happens before March 5, they are eligible to renew them for another two years as long as they apply by Oct. 5. But the program isn’t accepting new applications.

    Opponents of the program said they are pleased with the Trump administration’s decision. They called DACA an unconstitutional abuse of executive power.

    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both Democrats, called Trump’s action cruel and outrageous, given that the decision was announced by Sessions rather than the president himself.

    A half-dozen beneficiaries of DACA — young adults from Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and elsewhere, including some now working at law firms or for the state Legislature — flanked Inslee and Ferguson at a news conference in Seattle announcing the lawsuit.

    “It’s outrageous, it’s not right,” an emotional Ferguson said. “As attorney general for the state of Washington, I have a hammer, it’s the law.”

    Inslee said, “This is one more of a long train of abuses that this president has attempted to foist on this great nation.”

    Earlier this year, Ferguson sued Trump over his travel ban, prompting a federal judge to block nationwide enforcement.

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump delivered a resounding victory to Democrats Wednesday, agreeing on a plan that would raise the debt ceiling and keep the government funded through Dec. 15.

    Republicans leaders were stunned, and would not immediately agree on the package.

    Democrats, who have been virtually powerless since Trump became president and Republicans maintained control of Congress this year, found a surprising new ally during a White House meeting with leaders of both parties.

    “We essentially came to a deal, and I think the deal will be very good,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One as he headed to North Dakota to promote tax reform. “We had a very, very cordial and professional meeting.”

    But Republican congressional leaders — and Trump’s own Treasury secretary — raised opposition to a short-term plan, arguing that three months on the debt ceiling is insufficient.

    “The folks in the room were not on the same page with every other Republican,” the source said.

    Republicans believe a three-month debt limit lift won’t give the financial markets certainty and would give Democrats more opportunities to play politics.

    The source described Trump’s remarks as akin to asking Congress to “all get along.”

    Congress must pass a budget by Sept. 30 or the government will run out of money. The debt limit needs to be increased this month. Republican Senate leaders had considered combining the debt limit with emergency aid to help the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, but were vague about the length of the debt limit extension.

    Democrats, though, pushed for a three-month extension for both the debt limit and the budget. They felt that would give them time to build constituencies for pet projects, notably immigration and spending.

    Trump on Tuesday said he would end the program for so-called Dreamers, the 800,000 young people whose parents entered the country illegally, and gave Congress six months to act. Democrats are solidly behind the Dreamers, but need Republicans.

    Read more: ‘They know where we live’: Young ‘DREAMers’ react with fear and sadness after Trump ends protection

    The agreement Wednesday gives them a crucial three months to build support for the young immigrants.

    It also allows the party time to make its case to avoid the sort of domestic spending cuts Republicans are eager to implement.

    “As Democratic leaders, we also made it clear that we strongly believe the DREAM Act must come to the floor and pass as soon as possible and we will not rest until we get this done,” said a joint statement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

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    On Wednesday morning, a pair of brothers who call the Toronto Police service a “family business” woke up bright and early, and pulled fluorescent outerwear over their uniforms.

    By 7 a.m. Const. Mike Ghazarian and Const. Anto Ghazarian were flanking either side of a construction zone at Dan Leckie Way and Queens Quay. Each cyclist on the designated bike path was asked to dismount and walk for 60 metres.

    It’s the first week of school for students of the elementary and high schools behind them, and the small construction zone made the pathway smaller. That threatened the safety of students on the last leg of their walk to class.

    “There’s multiple people that live in this community that walk their grandkids and their kids to school just west of us,” Anto said cheerfully, still standing outside regulating cyclists at 10:30.

    The red-brick building behind him — embellished with vibrant panels on both the front and the sides — is home to not only City School and the Waterfront School, but the Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre.

    “They deemed the first of week of school to be a little unsafe, with the cyclists roaring through and not dismounting,” Anto said. He wasn’t sure if Toronto Police had ever sent officers out on similar assignments before.

    The construction is set to expand on the pedestrian portion of the Martin Goodman Trail at the Portland Slip, which narrows down to a point at the corner. The space left is too narrow for the trail to run parallel to the sidewalk, so the City is building a deck over a portion of the slip.

    One Silver Maple tree required a permit to be removed from the immediate construction zone, to be replaced with two new Silver Maples at the end of the project.

    On Wednesday, officers were slated to be there until around 4:00 p.m., after school lets out for the day and when construction is scheduled to pause until Thursday.

    So far, most cyclists had been compliant with their requests. Mike said they’d had 100 per cent success with getting riders off their bikes.

    “I would say most people,” Anto clarified. “Some people I would have to tell them multiple times, but overall I feel like the message is very clear at this point.”

    The construction project is being completed by Waterfront Toronto and their contractor, Somerville Construction, and began the week of Aug. 21.

    The scheduled time for completion is between six and eight weeks, though fluctuating water levels in Lake Ontario and potential inclement weather could affect their current timelines.

    In the meantime, the Ghazarian brothers are standing guard.

    “We’re just here to make sure that cyclists dismount properly and just obey the rules of the road,” Anto said. “And make sure nobody gets hurt.”

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    The Toronto Transit Commission has launched what it describes as a bold new public awareness campaign targeting sexual harassment, racism, homophobia and other troubling behaviour on the system.

    The initiative, dubbed “This Is Where...” was announced Wednesday and includes posters that will be placed on vehicles and in stations, as well as a website and social media campaign.

    The launch of the awareness blitz was accompanied by the rollout of a new mobile app called SafeTTC, which will allow transit riders to use their smartphones to report harassment, safety issues and other incidents.

    At a news conference at North York Centre station, TTC chair Josh Colle called the anti-harassment initiative “one of the most original and probably most important campaigns the TTC has undertaken in recent memory.”

    “The TTC knows that harassment is unfortunately too common. To do nothing about it, to try and hide it, or worse, to deny it exists, is a disservice to our customers and to public safety in general,” said TTC chief customer officer Kirsten Watson.

    “With this campaign, we are putting those who would harass others on notice. We know you’re out there, and your actions are unacceptable, unwelcome and are under scrutiny.”

    The campaign’s posters and online material use direct language that the TTC said was taken from real-life experiences reported by transit users.

    One poster is titled “This Is Where Julia was groped on her way home.”

    “Julia was exhausted after a hard day’s work and fell asleep on the blue night bus,” it reads.

    “She heard the announcement for her stop and awoke to find a stranger touching her. Julia felt sick. She felt violated. She wanted to scream… No one should have to experience this.”

    Other posters include, “This Is Where Em and Lisa were attacked for their sexuality” and “This Is Where Savi faced violence when confronting a racist.”

    Watson said the campaign is focused on all forms of unwanted behaviour, but she described sexual assault as a growing problem on the TTC. There were 55 sexual assaults reported to the transit agency during the first seven months of this year, compared to 67 in all of 2015.

    As the Star reported last October, Toronto police (who keep separate statistics) received 577 reports of sexual assaults on the TTC between 2011 and 2015, a rate of almost one every three days.

    Linda Frempong, the safety program co-ordinator at anti-violence against women organization Metrac, said she was impressed with the TTC’s efforts to address harassment and assault.

    She said the campaign’s use of direct language was significant because people may not recognize that they have been a victim or witnessed a serious incident “if you skirt around the issue and don’t name what the issue is.”

    Farrah Khan, the coordinator of Ryerson University’s Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education, said the campaign was “a good first step” but that she would have liked the TTC to have put more emphasis on witnesses’ responsibility to report.

    “We don’t want to make the onus just on the person that is harmed,” she said.

    The SafeTTC app was developed by a Massachusetts-based company called Elerts, which has supplied similar products to transportation agencies in Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco.

    According to the TTC, the app provides transit riders with a “quick and discreet” way to send photos or descriptions of incidents to the agency’s transit control centre. TTC staff will then assess the seriousness of the issue and, if necessary, respond by dispatching transit enforcement officers or contacting the police.

