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- 09/30/17--14:15: _Invictus Games an a...
- 10/01/17--07:30: _2 women killed, ass...
- 09/30/17--18:16: _Sober in the 6ix an...
- 09/30/17--15:20: _NDP leadership race...
- 10/01/17--03:00: _Metrolinx finally r...
- 09/30/17--19:42: _‘Shoulder to should...
- 10/01/17--05:50: _O.J. Simpson freed ...
- 10/01/17--06:25: _Two men dead after ...
- 10/01/17--06:34: _More than 450 injur...
- 10/01/17--03:00: _That rotten stench ...
- 10/01/17--05:33: _Trudeau calls cop s...
- 10/01/17--09:53: _Ontario considers b...
- 10/01/17--15:05: _In the wake of Hurr...
- 10/01/17--11:34: _A snowstorm shut do...
- 10/01/17--13:37: _Highway of Tears ne...
- 10/01/17--11:10: _Trump calls his Pue...
- 10/01/17--12:37: _Jagmeet Singh wins ...
- 10/01/17--20:29: _Elderly couple dead...
- 10/01/17--17:20: _Toronto bars, music...
- 10/01/17--17:19: _Woodbine bike lanes...
- 09/30/17--14:15: Invictus Games an awe-inspiring pleasure: Keenan
- 09/30/17--18:16: Sober in the 6ix and happy to tell the tale for Recovery Day in T.O.
- 09/30/17--15:20: NDP leadership race nears the end — maybe
- 10/01/17--03:00: Metrolinx finally releases report on controversial GO stations
- 10/01/17--09:53: Ontario considers ban on sending organic waste to landfills
- 10/01/17--15:05: In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans help one another
- 10/01/17--13:37: Highway of Tears needs better public transit, community members say
- 10/01/17--11:10: Trump calls his Puerto Rico critics ‘ingrates’
- 10/01/17--12:37: Jagmeet Singh wins the NDP leadership race
If there’s a single image that sticks out in my mind from the 2017 Invictus Games our city has played host to from the past week, it’s from Tuesday evening, Sept. 26: Prince Harry on one knee before triple amputee Mark Ormrod, who lost both legs and an arm fighting in Afghanistan with the U.K. Royal Marine Commandos, presenting him with a silver medal for his rowing performance at the games.
That moment seems to sum something up about these games as we’ve experienced them. The glamour and good humour of the prince, of course, which have entranced photographers from around the world throughout the event he’s hosted here. The pure joyful jubilance on Ormrod’s face after his performance. The moment of recognition of his accomplishment — a physical feat achieved a decade after losing his limbs to an explosive device. And, of course, the plain symbolism of Harry, a member of the Royal Family before whom we might typically expect others to bow or bend the knee or show deference, genuflecting before Ormrod in gratitude and congratulation.
It was an “honour” for the prince, said a statement from Kensington Palace. Well said.
It has been an honour. An honour for our city to witness and be a part of these games.
Prince Harry might have provided the glitz that drew our attention, but it has been the athletes who have rewarded that attention, awed us with their performances, drawn our admiration.
Like Kelly Scanlan, who came home to Canada with an injured leg and a post-traumatic stress injury after serving in Afghanistan, and told us how training for and participating in the games made a “huge change” in her life. “We can look at each other and know that every single one of us had to fight some battle to get from where we were to where we are now,” Scanlan said.
Or like transgender athlete Aaron Stewart, a former American soldier competing in his third Invictus Games, but his first as a man — reflecting, as a games spokesperson said, that everyone is welcome.
Or retired Canadian corporal Michael Clarke, left paralyzed by a motorcycle accident, winning four medals.
So many stories — a story for each of the 550 competitors from 17 countries, each of them a wounded war veteran now competing in adaptive events here. Each of them inspiring a small jolt of admiration.
Some of them win gold medals, silver medals, bronze medals. But all of them are awarded a medallion to recognize their participation. And you won’t hear any complaints about any coddled “everyone gets a trophy” attitude around here. This is an event where how the competitors play the game really is the most important, and admirable, part. It is the reason for the games’ existence — giving them a chance to represent their countries in uniform again, a goal to focus on, a reason to focus on physical, emotional, and mental rehabilitation. It has been our honour to get to know them.
And a pleasure, it must be said.
These games have brought us the kind of fun that fills entertainment magazines: Prince Harry and his girlfriend Meghan Markle’s first public appearance, performances by musical troubadour headliners both new (Brampton’s Alessia Cara at the opening ceremony) and older (New Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen at the closing ceremony), more reasons to celebrate in Nathan Phillips Square and host some big rollicking parties.
But these games also brought us the pleasure of the sports themselves, in venues across the city. The startling speed of sitting volleyball, the thunderous action of wheelchair rugby, the awe-inspiring prosthetics of the track events, the blur of hand-propelled bicycles — from the old Maple Leaf Gardens to Fort York, from the Pan Am Centre in Scarborough to York University in North York, many of us have been introduced to these adaptive sports for the first time. And many of us may be embarrassed to find ourselves surprised at how exciting they are to watch.
This is only the third Invictus Games. Those of us who’ve seen them up close can only hope they become a long and storied tradition, and be glad we got the opportunity to have them in our city.
An honour and a pleasure: that sums up Toronto’s experience of hosting the Invictus Games. We can only bend our knee to the athletes who participated and thank them, and hope they enjoyed the games half as much as we did.
Edward Keenan writes on city issues firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow: @thekeenanwire
Invictus Games an awe-inspiring pleasure: Keenan
MARSEILLE, FRANCE—A man with a knife attacked people at the main train station in the southeastern French city of Marseille on Sunday, killing two women before soldiers fatally shot the assailant, officials said.
French police warned people to avoid Saint Charles train station, tweeting that an operation was underway. Soldiers and police took up positions outside the station, which was evacuated.
Three police officials said one woman was stabbed to death. Two of the officials said the other woman’s throat was slit. The assailant was shot dead by soldiers who were patrolling the station. The officials were speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the operation.
Paris prosecutor’s office said that a counterterrorism investigation has been opened. No further details were immediately given, including the motive for the attack.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb tweeted that he would travel to the scene.
About 7,000 French soldiers patrol major tourist sites, places of worship, train stations and airports across France. The so-called Sentinelle Operation has been in place since deadly extremist attacks in France in 2015.
Earlier this month, four American college students were attacked with acid at the same train station in Marseille. At the time, French authorities said the assailant was suffering from a mental illness and it was not investigated as a terror attack.
2 women killed, assailant shot dead in knife attack at French train station
Lisa Simone knows that, for the addicted, the bottom can be a hard, cold, lonely place — a crushing moment of inescapable truth about a life going to hell.
She also knows that, as painful as that is, the alternative is worse.
The Calgary native started using alcohol and drugs at 13. Seventeen years ago, she woke up in Houston, where she was living, to find her first husband dead of a drug overdose.
She was 26 and also addicted. Her son was 2.
“It didn’t get me sober,” she told the Star on Saturday at the annual Recovery Day celebration at David Pecaut Square. “It broke my soul.”
Inexplicably to the unaddicted, the capacity of addicts to keep using alcohol or drugs in the face of the worst kind of trauma, or the most overwhelming evidence of the harm being done, is almost limitless.
So Simone carried on. Until she couldn’t any longer.
She had gone home to Calgary. She remarried, blended families, and found herself parenting four children. She tried to get clean.
She attended 12-step meetings, stayed sober for two years, but began drinking again. She started using opioids.
“For those of us in addiction, none of us thinks it’s going to happen to us,” she said. “Until it does.”
The pain and self-loathing got worse.
Until, through the haze of a dozen pills and as many beers a day, came one of those moments of surrender and clarity.
On Aug. 20, Simone celebrated eight years clean and sober. She now lives in Chippewa, Ont., with her husband and family. She works in recovery.
Still, that doesn’t promise a life free of pain and challenge. Sobriety offers only the chance to cope, with some courage and dignity, with whatever comes one’s way.
This summer, Lisa Simone got blindsided again. Two days before her sobriety anniversary, she held a memorial service for her brother.
Scott Williams died in August of an opioid overdose in Calgary. His mother had found his body several days after his death.
Williams was an educated professional, a husband and father. Like most battling addiction, Simone said, he was a far cry from the caricature many have of addicts as irredeemably down and out, reeking, raving and living under bridges.
“Seventy-five per of alcoholics have a job,” she said. And even those on skid row are “somebody’s son, or brother, someone’s father. They’re loved by someone.”
Scott Williams should have been celebrating his 46th birthday on Saturday. Instead, his sister was — by “making my mess my message” — serving as a walking, talking example of hope to addicts and alcoholics.
Under sunny skies at Pecaut Square, with music, performance and stories of recovery, Simone helped celebrate “Sober in the 6ix.”
“My brother never reached out for help,” she said. “I think he found it incredibly hard to ask for help. It’s the only disease that tells you you don’t have it.”
And in her little family — her only sibling gone — was the story of addiction writ large, she said.
“One dies, one lives.”
Who can say why?
Five years ago, Simone and Annie McCullough started a national non-profit called Faces and Voices Recovery Canada in hopes of reducing the shame and stigma around addiction.
Around the same time, McCullough helped found Recovery Day, which this year was held in 36 municipalities across the country.
To Simone, the opioid crisis has made awareness even more important.
While the axiomatic destination of alcoholics is “jails, institutions or death,” opioids leave fewer options and deliver a quicker and more certain end.
“It’s only a matter of time,” she said. “It’s only death.”
Simone began her career in recovery counselling with Fresh Start Recovery Centre in Calgary, and now runs a satellite office in Chippewa.
Though alternating between tears and laughter in an interview with the Star on Saturday, she glowed with well-being and purpose.
“Recovery is happy, joyous and it’s free,” she said.
“I woke up two mornings ago, and my husband’s beside me and my dog’s beside me and the window’s open and in Chippewa you can hear the crickets.
