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TOPSTORIES

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    A man in his 30s has been rushed to hospital in critical condition after he fell from the second floor of the Eaton Centre.

    Toronto police Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu said the man fell near the mall’s northeast entrance at Yonge and Dundas Sts. Emergency services were called around 12:50 p.m.

    The man was reportedly found wearing a harness, but Sidhu said it’s unclear whether he was actually a worker.

    Police are speaking to construction workers in the area to get more information on what happened.


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    So many city hall comings and goings as September turns its back on a wet, forgettable summer.

    Last month’s farewell to the well-lived public life of Councillor Pam McConnell was just right — whimsical, poignant, haunting and real. Just like the councillor and school trustee of 35 years.

    When do we ever send off a politician with renditions of James Oppenheim’s Bread and Roses, Phil Ochs’ When I’m Gone and the capper, Who Put the Bomp? In the Cathedral Church of St. James, no less.

    And what is it about these New Democrat city councillors that so endear constituents and evoke lasting appreciation and love. Yes, love.

    Dan Leckie. Jack Layton. Pam McConnell...

    Maybe, it’s because they loved us first. Maybe it’s because they dared to spend public money to deliver public benefits to segments of the public doomed to lives of poverty and disengagement, without help. Socialists, yes. And proud of it.

    Ever since I migrated from the suburban city councils to report and comment on politicians charged with the inner city and the entire Toronto populace, I have concluded that what the suburbs lack — in spades — is the direct, relentless representation that downtowners get from a succession of councillors.

    Jane-Finch, Rexdale, Dixon, Malvern, Galloway and Lawrence-Weston Rd. would be more like Regent Park and Alexandria Park if they had been represented by Layton, McConnell and their ilk.

    It’s not just a matter of party, either. Anthony Perruzza is a New Democrat; as is Maria Augimeri and Glenn De Baeremaeker. But these suburban lefties are tame versions of the downtown socialists. And it shows.

    Meanwhile, if your suburban ward is represented by a right-wing councillor, you are doomed, or endangered, no matter your obvious and public need. How is it possible for north Etobicoke to be so bereft of public gems: amenities that define and mark a place as desirable public space; parks animated or equipped with more than trees and natural trails?

    Do you hear councillors from suburban at-risk neighbourhoods raising hell at city hall for improvements? Rarely. But you hear them crying about property taxes. You hear them threatening to block traffic if the city dares to improve their neighbourhoods with light rail transit, because, y’know, a subway is coming, in, ah, er, 150 years. And who wants those damned streetcars getting in the way of cars?

    One of the most controversial councillors of them all, Doug Ford, is about to run for mayor again. At least his brother, the late mayor, had some local and community bona fides. Besides, he engendered sympathy because he presented as goofy. Dougie has neither charm, heart, soul or wit; his is calculated goodness at its cynical and political core.

    Toronto will benefit from a Doug Ford mayoralty as much as Etobicoke north did from a Doug Ford term as councillor. Not nearly.

    So, bully for Councillor Vincent Crisanti for endorsing Doug Ford for mayor. Crisanti is the classic old school ward heeler. He attends to local events, drops in on groups frequently to kiss the babies, squeeze the flesh. Yet his ward remains among the poorest. And his affiliation with the Fords, while giving him success at the polls, does nothing to lift Ward 1 from the dumps.

    If the likes of Layton, Joe Pantalone, Adam Vaughan represented Ward 1, the advances would have been obvious and many.

    One other “going” is chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, leaving at the end of the month. You have read nice things about her in this space. But don’t get carried away. Like the man I respect greatly — former city manager Joe Pennachetti — Keesmaat did not do enough to derail the subway to Scarborough.

    Both hid behind excuses that they cautioned the politicians against the subway and outlined the massive, unnecessary costs. But, if they did, they engaged in way too benign ways. They knew where the bodies were buried. They knew the damning details and stats and figures that a reporter could mine to show how utterly ridiculous the subway decision was. They did not rail. They did not respond as if their own money, reputation and future were at stake. Instead of leaking that information — pointing to the smoking gun — they covered up for the politicians, sometimes with incomprehensible gobbledygook.

    There is a long history of this. Civil servants swallow their tongues, do the bidding of their political masters, and then ride off leaving a predictable mess behind. We must demand and expect more from those close to the emperor.

    So, just to be clear. Politicians should not be trusted with crafting transit plans. (Just imagine what we will hear in the 2018 mayoralty election). Yes, our system requires elected officials vote and sign off. But we need a way to embolden city staff and consultants and planners to feed their information into a public pot of debate and consideration — where the data and conclusions must stand the test of reason, inquiry, study and examination.

    So much depends on a new approach. The status quo is robbing us blind and sending us to the public poorhouse.

    Now, after the horses have bolted, we are engaging auditors to tell us exactly how badly we’ve been duped.

    Royson James’ column appears weekly. rjames@thestar.ca


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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday suggested British intelligence officials were aware of the assailant or assailants behind an unfolding terrorist attack on the London subway, an assertion that British officials called unhelpful speculation.

    Prime Minister Theresa May alluded to Trump’s Twitter post in an interview with reporters, saying “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.”

    Trump had written: “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist.These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!”

    Later Friday, Trump said he had been briefed on the London terrorist attack, and he later spoke with May by phone. According to the White House, Trump expressed sympathy for the people injured and promised to continue working with the British to fight terrorism. The White House summary of the call did not address whether Trump and May discussed the president’s tweet about Scotland Yard.

    The small explosion on a crowded Underground train during morning rush hour in the capital on Friday wounded at least 29 people, and authorities said they were treating the incident as terrorism. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack or whether the assailant or assailants had been on the radar of British intelligence, as Trump suggested.

    In short remarks to reporters, Trump said he had been briefed on the explosion but did not elaborate on what he meant in his reference to Scotland Yard.

    Police in London also alluded to the president’s Twitter post. “This is a live investigation and we will provide further updates as it progresses,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

    “Any speculation is extremely unhelpful at this time,” the statement said.

    The White House did not immediately respond to questions about Trump’s assertions.

    Trump used the terrorist attack to revive his push for a travel ban for people from predominantly Muslim countries, an effort that has been hampered by U.S. courts. He wrote on Twitter: “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”

    It was not the first time Trump seized on a terrorist attack in London to promote his political agenda, including the travel ban and a crackdown on intelligence leaks to the media.

    In May, Trump joined in the British criticism over claims that U.S. officials disclosed the name of the Manchester concert bomber to reporters. For months, Trump had been pushing for tougher consequences for intelligence leaks, and he pledged America would find and punish the leakers. And in June, Trump used a terrorist attack near the London Bridge to draw support for his travel ban.

    Other past comments from Trump have also frustrated British officials.

    Shortly after his election, he said that Nigel Farage — a key supporter of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union — should be made the British ambassador to the United States, a decision that, London pointed out, was not Trump’s to make.

    Trump gripped May’s hand when she visited him at the White House, a week after he took office, a gesture that some British critics interpreted as awkward or even aggressive. Last month, May joined other world leaders in criticizing Trump’s response to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    “True or not — and I’m sure he doesn’t know — this is so unhelpful from leader of our ally and intelligence partner,” May’s former chief of staff, Nick Timothy, wrote on Twitter.

    John D. Cohen, a former U.S. counterterrorism official, said statements such as the president’s about Scotland Yard could hurt an investigation.

    “At this stage investigators are going to be doing everything they can to locate those involved in the attack, and in particular the bomb maker,” said Cohen, now a professor at Rutgers University. “These types of statements — at this stage of the investigation — can undermine law enforcement efforts because it discloses key information that the investigators may be using to locate the attackers, and it could put peoples’ lives at risk.”