    All TTC subway stations are wifi-enabled, but coverage doesn’t extend into subway tunnels. The TTC said if riders try to use the app to report an incident while they’re out of range, the app will store the report and send it as soon as they connect to the network.

    In May, an American transit user sued Elerts and San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit agency for allegedly using that city’s version of the app to improperly collect passengers’ personal information. BART and Elerts have denied wrongdoing.

    Colle said the SafeTTC app shouldn’t raise any privacy concerns for Toronto riders.

    “You can turn your location services off, you can just not use the app at all,” he said.

    The TTC said the app and the awareness campaign together cost between $600,000 and $700,000.

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    A member of the Ontario legislature is apologizing to Premier Kathleen Wynne for comments made in a radio interview after the premier’s lawyers warned he could face a defamation lawsuit.

    Lawyers representing Wynne sent a letter Wednesday to MPP Bill Walker asking that he publicly retract and apologize on the air for statements made to Toronto radio station AM640 on Monday.

    The letter alleged Walker told the radio station Wynne was under investigation and facing charges in connection with an upcoming Election Act bribery trial for two Liberal party members, when in fact the premier is slated to testify in the trial.

    Read more: Kathleen Wynne to testify in Sudbury by-election trial next week

    It said his statements “could be the subject of a defamation action” and warned against making any further comments along those lines.

    In a statement released Wednesday evening, Walker said he made a mistake while discussing Wynne’s plan to testify at the upcoming trial.

    Pat Sorbara, the premier’s former deputy chief of staff, faces two bribery charges under the Election Act, and Gerry Lougheed, a Liberal fundraiser, faces one charge.

    “I misspoke by implying that the premier is under investigation and facing charges. The premier is not, in fact, under investigation or facing charges,” he said.

    “I regret the error and apologize for it without reservation.”

    Wynne’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    In their letter, they said Walker’s radio statements “appear to have been made with the intention to harm the reputation of Ms. Wynne,” who they said has co-operated with investigators in the case.

    “Despite the inaccuracy of your statements, your status as an MPP increases the likelihood that these falsehoods will be repeated by others, increasing the potential harm to the premier’s reputation,” the letter read.

    “Accordingly, you will be held accountable for any damages arising from your defamatory statements and their repetition by others.”

    Wynne previously sued former Conservative leader Tim Hudak and another Tory MPP after the pair said she oversaw — and possibly ordered — the destruction of documents related to two cancelled gas plants.

    That lawsuit was resolved in 2015, though it is not known whether it was settled or withdrawn.

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    If you climbed into a time machine, went back to the ’80s and asked random people to guess why Madonna might be making news in 2017, the top responses would include: “She offended a religious leader,” “she invented a new geometric brassiere,” “she married a foul-mouthed extraterrestrial” or “she founded an orgy cult.”

    Sex and scandal, these were once the bookends of Madonna’s public persona. She aimed to please by offending. Cultural taboos and sacred iconography were her playthings as she slinked around in lingerie, literally crawling suggestively through the early years of MTV and a music revolution she helped lead in which marketing learned to drop-kick artistry.

    For much of her career as a singer, actress and, more recently, an entrepreneur, Madonna has existed as an image, which is to say, not as a real person.

    This has now changed.

    With very little fanfare, Madonna recently moved to Portugal. For a global superstar with roots in New York and London, this is the equivalent of stockbroker moving to the exurbs to start over as a horticulturist.

    As she recently wrote on Instagram: “The energy of Portugal is so inspiring. I feel very creative and alive here. . . This will be the next Chapter in My Book! It’s time to conquer the world from a different vantage point!!”

    This different vantage point has already snapped new filters atop her image.

    On Friday, when the new issue of People hits newsstands, the cover will feature Madonna and four of her adopted children with the headline, “Life With My Kids.”

    The feature, for which Madonna gave an advance shout-out on Wednesday, includes reflections on more than a decade of fighting poverty in Africa through her charity, Raising Malawi.

    “Helping people is like tattoos,” Madonna tells the magazine. “Once you get a tattoo, you keep getting them. It’s addicting. You see the difference you’re making in one person’s life, so what’s the big deal if I help one more person and one more person?”

    At a time when the world keeps getting more and more depressing — catastrophic hurricanes, the threat of nuclear war in the Korean Peninsula, Donald Trump’s endless array of moral atrocities — Madonna’s goofy analogy is somehow uplifting, as is her compulsive philanthropy.

    A year away from 60, Madonna could inhabit a private island and revel in her riches and this would be her prerogative. She’s earned the right to shrug. Instead, she’s trying to improve the lives of others inside one the gloomiest corners of the world.

    Unlike so many in Hollywood, where lip service is a currency, Madonna is putting her time and money into a cause instead of making her cause time and money. And by sublimating her energy this way, Madonna has triggered a personal reinvention that nobody in the ’80s could have possibly predicted: she is becoming downright relatable and, dare I say it, endearing.

    Her Instagram posts this summer — kids riding bikes, dancing, eating, wearing paper crowns, laughing, kicking a ball — are about as far removed from sex and scandal as can be imagined. These new domestic images from her life, circa 2017, have superseded her old image and turned her into a real person.

    The Material Girl has morphed into a Soccer Mom and the universal anxieties of raising children are immune to her celebrity status.

    Madonna is so much like the rest of us right now that she’s even squabbling with couriers over delivery mix-ups. This week, she posted a picture of herself on Twitter, in which she looks less like a global pop star and more like a put-upon consumer who is getting the runaround from customer service.

    She explained her dour expression this way: “When you’ve been arguing with fed-ex all week that you really are Madonna and they still won’t release your package.”

    This is the opposite of identity theft. It’s identity disbelief. What’s next for Madonna on this road to normal-people problems? Will she spend her evenings doing laundry and helping with ridiculously hard Grade 6 homework? Will she invite her new neighbours over for coffee to lament a troubling bylaw? Will she soon be refused a seniors discount at the drugstore because the clerk simply refuses to believe the bespectacled blond with no makeup and a cart full of ointment and meds for joint pain is really Madonna?

    From her new beginning in Portugal to her upcoming cover story in People to her existential crisis with FedEx, Madonna has undone the image she carefully crafted all those years ago.

    She’s now someone else — still rich and famous, but someone more like us.

    And if you were to pilot that time machine decades into the future, you will find that 2017 Madonna — generous, caring and yearning for new triumphs in the confusing embrace of middle age and motherhood — is the Madonna that is most fondly remembered.

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    MONTREAL—Did Stephen Harper’s approach to Quebec accelerate the decline of the sovereignty movement, or was the former prime minister just the accidental beneficiary of a collective desire on the part of Quebecers to move on from the deadlock over the province’s political future?

    In a text published in the magazine L’actualité on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Parti Québécois’ short-lived 2012 victory, former Harper adviser Carl Vallée argues the Conservatives deserve significant credit for having contributed with their policies to bring the Quebec conversation in line with that of the rest of Canada.

    There is no doubt that the Harper decade was not a good one for the sovereignty cause.

    By the time the Conservatives lost power in 2015, support for Québec leaving the federation had fallen to its lowest level since the early 1980s.

    The Bloc Québécois was a spent parliamentary force, having failed in two consecutive elections to win the 12 seats required to qualify for official party status in the House of Commons.

    The Parti Québécois was back in opposition in the national assembly after premier Pauline Marois’ bid to trade a minority mandate for a governing majority after 18 months in power backfired. The party has yet to recover from that defeat.