“And I wanted to weep for how grateful I was and how much I love my life.”
Sober in the 6ix and happy to tell the tale for Recovery Day in T.O.
The race to be leader of the New Democratic Party has rumbled down a long road since it quietly kicked off in January. There have been twists, but the course of the contest has generally followed a familiar route. Candidates came, candidates dropped out, policies were debated, French proficiency was scrutinized, and reporters speculated about who would win and by how much.
Now, finally, it is coming to an end.
Party members have been voting by mail and online since Sept. 18. On Sunday, the fruits of that effort will be revealed at a hotel on the Toronto waterfront. Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Guy Caron or Jagmeet Singh may become leader.
Or we may have to wait another week or two to find out who wins.
Chalk it up to the voting process installed by the party for the contest to replace Tom Mulcair as federal leader.
The NDP is voting by ranked ballot, which means each member will rank the candidates in order of preference from one to four. To win, a candidate must have the support of at least 50 per cent of voters. If nobody hits that threshold in the results unveiled Sunday, the fourth-place candidate will be eliminated, and voting will reopen Monday for a second ballot.
That process will repeat until somebody wins 50 per cent plus one vote.
The campaign, in part, has been a referendum on what went wrong in 2015, when hopes of forming government were dashed by Trudeau’s Liberals, and the NDP was relegated back to its traditional slot as a third-place party. The result was deflating for the party and its supporters given the massive success of the Orange Wave in the 2011 election, when the late Jack Layton led the NDP to its historic zenith: 103 seats and status as the official Opposition in the House of Commons.
Each candidate in this race has presented a different version of how to get back to that level of success. Ashton has argued the key is to veer left and win youthful voters who were seduced by the Liberals in 2015. Angus says the NDP became too cautious and bureaucratic, and believes it needs to reconnect with its grassroots base to regain the trust of working people.
Caron, a Quebec MP and economist by training, has pitched himself as the man with the policy chops who can bring in the most Quebec seats, thus preserving the 59-seat beachhead from the 2011 election that was reduced to 16 seats in 2015.
And then there is Jagmeet Singh, the perceived front-runner. His campaign boasts that it brought 47,000 people into the NDP during the leadership race. He has also raised more money than his opponents. The Ontario MPP from Brampton blatantly asserts he will win the race, and has said he is best positioned to expand party ranks by bringing in new members from areas — such as his suburban GTA enclave — where the NDP has traditionally been sidelined.
Karl Belanger, a former close adviser to Layton and Mulcair, said in a recent interview that each candidate has tried to frame their campaign around their “genuine” personality strengths.
He pointed out that the NDP — and its socialist precursor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation — has never shrunk its seat count in consecutive national elections.
“Ultimately winning is what this is all about,” he said. “That is something that is obvious to me.”
Whether that’s possible against Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party remains to be seen. But David Coletto, a political observer and CEO of Abacus Data in Ottawa, said his firm’s polling shows it is at least possible.
Yes, the NDP has fallen from its historic heights under Layton and Mulcair, but many Canadians seem willing to countenance the idea of voting for the social-democratic party.
“You look at the fundamentals and it says to me the NDP is down, but I don’t think they’re out,” Coletto said.
Speaking to reporters outside the House of Commons last week, in what may be one of his last interactions with the media before his successor is announced, Mulcair praised all four candidates in the race.
“I’m expecting us all to pull together and make sure that we support (the next leader) in everything they do, because whatever else happened in the last campaign, we’ve got 44 outstanding Members of Parliament now, really bringing the fight to the Trudeau Liberals,” he said.
Sunday’s first ballot event begins in Toronto at 2:30 p.m.
NDP leadership race nears the end — maybe
Fifteen months after Metrolinx approved two controversial new GO Transit stations, the agency has released the internal report that recommended against building the stops.
The study, which was prepared by consultants, ranked new stations Metrolinx considered for addition to the GO network last year.
As the Star previously reported, it determined Kirby and Lawrence East stations shouldn’t be considered for another decade. Despite that evidence, the Metrolinx board voted in June 2016 to proceed with the stops.
Kirby is in the Vaughan riding of Liberal MPP and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, and Lawrence East in Scarborough is part of Mayor John Tory’s “SmartTrack” plan. Internal documents show the board initially decided not to support the stations, but changed course after being pressured by Del Duca’s ministry.
A draft version of the report was leaked to the Star in June, but on Friday the agency posted it on its website, making the analysis public for the first time.
Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins confirmed board members, who are appointed on the recommendation of the minister, were provided with a draft of the report before the vote “to aid with their decision making.”
Although the version the board saw was not substantially different from the one posted Friday, Aikins said Metrolinx didn’t make the report public until now because it “was a work in progress and needed revisions before it was considered final.”
The report’s conclusions and data weren’t altered, according to Aikins. Instead “the revisions focused on grammar changes, readability and factual errors or overstatements.”
Ontario PC transportation critic Michael Harris said it shouldn’t have taken so long for Metrolinx to make those revisions. He argued the report should have been ready to publish at the time of the vote.
“I would hope that when a board like Metrolinx is about to render a decision on hundreds and millions of dollars worth of taxpayers’ money, that they would have a report that contained all of the facts, and that would be in its final form,” he said.
Kirby would cost an estimated $100 million to build, while Lawrence East is expected to cost $23 million. They were among 12 new stations the board approved as part of Metrolinx’s $13.5-billion regional express rail expansion program.
Harris, who represents Kitchener-Conestoga, said if the report had been published before the vote, Metrolinx would have had to explain to the public why it was rejecting analysis it had commissioned.
“I still don’t think we’ve had that explanation yet from Metrolinx or the minister on why the decision was made, other than political interference,” he said.
As a result of the Star’s ongoing investigation into the station approval process, Metrolinx said earlier this month that from now on it will publish reports about projects before they are put to a vote.
The report released Friday was prepared by the AECOM engineering firm. It analyzed the business cases for 24 proposed stations and ranked them from best to lowest performing.
Criteria used to rank the stops included whether stations would provide benefits that exceeded their costs, meet strategic objectives, contribute to the overall fit of the network, and allow GO to maintain rapid express rail service.
The report also considered how certain “sensitivity scenarios” — including the proposed redevelopment of the Unilever site and allowing passengers to board at Toronto stops for the same price as a TTC fare — would impact stations’ performance.
After being put through the analysis, Kirby ranked last out of seven potential new stations on GO’s Barrie line. Although the Metrolinx board approved Kirby, it rejected two stations that ranked above it, St. Clair West and Highway 7 Concord.
Lawrence East ranked fourth out of five proposed stops on the Stouffville line. The three stops ahead of it were also approved.
Emails obtained by the Star show that in June 2016, the Metrolinx board met in private and approved a list of 10 stations that didn’t include Kirby or Lawrence East. The following day, Del Duca’s ministry sent the agency news releases showing he planned to announce stops the board hadn’t supported. Twelve days later the board reconvened in public and voted to approve Kirby and Lawrence East.
Del Duca has said he provided “input” into the station approval process, but has declined to answer specific questions about his role, dismissing the events as “historical details.”
He has said he believes “several significant residential and employment developments” planned around the Kirby site will justify a new GO station there.
Earlier this month Metrolinx announced it would review the two stations, and the agency and Del Duca have both stated neither will be built if the additional analysis doesn’t support them. The review is expected to be completed by February. It will not examine the role political interference played in the approval process.
On Wednesday, the all-party public accounts committee at Queen’s Park voted to ask the auditor general to perform a “value-for-money” audit of Kirby and Lawrence East. She is expected to include the review in her 2018 annual report, which will be released around November.
Metrolinx finally releases report on controversial GO stations
It was a week of hard fought competition, inspiring displays of strength, and for many, an important milestone in a challenging road to recovery.
As the 2017 Invictus Games drew to a close Saturday evening, families, dignitaries and hundreds of spectators gathered to celebrate the triumph of the 550 wounded service people and veterans who travelled from 17 countries to compete over the past week.
“Right now, you’re on a high — at the summit of a mountain many of you thought was too high to climb,” said Prince Harry.
“You have done it. This is the moment, right here, right now, shoulder to shoulder: You are Invictus.”
It’s a sentiment that echoed throughout the evening.
“The road here was not easy for any of you, but you were determined to take it,” said Premier Kathleen Wynne. “You proved something to all of us.”
“You showed us what it means to be unconquered,” said Michael Burns, the CEO of the Toronto games.
Saturday’s closing ceremonies, which featured performances by Bruce Springsteen, Bachman and Turner, Bryan Adams, and Kelly Clarkson were a fitting tribute to the competitors.
After a week of pushing to their limits, Invictus athletes, who filled the floor seats of the Air Canada Centre, clapped and stomped and sang along as the Boss belted “You can’t start a fire, you can’t start a fire without a spark.”
Later the crowd happily shared lead vocals with Bryan Adams as he rocked “Summer of ’69.”
But nothing’s better than two rock icons sharing the stage singing Adams’ “Cuts Like a Knife” and Springsteen’s “Badlands.”
Inspired by his own military service to advocate for service people, Prince Harry founded the Invictus Games as a way to help those wounded in war with their recovery. Harry served in Afghanistan in 2008 and in the early 2010s.
Invictus, which means “unconquered” in Latin, is an ode to a poem of the same name by British poet William Ernest Henley, whose leg was amputated below the knee after he became ill with bone tuberculosis.
Over the course of the nine-day event athletes from around the world — including 90 from Canada — competed in 12 sports, among them archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and land rover driving challenges.
Founded with an eye to rehabilitation, the games are about much more than winning, Harry said.
“They’re about the journey that you and your families have made to the start line,” he told the competitors.
It was an understanding that created a unique spirit of camaraderie among competitors.
“It’s the first games I saw that you cheer more for the person that finishes last than first,” Maj. Simon Mailloux, co-captain of the Canadian team, told the Star.
“You know they went through a lot just to be there.”