    The United States and Britain regularly share intelligence, and if British officials did know the assailant or assailants behind Friday’s attack, it is likely that information would have been known to U.S. intelligence officials.

    In Trump’s other morning Twitter posts about terrorism, he said his administration had already “made more progress” against the Islamic State than President Barack Obama’s administration had in eight years. And he called for being “proactive & nastyproactive & nasty” to fight terrorists.

    Another Friday morning Twitter post said: “Loser terrorists must be dealt with in a much tougher manner.The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off & use better!”

    Trump’s travel ban, proposed in January and revised in March, has faced legal challenges and drawn criticism from around the world because of concerns that it amounts to discrimination based on religion.


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    A former pastor who was convicted of manslaughter in the death of his pregnant wife will get a new trial because a judge “compromised the fairness” of the proceedings, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled Friday.

    Philip Grandine was accused of drugging his wife, Karissa Grandine, causing her to drown in a bathtub in October 2011.

    He was found guilty of manslaughter in 2014 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, less four months for time served in custody.

    Grandine’s lawyers appealed the conviction on the grounds that Judge Robert Clark opened the door for the jury to convict Grandine based on an “entirely speculative” theory.

    The Crown argued at trial that Grandine either put his wife in the bath or did not stop her from taking a bath after he gave her the sedative lorazepam. Then he either waited for her to pass out and drown, or held her head underwater, the Crown alleged.

    Grandine’s defence argued that Karissa took the sedatives herself and accidentally drowned, or that she took her own life.

    During deliberations, the jury asked Clark whether Grandine knowing his drugged wife was taking a bath and not stopping her was equivalent to causing her to get into the tub.

    Clark responded that the jury could find Grandine guilty of manslaughter if they determined that he failed to provide the “necessaries of life” to his wife.

    In other words, the jury could convict Grandine if they found he had known his wife had ingested enough of the sedatives to be in danger of drowning, but did not stop her from getting in the bath.

    That answer “introduced to the jury a new unlawful act — failing to provide the necessaries of life — thereby opening a door to finding the appellant culpable without needing to find he had administered lorazepam to his wife,” the Court of Appeal said in its decision.

    “The answer thereby undermined the crux of the (Grandine’s) defence – namely, he should be acquitted if the jury could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he had administered lorazepam to his wife.”

    On that basis, the appeal court overturned Grandine’s conviction and ordered a new trial.


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    Ontario’s police watchdog has charged a York Regional Police officer with assault in connection with the arrest of a man in April.

    The Special Investigations Unit said in a release that several York officers ran into a 30-year-old man during an investigation on April 5 in Keswick.

    An unspecified “interaction” happened and, according to the SIU, the man was diagnosed with a serious injury the following morning.

    Const. Wesley Ollson, 39, faces one count of assault causing bodily harm.

    He is due in a Newmarket courtroom on Oct. 3.


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    EDMONTON—Omar Khadr’s visits with his controversial sister will remain restricted, but he has been granted more freedom to use the internet.

    A hearing on whether to ease some bail conditions for the former Guantanamo Bay detainee was held Friday morning in Edmonton.

    Khadr, 30, has been out on bail pending the appeal of his conviction by a U.S. military commission for five purported war crimes.

    Khadr was seeking unsupervised visits with his sister, Zaynab Khadr, who has in the past expressed support for the Al Qaeda terrorist group.

    In 2005, Zaynab was investigated by RCMP for allegedly aiding Al Qaeda, but no charges were filed. She is now reportedly living in Sudan with her fourth husband, but is planning a visit to Canada. Khadr’s lawyers had argued their client wanted to reconnect with his family and is old enough that he can’t be negatively swayed.

    Justice June Ross said there is nothing to indicate his sister has changed her views, so any contact Khadr has with her must still be made with one of his lawyers or his bail supervisor present.

    Another request to be allowed to travel more freely within Canada without having to gain permission was also denied.

    Khadr also sought unrestricted access to the internet, and was granted more freedom provided he stays away from anything to do with terrorism on the web.

    Read more:

    Omar Khadr to request loosened bail conditions, including unfettered access to sister

    $134-million claim against Khadr is based on false information and should be thrown out, lawyer argues

    He had been restricted to only using his personal devices, but his lawyer argued that was unrealistic in an age where connections to the internet are everywhere.

    The Toronto-born Khadr spent years in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay after he was caught when he was 15 and accused of tossing a grenade that killed special forces soldier Christopher Speer at a militant compound in Afghanistan in 2002.

    In 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty to multiple charges before a U.S. military commission, including to killing Speer, but has since said he can’t remember if he tossed the grenade. He has said he entered the plea to try to get out of Guantanamo, where he says he was mistreated, and into the Canadian justice system.

    He returned to Canada in 2012 to serve out the rest of the eight-year sentence he was given.

    Canada’s Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that Khadr’s charter rights were violated at Guantanamo and Canadian officials contributed to that violation. Khadr filed a $20-million lawsuit against the government and this summer settled the case for a reported $10.5 million.

    Khadr has said he wants to move on with his life. He recently married and plans to move to the city of Red Deer, halfway between Edmonton and Calgary, to study to become a nurse.


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    MONTREAL—Canadian home sales are expected to drop to their lowest level in three years in 2018, driven largely by a decline in Ontario, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) said Friday.

    The association expects that 495,100 homes will be sold next year after downgrading its sales forecast for 2017 on a 9.9-per-cent drop in August compared with a year ago.

    It expects sales will fall 2.3 per cent in 2018 following a 5.3-per-cent decline this year to 506,000, or 20,000 fewer than previously forecast in June.

    Seasonally adjusted sales in August rose 1.3 per cent from the prior month, due to a 14.3-per-cent boost in the Greater Toronto Area. Still, sales in this area were down 35 per cent from a year ago.

    Read more: Toronto housing market’s downturn may have an upside

    Benjamin Reitzes of BMO Capital Markets said the August data suggests the worst may have passed for the GTA following Ontario policy changes to restrict foreign buyers, but the future is unclear.

    “The Bank of Canada’s rate hikes should help contain any renewed exuberance, but if things do heat up again, expect policy-makers to step in before too long,” he wrote in a report.

    CREA projects sales in British Columbia and Ontario will fall by about 10 per cent in 2017, compared to record highs set in 2016.

    The association said sales in August were down in nearly two-thirds of all local markets, led by the Greater Toronto Area and nearby housing markets.

    In Vancouver, August sales were up 7.3 per cent from July and 21.3 per cent higher than a year ago.

    “Experience shows that homebuyers watch mortgage rates carefully and that recent interest rate increases will prompt some to make an offer before rates move higher, while moving others to the sidelines,” stated CREA President Andrew Peck.

    The average price for a home sold last month was $472,247, up 3.6 per cent compared to a year ago. Greater Toronto was up 3.1 per cent and Greater Vancouver 17.9 per cent.

    Excluding these regions, the national average price was $373,859.

    The national average price is forecast to rise by 3.4 per cent to $507,700 in 2017, lower than its prior forecast because of fewer luxury home sales in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario.

    However, it is expected to dip by 0.6 per to $503,500 next year largely reflecting that a record number of high-end home sales around Toronto earlier this year likely won’t be repeated in 2018.

    Newfoundland and Labrador sales this year are forecast to decrease by 8.1 per cent and Saskatchewan 4 per cent.

    Alberta is projected to have the country’s largest increase at 7.4 per cent, but that’s still below the provincial 10-year average.