    This weekend, its rank and file will hold a vote of confidence in its latest leader. The upcoming first year anniversary of Jean-François Lisée’s leadership victory next month will be no cause for celebrations. With a year to go to the next Quebec election, the PQ is in third place in voting intentions, well behind the ruling Liberals and the second-place Coalition Avenir Québec

    According to Vallée, Harper contributed actively to this steady deterioration of sovereigntist prospects by practicing a less invasive form of federalism than his Liberal predecessors and by systematically refusing to engage in rhetorical debates with his sovereigntist foes.

    After the PQ formed a minority government in 2012, Vallée says Harper was urged by the civil service to become more proactive in showcasing Canada and the federal government in Quebec. But the then-prime minister was wary of strategies that he found reminiscent of the failed Liberal sponsorship program. Instead he opted to decline to take whatever bait premier Marois threw his way.

    In doing all of the above, Vallée argues, Harper had a major hand in shifting the Quebec conversation from federalism-versus-sovereignty to a left-versus-right axis more aligned with that of the rest of the country.

    It is possible to agree that Harper’s net impact on the standing of federalism in Quebec was positive and to also find that it was not as much the product of a deliberate strategy as a case of unintended consequences.

    Harper’s hands-off approach to the federation’s social union for instance had as much to do with the former prime minister’s ideological distaste for government activism on the social policy front as with a Quebec strategy.

    For the record, it was Liberal prime minister Paul Martin — not his Conservative successor — who updated the template for asymmetrical federalism by spelling out Quebec’s right to determine its own health spending priorities in the 2004 Health Accord.

    No recent prime minister was as unpopular in Quebec as Harper. That went a long way to make the virtue of not engaging in battles of words with his sovereigntist counterpart a necessity. These were fights he would have had little chance of winning in Quebec public opinion. Elsewhere in the country, they would have drawn attention to his limited capacity to champion Canada effectively in a referendum

    Harper’s decade in power was a game-changer in Quebec but maybe not in ways he necessarily intended.

    In presenting Quebecers with a version of conservatism that was alien to the majority that make up its progressive mainstream, he provided them with an incentive to reconnect with national parties liable to oust his party from power.

    A critical number of Quebec voters did accept the sovereigntist premise that the values that underpinned Harper’s policies at home and abroad were at odds with theirs. But most of them rejected the conclusion that leaving the federation was their only remedial option.

    From that perspective, Harper was not only an architect of the demise of the Bloc Québécois but also a driving force behind the 2011 orange wave and the 2015 Liberal revival in Quebec.

    Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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    Starting next year, students from kindergarten to Grade 12 will bring home new report cards that showcase skills such as creativity and critical thinking as part of the Ontario government’s education “refresh.”

    The government is also looking at changes to standardized testing as well as curriculum updates — especially in math, given recent results on province-wide testing showing just half of all Grade 6 students met provincial standards, and less than two-thirds of those in Grade 3 did.

    “We do need to look at whether we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that kids are getting those math skills,” Premier Kathleen Wynne said Wednesday at Toronto’s Lawrence Park Collegiate, where she and Education Minister Mitzie Hunter announced the changes.

    The government is already pouring $60 million to boost the number of math teachers and provide professional development, and those changes “haven’t had a long time to set,” Wynne said, but additional measures are needed.

    The new report cards, to be in place for 2018-19, are expected to include teacher evaluations on “transferable skills” — with less of a focus on areas like organization that are a part of the “work habits” section on current report cards — while retaining marks for individual classes.

    Hunter said the process is still in the early stages, but changes will be made only after consultations with experts, educators and parents.

    Unions, too, “for sure will be at the table as we transform and refresh the system, including the report card aspect,” she said later at Queen’s Park.

    “We are focusing on the learning skills and work habits and really moving toward the transferable skills, which we know are really needed in terms of measuring those things that really matter to how kids learn and how they apply that learning into the real world, after school.”

    Hunter said standardized testing — administered in Grades 3, 6, 9 and 10 — will also be looked at, but teacher unions won’t get their wish to have it eliminated.

    Chris Cowley, the new president of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, said he realizes provincial testing — known as EQAO — is here to stay, but “there’s a more effective way to do it.”

    “I think you can get just as good results from random sampling. Teachers spend weeks preparing for EQAO, weeks that they could be delivering the curriculum in a different way. It takes up a significant amount of time.”

    He said curriculum changes are welcome, but shouldn’t be rushed and teachers must receive timely professional development.

    “Regardless of the (upcoming provincial) election or the political reality, we want to make sure the curriculum and report cards and everything around that is rolled out in the right way,” he said.

    Curriculum changes will happen over the next three to five years, and Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said he hopes it’s done “in a positive light and in a thorough way, and with the input of front-line workers.”

    On EQAO testing, the union’s position is that it be eliminated, he added, “because that’s $100 million could go toward special education programs and students in the system.”

    He also supports any move by the government to “declutter” and refine the curriculum, focusing on a few key concepts, given the criticism that there are too many expectations for teachers to cover.

    However, Hammond also warned that if a report card revamp is in the works for the next school year, with consultations “there’s some concern that is a short timeline.”

    NDP education critic Peggy Sattler said while the Liberal government’s changes “are important and will benefit kids, the real concern is there are fundamental issues in public education that remain unaddressed,” such as underfunding and school closings, that must be dealt with first.

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    I can’t walk by a department store without looking for a piece of clothing for my one-year-old niece who I love more than anything in the world. The only downside to this compulsion is that I have to sift through the kids’ clothing section, an experience I don’t love, an experience not unlike walking the Vegas strip because you aren’t likely to see any colours that exist in nature.

    First there’s the girls’ section: the dresses and jumpsuits appear to have been vomited on by all four Teletubbies, and no matter how hard you try you cannot escape the endless selection of graphic T-shirts that declare obvious truths such as “Fall is here!” and “I love my Mommy!”

    And then there’s the boys’ section, one I always assume might be a little more dignified than the girls’, but is also filled with cringeworthy T-shirts and onesies. A few of my least favourites that seem to turn up everywhere I shop: “Milk addict” and “Mama’s little Farter.” If you were an alien sent to earth to study human infants you might conclude, based entirely on the outfits their parents put them in, that female children are happy dolts defined by an eagerness to please and male children are flatulent creeps. (The latter may be true about a lot of people, but must our children lead with this information?)

    All this is to say, when news broke this week that major U.K. department store John Lewis announced plans to ditch gendered labels on its children’s clothing, and adopt instead the unisex label “Boys and Girls” for its kids aisle, my reaction wasn’t one of feminist approval (smash that gender binary!) nor abject conservative horror (preserve the status quo!) but rather, indifference. It’s well and good that a major retailer has eliminated gendered labels on clothing, thus liberating scores of prepubescent lesbians from having to beg their mums to “please let me look in the boys’ section now” (not to mention scores of effeminate boys who can at long last browse dresses and trousers at the same time). But I have to ask: what great use is the elimination of gendered labels in a clothing aisle if the clothes themselves aren’t subject to change?

    If such a trend catches on in North America, and Winners, for example, ditches the gender binary in the kids’ aisle, I’ll still be sifting through embarrassing and demeaning graphic tees. The only difference will be that both the boys and girls selections will be hung together on the same rack or folded on the same shelf. This might make it harder for parents to find what exactly they are looking for, but it isn’t likely to change what they purchase and for whom they purchase it. In other words, even in a genderless clothing aisle, parents are still likely to buy pink graphic T-shirts that reference the weather (“Spring has sprung!”) for their baby girls, and blue graphic tees that reference lactation (“Milk Junkie”) for their baby boys. They’re still going to put little Heather in the bright pink pullover that says “Smiles Change the World” and little Max in an army green T-shirt that says “Weekend Warrior.”

    So while it may be admirable to advocate for the erosion of gender labels in kids’ clothing stores, I believe that doing so is ultimately meaningless if we don’t also demand that retailers cool it on the tacky gendered graphic tees and offer up instead some more ordinary clothing. Plain old jeans, sweatpants, T-shirts and overalls with no subliminal messaging or catchphrases — kids items that for some reason appear to be easily available at higher end stores but are in short supply at affordable department stores.