As the 2017 games came to close, Harry challenged the competitors, families, and spectators to carry the Invictus spirit with them.
“Let the examples of service and resilience that you have seen, inspire you to take action to improve something — big or small — in your life, for your family, or in your community,” he said.
“Let’s create a ripple effect of the Invictus spirit across our nations, that will be the real legacy of this extraordinary week.”
With files from Kerry Gillespie, Jaren Kerr and Victoria Gibson
‘Shoulder to shoulder — you are Invictus,’ Prince Harry tells athletes at closing ceremonies
LAS VEGAS, NEV.—Former football legend O.J. Simpson became a free man Sunday after serving nine years for a botched hotel room heist that brought the conviction and prison time he avoided after his 1995 acquittal in the killings of his ex-wife and her friend.
Simpson was released at 12:08 a.m. PDT from Lovelock Correctional Center in northern Nevada, state prisons spokesperson Brooke Keast told The Associated Press. She said she didn’t know immediately where Simpson was headed in his first hours of freedom, adding an unidentified driver met him and took him to an undisclosed location.
“I don’t have any information on where he’s going,” said Keast, who watched Simpson in blue jeans, denim jacket and ball cap signing documents before his release. Her department released a brief video on social media of Simpson being told to “come on out” by a prison staffer. He responded “OK,” walked through an open door, and the video then cut to a nighttime street — apparently the prison exterior.
Tom Scotto, a Simpson friend who lives in Naples, Fla., said by text message that he was with Simpson after his release. Scotto didn’t respond to questions about where they were going or whether Simpson’s sister, Shirley Baker of Sacramento, California, or his daughter, Arnelle Simpson of Fresno, California, were with him.
The three had attended Simpson’s parole hearing in July at the same prison where Simpson spent his prison term and was released just minutes into the first day a parole board set for his possible release.
Simpson has said he wanted to move back to Florida, where he lived before his armed robbery conviction in Las Vegas in a September 2007 confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers. But Florida prison officials said documents weren’t filed, and the state attorney general says she doesn’t want Simpson to live in the state.
Neither Simpson’s attorney, Malcolm LaVergne in Las Vegas, nor state Parole and Probation Capt. Shawn Arruti, who has been handling Simpson’s case, immediately responded to messages.
Keast said the dead-of-night release from the prison about 145 kilometres east of Reno, Nevada, was conducted to avoid media attention.
“We needed to do this to ensure public safety and to avoid any possible incident,” Keast added, speaking by telephone from Lovelock.
The 70-year-old Simpson gains his freedom after being granted parole at a hearing in July. Unlike the last time he went free, 22 years ago, he will face restrictions — up to five years of parole supervision — and he’s unlikely to escape public scrutiny as the man who morphed from charismatic football hero, movie star and TV personality into suspected killer and convicted armed robber.
Simpson was looking forward to reuniting with his family, eating a steak and some seafood and moving back to Florida, LaVergne said recently. Simpson also plans to get an iPhone and get reacquainted with technology that was in its infancy when he was sent to prison in 2008, his attorney said.
The Florida Department of Corrections, however, said officials had not received a transfer request or required documents, and the attorney general said the state didn’t want him.
“The spectre of his residing in comfort in Florida should not be an option,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement on Friday. “Our state should not become a country club for this convicted criminal.”
Simpson lost his home near Miami to foreclosure in 2012. But two of his children, Justin and Sydney, also live in Florida.
He could live at least temporarily in Las Vegas, where a friend let Simpson use his home for five weeks during his robbery trial.
His five years of parole supervision could be reduced with credits for good behaviour.
It’s a new chapter for the one-time pop culture phenomenon whose fame was once again on display when the major TV networks carried his parole hearing live.
He told officials that leading a group of men into a 2007 armed confrontation was an error in judgment he would not repeat.
He told the parole board that he led a “conflict-free life,” an assertion that angered many who believe he got away with killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles in 1994. He was acquitted the following year in Los Angeles in what was dubbed the “trial of the century.”
Simpson was once an electrifying running back dubbed “Juice” who won the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s best college football player for USC in 1968 and became one of the NFL’s all-time greats with the Buffalo Bills.
Handsome and charming, he also provided commentary on Monday Night Football, became the face of Hertz rental-car commercials and built a movie career with roles in the Naked Gun comedies and other films.
Simpson fell from grace when he was arrested in the slayings, after a famous “slow-speed” Ford Bronco chase on California freeways. His subsequent trial became a live-TV sensation that fascinated viewers with its testimony about a bloody glove that didn’t fit and unleashed furious debate over race, police and celebrity justice.
A jury swiftly acquitted him, but two years later, Simpson was found liable in civil court for the killings and ordered to pay $33.5 million to survivors, including his children and Goldman’s family.
He is still on the hook for the judgment, which now amounts to about $65 million, according to a Goldman family lawyer.
On Sept. 16, 2007, he led five men he barely knew to the Palace Station casino in Las Vegas in an effort to retrieve items that Simpson insisted were stolen after his acquittal in the 1994 slayings. Two of the men with Simpson in Las Vegas carried handguns, although Simpson still insists he never knew anyone was armed. He says he only wanted to retrieve personal items, mementos and family photos.
He went to prison in 2008, receiving a stiff sentence that his lawyers said was unfair.
If the nation’s Simpson obsession waned for a while, it resurged last year with the Emmy-winning FX miniseries, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and the Oscar-winning documentary O.J.: Made in America.
O.J. Simpson freed from prison after serving 9 years for armed robbery
Two men are dead following an early Sunday morning shooting in the Port Lands.
Toronto police rushed to a parking lot outside Rebel nightclub, near Cherry and Polson Sts., around 3:10 a.m. for reports of a shooting.
When emergency services arrived, they found two men in their 20s with gunshot wounds.
Paramedics said one man was pronounced dead on scene. The second victim was rushed to a local hospital in life-threatening condition, where he later died from his injuries. Both men are believed to have been patrons of the nightclub.
“There was an altercation that occurred in the parking lot of Rebel nightclub, and we believe that altercation is what led to the shooting,” said Detective Kathy Stephenson from Toronto’s homicide unit.
She said a black vehicle was seen speeding away from the scene and last observed heading north on the Don Valley Parkway. No suspect information is available at this time, but Stephenson said they are speaking to witnesses and reviewing security footage provided by the nightclub.
Forensics are on scene. Anyone who might have information about the shooting is encouraged to speak to police.
Two men dead after shooting outside Rebel nightclub in the Port Lands
BARCELONA, SPAIN—Spanish riot police smashed their way into Catalan polling stations Sunday to try to halt a disputed referendum on independence, firing rubber bullets and attacking voters who were trying to stop them from confiscating ballots. The daylong melee injured at least 460 civilians and 11 police, authorities said.
Police were acting on orders from the Spanish government to stop the voting, which Spain’s constitutional court had declared illegal.
The dispute over the independence vote in Catalonia, a wealthy northeastern region of 7.5 million people, has plunged Spain into a constitutional crisis. Spain’s violent crackdown on the vote — videos showed police roughing up voters — appeared likely only to harden positions on both sides.
At the Pau Claris School in Barcelona, footage by one voter showed police aggressively removing people blocking their way, in one case dragging a person by the hair and in other cases pushing them down a flight of stairs.
The people seen in videos being hit, kicked and thrown around by police included elderly people with their dogs, young girls and regular citizens of all stripes. Many tried to shield themselves from being smacked on the head. Some people were screaming in fear.
It’s still unclear is how many of the region’s 5.3 million voters were able to turn out Sunday, how their votes would be counted, how many votes have confiscated already by police and what happens next if the separatist officials who run the region’s government declare independence based on the vote.
Spanish and Catalan officials traded blame for the chaos even as the voting continued Sunday afternoon.
“Police brutality will shame forever the Spanish state,” independence-minded Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said as crowds cheered.
Spanish deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said police acted with “firmness and proportionality” and accused the Catalan government of gross irresponsibility in staging the banned vote.
“There hasn’t been a referendum or the semblance of one,” she said.
Police officers fired the rubber bullets while trying to clear protesters in Barcelona who were trying to prevent National Police cars from leaving with ballot boxes confiscated from a voting centre.
The confrontation shows signs of escalating even though both sides had said they did not want violence. Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau says more than 460 people have been injured in Catalonia in clashes with Spanish police, some seriously. Spain’s Interior Ministry said 11 police were injured in the clashes.
Tensions were running so high that Barcelona played its soccer game against Las Palmas without fans at the Camp Nou stadium. The team announced the match would be played behind closed doors with less than a half-hour to kickoff, with thousands of soccer fans already outside the stadium. Barcelona wanted to postpone the game, but said the Spanish league refused the request.
The vote was called in early September, crystalizing years of defiance by separatists in the affluent region that contributes mightily to Spain’s economy. As one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, Catalonia enjoys ample rights but key areas such as infrastructure and taxes are in the hands of Madrid. Separatist Catalans have long complained of contributing too much to the state while not getting enough in return.
The regional government’s spokesperson, Jordi Turull, on Sunday blamed the violence directly on Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and senior officials. He said the actions of Spanish National Police and Civil Guard forces were politically motivated and showed “a clear motivation to harm citizens.”
Catalan foreign affairs chief Raul Romeva said they will ask the European Union to act against Spain for the police action.
Manuel Condeminas, a 48-year-old IT manager who tried to block police from driving away with ballot boxes on Sunday, said police had kicked him and others before using their batons and firing the rubber bullets.
Elsewhere, Civil Guard officers, wearing helmets and carrying shields, used a hammer to break the glass of the front door and a lock cutter to break into the Sant Julia de Ramis sports centre near the city of Girona. At least one woman was injured outside the building, wheeled away on a stretcher by paramedics.
Clashes broke out less than an hour after polls opened, and not long before Catalonia regional president Carles Puigdemont was expected to turn up to vote at the sports centre. Polling station workers reacted peacefully and broke out into songs and chants challenging the officers’ presence.