    Sales are forecast to grow 5.4 per cent in Quebec and 5.7 per cent in New Brunswick.

    Manitoba and Quebec are the only two provinces expected to set new annual sales records in 2017, while sales in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are on track to come up just short of all-time record levels.


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    Two young brothers missing since Tuesday have been found by Toronto police.

    The pair returned home Friday afternoon.

    Toronto police asked for the public’s assistance Thursday. The boys, aged 12 and 14, were last seen in the area of Wellesley St. E. and Rose Ave.

    At the time, police were concerned for their safety.


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    A black-tie charity gala calling itself a “Toronto Film Fest Official Closing” party, and billed as a toy drive benefiting Sick Kids, has been warned by the hospital to stop using its trademark. Neither Sick Kids Hospital nor TIFF are affiliated with the Saturday night affair.

    Lynn Bessoudo, public relations manager for the hospital, confirmed the murky situation to the Star on Friday. The Evening with the Stars event, which goes under several names including “City Gala 2017 TIFF Soiree,” has never donated proceeds to the hospital and has no association with them, she wrote in an email.

    “They were using our trademark to promote and solicit for the event without our permission. We did demand that they stop using our trademark and they have complied, removing it from their website.”

    Bessoudo noted that the organizers “have dropped off some toys at the hospital in the past.” The event is listed as the 21st annual affair of its kind in some of the marketing materials. Another said it started in 2004.

    Actor D-Teflon, listed as the keynote speaker of Saturday night’s event, said he was so frustrated with Sick Kids that he wouldn’t be returning to the hospital where he says he’s been doing meet-and-greets for a decade.

    “For us, it was just a slap in the face,” he told the Star over the phone. The phrase “sick kids,” he added, “doesn’t belong to the hospital.”

    They could take their donations to any other children’s hospital, “because at the end of the day, we don’t need to go to Sick Kids.”

    The event, planned for 8 p.m. at the Bond Place Hotel, just east of Yonge-Dundas Square, “celebrates the careers” of recently departed Entertainment Tonight correspondents Rick Campanelli and Natasha Gargiulo. A rep for Campanelli confirmed that he’d be receiving an award at the event.

    A single ticket to the event — which promises an “unprecedented opportunity to meet, mingle, dine and party” with “Hollywood A-list” celebrities, athletes, Playboy Playmates and models — will run you $165, if you aren’t part of industry unions. An “Ultra VIP” table for 10, including dinner and “1 bottle,” costs $1,500.

    The event’s Instagram account, @tiffgala, says the “dinner is now sold out.”

    D-Teflon said the price tag covers venue costs and food, and that the company hasn’t made any profit from the weekend affair.

    In an earlier email to the Star, a rep for the Miami-based organizing company Suited LifeStyle Celebrity Events Group wrote that the city gala event is “strictly for toy donations,” but also that guests can make monetary donations if they wish.

    “They must make it directly to the hospitals we choose to deal with and the foundation that we believe in supporting,” the email read. D-Teflon said that, while no monetary donation was required, they’d been dropping off cheques from attendees of their events for years.

    This year’s event listing on Facebook calls it “mandatory” for guests to bring either two toys to donate to Sick Kids or a cheque made out directly to the hospital, with a minimum donation amount of $25.

    Outside of Toronto, the company runs events in the United States, with Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando and Los Angeles Children’s Hospitals listed as toy recipients. The company email said the primary goal was for a million toys to reach the hands of kids, and wasn’t financial gain.

    Bessoudo did confirm that the toys that Sick Kids has received complied with the hospital’s guidelines, which require toys to be new in order to avoid contamination for young patients with compromised immune systems.

    She couldn’t, however, confirm an exact number of toys donated.

    D-Teflon said that after an event last year, they brought “nine SUVs” full of toys to Sick Kids. “Because it’s not money, it’s not good enough for them,” he said.

    The Bond Place Hotel general manager declined to comment on “any information regarding guests or proceedings that may or may not take place at our property.”

    TIFF also confirmed it has no affiliation with the event.


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    OTTAWA—It is billed as a meeting of allies but it may not necessarily be a meeting of minds.

    When British Prime Minister Theresa May, leader of a minority Conservative government, meets Monday in Ottawa with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the global poster boy for liberalism, they’ll hash over issues of international relations, trade, and national security.

    No doubt the two leaders will emerge touting nation-to-nation ties and international cooperation in the face of challenges like climate change and North Korea.

    They’ve met before, on the sidelines of the G7 summit in May in Italy, but have not sat down to hold formal bilateral talks. Both are headed to the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York.

    May (who likes fancy footwear) and Trudeau (who likes fancy socks) are likely to agree on many items: the need to increase high-level government contacts, improvements to digital services delivered by governments and within governments, and the need to deepen economic ties — somehow.

    But they’ll just as likely differ on others: how exactly to further trade, how much to increase internet surveillance to combat terrorism, or how hard to push back against U.S. President Donald Trump’s occasional blasts of bombast.

    May and Trudeau have already found common ground in the past month, in the name of protecting jobs in Canada and Northern Ireland. Canada and Britain united in opposition to American aerospace giant Boeing’s trade challenge of Canadian government support for Bombardier’s C-series passenger jet program. May’s government has lobbied U.S. officials on behalf of Canada’s Bombardier which employs about 5,000 at plant in Belfast.

    However, in a post-Brexit era where the British government is trying to negotiate a clean but advantageous break from the European Union, questions loom about just how far Canada can adopt a business-as-usual approach to Canada-U.K. relations.

    The EU has poured cold water on British proposals to keep customs and trade advantages of that union even after it leaves in March 2019, and Britain is barred by EU law from advancing its trade prospects by negotiating deals with other countries outside of the EU until after it has left.

    Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s lead coordinator on Brexit, mocked the British government for wanting to eat trade cake and have it too. He tweeted: “To be in & out of the Customs Union & ‘invisible borders’ is a fantasy.”

    Canada’s own free trade deal with the European Union, which eliminates barriers to trade in goods, services, labour mobility, investment protection, intellectual property and government procurement, is not yet in effect. Most of its provisions – 98 per cent – come into force Sept. 21. So Trudeau doesn’t want to tick off EU leaders and member states by cozying up to May on trade.

    Still, Britain is Canada’s biggest trading partner in Europe, and third overall in the world after the United States and China. May would like the benefits of CETA to continue, and Ottawa’s admitted it’s had “informal” talks about the future of trade with Britain.

    In the words of a Canadian official, the Trudeau government has a diplomatic “dance” to do when it comes to Britain and any future trade deals May wants to talk about.

    Canada is of course a military ally of the U.K.; both are members along with the U.S., New Zealand and Australia of the so-called “Five Eyes” network that shares security and military intelligence.

    May’s government would like to see fewer obstacles to greater information sharing among its allies, however Canada “is more cautious” on questions of internet privacy rights than the U.K., officials here say, and is likely to resist lifting privacy protections.

    Nor do Canada and the U.K. see eye-to-eye on Canada’s decision to purchase 18 Super Hornet jet fighters until it could finalize a replacement for the aging Canadian fleet of F-18s. They were once among partners of the U.S. in its F-35 joint strike fighter development program. But Trudeau promised in the campaign “We will not buy the F-35 stealth fighter-bomber.” He promised to re-open the competition and his government announced it would buy Boeing’s Super Hornets as an “interim” solution– a move the British government sees as a waste of time, according to a British official.

    (That purchase too is up in the air with Canada now hinting Boeing’s trade complaint about Bombardier threatens to scupper the Super Hornet purchase.)