    Maybe there’s a way to move into a gender-barrier-free future by unearthing looks from fashion’s past. In the 1950s, for example, babies didn’t wear onesies that said, “Daddy’s little Girl.” They wore onesies that said nothing. History wasn’t kind to those who cross-dressed, but people, generally speaking, dressed well. Progress is a good thing but it would be nice if in the process of shedding the rigid gender norms associated with fashion’s past, we could revive some of its class.

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    HALIFAX—Nova Scotia’s chief justice has ordered an investigation into complaints against a provincial court judge who presided over a high-profile case involving a taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated female passenger.

    Justice Michael MacDonald issued a statement today saying a three-member review committee will look into allegations of misconduct against Judge Gregory Lenehan.

    Lenehan faced intense public scrutiny in March when he issued an oral decision that concluded the Crown had failed to prove the woman’s lack of consent.

    Read more: Halifax judge finds cab driver not guilty of sexual assault, says ‘a drunk can consent’

    Anger over Halifax taxi driver’s sexual assault acquittal spurs letter writing campaign against judge

    Nova Scotia judge’s ruling more than a failure to just one woman

    He followed up by saying, “Clearly, a drunk can consent,” then acquitted 40-year-old taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi.

    Lenehan’s choice of words set off a storm of social media criticism, a letter-writing campaign calling for a judicial council to investigate, and two public protests.

    The Crown has appealed Lenehan’s decision.

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    They’re the centre of attention at the Toronto International Film Festival — unless they don’t want to be.

    So just how do you hide a movie star?

    It’s a challenge, a bit like smuggling an elephant into a room underneath a washcloth. But there are ways. A limo to the stairs of a private jet, a brisk hustle through a hotel kitchen or ducking in through an inconspicuous entrance can be a celebrity’s best friend.

    Red carpets, after-parties and onstage screening appearances are when the famous are working at the festival. Otherwise, they’re off the clock and, at least for some, trying to stay out of sight.

    1. The ‘other’ Pearson airport

    The game of hide-and-seek begins as soon as they land in Toronto. Big stars tend to arrive via private plane.

    You may have noticed the huge Skyservice Business Aviation building across from the main terminals as your plane taxis at Pearson International Airport. The other half ends up here if they’re coming or going by charter jet.

    The 31-year-old Canadian company has what’s known as a fixed base operation, or FBO, at Pearson. It includes a sizable “luxury” private lounge with a wall of windows overlooking the runways.

    This private mini-terminal is open 24/7 for guests to shower, nap, or have a pre-arranged meal, from a fast-food burger to a gourmet feast. A 24-hour concierge is available to look after requests.

    “TIFF is our Christmas,” says Catherine Vettese, Skyservice manager of marketing and communications. “It is absolutely by far our busiest time of the year in Toronto. At any time of day you will see row after row of private jets parked.”

    Perhaps even going into the FBO lounge is too much visibility for a star. A Canada Border Services Agency officer can board a private jet and process passengers in their seats. There’s no waiting at the baggage belt or even the curb: the limo or luxury SUV pulls up, luggage is loaded, and the stars come down the stairs and slide into the car.

    2. The greeters

    Boldface also arrives on commercial flights, where “they just come through as a regular passenger,” said Tammy Smith, associate director of terminal operations at Pearson.

    As soon as a celebrity exits the baggage hall, there is a TIFF greeter waiting, as well as staff working for the film, to guide them to transportation at the curb.

    That’s usually where photographers get the familiar snap of stars either smiling behind sunglasses, or looking slightly rumpled and doing the head-down-quick-walk move.

    3. Staying on schedule

    Once downtown, it’s not that Matt Damon or Nicole Kidman don’t want to see fans, explained long-time movie publicist Charlene Coy. They have a schedule to keep.

    “Their TIFF . . . is so overscheduled from the moment they wake up until that premiere; every minute is accounted for,” said Coy, who has worked TIFF for 15 years.

    Coy once arranged to hustle actor Robert Pattinson through the Thompson Hotel’s kitchen to get him past fans when he was here for the (non-TIFF) 2012 premiere of Cosmopolis.

    “I have to say the Thompson was brilliant for me,” Coy recalled. “It was right (around) Twilight and we had to take him through the kitchen and the back elevators, and he had a cap on and three security guys, and we’re taking him through this packed kitchen. But we had no choice.”

    4. At the restaurant

    Coy said it’s also part of her job to ensure stars get in a quick lunch break while on a media day.

    “We’ll call a restaurant to ask for a private room. It’s rare they’ll shut down a restaurant,” Coy said. “When we have to move them, we’re very strategic; underground garage to private room. A lot of the journalists have no idea they’ve even left the hotel.”

    5. Meeting the press

    Lunch leads to the invariable afternoon media-room greeting: “We’re running late.”

    The spot where those of us covering TIFF hear that most frequently is the InterContinental Toronto Centre on Front St. W., the main press junket hotel for the festival since 2012.

    While the stars don’t stay there, most will spend a few hours in the InterContinental in hotel rooms stripped of beds and furniture to become interview rooms, and makeshift TV and photo studios.

    In all, 50 to 70 of the hotel’s 584 rooms become TIFF media central, with stars coming to the hotel by the dozens all day throughout the festival.

    So how do they keep them out of sight? “By not telling anybody,” said Mary Ann Gamboa, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. She has no idea who is arriving when.

    6. The secret entrance

    The InterContinental has a way of getting stars inside that sets it apart: the underground ramp to a hotel entrance off Simcoe St. It’s off limits to autograph seekers and fans.

    “The underground entrance is unique,” said Darryl Hill, InterContinental director of safety and security. “It’s 100 per cent private property, an area we can control with security staff and video surveillance and things of that nature.”

    Some stars take the escalator to the lobby; others prefer to be taken to an elevator that’s kept solely for TIFF VIP use. It goes directly to the junket floor.

    Public areas, including the Azure restaurant off the lobby, can be stargazing areas.

    “We find that most of our guests are very respectful,” said Hill, saying there have been a “very few” incidents where security was involved to deal with “aggressive fans.”

    7. At the hotel

    The 202-room Shangri-La Toronto is also sold out for TIFF. It’s both a popular place for the stars to stay, and home to media junkets and a private screening room on the third floor.

    They often cut through the lobby to get to restaurant Momofuku next door, or the always busy and star-packed Soho House adjacent to the hotel. The Lobby Lounge can offer some prime stargazing after screenings, while adjacent dining room Bosk is where George Clooney had a burger at the bar during TIFF 2015.

    “We can’t hide that. He chose to be there,” said Aynsley Knight, director of communications, who said the hotel determines “who wants privacy and who doesn’t” beforehand.

    There is out-of-sight access to the hotel through the parking garage, while “back of house there is a whole route and path” to get celebrities around without being seen, said Knight.

    8. In plain sight

    Of course, many stars do want to be visible.

    Red carpets are a big part of TIFF and we do everything in our power to make this their time to shine,” said Robyn Mogil, co-founder of Taro PR.

    “There’s a reason why they come to town, and they want to be seen and they want to be heard,” Coy observed.

    Coy recalls suggesting to Rachel Weisz, at TIFF with The Whistleblower in 2010, that she might prefer to leave the hotel by a less conspicuous door.

    “She said, ‘I am totally fine to walk out a front door,’” Coy recalled.

    And then there was screen legend Lauren Bacall.

    “She got swarmed and she loved every minute of it,” said Coy. “She stopped and signed every single autograph. She knew she was walking out in front of an audience.”

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    WASHINGTON—Donald Trump Jr.’s scheduled visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday marks a new phase in the Senate investigation of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election and a meeting that the president’s eldest son had with Russians during the campaign.