Puigdemont was forced to vote in Cornella de Terri, near the northern city of Girona, his spokesperson told The Associated Press.
Police had sealed off many voting centres in the hours before the vote to prevent their use. Others were filled with activists determined to hold their ground.
Spanish riot police forcefully removed a few hundred would-be voters from a polling station at a school in Barcelona. The scene was repeated at other locations, although voting was peaceful in some spots.
Daniel Riano, 54, was inside when the police pushed aside a large group gathered outside and busted in the Estela school’s front door.
“We were waiting inside to vote when the National Police used force to enter, they used a mace to break in the glass door and they took everything,” he said. “One policeman put me in a headlock to drag me out while I was holding my wife’s hand! It was incredible. They didn’t give any warning.”
Joaquim Bosch, a 73-year-old retiree at Princep de Viana high school, was uneasy about a possible police response to the crowds.
“I have come to vote to defend the rights of my country, which is Catalonia,” Bosch said. “I vote because of the mistreatment of Catalonia by Spain for many years.”
Before dawn, reporters with The Associated Press saw ballot boxes wrapped in plastic bags being carried into some of the polling stations in Barcelona occupied by parents and activists. The plastic ballot boxes, bearing the seal of the Catalan regional government, were placed on tables, prompting cheers from hopeful voters who had gathered in schools before dawn.
Courts and police have been cracking down for days to halt the vote, confiscating 10 million paper ballots and arresting key officials involved in the preparations. On Saturday, Civil Guard agents dismantled the communications systems used to connect voting stations, count the votes and vote online. That prompted the Spanish government to announce that holding the referendum Sunday would be “impossible.”
More than 450 injured as Spanish riot police crack down on Catalonia’s referendum voteMore than 450 injured as Spanish riot police crack down on Catalonia’s referendum voteMore than 450 injured as Spanish riot police crack down on Catalonia’s referendum voteMore than 450 injured as Spanish riot police crack down on Catalonia’s referendum vote
OXBOW, SASK.—The two-storey cedar home where Shirley Galloway lives with her family was a solitary dot on the Saskatchewan prairie when they moved here 21 years ago.
The view from the front porch, once a landscape of rolling hills, horse pastures and lush river valley, has been transformed.
Today, Oxbow is surrounded by bobbing, black steel pump jacks and flare stacks burning off hydrogen sulphide and other dangerous gases that rise with the oil and trail off in ribbons of flame over green fields.
Late in the afternoon of Oct. 30, 2012, Galloway, a 53-year-old registered nurse, heard screams from the front yard.
Galloway dashed out to find a teenage family member vomiting and the air thick with the rotten-egg smell of sour gas — hydrogen sulphide (H2S).
Galloway, who trains oil workers to survive these same events, knew what to do.
She pulled the teen inside, grabbed an air monitor and held it out the door. The reading was off the dial — more than 100 parts per million — a level immediately dangerous to human health.
Saskatchewan’s oil boom has brought jobs for many. For others, it has brought fear, injury and one death.
The number of “fracked” wells in the Bakken shale oilfield alone increased from 75 in 2004 to nearly 3,000 in 2013, according to a 2016 paper by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The promise of prosperity, similar to its southern neighbour North Dakota’s Bakken boom, has been embraced by a province struggling to diversify its economy.
A national investigation by the Toronto Star, the National Observer, Global News and journalism schools at Regina, Concordia, Ryerson and UBC has uncovered failures by industry and government to respond to — and warn the public about — the serious and sometimes deadly threat of H2S gas wafting across Saskatchewan.
Documents obtained through freedom-of-information requests and from whistleblowers — internal correspondence, meeting minutes, presentations and inspection reports — disclose findings of failures in performance by oil and gas companies, including serious infractions, failed safety audits, daily H2S readings beyond provincial air quality standards and a death in 2014.
Yet regulatory standards remain largely unchanged and H2S incidents and risks remain hidden from the public.
The teen overcome in Galloway’s yard eventually recovered but missed school for several days with nausea and headaches.
H2S can be an insidious killer.
Heavier than air, it tends to settle in ravines and valleys.
Just above the level Galloway’s monitor detected — 100 parts per million — H2S causes olfactory paralysis, leaving a victim unable to detect the rotten-egg smell. Continued exposure at that level may cause death within 48 hours.
A person exposed to a highly concentrated plume of the gas — at 1,000 parts per million — may die rapidly from respiratory paralysis, or over the course of days, from an inflammatory reaction in the lungs.
Victims effectively suffocate.
The government issued no public warning after Galloway reported the plume at her home because “there was no evidence that this was a widespread failure.” But inside government and industry offices, documents indicate the seriousness of H2S issues that led to years of meetings, audits and proposed regulatory reforms.
On April 7, 2014, government and industry officials deliberated about releasing data that showed H2S “hotspots” across southeastern Saskatchewan.
“Government may be accused of hiding information,” the notes read. “Public will want to know: 1. What are the areas? 2. How is it managed? 3. How is the government making sure it’s managed?” one unnamed official told the meeting. “Are we creating a risk by not releasing this data immediately?”
Despite acknowledging “significant” public health risks from H2S, at least some officials present expressed concern about “sensitivity in this data (because) there are residents living in these areas.”
No release followed.
Three weeks later, government-proposed fines for emission breaches — up to $1 million in penalties — were rejected by two major industry groups. In a letter to the ministry dated April 29, 2014, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and Explorers and Producers Association of Canada (EPAC) called the proposed penalties “unsuitable.”
A former ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of losinghis current job in the industry, says “almost every amendment was being rejected.”
EPAC officials declined comment.
Terry Abel, CAPP’s spokesperson, said the letter was intended to explain that, “in some cases, fines aren’t appropriate at all … If there’s an unsafe operation, it should be shut down. It shouldn’t be operating. That’s the best way to ensure the public safety is protected.”
The proposed fines were dropped.
The next month, Michael Bunz, a 38-year-old salesman supplying chemicals to oil and gas facilities, lay in a shack 80 kilometres from the Galloway house, dead after being exposed to H2S.
The official incident report filed with the Ministry of the Economy, which regulates Saskatchewan’s oilfields, makes no mention of Bunz’s death.
These regulators “are really thinking about the economic health of the province,” says Emily Eaton, a professor at the University of Regina who has studied the relationship between the oil industry and the government. Eaton is a member of the Corporate Mapping Project.
A shift in 2012 — from the Ministry of Energy and Resources to a new Ministry of the Economy tasked with regulating natural resource extraction and promoting economic development — changed the ministry’s role from watchdog to partner, she says.
“They’re thinking about returns on investment … The industry should really be regulated by those that have the interests of the environment first.”
Ministry field staff raised this concern at a meeting on July 1, 2015, between government and industry.
“The role of the regulator needs to be adjusted,” the meeting’s minutes read. “The regulators are acting as consultants in some situations. The role of the regulator is to enforce the rules and if the rules are clear and if enforcement is consistent and clear then, ‘cultural’ changes can be made.”
In its statement, the ministry rejects criticisms of conflict of interest or lax enforcement.
“Within the Ministry of the Economy, the petroleum and natural gas division carries out industry regulation,” wrote the department’s spokeswoman, Deb Young. “It is not involved in investment attraction, royalty and tax assessment and land sales. It is solely focused on well, facility and pipeline regulation.”
That regulation has not included fines or prosecutions.
The ministry has not issued a single fine against any industry company “for well over a decade,” Doug MacKnight, assistant deputy minister responsible for petroleum and natural gas, said in an interview.
“Generally, we don’t have to resort to that,” he said. “It’s usually just a notice to the operator to bring themselves into compliance.”
Prosecutions have also not been part of the ministry’s enforcement practices because non-compliance was dealt with “through other enforcement actions,” reads the ministry’s statement.
Other enforcement actions include increased inspections and staff, high-tech equipment for detecting emissions and a $69-million inspection reporting database (which can’t be accessed by the public).
Still, complaints of illness from residents and workers continue.
“I will sometimes get faint, like I will fall over and I have to find a seat quickly,” says Lori Erhardt, a United Church minister and musician living near Oxbow who believes her chronic illness is related toemissions.
“I have had a variety of diagnoses, most of them end with “i-t-i-s,” which means inflammation … If something gets inflamed, if it’s blood vesicles, you feel it through your body.”
Among the five years’ worth of documents obtained by this investigation is an April 2012 PowerPoint presentation to CAPP members by the director of the province’s petroleum and natural gas division. It includes a map of southeastern Saskatchewan showing a bloom of red and orange circles, labelled “critical sour gas locations.”
Sources say ministry staff pushed to make the data public but senior government officials said “there’s no goddamn way that is going to be released,” according to the former ministry source.
“There’s an institutional reluctance to make this information public,” he said. “The public should be able to see all the information that legislators have identified as public information such as sour gas and inspection reports.”
The ministry statement says the map was never approved for release because some data was out of date, not comprehensive and “could provide the public and industry with a false understanding of risk associated with a particular well or facility.”
After the Galloway incident, the ministry inspected 11 oil and gas facilities. All failed “with serious infractions,” including releasing H2S at lethal levels “that may be exceeding 150,000 (parts per million),” Brad Herald, CAPP’s Saskatchewan operations manager, wrote to the board of governors in December 2012.
Those levels are 150 times the amount that could cause instant death.
Among the causes: “It is believed that inadequate training on the installation and operation of equipment is … contributing to the air quality issues.”
CAPP’s Abel said in an interview the “unsafe” facilities responsible for those breaches should not have been operating.
“They should have been shut down,” he said. “When you follow the rules, processing and production of sour gas is absolutely safe. If you don’t follow the rules, it can pose a health risk. So ultimately, those operators at those facilities were responsible.”
Neither CAPP nor its industry partners made the health risks public. And no ministry fines or prosecutions followed.
Internally, CAPP quickly mobilized to develop a public relations and damage control plan:
“There are growing public concerns regarding the air quality issues in southeast Saskatchewan,” Herald wrote, noting a petition and a Facebook page.