    In a statement last week to announce May’s visit, Trudeau said they would discuss “issues of mutual interest, including innovation, security, climate change, the importance of trade, and advancing gender equality.”

    “Canada and the U.K. enjoy a deep and enduring relationship, forged by centuries of shared history, traditions, and family ties. I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister May again to build on our economic partnership and set the stage for even closer cooperation and greater opportunities for all of our citizens.”


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    BELLEFONTE, PA.—A son of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky pleaded guilty Friday to charges he pressured a teenage girl to send him naked photos and asked her teen sister to give him oral sex.

    Jeffrey Sandusky’s plea deal comes a week before his trial was slated to begin on the charges, and nearly six years after his father was arrested in a child molestation case that shook Penn State and is still working its way through criminal and civil courts.

    Jeffrey Sandusky pleaded guilty to all 14 counts, including solicitation of statutory sexual assault and solicitation of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

    Read more:

    Former Penn State president sentenced to prison for not reporting Jerry Sandusky

    Penn State: School to pay out nearly $60 million to Sandusky victims

    Ex-Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky jailed at least 30 years for child molesting

    A call seeking comment from his lawyer wasn’t immediately returned Friday.

    As part of the deal, 41-year-old Sandusky will spend up to six years in state prison, but the judge could impose as much as eight years.

    Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said the plea deal ensures the victims don’t suffer additional trauma by testifying at the trial.

    “We are happy that these girls can move forward and experience a life with adults that deserve their trust,” she said.

    One of six adopted children of Jerry Sandusky, Jeffrey Sandusky has been a stalwart supporter of his father, who is serving a lengthy prison sentence for sexual abuse of 10 boys.

    He regularly attended his father’s court proceedings alongside his mother, Dottie Sandusky, who also has consistently supported her husband and fought to clear his name.

    Jeffrey Sandusky, a state prison guard, knew the girls through their mother, authorities said.

    A state trooper said in the arrest affidavit that last November, their father turned over to investigators text messages from Sandusky in which he asked one of the girls for nude photographs.

    The affidavit said Sandusky told the teen in texts from March 2016 that “it’s not weird because he studied medicine” and instructed her “to not show these texts to anyone.”

    The girl’s mother told investigators that when she confronted Sandusky, he told her “he knows it was wrong and inappropriate,” police said.

    The girl told police the texts made her uncomfortable and that “he kept pressuring me and asked me multiple times not to show the texts to anyone,” police said.

    Prosecutors allege Jeffrey Sandusky sought oral sex from the other girl in 2013. She was 15 years old at the time.

    That teen told investigators that Jeffrey Sandusky told her later: “I can’t even say anything except I’m sorry.”


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    Seven Toronto hospitals will share in a donation of $21 million from the BMO Financial Group to support medical research, the bank announced Friday.

    “The gift, to be granted over the next 10years, serves to highlight Toronto and Canada as a global hub and leading centre for medical research and healthcare,” the bank said in a news release.

    The seven hospitals, all affiliated with the University of Toronto’s Medical Faculty, include the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), the Hospital for Sick Children, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital, Sinai Health System, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the Toronto Western Hospital.

    “This is the biggest philanthropic commitment in our company’s 200-year history,” said Bill Downe, CEO of BMO Financial Group.

    “It is truly transformative, and focuses on helping these seven global centres of excellence continue to push the boundaries of medical science.”

    “This level of private sector funding and support for these world-class hospitals is an example of what makes Toronto a leader in research and innovation,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory.

    “We are proud to be home to a growing and diverse talent pool that will continue to elevate Toronto’s standing as a global hub for medical research and patient care, and look forward to the benefits this announcement will have for patients and families in Toronto and abroad.”


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    New Democrats have a decision to make about social democracy.

    As they begin voting Monday for their next federal leader, will they have the “love and courage” to choose a mixed martial arts fighter from Brampton — a politician who relies on jujitsu sloganeering instead of slagging his opponents?

    Or are they too leery of what Jagmeet Singh represents — wary of what the electorate at large will think — to embrace him as an upgraded, updated, unconventional social democrat?

    In the homestretch, Singh has finally emerged as the favourite to finish first — if only New Democrats would stop second-guessing themselves about his suitability, electability and winnability.

    Read more:

    Jagmeet Singh, Charlie Angus showcase support from former NDP leadership rivals

    Caron says he’s the NDP’s best bet to win back Quebec

    Heckler at NDP Jagmeet Singh event demonstrates why minorities are deterred from politics, prof says

    Coming out on top hasn’t come easily for the rookie candidate who so handily out-hustled, out-muscled, out-moneyed and outshone his federal rivals in the public eye. The final vote — staggered over the next few weeks — will say as much about the state of the party as it does the country.

    Is an aging political movement with an outdated fealty to ideology ready to change with the times by embracing a new generation of social democratic fighter?

    Singh doesn’t just look different. He sounds different.

    Never mind that he would be first party leader to wear a turban — attire he couldn’t even wear to work in Quebec if that province enacts its notorious legislation barring public servants from wearing religious symbols.

    Quite apart from his predilection for the colourful turbans, it’s the way he wears his heart on his sleeve — and how he dresses in bespoke suits — that speaks to a personal style unfamiliar to New Democrats more closely identified with hair shirts.

    To his credit, Singh has turned a whispering campaign into a talking point that plays to his advantage.

    His video encounter this month with a raging racist has gone exponentially viral — tens of millions of views and counting — providing earned media that money can’t buy. His subdued performance — suffocating his antagonist with “love,” effectively killing her with kindness — was the kind of trial by fire that few politicians face in the glare of the spotlight.

    Reliving the video during a meeting with the Toronto Star’s editorial board, Singh said he kept his cool to calm the supporters and aides who rushed to his defence. He has spent a lifetime relying on his powers of persuasion instead of his martial arts prowess.

    Now 38, Singh’s youthful visage belies the wisps of grey hair peeking out from under his violet turban during Friday’s visit. Clad in a dapper grey three-piece suit accented by a cream pocket handkerchief (but foregoing socks in his black loafers), he displays the presence and charisma that gave him an uncommonly high profile as deputy leader of Ontario’s NDP.

    He has an unquestioned ability to inspire and disarm. The question is whether he’s willing to be unlikeable and unmoveable when he needs to take an unpopular stand.

    Singh is good at telling people what they want to hear — for example, New Democrats won’t countenance any talk of any pipelines anywhere anytime, most especially during a leadership campaign, and Singh plays along. But leaders must also be tough enough to be unloved, saying what needs to be said.

    I reminded him on Friday of his soft touch over the province’s overheated sex education controversy, when he coddled opponents in his Brampton riding by echoing the demands of socially conservative parents for perpetual consultations, rather than showing leadership as other MPPs did. Singh reverted to his newly discovered message discipline by recasting himself as a sex-ed warrior all along.

    He may be rewriting history here, but at least he has learned his lesson, at last, on the perils of pandering. No one’s perfect, least of all politicians.

    The point is to learn from your mistakes, to embrace the learning curve ahead. The best way to grow your vote is to keep growing as a politician.

    Singh still has rough edges. At our editorial meeting, he couldn’t put a figure on his proposed tax changes.

    He’s no know-it-all. As I’ve written before, perhaps that’s part of his charm at a time when voters are looking beyond polished platforms and prosecutorial demeanours in their opposition leaders.

    By all accounts, he has that ineffable quality of personality that makes up for his sometimes plodding or unpolished performances as a debater. But he is no pushover and, like Justin Trudeau — to whom he is often compared— Singh shouldn’t be underestimated merely because he’s no intellectual show-off nor smartypants politician.