    Staff from the Senate Judiciary Committee, one of three congressional committees conducting investigations, planned to privately interview the younger Trump.

    Emails he released in July that detailed preparations for the June meeting show he expected to receive damaging information about his father’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, as part of what was described to Trump Jr. as a Russian government effort to aid the GOP nominee.

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

    Special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate Intelligence committees also are investigating that meeting, attended by U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. A grand jury has heard testimony about it.

    Senate aides also could pursue other possible connections that the president’s family had with Russia.

    Trump Jr. agreed to the interview after the committee chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, subpoenaed him and Manafort. The committee withdrew the subpoenas after the two agreed to be interviewed privately by staff. Grassley said they both would eventually be questioned by senators in a public hearing.

    Senators on the committee could attend the interview, but according to tradition they were not permitted to ask questions.

    Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said they would be there. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., was considering it. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat, said she would not attend because she thought staff should be allowed to conduct the interview without interference.

    Read more:

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    Trump is ‘not my bride, and I’m not his groom,’ Putin says at Chinese conference

    Workers clear out of Russian consulate in San Francisco after U.S. orders it to be shut down

    She said staff interviews were intended to prepare their bosses for the public hearing, and “senators put a dent in it.”

    Feinstein said she and Grassley agreed to subpoena Trump Jr. and Manafort if they don’t agree to attend a to-be-scheduled public hearing.

    Trump Jr. also was expected to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee at some point.

    Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the committee, said the panel wants to speak with others who attended the June meeting before interviewing Trump Jr.

    “We want to do this in a thorough way that gets the most information possible,” Warner said.

    Manafort met privately with staff on that committee in July. Kushner has met with that staff, as well as members of the House Intelligence Committee.

    That House committee has tried to talk to Trump Jr., but Rep. Eric Swallwell, D-Calif., said negotiations are underway and a date hasn’t been set.

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    This three-letter word so rattled the world’s largest cosmetic company it dropped a new face of one of its campaigns, someone it had just touted as its first transgender model.

    Munroe Bergdorf had written a post on Facebook after the white supremacist riots at Charlottesville, Va. “Honestly I don’t have the energy to talk about the racial violence of white people anymore. Yes ALL white people,” she wrote.

    Bergdorf had clearly missed the memo: in exchange for the opportunity to be with L’Oréal, her role as a Black, transgender person was to be grateful and subservient.

    Instead, as a person who very likely had to fight for acceptance all her life, she spoke up. She was fired.

    “L’Oréal champions diversity,” the company said in a statement on Twitter. “Comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with our values and so we have decided to end our partnership with her.”

    Where are those self-righteous freedom of speech defenders now? The ones who think protests against bigoted speeches at universities trample that freedom? The ones who defended the ex-Google engineer’s freedom to blame gender discrimination in tech firms on biological unsuitability.

    Instead, Bergdorf says, she received hate mail, rape threats, death threats, directives to commit suicide coming at her at the rate of one every five seconds.

    Bergdorf’s original Facebook post, since taken down, was received as straight talk by many people who’ve long borne the burden of racism.

    If you have the privilege of going through life without having to think about racism (and I include some people of colour in this category of white privilege), there was a lot to unpack in her post.

    The following paragraph, for instance, could launch an understanding of the history of colonialism and slavery that set off intergenerational cycles of benefits for white people, but intergenerational cycles of poverty for Indigenous and Black people.

    “Because most of y’all don’t even realize or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of color. Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From microaggressions to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this sh*t.

    What white people heard: You are racist.

    This next bit could be a teachable moment on racial socialization, an opportunity to bring the concept out of academia into the regular world.

    “Come see me when you realize that racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege. Once white people begin to admit that their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth . . . then we can talk.”

    What white people heard: You are racist.

    This part calls out white privilege, specifically to those perpetually surprised by racist actions of their fellow white people:

    “Until then, stay acting shocked about how the world continues to stay f*cked at the hands of your ancestors and your heads that remain buried in the sand with hands over your ears.”

    What white people heard: You are racist.

    Yes, she speaks with passion. Yes, she is angry. Yes, she is fed up. And the hysteria that followed her words exposed widespread racial illiteracy, just proving her point.

    Angry white people zeroed in on the words “Yes ALL white people.” That word “all” made them apoplectic, even though Bergdorf’s post clearly referenced structural racism.

    For so long, “not all white people” has been the go-to reaction of those who benefit from society’s racist structures but want to absolve themselves of the responsibility to be anti-racist.

    It’s like nobody is a bad driver. Only other people are.

    “Sit still and smile in a beauty campaign ‘championing diversity,’ but don’t actually speak about the fact that lack of diversity is due to racism. Or speak about the origins of racism. It’ll cost you your job,” said Bergdorf in a statement.

    Of course all white individuals are not racist, just as all men are not sexist, all straight people are not homophobic or transphobic etc.

    Yet, we equate Black people with thuggery, without having to say “Not all Black people,” and we can walk away from the deadly consequences of that deeply ingrained stereotype.

    We can associate Indigenous people with addictions without having to say “Not all Indigenous people,” and be complicit in the chronic underfunding of schools, of health care, of child welfare.

    Yet, for someone like Bergdorf, not only must she go through the pain of rejection, discrimination and racist abuse all her life, but if she happens to express her frustrations, she must do so dispassionately, in a way white people find acceptable.

    It’s no wonder that Clare Amafo, another Black model on the campaign quit L’Oréal, saying, “If she’s not “worth it” anymore, I guess I’m not either. #IStandWithMunroe”

    L’Oréal, that champion of diversity and tolerance, continues to work with the white Cheryl Cole. Back in 2003, Cole (then with the last name Tweedy) was found guilty of assaulting a Black nightclub toilet attendant, leaving her with a swollen eye in a case the judge called an “unpleasant piece of drunken violence,” that she showed no remorse for.

    Cole was found not guilty of being racially motivated because there wasn’t anyone to corroborate the victim’s statement that Cole called her a “f---ing Black bitch.” A witness said she called her victim an “f---ing bitch.”

    Oh, phew. No need to cancel contracts, then.

    L’Oréal demonstrates that a white lawbreaker is not “at odds with its values,” but a Black transgendered person who speaks out against racism is.

    What are the odds a Black person convicted of assaulting a white person would get a high-profile job? That’s white privilege.

    This disturbing incident shows hurt feelings of white people continue to be valued more than violated bodies of Black people. The chains are still very much in place.

    That’s white privilege too.

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

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    We all like to complain about helicopter parents, who hover around their children and don’t allow them to develop the independence and skills to navigate the world. Now we have to worry about the helicopter government hovering around parents, forcing them to hover over their children.

    That’s what we’re looking at in the case of Vancouver father Adrian Crook, who has been advised by the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development that he can no longer allow his four eldest children — aged 7 to 11 — to ride the bus to school unsupervised. In fact, he writes on his blog 5kids1condo, after investigating the supposed endangerment posed to his children while riding transit, they told him that no child under 10 can be unsupervised in any situation — walking to school, or to the store, or staying at home. And his oldest child won’t be considered an adequate supervisor until he is at least 12.

    Read more:A dad in B.C. let his kids ride the bus alone — and it sparked a national debate about parenting

    It wasn’t the case that Crook’s kids were found to be in any actual danger — as he details on his blog, the bus stop where they boarded was in front of his house, the one they got off at was in front of the school. He spent months making the trip with them, and then more months making the trip with them partway, so they knew the route well. They were armed with GPS-enabled cellphones. They had befriended bus drivers. And as Crook details, buses are by far the safest form of travel (bus trips resulting in orders of magnitude fewer injuries than cycling, walking, or driving in a car or motorcycle).

    It’s just that the ministry would insist they could not be unsupervised, ever.

    Not even in the playground in the courtyard of the condominium building where they live. When someone reported they were alone, the authorities say they had to stick their threatening nose into it.