“The Ministry fields one to two public complaints concerning odours per week and the issue is garnering increasing political attention . . . This has the potential to become a broader industry reputation/social license concern and warrants immediate attention by operators in the region . . . Communications is preparing key messages in the event that there is media profile.”
CAPP received a warning the next month after consulting a scientist with expertise on managing toxic substances, internal emails show. The scientist expressed disappointment noting that H2S failures were “so easy to avoid.”
The scientist urged the industry lobby group to develop and implement a new code of practice to control dangerous emissions and get ahead of the problem by publicly denouncing unacceptable practices. The scientist also recommended that the industry group pressure the province to step up inspections.
The ministry, in meetings with industry, proposed similar reforms.
In a letter sent in March 2013 then-energy minister Tim McMillan — now president and CEO of CAPP — warned companies to meet “compliance obligations” or face “escalated enforcement, penalty and/or prosecution.”
Ministry and industry met four times between 2012 and 2014 to plot strategy, including emergency planning zones, a public communications document, a code of practice and a licensing regime for high-risk, single-well batteries.
Those plans were never adopted, a ministry statement confirms.
“Instead, the Ministry chose to take a risk-based approach to managing the sour gas issue that included increased field inspections and improved data collection.” Eighteen wells that had been venting sour gas were ordered to be “shut-in” in 2012/2013.
From 2013 to the summer of 2014, the ministry began implementing “an aggressive inspection and enforcement schedule to reduce sour gas emission” that included suspension orders against 30 facilities owing to “H2S management issues,” the statement reads.
During that effort, H2S would claim its most high-profile victim in Saskatchewan.
Michael Bunz, a salesman for Nalco Champion, died on May 22, 2014, while taking samples in a shed located in a provincial park between Carlyle and Kipling. A valve on the tank broke and oil, water and H2S spewed into his face.
An incident report submitted by the tank’s owner, Harvest Operations Corp., states simply: “Spill occurred as a result of a failed valve.”
Nowhere does it mention Bunz’s death.
Instead, his death is marked by a gravestone in a small cemetery near Wawota, where the father of two young daughters lived a few doors away from his parents, Dianne and Allan.
The black, polished stone, with an image of Bunz wearing his Saskatchewan Roughriders jersey and hat, calls him “Bunzy” and reads: “In loving memory of Emma and Olivia’s Daddy.”
“He didn’t really talk about those dangers,” Dianne says. “We knew what it’s like to work in the oil industry. My husband did for 20 years. We knew about H2S but I wasn’t aware that he was going on site and doing the testing.”
The summer before he died, Allan drove his son to the Nalco office to quit. Michael’s brother-in-law, who had worked there, had left and “things had been pretty tough,” Michael said, marked by long days and heavy workload.
“He was going to hand his company truck in, and his boss was there … he talked (Michael) out of it,” Allan says. “This company wanted him because he never ever phoned in sick or anything. He’d just go to work. And they offered him more money, so he stayed.”
Nalco Champion is facing three charges under the province’s occupational health and safety legislation for failing to provide Bunz with a respirator and to ensure he entered a dangerous situation with a second worker. A conviction would result in a fine.
The family says they were told by Nalco that the concentration of H2S in the fluids was estimated at 40,000 parts per million, more than enough to bring near-instant death.
The company sent reporters a written statement, declining further comment.
“We remain deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague, Michael Bunz. The safety of our associates, customers and communities is vitally important, and we remain committed to our robust safety policies, protocols and training programs, which include those related to hydrogen sulfide,” it reads.
Allan, who spent most of his working life in the oil industry, says he learned more about H2S protection when he worked on a pig farm.
“Every person had to wear an H2S monitor. And I’m talking about the pig industry,” he says. “To me, they were protecting us … more at this simple small hog operation in Saskatchewan than the oil industry ever did the entire time I was working out there.”
The couple reviewed the records documenting years of discussions between government and industry about public health risks and failed audits that were never made public. The couple called it “devastating.”
“I go to work every day and I drive down the highway and I talk to my son sitting beside me,” says Allan. “I say to him “tough day there, son” and I tell him how I feel . . . I feel him sitting there beside me.”
How often H2S incidents happen or happened in Saskatchewan remains a mystery.
Officially, ministry officials count one death and five “documented incidents where a member of the public was exposed to unsafe levels of sour gas near a well or facility site.”
None of them triggered a public statement by the government.
“There was no need for public notification since the incident was quickly dealt with at the site,” reads the ministry statement.
But after dozens of interviews it is clear that H2S incidents involving residents are more common but go unreported or are not recorded properly. This is also true for workers in the oilfield.
Only months after Bunz died, Trina Hansen, an oilfield worker and part-time voice actress, was clearing a pipeline near Carlyle, Sask.
“I could have died,” she says. “It’s almost like you could feel like a heavy air hit your face. It’s a really weird feeling. Your first reaction is to inhale. When it hits your face, you breathe it in. It’s the weirdest thing. You don’t think to hold your breath. It happens so fast. I stumbled backwards. I was so shocked.”
Disoriented, Hansen got back in her truck and drove a couple of kilometres until she noticed she was losing her peripheral vision.
“There were white sparkles, iridescent, swirly, super-shiny and bright. I jumped out and started feeling nauseous and couldn’t breathe very well. I was trying to catch my breath and dry heaving. My head started pounding.”
Hansen, suffering debilitating headaches, nausea and sickness, lost her voice for two weeks.
“This happened three years ago and I still have a hard time catching my breath if I talk too fast. I’m very short of breath. I’ve never in my life felt like that. It was horrible.”
Her voice has changed for good — it is far deeper and lower than before.
“I do a cartoon on APTN network and they said my voice totally changed. It changed two octaves pretty much. It used to be high and now it cuts out.”
Hansen never reported the incident, fearing she would lose her job.
“Nobody wants to say anything. We know it’s bad and dangerous. But no one wants to raise a fuss. And being a woman and trying to prove yourself out there, I never claimed WCB (Workers Compensation Board). The economy went down and I have to pay off debt with my trucking money.”
Four months after Bunz’s death, a secret ministry report listed 161 facilities “that may be in violation of (the ministry’s) sour gas emission control.”
The catch: “time and resources required to investigate and verify violations would take all available field officers over a year.”
In 2014, inspections of 60 suspicious wells in 2014 turned up 36 — more than half — that were leaking so badly they had to be shut down.
Another audit found 11 out of 12 facilities failed inspection “due to H2S venting” and found 29 locations that are too close to facilities with high levels of H2S concentrations. Of the 1,352 active sour gas facilities, only 421 — 31 per cent — had “proper emission control systems.”
“Almost every site had improper gas measurement,” the report reads. “Discovered major contamination at two facilities as a result of spill which were not reported” to the ministry.
The ministry believes that the H2S issue is under control, saying air quality standards are being met and that inspections confirm that companies’ sour gas management practices have improved. Today 27 full-time inspectors are responsible for the province’s 126,000 wells and its estimated 118,000 kilometres of pipelines and flowlines, operating with a budget of $3.9 million.
In 2016-17, ministry staff inspected 18,340 wells, facilities and pipelines.
Last month, a team of researchers from Harvard and Northeastern Universities collected data in collaboration with this investigation using the same instruments employed by ministry inspectors to detect emissions invisible to the naked eye.
“In my experience measuring oil and gas activities in Texas, what struck me was that about a third of the sites we looked at had what we believed to be fugitive emissions and the high density of pump jacks,” says Lourdes Vera, a doctoral student in environmental sociology at Northeastern University.
Drew Michanowicz, a post-doctoral researcher at Harvard University’s School of Public Health who led the survey in Saskatchewan, said about one in five of the facilities they visited showed black smoke rising from the flaring stacks of production facilities.
“If there is black smoke, there is particulate matter that if inhaled is certainly associated with human health effects,” he said. “If sources of these air pollutants are constantly impacting individuals where they live, work and play, there is the worry that they are experiencing health effects.”
In interviews with landowners and records in the government database, this investigation has found recent H2S accidents, including three people who say they were sickened by H2S clouds near their homes in the past year. One said they required hospitalization after a near-fatal incident.
In January, more than four years after the H2S incident in Galloway’s front yard, she and her husband were driving home when they encountered a plume of what she believes was H2S gas.
She fell ill and stayed home for three days.
“I’ve had arrhythmias, really wicked headaches … I’ve had bouts of nausea. I wake up at night and have heart palpitations.”
Galloway wrote to public officials demanding a response.
There were no consequences or fines as a result. And no official report of an incident anywhere near the Galloway property that day was filed.
That, says Galloway, is just the way it works in Saskatchewan.
“As a person living in the middle of the oilfield, you have no protection. The government doesn’t care. Your MLA doesn’t care. The oil companies don’t care.”
Unprecedented collaboration behind the project
During the past nine months, an unprecedented collaboration of more than 50 journalists and editors from three Canadian media outlets, four journalism schools and a think tank have worked to chronicle the hidden price of oil in Canada.
Collectively, reporters examined thousands of industry and government documents, analyzed terabytes of data and delved into dozens of freedom-of-information requests.
“The project started with the people,” says Patti Sonntag, a managing editor in the New York Times’ news services division, who launched the project with a grant from the Michener Awards Foundation. Following a tip from a colleague at the Corporate Mapping Project, she did some research and reporting in Saskatchewan last fall.
Working with the previous year’s Michener winner, Toronto Star journalist Robert Cribb, Sonntag created a team of students at the Ryerson, Concordia and UBC journalism schools. Concordia University’s Department of Journalism volunteered to act as host and headquarters for the project.
University of Regina students reported on the ground locally, shot video and developed sources, while students at the other universities aggregated and analyzed data and interviewed experts.
“We’re pulling these four different schools from across the country and looking at it from all different aspects,” says Janelle Blakley, a University of Regina student reporter whose team mapped spills data and met local farmers and residents. “This collaboration allowed us to really dig into it, where all schools were pulling apart different pieces of it and then coming back and putting it all together.”