    Is the party ready for a sympatico, turbaned leader who plays ideological politics differently than his traditionally righteous rivals? A Léger poll last month showed many Quebecers reluctant to vote for someone who wears such a religious symbol in the next election.

    Yet Singh is undaunted, noting he has signed up more supporters in Quebec than his rivals, expanding the pool of potential New Democrats beyond the fickle base of Bloc Québécois backers once seduced by the party’s nationalist flirtations. He is expanding the voter pie rather than walking on electoral eggshells.

    Ontario’s Liberals grappled with a similar decision point in 2013, when many delegates openly wondered if the province was open to its first lesbian premier. Kathleen Wynne went on to win the next election, surpassing expectations both electoral and attitudinal at the time.

    The turban, too, could soon be a minor footnote to Canadian political history — if New Democrats have the love and courage to choose the candidate who is head and shoulders above his rivals.

    Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. mcohn@thestar.ca , Twitter: @reggcohn


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    The mayor of Whitchurch-Stouffville asked community members to send in “testimony” detailing the “positive impact” he has made on their lives since he became mayor — ahead of the release of an ethics report into the “CSI-style” wall that was discovered in his office washroom this year.

    In an email sent by his assistant last week, Mayor Justin Altmann disclosed to his supporters, in what appears to be a breach of confidentiality, that he is under investigation by Suzanne Craig, the town’s integrity commissioner, and that she had asked him to solicit testimony about the “positive initiatives that I have enabled and supported since becoming the mayor of our cherished town.”

    But Craig, best known for her efforts to bring transparency and accountability to the city of Vaughan, says all parties are “bound by confidentiality” including keeping secret “all interactions with the integrity commissioner.”

    Read more:

    Here’s who’s on Stouffville mayor’s ‘creepy’ washroom wall of photos

    Stouffville residents raise alarm over ‘CSI-style’ wall

    Whitchurch-Stouffville Mayor Justin Altmann invites entire town to his wedding

    Whitchurch-Stouffville residents 'distressed' amid exodus of town staff

    “The office of the integrity commissioner is bound by rules of confidentiality and cannot discuss an investigation until the report is made public to council to consider her recommendations,” Craig said. “However, the integrity commissioner has clearly stated that in any investigation she conducts, the parties are bound by confidentiality and cannot discuss any part of the investigation or interaction they have with the integrity commissioner until the investigation is brought before council for a decision.”

    According to sources, the mayor received an email from the integrity commissioner after he went public with his request to followers, telling him that he had breached confidentiality.

    Craig’s final report is expected to come to council this month. The report will make recommendations, and the six-member council will decide what action, if any, to take.

    Craig launched an investigation into the mayor this summer after staff found three large murals in Altmann’s office washroom. The murals included large photographs and drawn lines connecting pictures of current and former councillors, staff, and members of the public (including this Toronto Star reporter.)

    The mayor, who has not spoken to the Star about the wall, told local media at the time that the wall was a “mind map” and called it “normal.”

    “I am so happy that I get to tell my story now. I am so happy the integrity commissioner will get to investigate me because I have had no means to tell my story,” he told Metroland Media-York Region in July. “There is nothing criminal on the wall.

    Craig’s investigation was launched after a city staff member complained.

    But in the email sent out to “his support system” by his assistant, Debi Patterson, Altmann asked for support in his “adversity filled journey.”

    “While I have faced many challenges since joining my position as mayor of Whitchurch-Stouffville, I sincerely believe that this challenge has created the greatest opportunity to share not only my personal journey but your personal journey as well under this term of council,” Altmann said in the email obtained by the Star.

    “While it is unfortunate that some have passed judgment without knowing the whole story and many have tried to impede my ability to create the inclusive community that I am trying to foster, it pleases me that this investigation provides an opportunity to compile a list of positive initiatives that I have enabled and supported since becoming the mayor of our cherished town,” he said, adding that Ms. Craig would like to: “review and take into consideration all your personal feedback and experiences.”

    Some took his message to Facebook.

    “Our mayor, Justin Altmann, needs our help. He is being investigated by the integrity commissioner; for reasons of idiocy, rumors, false truths and convoluted drama,” said a post written on a Facebook page called “We love Stouffville” that asked people to send in “their support for Justin.”

    Altmann became one of the GTA’s youngest mayors when he won the Whitchurch-Stouffville seat in 2014.

    When asked if he breached confidentiality, Altmann said he will not provide “any public comments or statements (whether written or verbal) about the investigation” until the matter is over.

    Town councillors hired Craig as integrity commissioner in February to ensure “the codes of behaviour and ethics governing elected public officials are objectively communicated and applied. This is a critical role in maintaining public confidence in Whitchurch-Stouffville’s government,” the website states.

    The following month, council instituted an updated code of conduct.

    According to the complaint protocol available online, the goal of an ethics probe is to determine if an official has breached the code of conduct.

    According to the rules posted on the town website, confidentiality is expected while an investigation is ongoing.

    “The integrity commissioner and every person acting under his or her jurisdiction shall preserve confidentiality where appropriate and where this does not interfere with the course of any investigation,” it says.

    According to sources, Craig’s investigation included interviews with the mayor, staff and councillors. It’s unclear why Altmann asked for his supporters to weigh in.

    Sue Sherban, a former Whitchurch-Stouffville mayor who has become an outspoken critic of the current mayor and council’s actions this term, says she believes Altmann is trying to reduce the impact of the final report.

    “I believe the mayor is trying to create a headwind before the report comes out so that his supporters know that there are other residents who see him in a positive light,” said Sherban, whose picture was also posted on the mayor’s wall. “And to make it seem like what the integrity commissioner has to say (or will say) is one sided.”


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    WAUKESHA, WIS.—A Wisconsin girl who admitted to participating in the stabbing of a classmate to please horror character Slender Man will avoid prison after a jury determined that she was mentally ill at the time of the attack.

    Anissa Weier trembled as the jury’s verdict late Friday was read after a week of testimony and some 11 hours of deliberations. She wasn’t available afterward, but her attorney said Weier was relieved and cried following the verdict.

    “I’m very thankful to the jurors for taking the time to look at what was really going on with her,” Maura McMahon said, her own eyes wet from crying.

    Weier and Morgan Geyser lured classmate Payton Leutner into the woods at a park in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb, in 2014. Geyser stabbed Leutner 19 times while Weier urged her on, according to investigators. A passing bicyclist found Leutner, who barely survived her wounds. All three girls were 12 at the time.

    Both Weier and Geyser told detectives they felt they had to kill Leutner to become Slender Man’s “proxies,” or servants, and protect their families from the demon’s wrath.

    Weier, now 15, pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree intentional homicide in a deal with prosecutors in August. But she claimed she was mentally ill during the attack and not responsible for her actions, in a bid to be sent to a mental institution rather than prison. A plea agreement called for her to spend at least three years in a mental hospital if judged mentally ill, and 10 years in prison if not.

    McMahon said she hopes the case reveals that children may be dealing with mental health issues lost on adults who have become too busy with their own lives to pay attention and resources abound to help them.

    “Life is better for children when adults around them are in communication with each other,” she said.

    Deputy district attorney Ted Szczupakiewicz declined comment. Leutner’s family left the courtroom in silence; a victim witness co-ordinator told reporters the family had no comment.