    “Everyone has a duty to report a situation in which a child may be at risk. In assessing the nature of that risk, social workers exercise their professional judgment within the parameters established by ministry policy and the Child, Family and Community Service Act,” a ministry spokesperson told my colleague Wanyee Li at Metro in Vancouver.

    Crook is Crowdfunding a legal challenge of the ruling, but plans to obey it and helicopter over his children in the meantime. What choice does he have? These people could impose the harshest punishment you could impose on a parent. They could take away his kids.

    “Being a divorced, single dad who has his kids 50 per cent of the time, I have little recourse to challenge the ministry’s decision,” Crook writes on his blog. “Disobeying it even in the slightest (i.e. allowing a trip to the corner store by my 9.75 year old), could result in the ministry stripping me of equal custody of my children, a remarkably draconian outcome I would never risk.”

    As someone who walked alone to school — supervising younger relatives on the trip, in fact — to school beginning at age 6, this strikes me as bizarrely invasive. I began riding public transit to my hockey games alone before age 8. Around the same time, my 10-year-old cousin and I began taking the TTC downtown to the movies at the Eaton Centre or Imperial Six at Yonge and Dundas or the Uptown or University theatres at Yonge and Bloor.

    Looking back, the sense of freedom and independence, the maturity we felt and developed, plotting routes and navigating transfers and conducting our own ticket purchase transactions — ordering and paying for snacks, and so on — seems to me to be an essential part of growing through childhood.

    I know, I know, you can already sing the next lines. Gee our old LaSalle ran great, thoooooooooose werrrrrrre the daaaaaaays. I hear you saying, “It used to be common to have kids running around unsupervised, Grandpa, but it is not common anymore. Times have changed.”

    Friend, I know it. I have three children — among them an 11-year-old and a 7-year-old, so I know well the age levels Crook is dealing with — and they are not setting off about the city like adventurers. I walk them to the school bus stop in the morning. My wife and I get a babysitter when we go out. In their interactions with the world, I imagine they can hear ever-present whooping of the helicopter blades of our parenting.

    We do this in part because of our own estimation of our children’s individual maturity and behaviour. We do it in part because of our estimation of the risk of traffic death at the very busy intersections near our home.

    And we do it in part because, like most parents, we have fears that are sometimes rational and sometimes less so, about the dangers the world holds. We know that their odds of being kidnapped by a stranger are something like one in 14 million, as developmental psychologist Dr. Mariana Brussoni told CTV in reference to Crook’s case. We know the odds of them being injured in a car accident are far higher than of being hurt playing in the park when we aren’t watching them. But we’re human, with human fears.

    But more than that, I think we also closely supervise our children at almost all times because that is what is expected of us as parents today — we fear the judgment and scorn of those around us. And I especially fear the power of the state child protection agencies if some random busybody were to call them and tell them our kids went to the park at the end of the block by themselves. The stranger danger I fear most is not kidnappers, it’s holier-than-thou whistleblowers who might call authorities to complain about my parenting.

    In that last respect, Crook’s case seems to show the fear is justified. And it’s outrageous. How to parent your children — when to give them responsibility and freedom and how much — is a personal and difficult decisions. It’s one that, in the absence of actual neglect or endangerment, should be left to parents, not dictated under threat by authorities.

    As I said, my own children are not loose on the TTC making their way to school or anywhere else. But I very often think we are letting them down with that approach.

    A whole Free Range Kids movement has sprung up in about the past decade, citing experts on how children learn about themselves and the world when they have to get around and figure things out and solve problems on their own. How they overcome anxiety and fear and develop self-confidence by learning independence. How they learn to socialize and communicate and compromise by interacting with other children when adults are not around.

    There’s a reason, I think, why many of our most beloved coming-of-age novels and movies involve pre-teen children facing down danger, mostly without the help of grown-ups. From Stand By Me and E.T. to Charlie Brown and Jacob Two-Two, from Peter Pan and Stranger Things to Harry Potter and Lyra Belacqua. You find yourself — and really become the hero of your own story — when you don’t have your parents or teachers around to butt in on your behalf.

    In the real world, of course, we don’t want this process to centre on facing down pirates and evil wizards. But taking the bus, wouldn’t that be a good start?

    Yes. Yes it would.

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    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—Fearsome Hurricane Irma cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving at least 10 dead and thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees on a track Thursday that could lead to a catastrophic strike on Florida.

    The most potent Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever, Irma weakened only slightly Thursday morning and remained a powerful Category 5 storm with winds of 285 km/h, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

    The storm was increasingly likely to rip into heavily populated South Florida early Sunday, prompting the governor to declare an emergency and officials to impose mandatory evacuation orders for parts of the Miami metro area and the Florida Keys. Forecasters said it could punish the entire Atlantic Coast of Florida and rage on into Georgia and South Carolina.

    “This could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, alluding to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

    Read more:

    There’s no such thing as a Category 6 hurricane, no matter what Irma says

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    Irma just slammed into Donald Trump’s Caribbean estate — and is headed toward his Florida properties

    French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told France Info radio that eight had died and 23 injured in the country’s Caribbean island territories, and he said the toll on Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy could be higher because rescue teams have yet to finish their inspection of the islands.

    “The reconnaissance will really start at daybreak,” Collomb said.

    At a news conference, Collomb also said 100,000 food rations have been sent to the islands, the equivalent of four days of supplies.

    “It’s a tragedy, we’ll need to rebuild both islands,” he said. “Most of the schools have been destroyed.”

    French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said he will go to the islands has soon as weather conditions permit. Macron said France is “grief-stricken” by the devastation caused by Irma and called for concerted efforts to tackle global warming and climate change to prevent similar future natural disasters.

    In the United Kingdom, the government said Irma inflicted “severe and in places critical” damage to the British overseas territory of Anguilla. Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan said the Caribbean island took the full force of the hurricane. He told lawmakers on Thursday that the British Virgin Islands have also suffered “severe damage.”

    Irma blacked out much of Puerto Rico, raking the U.S. territory with heavy wind and rain while staying just out to sea, and it headed early Thursday toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

    To the east, authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands devastated by the storm’s record 298 km/h winds. Communications were difficult with areas hit by Irma, and information on damage trickled out.

    Nearly every building on Barbuda was damaged when the hurricane’s core crossed almost directly over the island early Wednesday and about 60 per cent of its roughly 1,400 residents were left homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told The Associated Press.

    “It is just really a horrendous situation,” Browne said after returning to Antigua from a plane trip to the neighbouring island.

    He said roads and telecommunications systems were wrecked and recovery would take months, if not years. A 2-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm, Browne told the AP.

    One death also was reported in the nearby island of Anguilla, where officials reported extensive damage to the airport, hospitals, shelters and school and said 90 per cent of roads are impassible, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

    The agency also reported “major damage” to houses and commercial buildings in the British Virgin Islands.

    On St. Thomas in the nearby U.S. Virgin Islands, Laura Strickling spent 12 hours hunkered down with her husband and 1-year-old daughter in a boarded-up basement apartment with no power as the storm raged outside. They emerged to find the lush island in tatters. Many of their neighbours’ homes were damaged and once-dense vegetation was largely gone.

    “There are no leaves. It is crazy. One of the things we loved about St. Thomas is that it was so green. And it’s gone,” Strickling said. “It will take years for this community to get back on its feet.”

    Significant damage was also reported on St. Martin, an island split between French and Dutch control. Photos and video circulating on social media showed major damage to the airport in Philipsburg and the coastal village of Marigot heavily flooded. France sent emergency food and water there and to the French island of St. Bart’s, where Irma ripped off roofs and knocked out electricity.

    Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Thursday the storm “caused wide-scale destruction of infrastructure, houses and businesses.”