The significance of the data quickly drew intrigue. What emerged was a picture of a few dedicated regulators — and even some industry leaders — who tried to introduce greater accountability, but these efforts were ultimately overwhelmed by larger forces.
“You start to understand these figures really do play a huge role in dictating the direction of the Canadian economy and that plays out in the lives of everyday Canadians,” says Lauren Kaljur, a graduate of UBC’s master of journalism program who has been investigating the concentration of corporate power in Saskatchewan’s oil and gas industry since the beginning of 2017.
To Matthew Gilmour, a recent journalism graduate at Concordia University, after spending months populating spreadsheets and ledgers, “there’s the human moment where you realize it’s not just a pocketbook story. It’s a human story. And people’s lives are affected.”
The work continued past the end of the semester in April 2017, with students working alongside veteran reporters at the Star, the National Observer and Global News to shape the stories, seek comments from all sides and publish hundreds of pages of government and industry records, detailing concerns about potentially deadly gas emissions for the first time.
Robert Cribb, The Toronto Star
Patti Sonntag, Michener Fellow
P.W. Elliott, University of Regina
Elizabeth McSheffrey, The National Observer
Data and documentation journalist:
Michael Wrobel, Concordia University
Jennifer Ackerman, University of Regina
Madina Azizi, University of Regina
Janelle Blakley, University of Regina
Cory Coleman, University of Regina
Mike De Souza, The National Observer
Josh Diaz, University of Regina
Brenna Engel, University of Regina
Matthew Gilmour, Concordia University
Celine Grimard, University of Regina
Jared Gottselig, University of Regina
Lauren Kaljur ,University of British Columbia
Rebbeca Marroquin, University of Regina
Matthew Parizot, Concordia University
Katie Doke Sawatzky, University of Regina
Michaela Solomon, University of Regina
Kyrsten Stringer, University of Regina
Caitlin Taylor, University of Regina
Steph Wechsler, Ryerson University
P.W. Elliott, University of Regina
Trevor Grant, University of Regina
Patti Sonntag, Michener Fellow, based at Concordia University
Concordia University, Department of Journalism
Ryerson University, School of Journalism
University of British Columbia, Graduate School of Journalism
University of Regina, School of Journalism
The Michener Awards Foundation
Corporate Mapping Project
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
University of Victoria
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Watch the televised investigation: Sunday and Monday on Global National at 5:30 CT/MT/PT & 6:30 ET/ATRobert Cribb can be reached at email@example.com
That rotten stench in the air? It’s the smell of deadly gas and secrecy That rotten stench in the air? It’s the smell of deadly gas and secrecy
EDMONTON—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is condemning violent events in Edmonton as a “terrorist attack” following a chaotic night that saw a police officer stabbed and several pedestrians run down with a cube van.
Edmonton police said they have arrested a 30-year-old man and they think he acted alone. But police chief Rod Knecht stressed Sunday morning that the investigation is in its early stages and authorities haven’t ruled out others might have been involved.
An Edmonton police spokesperson said anything involving the suspect’s identity cannot be revealed at this time.
“When we believe, from a national security perspective, that a time is right to release his name, we’ll do that,” said Scott Pattison.
The police officer was taken to hospital and treated for non life-threatening injuries. He has since been released and is currently at home with his family, said Pattison.
Four people were injured by the van and rushed to hospital. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known. At last count, around 2 a.m., one individual was believed to be in critical condition, said Pattison.
“The individual made a concerted effort to run over people, pedestrians that were seemingly out to enjoy a lovely fall evening here,” he said.
Trudeau said Sunday that he was deeply concerned and outraged at what he called a “terrorist attack.”
“Our thoughts are with those injured, their family and friends, and all those affected by this senseless act of violence,” Trudeau said in a statement, in which he also thanked first responders and law enforcement.
“While the investigation continues, early reports indicate that this is another example of the hate that we must remain ever vigilant against.
“We cannot — and will not — let violent extremism take root in our communities. We know that Canada’s strength comes from our diversity, and we will not be cowed by those who seek to divide us or promote fear.”
In a prepared statement published Sunday morning, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley called the incident horrific.
“It’s left us shocked at the indiscriminate cruelty and angry that someone might target their hatred at places where we gather with our families and friends,” it reads. “As we learn more about what happened last night, I encourage everyone to remain vigilant and to listen to law enforcement authorities.”
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson asked for calm during a morning press conference.
“To my fellow Edmontonians, it is vital now that we do not succumb to hatred. That we not be intimidated by violence … We will not be divided,” he said. “Terrorism is about creating panic and sowing divide and disrupting people’s lives. We can succumb to that or rise above it.”
Iveson added that the suspect is in-custody and is being interviewed “as we speak.”
“I’m confident that our law enforcement is in full authority and their investigation is progressing well,” he said. “This appears to be a lone wolf incident. The city takes very seriously the safety of its citizens. Violence like this is abhorrent in our community.”
Iveson said he’s suspended his campaign until there’s resolve, that further risks and threats are being monitored at the federal level.
It all began Saturday night, around 8:15 p.m., outside the Edmonton Eskimos CFL football game at Commonwealth Stadium where it was military appreciation night.
Canada’s chief of defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, conducted the pre-game coin flip and two CF-18 fighter jets did a flypast before kickoff. More than 800 Boy Scouts were expected at the game and many were planning to camp out on the field afterward.
While the Eskimos were battling the Winnipeg Blue Bombers inside the stadium, outside a white Chevy Malibu approached a traffic control post at a high speed.
In a video released by police, a white car is shown bursting through a barricade, hitting the stationed police officer and hurling him onto the side walk. The incident lasts about three seconds, ending with the car colliding into a police cruiser.
Knecht said the car threw the officer about five metres into the air.
The driver hopped out and began “viciously” stabbing the officer with a knife before running away, Knecht said. Police launched a manhunt for the suspect.
Knecht said a Daesh flag was found in the front seat of the car and was seized as evidence.
A few hours later, while fans filed out of the game and were rerouted around the crime scene, a U-Haul cube van was stopped at a checkstop north of downtown.
When the driver was asked for his licence, Knecht said the name on the identification was close to that of the registered owner of the white Malibu.
When confronted, Knecht said the U-Haul sped off toward downtown with police cars in pursuit.
The van intentionally swerved at pedestrians in crosswalks, Knecht said.
“It is believed at this time that these two incidents are related,” Knecht said. “These incidents are being investigated as acts of terrorism.”
The name of the suspect was not released. Knecht said he was known to police, but there was no warning for the attack.
In a tweet Sunday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said “Canada will not be intimidated by terrorist violence.”
Goodale’s office issued a statement to say the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team was working closely with Edmonton police.
“At this time, the national terrorism threat level for Canada remains at ‘medium’ where it has stood since the fall of 2014,” his spokesman Scott Bardsley wrote.
“Canadians should remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the National Security Tip Line (1-800-420-5805) or by contacting their local police.”
Another police press conference is scheduled for 3 p.m. Edmonton time.
Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer also reacted on Twitter.
“Saddened and outraged by the terror attack in Edmonton. My first thoughts are with the injured, praying they all make full recoveries.”
Austin Elgie, manager of The Pint bar just west of the downtown core, saw the van zoom by with police giving chase.
The van “peeled” into an alley where people were smoking, he said.
“There were like 10 cop cars following him . . . It was crazy. It just came around the corner, ripping. I thought at first he was pulling over for the cops coming by, but he was clearly the one they were chasing.”
Elgie said the van hit a man who was a bar customer.
“I have a registered nurse on my bar team and I grabbed her and had her look after the guy until the ambulance came.
“He was breathing and we got him in the ambulance and he was still breathing.”
The chase came to an end outside the Matrix Hotel, only a few blocks from the bar, when the van rolled on its side.
Natalie Pon tweeted that she was at a wedding at the hotel when the crash happened.
“They’re keeping us away from windrows/the lobby,” she said.
Pon posted pictures of the U-Haul on its side with a large hole in the windshield.
Witnesses told local media they saw the suspect being pulled from the vehicle through the broken windshield and then placed in handcuffs.
Trudeau calls cop stabbing and van hitting pedestrians in Edmonton a ‘terrorist attack’Trudeau calls cop stabbing and van hitting pedestrians in Edmonton a ‘terrorist attack’
From coffee grounds, to leftover fettuccine alfredo, to the slimy, brown head of lettuce forgotten at the back of your fridge, the Ontario government is aiming to keep all organic waste away from landfills.
It’s an ambitious target for a province that generates nearly 12 million tonnes of waste a year — more than 850 kilograms per person — and only recycles about a quarter of that amount.
If improvements aren’t made, the province’s landfills could run out of capacity within the next 20 years, the government warns.
In 2004, the Liberal government promised to boost the rate of waste diversion — through recycling and composting programs for example — to 60 per cent in four years. But 13 years later, the rate hasn’t changed. Now, the government has set its sights on an even more distant target of 100 per cent.
Hence the Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario, which aims to create a “circular economy,” where waste is considered a resource that can be recovered, reused and reintegrated.
One area of focus is organic waste, which decomposes in landfills producing gases, such as methane, that contribute to global warming. Ontarians generate 3.7 million tonnes of organic waste per year, and greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector — mostly organics in landfill — account for six per cent of the province’s total emissions.
The government’s organics action plan, to be implemented next year, includes the possibility of a ban on sending organics to landfills.
More than half the food waste in the province is generated at home, but the residential sector has steadily improved how much of that is diverted from landfills, with a rate now just over 50 per cent. In contrast, only a quarter of the food waste produced by the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors is diverted.
Fundamental changes are required in how people think of and treat organic waste, said Environment Minister Chris Ballard.
“Tinkering isn’t working,” he said. “This is as revolutionary, I believe, a plan as the original (recycling) blue box when we rolled it out and got everybody excited.”