    Judge Michael Bohren ordered a pre-commitment investigation report on Weier and said he would hold a hearing to decide how long to commit her after the report is completed. He could sentence her more severely than the plea agreement calls for, including up to a 25-year commitment, the same as the maximum prison time she could have received.

    The jury’s verdict came after some 11 hours of deliberations, and about an hour after it had appeared to reach a verdict in Weier’s favour only to see it rejected by Bohren.

    Though that first verdict wasn’t read in court, defence attorney McMahon said 10 of 12 jurors — the minimum required by law — voted Weier was mentally ill. On a second question that jurors had to decide — whether she was criminally responsible for her actions — 10 jurors also voted she was not.

    But it wasn’t the same 10 on both questions, according to McMahon. Bohren ordered the jury to resume deliberations.

    In closing arguments, McMahon told the jury that Weier was lonely, depressed and descended into “madness” that warranted a mental hospital rather than prison.

    McMahon said Weier’s unhappiness stemmed from her parents’ divorce, and she latched onto Geyser.

    Together they became obsessed with Slender Man, developing a condition called shared delusional disorder, McMahon said. Weier believed Slender Man could read her mind as well as teleport and would kill her or her family if she talked about him, she said.

    Slender Man, a fictional creature of the internet, is a paranormal being who lurks near forests and absorbs, kills or carries off his victims. In some accounts, he targets children. Some renderings show him as a long-limbed, lean man in a black suit, with no face; others with tentacles protruding from his back.

    “This sounds crazy, because it is,” McMahon said. “This was a real being to this child and she needed to protect those around her. At 12 years old, she had no way to protect herself from (Slender Man) except for Morgan’s advice and they swirled down into madness together.”

    Szczupakiewicz, the prosecutor, countered during his closings that the stabbing was calculated. He said the girls had planned the attack for at least four months. He asked jurors to consider why if the girls were so afraid of Slender Man they waited so long to attack Leutner.

    He also pointed out that Weier told a detective she wasn’t frightened of Slender Man until after the attack, when Geyser told her she had made a deal with the monster that he would spare their families if they killed Leutner.

    “It comes down to did she have to or did she want to?” Szczupakiewicz said. “It wasn’t kill or be killed. It was a choice and she needs to be held criminally responsible.”

    Weier, bespectacled and dressed in a long grey-and-white cardigan, visibly trembled in her seat during the closings.

    Wisconsin law requires only 10 of 12 jurors to render a verdict on whether a criminal defendant wasn’t responsible for her actions due to a mental condition.

    Geyser has pleaded not guilty to one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide by reason of mental disease or defect. Her trial is set to begin Oct. 9.


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    ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE, ALTA.—An Amber Alert for a three-year-old girl from the Bighorn reserve has been cancelled after she was found safe and unharmed.

    Mounties in Rocky Mountain House, Alta., say their colleagues in nearby Sylvan Lake found the girl in a vehicle within a few hours of the alert being issued.

    They say no charges have been laid and the investigation is ongoing.

    Earlier on Friday night, they issued the alert saying the girl had been reported abducted.

    They said the girl was believed to be in the company of her 35-year-old aunt and possibly a 33-year-old male companion.


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    “Happy Birthday” is not a tune so much as forced misery.

    The most popular song in the English language is also the worst song in the English language. As melodic as the sound of an exploding water balloon and with a repetitive lyrical quatrain that sounds more threatening than celebratory — HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! — this is a song anyone can sing and nobody can make sound good. This “song” is to music as a rickshaw is to space travel.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve belted out “Happy Birthday” as a friend or family member stared sheepishly at the flickering candles on a cake. But what I do know is this aural atrocity never feels festive, personal, tender, thoughtful, fun or natural.

    It feels lazy. It feels like going through the motions.

    As a cultural tradition, we sing “Happy Birthday” for the same reason we say, “God bless you” after someone sneezes: it is expected and there is no alternative.

    Well, it’s time we change this because “Happy Birthday” is now a clear and present danger to civilization. After a legal battle, the song entered the public domain last year and now it’s not just a sonic horror you must endure in private with loved ones. “Happy Birthday” has stormed into TV, film, commercials and every other bubbling crook of pop culture where any fool in a paper hat can sing it as many times as he or she likes without the fear of copyright infringement.

    Remember when put-upon restaurant servers would gather around a flaming cupcake at your table and either clap out a bizarre chant or harmonize a deranged ditty they invented in-house for customer birthdays because they weren’t allowed to sing the real song? It was always a jarring experience: “It’s your birthday today, hurrray! / It’s your birthday today, no way! / Jupiter preserve your soul and for this cupcake we pay — yay!”

    What we didn’t realize at the time was those made-up songs at least required original thought, as did the hasty workarounds Hollywood was forced to deploy whenever a character celebrated a milestone.

    The restrictions on “Happy Birthday” created safeguards we took for granted.

    “Happy Birthday” was tolerable because it was controlled.

    But after this week, in which Netflix decided it wanted in on the “Happy Birthday” crimes against humanity, all I can say is buy some noise-cancelling headphones and dive under the bed because we are pretty much doomed.

    Under the guise of helping parents plan a kiddie birthday party, Netflix commissioned a global survey and then released 15 “Birthday On-Demand” videos. In these two-minute shorts, characters from popular franchises — including Barbie, My Little Pony, Trollhunters, Pokemon and Beat Bugs— serenade your child and assembled party guests with this wretched song, creating the illusion it was “made just for them,” as opposed to “made by Satan.”

    Netflix, how is this helping? The foundation is buckling under the rambunctious force of tween spirits hopped up on sugar and your idea of “taking celebrations to the next level” is to offer 15 new versions of a song that already makes me want to dive off the Bloor Street Viaduct?

    What’s next? Are you going to help pay for my kids’ braces by kicking me in the teeth? Are you going to help my daughters sleep through the night by beaming scenes from the new season of Stranger Things onto their closet doors?

    If you really want to chip in with birthday parties, dispatch an emissary who can help chaperone the little hellions to the trampoline pit or pottery workshop, or whatever offsite destination my wife selected precisely because it had nothing to do with watching a screen.

    This is a generational concern, Netflix. But it’s real. Our kids were born into a world of screens and it can be a challenge to keep them interested in the world beyond those screens. This is why “turn that off” is the new “eat your vegetables.”

    This is especially true for birthday parties, which Netflix’s own research should have uncovered. Instead of asking parents if planning a birthday party is “stressful” — 67 per cent of respondents said it was — why didn’t Netflix ask these same people if they’d enjoy a 30-minute loop of “Happy Birthday” attacks on eyes and ears?

    Answer: because 100 per cent of respondents would have hung up, driven to Netflix headquarters and burned the place to the ground.

    I’m not saying Netflix is evil.

    I’m just saying no good can come from streaming more versions of “Happy Birthday” into a world that is no longer protected from the worst song ever written.

    vmenon@thestar.ca


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    Before the missiles came and destroyed his family’s chocolate factory in Damascus in early 2013, pretty much the only thing Tareq Hadhad knew about Canada was the little he’d picked up from MTV.

    He’d heard of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. He’d heard that Canada was “a nation of diversity.” What the rest of his family — father Isam, mother Shahenaz and four siblings — knew about their future home was the usual.

    It “was the coldest country in the world.”

    Back then, had you mentioned “Antigonish” to Hadhad, he might have responded with the Arabic equivalent of Bless you!

    “I hadn’t heard about Halifax, or Nova Scotia before,” he laughed this week. “So Antigonish was a surprising destination for me. Antigonish is not famous across the world.”

    But what a few years it’s been. And what wonderful ambassadors for Antigonish the Hadhad family has become.