    “There is no power, no gasoline, no running water. Houses are under water, cars are floating through the streets, inhabitants are sitting in the dark, in ruined houses and are cut off from the outside world,” he said.

    By Thursday morning, the centre of the storm was about 180 kilometres north of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and was moving west-northwest near 28 km/h.

    More than half the island of Puerto Rico was without power, leaving 900,000 in the dark and nearly 50,000 without water, the U.S. territory’s emergency management agency said in the midst of the storm. Fourteen hospitals were using generators after losing power, and trees and light poles were strewn across roads.

    Puerto Rico’s public power company warned before the storm hit that some areas could be left without power from four to six months because its staff has been reduced and its infrastructure weakened by the island’s decade-long economic slump.

    President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies to remove debris and give other services that will largely be paid for by the U.S. government.

    The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted Irma would remain at Category 4 or 5 for the next day or two as passes just to the north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday, nears the Turks & Caicos and parts of the Bahamas by Thursday night and skirts Cuba on Friday night into Saturday.

    It will then likely head north toward Florida, where people were rushing to board up homes, fill cars with gasoline and find a route to safety.

    Gov. Rick Scott, who has mobilized parts of the state’s National Guard, declared a state of emergency and asked the governors of Alabama and Georgia to waive trucking regulations so gasoline tankers can get fuel into Florida quickly to ease shortages.

    An estimated 25,000 people or more left the Florida Keys after all visitors were ordered to clear out, causing bumper-to-bumper traffic on the single highway that links the chain of low-lying islands to the mainland.

    Meanwhile, Hurricane Katia hovered in the southern Gulf of Mexico, threatening to hit the vulnerable Mexican coast as a Category 2 or 3 hurricane, possibly late Friday or early Saturday. It had winds of 130 km/h and was located about 335 kilometres east of Tampico, Mexico.

    And a third hurricane, Jose, was growing far out in the Atlantic. It was no immediate threat to land, though the forecast track showed it could affect the Irma-blasted Leeward Islands over the weekend. Hurricane Jose had winds of about 150 km/h. It was centred about 1,310 kilometres east of the Lesser Antilles and moving west-northwest at 30 km/h.

    Anika Kentish reported from St. John’s, Antigua. Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington, Michael Weissenstein in Havana, Samuel Petrequin in Paris and Ben Fox in Miami contributed to this report.

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    The province will compel school boards to collect race-based data on everything from hiring staff to student suspensions, and Education Minister Mitzie Hunter is also looking at ending the streaming of Grade 9 students into applied and academic courses as part of her three-year equity plan.

    Hunter told the Star in an interview that Grade 9 in particular — where students are streamed into the more theoretical academic, or the more hands-on applied courses — is a concern and needs a new approach.

    “We talk about streaming as a really key aspect of our equity action plan, taking a fresh look at Grade 9,” she said. “We know that Grade 9 is a critical year in terms of transition for students. We want to see Grade 9 as a year where students can explore their pathways, and get excited about their pathways. We do not want it to be a year where students become demotivated and disengaged in school.”

    While having applied and academic courses began as a way to help students with different learning styles, Hunter said the applied courses “have seen a disproportionate number of students … from racialized backgrounds, special education needs, and … low-income students … the status quo is unacceptable.”

    The equity plan will see school boards look at demographic data for suspensions, expulsions and address issues, ensure teaching materials reflect diversity, and also tie “accountability for equity to the performance appraisals of principals, vice-principals and directors, to ensure that the diversity of teachers, staff and school system leaders reflects the diversity of students,” the ministry said.

    “Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan is a powerful blueprint that will strengthen our publicly funded education system by ensuring that all of Ontario’s students will have every opportunity to thrive and fulfill their potential, regardless of their personal circumstances,” Hunter said.

    Patrick Case — the human rights expert and lawyer called in earlier this year to examine troubles at the York Region District School Board— will oversee the changes as Hunter’s assistant deputy minister and head of the province’s education equity secretariat.

    “I believe that the time is right and based on conversations I have had with community organizations, I can sense an excitement and a renewed vigour about tackling some persistently difficult issues in our publicly funded education system, together,” said Case in a written statement.

    Hunter’s equity plan comes after a number of issues in Ontario school boards, from data in Toronto showing a disproportionate number of students suspended and expelled or put in special education are black.

    In the York board, parents raised concerns that the board was ignoring incidents of racism in schools, as well as the case of a principal who posted Islamophobic material on her public Facebook page.

    The board also came under fire for how it handled a trustee who uttered a racial slur when referring to a black parent, in public after a meeting. Nancy Elgie has since resigned.

    A startling 2015 report by advocacy group People for Education found that teens who have taken even a few applied courses and those who take Grade 9 applied math almost never go on to university.

    An in-depth study of 39 teens released Thursday by Social Planning Toronto also showed families were unclear about how enrolling in applied courses in Grade 9 could affect their child’s chance of success at school.

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    Toronto’s booming film, video and digital production industry, limited only by the availability of studio space and crews, is getting a boost.

    As stars and moguls land downtown for the Toronto International Film Festival, Mayor John Tory and Cinespace Film Studios executives will be in Etobicoke on Thursday breaking ground on two new studios and connecting space totalling 50,000 square feet.

    Cinespace, home to the Hulu hit “The Handmaid’s Tale”, recently wrapped period drama “Reign” and many other productions, says the addition will allow concurrent filming at its Kipling Studio Campus of seven big productions, up from six. The expansion will also include a large, permanent underwater filming tank.

    Cinespace vice-president Jim Mirkopoulos told the Star the new space will help alleviate — but not eliminate — the studio space “crisis” that has cost Toronto big bucks in lost filming opportunities.

    “My company has had to turn away at least 10 projects in calendar year 2017 so far because of lack of studio space in Toronto,” Mirkopoulos said.

    “Some of those projects went to other jurisdictions — they weren’t able to find studio space in Toronto. We are doing our part to ensure that happens less often in Toronto.”

    Cinespace opened the Kipling campus in 2009 after more than 20 years in the neighbourhood of Eastern and Carlaw Aves. The homegrown family firm has more than 2 million square feet of studio space in Toronto and Chicago.

    Plans for its new “Titan Studios,” part of a multi-year, multi-million-dollar expansion of the Kipling site, come after rival Pinewood Studios, home to the “Star Trek: Discovery” television series, broke ground on a 30,000-square-foot Port Lands studio complex with advanced special effects stage.

    In an interview Wednesday, Tory said he expects yet more good news for the production industry.

    “This is huge, I’m delighted,” he said of the Cinespace commitment. “This is going to help, I believe — given both the (studio space) need and the competitive nature of the business — trigger other investments that I know people are thinking and talking about in different parts of the cities.

    “There are a significant number of expansion plans out there,” Tory said. “People just need the trigger, and I think this will help.”

    After sagging in 2012, filming investment in Toronto soared to $1.55 billion in 2015 and last year topped $2 billion for the first time. Much of the record investment was in successful episodic shows that kept crews busy but also tied up studio space held for the next season’s filming.

    Mirkopoulos says factors in the ongoing success are stability in provincial tax credits; the low Canadian dollar; the success and proven quality of Toronto-made productions; and a city hall welcome wagon driven by staff in the film office as well as Tory and Councillor Paula Fletcher.

    Efforts with film unions to get more crew members trained is helping address that problem, he said, while agencies including the Toronto District School Board are stepping up with filming locations and, in the summer months, school parking spaces for those ubiquitous white trucks.

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    Grade 9 students at Oakwood Collegiate weren’t the only ones entering new territory when they stepped through the doors for their first day of high school on Tuesday.

    The school itself is forging new ground as the first in the Toronto District School Board to eliminate all applied-level courses for its youngest pupils.

    This year for the first time, its 95 Grade 9 students are no longer separated into university-bound academic level classes versus the more hands-on applied option.