Organics should be the next target on the waste frontier, experts say.
“We’re at a bit of a plateau in terms of diverting that waste,” said food and organic waste consultant Paul van der Werf. “We’ve probably tapped out just about everything that people will do on a voluntary basis.”
Zero waste sounds like an “aspirational goal,” but Ontarians have to decide if that’s something worth aspiring to, van der Werf said.
“If we (do), then we need to put some pretty strong measures in place to change what we’re presently doing and change our behaviours,” he said. “If we kept the status quo in our system and just tinkered a little bit, would we get to zero waste? No, not in a million years.”
While nearly all households in the province have access to recycling programs, not all municipalities have organic waste programs. Most of the larger ones — covering around two-thirds of the population — have green bin programs, but not everyone is using them properly.
“In Toronto, audits consistently show that even though people use their green bins, 40 per cent of what they’re putting in the garbage actually should have gone in the green bin,” said Emily Alfred of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
The City of Kingston consistently has one of the best organic diversion rates, but still battles resistance, said its manager of solid waste.
“Most of the reasons why people don’t want to use it is this perception that it smells and that it’s gross or it attracts rodents,” Heather Roberts said. “(But) consider that all of the things that would go into your green bin would still go into your garbage bag.”
Kingston is also one of just nine municipalities that has extended green bin programs to condos and apartment buildings, but it’s not mandated, so there isn’t a lot of uptake, Roberts said.
The City of Toronto offers organic collection at about 65 per cent of its multi-residential buildings, and a few receive private pickup, officials said. But most Ontario municipalities still send their food waste from multi-residential buildings to landfill.
Municipalities with more than 50,000 people are required to have a leaf and yard waste program, but there is no such requirement yet for green bins.
Mandating collection of food and organic waste is another tool Ontario is considering, but smaller municipalities say that’s not feasible.
Dan Finnigan, environmental services manager for the town of Mattawa, said his community would need provincial support for a composting program.
“For the Town of Mattawa itself it would be a great program, but to be quite honest I think I would need some assistance from the government to maybe get it going and get it started up,” he said.
As Ontario considers a disposal ban on organics, it is looking to the examples of Nova Scotia and Metro Vancouver, which already have them in place.
Nova Scotia banned organics from landfills two decades ago. Even with a disposal rate much lower than the Canadian average, about half of what’s in the waste stream is still banned material, said Robert Kenney, the province’s recycling development officer.
“A disposal ban is ... an incentive for municipalities and the private sector to act,” he said. “You don’t get everything. You can’t get everything.”
Metro Vancouver’s recent ban was eased in, with inspectors targeting only loads with more than 25 per cent visible food waste and issuing surcharges, said Andrew Marr, the director of solid waste planning.
“What we were trying to target was, if you will, the worst offenders right off the bat,” he said. “We weren’t so concerned with getting every single apple core that somebody might be throwing out.”
It has been successful so far, Marr said. In the first year, 60,000 more tonnes of organics were diverted away from landfills and the garbage stream dropped from 36 per cent organics to 28 per cent.
On the commercial side, just a quarter of restaurants diverted organics before the ban, and now that figure is about three quarters, Marr said. But that represents an added cost, which isn’t easy for all to absorb.
“The line you have to cross is: is it more cost effective to compost this material or to throw it in the trash?” said James Rilett, the Ontario vice-president of Restaurants Canada.
The cost for the industrial, commercial and institutional sector to dispose of waste is $118 per tonne to the U.S. and $134 per tonne in Ontario, but $205 per tonne to divert.
The Provision Coalition works with food and beverage manufacturers to integrate sustainability into their business model, aiming to save businesses money by preventing food waste in the first place.
It’s common for food producers to turn waste into animal feed, but Cher Mereweather of the Provision Coalition said her organization will point out the energy, labour, water and raw ingredient costs that went into making that product.
“We really need to move away from this concept of, ‘Well, it’s OK, it gets composted,’ because there’s a significant cost and environmental impact of that wasted food in the first place,” she said.
Some manufacturers send product that won’t sell or is mislabelled to food banks, which is where organizations such as Second Harvest come in.
The food rescue charity picks up the food and delivers it to social service agencies, to the tune of about 4.7 million kilograms this year. But they won’t pick up anything less than 45 kilograms worth of food, said executive director Debra Lawson.
To ensure smaller food donors can participate in similar programs, Second Harvest is developing a web-based platform that would connect them to the closest agencies in need. Lawson said it’s hoped a pilot can be running next spring.
The Retail Council of Canada said grocery stores have a number of initiatives for trying to prevent food waste, including partnering with food banks, selling blemished fruit at a discount, and educating customers.
The restaurant industry points to customer behaviour as a major challenge as well.
Luc Erjavec, the Atlantic vice-president of Restaurants Canada, said Ontario should focus its attention on restaurants’ kitchens. In Nova Scotia, owners found it easier to control the back-of-house waste stream.
“When you get on the customer side it gets very different,” he said. “We can’t start tipping over garbage cans and trying to sort through the waste to make sure it’s not contaminated.”
Universities face the same dilemma too, said Dave Cano, the sustainability manager at Western University.
“If there’s no proper signage or proper education around how to use a composting program, then you most likely will find people putting things in the wrong stream,” Cano said.
Ballard said he sees a large role in the waste-free plan for the private sector, which can come up with innovative solutions and create jobs.
“We need to turn it into an industry,” he said. “Let’s not look at it like waste. Let’s look at it like a resource and treat it like a resource like anything else we pull out of the ground or from the air.”
Ontario considers ban on sending organic waste to landfills
NARANJITO, PUERTO RICO—Thirty-two kilometres from their capital of San Juan, Puerto Ricans are still marooned in a once-lush landscape that Hurricane Maria raked almost entirely of greenery 10 days ago.
They are without running water, electricity or consistent communications with the rest of the world.
Obtaining necessities such as water, food and fuel for cars and generators is a daylong mission for each item. But across the Plata River from a long line of cars and people waiting for drinkable water from a tower, a smaller line formed near a PVC pipe trickling water from a hillside spring.
Nicolle Ramos, 29, of nearby Toa Alta, said her family uses the water for bathing, flushing toilets and — after it’s boiled — drinking.
“When it rains, we don’t come,” Ramos said as she watched people fill coolers, pails and bottles to put in their cars. “We gather water from the downspouts and wash clothes by hand.”
Michelle Rebollo, Ramos’ mother, said gathering this water was today’s task.
“Tomorrow we’re going to try to find gasoline,” Rebollo said. “Then, we’ll try to get money. Each one is a whole day.”
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said Saturday that 714 gas stations, more than half the stations in Puerto Rico, are operating and receiving fuel. But many of the stations lining the roads near Naranjito were closed or confronted travellers with a sign: “No hay gasolina,” no gasoline.
Puerto Rico will receive more fuel in coming days, with eight deliveries from Sunday to Saturday, Rossello said.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Puerto Rican National Guard are working to deliver food and water to hard-to-access places, set up telecommunications in municipal centres and deliver needed supplies to hospitals, the governor said.
“Today we have 51 to 53 of 69 hospitals open, depending on how you measure it,” he said. “Nine of those hospitals are energized,” meaning they have a normal electric power supply and do not depend on an emergency generator.
The death toll from Maria has reached 16 so far and is likely to rise, the governor said.
However, much of the recovery reaching average people in towns such as Naranjito is a result of Puerto Ricans helping each other.
Rebollo, whose tour company, Aventura Total, is at least temporarily out of business, said she has turned to helping her neighbours find water and gasoline.
“Where I live, there’s a lot of old people living,” she said. “Sometimes they need medications. I help them.”
At the Centro de Salud Entegra en Narajito, the health centre nearby, administrator Felix Ortiz Baez said gastroenteritis from drinking tainted water is among the most common injuries he’s seeing since the hurricane. Others are pink eye, falls and cuts from chainsaws and machetes.
The water should be boiled, but some people don’t have the facilities or education to do it, Ortiz Baez said, speaking a mix of English and Spanish.
The health centre most needs more diesel for its generator, bottled water and portable generators to provide to families.
The centre never closed, and together with two sister facilities in the area, it’s treating an average of 125 cases a day.
“We had a fairly robust plan for emergencies, but we weren’t ready for such a catastrophic event,” he said.
Across the river and up in the town, where homes painted green, blue, purple and white climb the steep hillside among serpentine roads, Michelle Narvaez, 40, had just returned from grocery shopping. It entailed waiting in line for more than an hour and paying twice the usual price.
“When I cook, I cook a lot, but I can’t keep it because there’s no electricity,” Narvaez said in Spanish.
So she buys what she’s going to cook each day and feeds her neighbours, including Marta Rodriguez, 54, who sat on a nearby stoop.
Narvaez’s home survived the raking that turned her lush hillside into a landscape of sticks, but she said she won’t stay long if things don’t improve soon.
“We need water and power,” she said. “I have a little one 4 years old, and he has allergies and asthma.”
At the Ruben Rodriguez Figuera vocational high school on the other side of the hill, 119 displaced people have turned the facility into a shelter organized according to a military regimen.
Sgt. Jose Castillo, 52, of the Puerto Rico National Guard State Guard military police has run the place ever since Hurricane Maria left his home in nearby Comerio a wreck of sodden and splintered broken boards.
“I don’t have anywhere to go,” Castillo said in Spanish. “I lost everything. Only my military uniform. Apart from this, I have nothing.”
So he walked to the shelter with his wife, presented himself and said: “I said, ‘I’m yours.’ ”
Drawing on his military background, Castillo made the shelter and its residents his mission. Standing in the school’s theatre, which has been transformed into a storage room for donated goods with clothing neatly sorted by gender and size, he described how he asked for volunteers among shelter residents and organized them into teams to catalogue donations, work in the kitchen and clean.
“No one’s going to clean other people’s dirt,” Castillo said. “That’s how we’ll take care of Puerto Rico.”