    On Sept. 9, less than two years after landing in Canada — safe haven after three years in a refugee camp in Lebanon — the Syrian family celebrated the opening of a new chocolate factory in the little Nova Scotia university town that took them in.

    The accomplishments of the Hadhads, their gratitude to the locals who helped them and their almost immediate giving back to Canada have already been the subject of a TED talk by Tareq, a documentary about their experience, a speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the United Nations, and earned Tareq an appointment to Invest Nova Scotia, the province’s economic development agency.

    Their extraordinary story began more than 30 years ago, when Isam Hadhad was teaching himself to cook.

    “He came back to the house one night and told my grandmother that he wanted to learn to cook with chocolate,” Tareq explained.

    In the family telling, Isam Hadhad’s inspiration came after attending a wedding.

    “After the celebration he was just like really fascinated that everybody was happy when they were eating chocolate. He looked at the pictures after the wedding and the most happy pictures were the ones with chocolate.”

    His experiments began in the family kitchen.

    Before long, he was a chocolatier of renown, eventually owning the second-largest chocolate company in the Middle East, shipping his products to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and some countries in Europe.

    Then came the war.

    A missile took out the factory. The family lost its home. Tareq and his brother were almost killed in a bombing. They decided it was time to leave Syria.

    They reckoned on travelling to Lebanon, waiting for things to calm down. They expected the war to end and to return home in a month.

    The universe had other plans.

    For three years, the family — but for one sister who was trapped in Syria when the borders closed, and remains there — was mired in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

    “It was really a terrible time,” Tareq, now 26, told the Star. Their challenge became mere survival and keeping the family intact.

    What the Hadhads had no way of knowing was that in Nova Scotia, the warmest possible welcome was already being arranged in a new home they had no idea was waiting.

    Lucille Harper works for the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre. By 2015, she told the Star, local residents decided they wanted to help displaced Syrian families.

    “There was a group of us got together and said, OK, surely we can sponsor a family.”

    They formed a group called Syria Antigonish Families Embrace, or SAFE, and applied to bring a family.

    Sean Fraser, Liberal MP for Central Nova, said the commitment during the 2015 election campaign by Justin Trudeau to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees initially concerned many of his constituents.

    “I spoke with hundreds, maybe even thousands of constituents who had mixed feelings,” he told the Star. “Any trepidation was really based out of fear; fear for security, fear for the economy, whether people would take their jobs, or fear that the community wouldn’t quite be the same.”

    Fraser said he told them the refugees “are going to change our community, but for the better.”

    At any rate, SAFE got word that a Syrian family was coming in 2016.

    “We didn’t know who was coming,” said Lucille Harper. “We just knew that a family was coming.”

    Tareq Hadhad — who speaks English and represents the family — arrived first in Antigonish, just before Christmas 2015. (He found himself playing in a boxing-day ball hockey game that’s apparently a local tradition.) Two weeks later, his family followed.

    “When Tareq arrived we were delighted,” Harper said. “As the rest of the family came, we learned a little bit more about what they had been doing.

    “We found that in Syria they had a chocolate factory. And we thought, ‘Well, that sounds good for Antigonish!’ ”

    The welcome the Hadhads received was both extraordinary and entirely typical of the greetings that the Syrians arriving in Canada received all across the country.

    The locals found housing. Antigonish is fortunate that as a university town with a hospital there were resources not always available in smaller rural towns.

    Retired teachers stepped up to help the newcomers learn English and settle in school. Health-care workers helped the refugees get health cards, find doctors and dentists and to line up initial checkups.

    The women’s centre had a settlement worker who helped with paperwork. Some rounded up winter clothes. Others made the trip to Halifax to get Syrian foods.

    “The community really wrapped themselves around the Hadhads,” Harper said.

    Then there was serendipity.

    Frank Gallant and his family made a rental house available to the Hadhads at reasonable cost. And as it happened, a Gallant daughter was raising money for university by selling chocolates at local farmers’ markets.

    “Frank knew where to find chocolate and knew where to find equipment for chocolate,” Harper said.

    And, for the second time, Isam Hadhad went to work building a chocolate factory.

    He started, as he did in Damascus, in his kitchen. Soon, Shahenaz insisted he work in the basement. He started selling at local markets. And before long, local carpenters, plumbers and electricians pitched in to build him a small shed as a “factory.”

    When the prime minister told their story at the UN, the business boomed. And last week, the Hadhads opened their new factory in a plant leased by the Sobeys supermarket chain, which is carrying their products.

    Their company is called Peace by Chocolate.

    From their arrival, the Hadhads have been eager to give back, Harper said.

    When Fort McMurray, Alta., was evacuated last year because of wildfire they donated money to victims there because “they knew what loss meant.”

    “They want to be employers here. They want to help their community. In every box of chocolate there’s a little card talking about Antigonish, welcoming people to come visit.”

    Tareq “has been such a great ambassador for the family, and the community, and the whole Syrian cause in many ways,” she said.

    “They have just integrated well, but also taken up Antigonish as a community of their heart that they want to promote.”

    Mayor Laurie Boucher told the Star the experience “really gave the community a sense of what they can do.” It also inspired creation of the sort of ongoing supports for future newcomers, immigrants on whom Canada will rely for future population growth.

    “We need as many as we can, for sure,” she said. “Getting them here is one thing, but then keeping them, especially in a small rural town like Antigonish, to be able to deliver the services that they need is another.”

    In all, it may be that Antigonish hasn’t been mentioned so often in media across Canada since former prime minister Brian Mulroney regularly sang its praises as the launching pad for his career. (He’ll be in town Sept. 20 for the sod-turning for the Mulroney Institute of Government building, named in his honour.)

    And it may also be that Atlantic Canada hasn’t been as synonymous with chocolate since the Ganongs set up in St. Stephen, N.B.

    Harper said there are now several Syrian families in Antigonish, with the fourth family sponsored by SAFE scheduled to arrive Sept. 21.

    She delights in telling of other success stories among the newcomers.

    Majd al Zhouri was 19, when his family arrived. Because of the war, he had to leave school at 15, then work in Lebanon to help support his family.

    “So he came here with a Grade 9 education and in a year and a half learned English, completed high school and got accepted in an engineering program at Saint F.X. (St. Francis Xavier University).”

    And al Zhouri’s accomplishment doesn’t stop there. As part of learning English, he began to write his story. A friend helped him turn it into a one-act play, titled To Eat an Almond, a story about fleeing the war.

    When al Zhouri, now 21, first performed it, “everyone was in tears at the end,” Harper said.

    The learning continues, and it works both ways.

    “Now, the community in Antigonish gets invited to celebrate Eid with the families,” Harper said. “So we’re learning more about the whole Islamic faith, and the celebrations and what they mean and the sharing of food. And the families, they’re just incredibly generous.

    As for Tareq Hadhad, who laughs easily and often, he knows a lot more about Canada now than he did just a few years ago.

    “There’s is so much about this country more than just the weather.”


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    A series of Star stories has raised questions about how Metrolinx, an arms-length agency of the provincial government, approved a new GO Transit station in the transportation minister’s riding last year, despite internal reports that suggested it shouldn’t be built.

    Today we take a closer look at the Kirby GO station:

    What is the Kirby project?

    Located in an area largely surrounded by natural spaces and farmland in the City of Vaughan, Kirby would cost an estimated $100 million to build. The site is roughly 10 kilometres north of the Toronto border on GO’s Barrie line, in Liberal Minister Steven Del Duca’s riding of Vaughan.

    Why is Metrolinx building new GO stations?