    Instead, the two streams have been integrated into one, ensuring students keep their options open for post-secondary school and in turn, their career paths. The move, which affects English, math, science, geography and French, has implications for many Grade 9 students.

    Last year, about 40 per cent of them were enrolled in at least one applied-level course. Their remaining three Grade 9 courses, including physical education, art and music, are open to all students.

    “There’s tremendous excitement,” said principal Steve Yee, who describes the de-streaming plan as “a bold move to do something differently” that was generated by teachers and widely supported by parents.

    “We wanted to raise the level of excellence for all students in our building,” said Yee. “There was a strong feeling from staff that we wanted to provide them with the most enriched experience. We wanted to push them and we wanted the kids to realize they can do it and that we believe they can do it.”

    Academic streaming has become a contentious issue in the province because of the way it has been shown to impact the most at-risk and marginalized students.

    Other TDSB high schools have launched “de-streaming pilots” over the past few years, and found that pass rates have actually increased as higher levels of achievement were expected from students.

    The school will review plans for Grade 10 applied courses later in the year.

    Oakwood has taken extra steps to support students who in previous years might have enrolled in applied courses. Grade 9 classes are capped at 25 students, versus the usual 30-plus for academic courses. Staff are committed to collaborating and providing students with extra help where they need it, Yee said.

    Students identified in Grade 8 as needing extra support were enrolled in Grade 9 learning strategies, a class that earns them a credit while also providing time and extra help to work on other courses as they start to understand their learning styles and begin to advocate for themselves.

    Lunchtime and after-school help is also available, Yee said.

    “Grade 9 is an important year and if we teach them well they’ll learn and develop the skills, that will set them up for the future.”

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    OTTAWA—Pat Stogran, the former veterans’ ombudsman and NDP leadership candidate who called the party “fundamentally flawed” when he dropped out of the race in June, has thrown his support behind his former rival Charlie Angus.

    In a press release Thursday morning, Angus said he asked Stogran to join his campaign to work on military and veterans issues and help develop “an independent and progressive foreign policy that will re-establish Canada’s international credibility.”

    Stogran, a retired colonel who led Canadian troops in Afghanistan and served as the country’s first veterans’ ombudsman from 2007 to 2010, said in a statement that he trusts Angus to stand up for veterans.

    “Charlie is a stand-up guy, who isn’t afraid to say it as it is. That is what we need in Ottawa these days,” Stogran said.

    Stogran launched his own bid for the NDP leadership in April, when he billed himself as a scrappy populist who would reject what he called “politics, incorporated” — a euphemism for the political and bureaucratic culture in the capital.

    “Our system of government is morally and functionally bankrupt,” he said at his campaign launch in April.

    “I want to break the system.”

    Three months later he dropped out of the race, blaming NDP insiders for trying to prevent his victory. In a video posted to YouTube, Stogran said the party he was trying to lead will never form government in Ottawa unless it reforms itself.

    In the days following the announcement, Stogran declined to be interviewed about his resignation.

    Angus, an Ontario MP, is one of four remaining candidates trying to take over the party from current leader Tom Mulcair. His opponents are Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton and Quebec MP Guy Caron.

    The party is holding its final leadership debate of the campaign in Vancouver on Sunday. Voting by mail and online begins Sept. 18, and the new leader will be chosen in October.

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    SUDBURY—Election Act bribery charges against Premier Kathleen Wynne’s former chief of staff and a local Liberal organizer are unfounded, defence lawyers argued Thursday.

    Patricia Sorbara and Sudbury funeral home operator Gerry Lougheed are charged with trying to induce a potential Liberal nominee out of the race with offers of jobs or appointments to make way for Wynne’s preferred choice, defecting New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault.

    But Thibeault, now Wynne’s energy minister, had agreed to be the candidate on Dec. 11, 2014, before Andrew Olivier was approached to step aside and endorse him, defence lawyers said as the trial opened in Ontario Court of Justice.

    “There was never going to be a contested nomination process,” Lougheed lawyer Michael Lacy told Justice Howard Borenstein in opening arguments before the court.

    “Mr. Olivier’s wishful thinking in that regard does not transform him into a candidate.”

    Read more: Kathleen Wynne to testify in Sudbury byelection trial next week

    Top Liberals face Elections Act charges in Sudbury case

    Wynne adviser steps down after OPP charges related to Sudbury byelection

    Sorbara lawyer Brian Greenspan echoed that point, saying the terms candidate and nominee are not interchangeable and noting the Ontario Liberal Party constitution allows for candidates to be named by the leader.

    “Ultimately, the premier, as head of the party. . . has the right. . . to appoint.”

    New evidence will show that Sorbara talked to would-be nominee Olivier, a quadriplegic mortgage broker, on Nov. 23, 2014 — almost three weeks before Thibeault agreed to be the candidate — and told him he would not necessarily be the Liberal flag-bearer in the byelection later called for Feb. 5, 2015, Lacy said.

    “You are the past candidate but you’re not the current candidate yet,” she cautioned Olivier in a recorded phone call played for the court as he took the stand as the Crown’s first witness.

    In the call, Sorbara asked Olivier his opinion on the timing of the byelection, if he could work with Lougheed in seeking the nomination and spoke of the need to win the riding back from the NDP.

    Sorbara called Wynne “a determined woman” in that regard, noting she was cancelling January vacation time to get ready for the campaign.

    Crown prosecutor David McKercher said recorded conversations between Sorbara and Olivier and Lougheed and Olivier on Dec. 11 and 12 of 2014 will show he was offered jobs and appointments to exit the nomination race.

    “The premier was determined to win the Sudbury seat back” and “did not think Andrew Olivier would win,” McKercher said in the Crown’s opening statement.

    The Liberals were “especially concerned” there be no dissension in the party ranks over Wynne’s choice of candidate given there had been rumours the premier had wanted to appoint a candidate in the June 2014 general election, in which Olivier ended up losing the riding — held for the previous 18 years by veteran Liberal and cabinet minister Rick Bartolucci — to the New Democrats.

    “Mr. Thibeault was particularly concerned about the switch factor,” McKercher added, referring to Thibeault’s own defection from the federal NDP.

    ‎In the Liberal hierarchy, the push was on to get Olivier to “ideally” step aside and have Thibeault “acclaimed in an open nomination process,” McKercher said.

    But the behind-the-scenes talks with Thibeault, including a Nov. 30, 2014 meeting in which Wynne decided “he had the best chance of winning the byelection,” had to be kept quiet.

    “The premier and the Ontario Liberal Party believed that secrecy was very important,” McKercher said.

    Thibeault demanded three things to become the candidate — replacement of his MP’s income during the byelection campaign, paid Liberal campaign jobs for two of his NDP riding office staff, and the full support of the Liberal party.

    Sorbara “made these commitments to him,” said McKercher.

    The Crown alleges the job offers to the staff are against the Election Act, resulting in a second charge she is facing.

    Both Sorbara and Lougheed, who faces one charge, pleaded not guilty.

    If convicted, they could be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to maximum jail sentences of two years less a day.

    The charges under the Election Act are in a lesser category than the Criminal Code.

    Sorbara stepped down as a key member of the Liberal 2018 election campaign after being charged late last year.

    Wynne will testify in the case next Wednesday.

    An investigation by Ontario Provincial Police included tapes of conversations with Sorbara and Lougheed with the spurned candidate Olivier posted on social media.

    In one recording, Sorbara told‎ Olivier “we should have the broader conversation about what it is you’d be most interested in doing. . . whether it’s a full-time or part-time job in a (constituency) office, whether it is appointments, supports or commissions. . . ”

    Wynne has said previously the goal was to keep Olivier, who placed second in the 2014 general election to New Democrat Joe Cimino, inv‎olved in the Liberal party. Cimino quit five months into his term for family reasons, prompting the byelection.

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