    As part of a $13.5-billion expansion of the GO Transit network, known as regional express rail (RER), Metrolinx plans to quadruple the number of GO trips in the region by 2025.

    Metrolinx is adding new stations as part of this major expansion. The number and location of the stops is crucial to the success of RER; each new station gives a community greater access to transit, but also increases travel times by forcing trains to stop more often. Longer trips could discourage some people from using GO.

    What did the analysis of Kirby find?

    An initial business case study Metrolinx commissioned concluded that building Kirby would have negative effects on the region; it could increase car traffic, reduce the number of people taking transit, and create more greenhouse gas.

    Residential development is slated for the area next to the station, and, by 2031, the projected density could meet the low end of the range to justify a regional rail station, the business case found. But opportunities to add more homes and businesses around the site are limited because the surrounding lands are either outside the city’s urban boundary, occupied by low-density housing, used for agriculture, or lie in the protected Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt.

    By 2031, roughly 5,100 trips would be made to and from the stop every day. But most of those would not be new riders. More than half would be people who already use the Maple and King City GO stations, which are both about 3.5 kilometres away.

    Meanwhile, the time delay caused by Kirby would induce roughly 3 per cent of “upstream” riders on the Barrie line to take their cars, instead, leading to an overall net loss of 188 riders per day.

    “The potential benefits generated by a new station are insufficient to offset the potential negative impact on upstream riders,” concluded a June 2016 draft of the business case.

    “Overall, the (business case) found that a Kirby Station does not meet many of Metrolinx objectives for a new station.”

    A June 2016 summary report of business cases for all the shortlisted RER stops ranked Kirby last out of seven potential new stations on the Barrie line, and determined it “should not be considered further during the next 10 years.”

    How was Kirby approved?

    On June 15, 2016, the Metrolinx board met in private and endorsed 10 new GO stops. Informed of the station analyses, they decided not to go ahead with Kirby.

    The next day, Del Duca’s ministry sent Metrolinx draft press releases that showed the minister intended to publicly announce that stations the board hadn’t approved were going ahead. They included Kirby and Lawrence East, a Scarborough station that is part of Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” plan.

    Metrolinx officials were shocked by the press releases, and initially pushed back against the ministry. However, days later then-CEO of Metrolinx Bruce McCauig sent staff a “proposed revision” to Metrolinx’s recommendations to the board. They now recommended Kirby and Lawrence East should be built.

    The board met in public on June 28 and approved the new list of 12 stations, including Kirby and Lawrence East.

    What was the public told about how Kirby was approved?

    Very little. Metrolinx didn’t publicly acknowledge the private meeting at which the board decided not to proceed with Kirby. Results of the analysis of all the proposed new RER stations, which cost the public about $1 million, were delayed or never released at all.

    Metrolinx didn’t publish business cases for any of the potential new stations until almost nine months after the vote. The agency never released the summary report that recommended Kirby not be considered for another decade. Details of how the stations were approved were uncovered last month through a freedom of information request filed by the Star.

    What have Metrolinx and Minister Del Duca said about Kirby?

    Both Metrolinx and Del Duca say that the business cases are meant to be just one factor in the approval process, which also includes consultation with local communities and collaboration between the ministry and Metrolinx.

    Del Duca has said he provided “input” on Metrolinx’s decision, and suggested that while reports found Kirby wouldn’t attract sufficient riders, the station is still justified now because he believes it will eventually have enough demand. “As we have learned, building after-the-fact is almost always more expensive and more disruptive, and leads to more regional gridlock in the interim,” he said in a statement last month.

    The minister has responded to accusations that he wanted the station to be approved in order to win votes by pointing out that he plans to run in a different riding in next year’s election.

    Metrolinx officials and the minister have declined to answer questions about whether Del Duca’s ministry improperly interfered with the approval process by pressuring the board into changing its decision. This week, the minister said he wasn’t interested in the “historical details” of how the station was approved.

    Neither Metrolinx nor the ministry has produced a detailed report that shows Kirby would have positive effect on the GO network.

    What’s next?

    Metrolinx board chair Rob Prichard has ordered a “thorough and comprehensive” review to determine whether Kirby and Lawrence East should be built. Both Prichard and Del Duca have said Metrolinx won’t proceed with the stations unless the additional analysis finds they’re justified.

    However, the review will not examine the role political influence played in the stations’ approval.

    On Thursday, Metrolinx said that, from now on, it will publish business-case studies for projects before they go to a vote, and will post the minutes of closed-door board meetings.

    An opposition MPP and a transit advocacy group have asked the provincial auditor general to investigate whether Kirby and Lawrence East are a good use of public funds.

    Metrolinx plans to enter into contracts for new RER stations next spring.


    0 0


    LONDON—British police made a “significant” arrest in the urgent manhunt for suspects a day after the London subway blast that injured more than two dozen people, authorities said Saturday.

    Police said that an 18-year-old man was arrested by Kent police in the port of Dover on the English Channel. He is being questioned under the Terrorism Act. Dover is a major ferry port for travel between Britain and France.

    “We have made a significant arrest in our investigation this morning,” Deputy assistant police commissioner Neil Basu said. But he warned that the investigation was ongoing and the terrorist threat level remains at “critical,” meaning a government task force that includes the security services believes another attack is imminent.

    Basu’s comments suggested that other dangerous suspects may still be at large.

    The 18-year-old suspect hasn’t been charged or identified. Police say he will be brought to a south London police station for more questioning. Police haven’t said if he is suspected of planting the bomb or if he played a supporting role in a possible plot.

    Authorities had increased the terrorism threat level to “critical” late Friday, after a bomb partially exploded during the morning rush hour.

    Police are combing through closed-circuit TV images and have extensively studied the remains of the device without giving details about it. But images from inside the subway car after the blast showed that the device was contained in a bucket with wires hanging out of it and that it was concealed in a plastic shopping bag.

    The train hit by the bomber at Parsons Green station in southwest London had video cameras in each car, and the London Underground network has thousands of cameras at the entrances to stations and along the labyrinth of subterranean and aboveground passageways leading from the entryway to the trains.

    Officials have hinted there may be more than one person involved, but haven’t released details in what is termed an ongoing and covert inquiry.

    Prime Minister Theresa May said raising the threat level to its highest point was a “proportionate and sensible step.” Police called on the public to be vigilant.

    The soldiers will add to the armed police presence Saturday at public places to deter attacks after the Friday morning rush-hour blast on a District Line train. No arrests have been made. The explosion and an ensuing stampede at the station injured 29 people. None of the injuries, some of them burns, were believed to be life-threatening.

    The bomb went off around 8:20 a.m. Friday as the train, carrying commuters from the suburbs — including many school children — was at Parsons Green station.

    The station was reopened Saturday, officials said, restoring some normalcy to London’s transport network after a day of severe disruption. There was no sign of panic among Londoners and the weekend life of the city continued undeterred by the raised threat level.

    Officials said the bomb was intended to do grave harm to commuters. Analysts said the injuries would have been far worse had the entire device exploded.

    “They were really lucky with this one. It could have really become much worse,” said terrorism specialist Magnus Ranstorp of the Swedish Defence University.

    Daesh, also known as the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said was carried out by an affiliated unit.

    Britain has endured four other attacks this year, which have killed a total of 36 people. The other attacks in London — near Parliament, on London Bridge and near a mosque in Finsbury Park in north London — used vehicles and knives.

    In addition, a suicide bomber struck a packed concert hall in Manchester in northern England, killing 22 people. That attack in May also briefly caused the threat level to be set at “critical.”


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