In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans help one another
IQALUIT—There is, admittedly, rarely a perfect occasion for an unseasonable blizzard, but the storm that blew into Iqaluit with a vengeance on Saturday afternoon could not have picked a more unfortunate moment to shut down the entire town.
The conference portion of the first-ever Nunavut Music Week had just ended on an emotional high note, with the intimate group of northern musicians and southern delegates who’d spent the previous four days sharing ideas, soaking up music and forging friendships embracing in a giant group hug after an appreciative post-mortem session that left most in the room with tears in their eyes.
The stage was set for an explosive final night out on the town: ferocious Inuk rising star Tanya Tagaq would demolish the nearby Inuksuk High School with an early-evening performance, then everyone would move to Iqaluit’s Royal Canadian Legion hall for a second night of Nunavut Music Week showcases climaxing in a headlining performance by festival creator/curators the Jerry Cans.
As it turns out, however, the power outage that had a couple of hours earlier briefly forced the conference’s media panel (of which this writer was a part) to conduct its discussions in semi-darkness at the Nunavut Francophone Association building was but a faint harbinger of things to come.
Just as everyone was about to part ways and ready themselves for the fun to come, word came down that the Legion would not be opening that night due to the weather, cabs were being taken off the icy roads and Tagaq’s performance had been cancelled. A thick veil of windblown snow had descended upon the city, Frobisher Bay had been rendered invisible and a slick layer of ice underneath the drifts made walking nearly as treacherous as driving.
Even in the north, such a whiteout in late September is uncommon. As frazzled Jerry Cans frontman Andrew Morrison put it: “This is unheard of.”
Northerners are nothing if not resourceful, however, and within the hour it was decreed that the closing-night festivities would move to the home of genial Jerry Cans drummer Steve Rigby — a chap so generous with his time and energy that, after chauffeuring Nunavut Music Week guests around in his truck for much of the week, he still had it in him to whip around the dark, deserted streets on a snowmobile tugging a caribou-pelt-lined qamutik (or “sled,” if you prefer the less elegant expression) picking up those partygoers unwilling to risk cracking their skulls open on a walk to his place.
Rigby’s living room became an impromptu stage, an assortment of instruments left over from his high-school days served as “gear,” disco lights were unleashed upon the ceiling, everyone piled whatever booze they had into a big bin by the door and … well … a proper rager ensued. Meanwhile, Tagaq and violinist/producer Jesse Zubot arrived with the very good news that they’d postponed their flights out of town and that their Iqaluit show would happen on Sunday instead. All was suddenly right with the world again.
As it turns out, it was the perfect way to end Nunavut Music Week. Morrison and his partner and Jerry Cans co-vocalist Nancy Mike had said from the beginning that they wanted visitors to the conference to experience the northern way of life as much as they did the Inuktitut music they’ve been championing with their recently established Aakuluk Music label, and Nunavut certainly delivered that experience on Saturday, emphasizing in fine meteorological style just one of the many logistical barriers that make it so difficult for northern music to be heard in the rest of Canada and around the world.
Mainly, though, the impromptu house party — which featured enjoyably loose performances by boffo local blues-rockers the Trade-Offs, most of Igloolik’s legendary Northern Haze and, of course, a thoroughly whiskey-soaked Jerry Cans, not to mention a demonstration of traditional competition throat singing between local singer/songwriter Riit and a young woman named Avery — fit the informal vibe of the small, friendly and unpretentious Nunavut Music Week gathering as a whole. “Northern hospitality” is a very real thing.
Moreover, Saturday night’s joyous denouement demonstrated just how close-knit and resourceful this tiny yet mighty scene really is, and just how much talent has been able to thrive here against the odds.
Five or 10 years from now, when Nunavut Music Week has grown into whatever it will grow into — and it will grow because there’s far too much world-class music being made up here for it not to grow — everyone in attendance will speak fondly of that almost-disastrous first year and the house party at “453” that saved it all.
A musical conduit between north and south has been opened. I don’t see it closing.
A snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party started A snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party started A snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party started A snowstorm shut down Iqaluit, and that's when the real party started
SMITHERS, B.C.—On a recent crisp fall morning, a compact white shuttle bus rolled to a stop just off the Yellowhead Highway. Four people hastily exited and began to walk briskly toward their destinations.
After all, it was 9:38 a.m., giving them just over five hours in Smithers before the bus departed again at 3 p.m.
One of the passengers was Joe Scheck, 50, who catches the bus from Houston three times a week to do yard work in Smithers. His boss would like him to work full time, but the bus only runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“If I could, I would do it five times a week,” said Scheck, standing next to his rusty Jeep bicycle, his only other form of transportation.
Scheck, like many residents of small communities along Hwy. 16 in central British Columbia, can’t afford to live in Smithers but also can’t find work — or even buy groceries — in his town. If he were able to work five days a week, he estimates he’d take home an extra $400 a month.
The province launched the $5-a-trip bus route from Burns Lake to Smithers in June. It also started a route from Prince George to Burns Lake, which operates Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. A route that connects Smithers and nearby Moricetown has operated since January.
Still, advocates say the service is only a patchwork, and it arrived more than a decade after families and Indigenous advocates called on the government to provide public transportation along a notorious stretch of Hwy. 16 known as the Highway of Tears.
The RCMP says 18 women have gone missing or have been murdered on the route between Prince Rupert and Prince George, but advocates argue the real number is more than 40. Many of the women disappeared while hitchhiking in remote areas with poor or no cell service.
At hearings held by the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women in Smithers last week, the lack of adequate transportation in the region came up repeatedly.
Gladys Radek, whose 22-year-old niece Tamara Lynn Chipman disappeared while hitchhiking in Prince Rupert in 2005, told the inquiry she knows people who have to hitchhike just to go to work. There should be a free shuttle bus service, she said.
“I’ve even picked up a young lady, just outside of Smithers, to take her back to Moricetown because she had to go see a doctor. She was nine months pregnant,” she said.
The community is also reeling from the news that Greyhound Canada has applied to provincial regulators to cancel its route from Prince George to Prince Rupert, said Radek.
Greyhound said the deaths and disappearances of women in the area are tragic but that the new publicly subsidized routes have “literally put us out of business” in this corridor.
Via Rail also operates a train along the route. Last August, it was widely reported the company was in talks with the B.C. government to offer $5 fares to “vulnerable” riders, but the idea has yet to materialize. Via Rail said it is still discussing the matter.
The call for a shuttle bus that visits every reserve and route along the route dates back to 2006, when First Nations leaders, families and advocacy groups held a Highway of Tears Symposium that produced 33 recommendations.
In 2012, Wally Oppal completed his final report after leading a provincial inquiry into missing and murdered women. The former B.C. attorney general urged the province to immediately commit to his recommendation that it implement public transit along the highway.
But it wasn’t until 2015 that the former Liberal government announced a $3-million plan for transportation along the Highway of Tears, including transit expansion, First Nations driver training and a community vehicle grant program.
Liberal spokesman Shane Mills said the safety of women along Highway 16 was a priority for the government.
“Improving transportation was done in consultation with First Nations and local governments,” he said in an email.
The NDP regularly criticized the government on the issue while in Opposition, but did not commit any new funds to public transit on Highway 16 in its recent fiscal update. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena couldn’t be reached for comment.
Oppal declined to offer an opinion on the province’s response to his recommendation, but he said it’s clear there must be satisfactory transportation on the route that discourages hitchhiking.
“We owe it to the women,” he said.
Highway of Tears needs better public transit, community members say
BRANCHBURG, N.J.—President Donald Trump on Sunday scoffed at “politically motivated ingrates” who had questioned his administration’s commitment to rebuilding Puerto Rico after a pulverizing hurricane and said the federal government had done “a great job with the almost impossible situation.”
The tweets, from a president ensconced in his New Jersey golf club for the weekend and set to attend an international golf competition near New York City before returning to the White House, sought to defend Washington’s attentiveness to recovery efforts on a U.S. territory in dire straits almost two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz on Friday accused the Trump administration of “killing us with the inefficiency” after the storm. She begged the president, who is set to visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday, to “make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives,” and appealed for help “to save us from dying.”
Cruz said Sunday that “there’s only one goal, and it’s saving lives,” adding that all she did “was ask for help.”
“I know the good heart of the American people and I know that when a mayday sound goes off, they come to the rescue,” she said in a television interview.
Trump’s weekend tweets have shown him to be contemptuous of any complaints about a laggard U.S. response to the natural disaster that has imperiled the island’s future. He has repeatedly blamed the press for what he sees as unfair coverage of the situation on the ground, where power is out and many people are without food, water and fuel.
“We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico. Outside of the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates ... people are now starting to recognize the amazing work” done by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the military, the president tweeted.
The day before, Trump had lashed out at Cruz, deriding “poor leadership ability” by her and others in Puerto Rico “who are not able to get their workers to help.”
He added, without elaboration: “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
In times of disasters, leaders often shelve partisan differences. But Trump has a penchant for punching back against critics, whatever the circumstances.
“When the president gets attack, he attacks back,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, who adding that the mayor’s comments were “unfair, given what the federal government has done.”
But to Sen. Bernie Sanders, Trump’s tweets were “unspeakable.”
He characterized the president as “speaking from his fancy golf club, playing golf with his billionaire friends, attacking the mayor of San Juan, who is struggling” to bring electricity, food, water and gas to the island. “I don’t know what world Trump is living in.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who challenged Trump for the GOP presidential nomination last year, said “when people are in the middle of the disaster, you don’t start trying to criticizing them. I just — I don’t know what to say.”
The Trump administration said it had more than 10,000 federal officials on the ground, and that urban search and rescue teams have covered the entire island, searching more than 2,649 structures. Fifty-nine hospitals are partially operational, and 45 per cent of customers have access to drinking water, officials said. Stores are also opening, with nearly half of grocery and big box stores, and more than 60 per cent of retail gas stations open for business.
FEMA chief Brock Long said the agency has worked to fix roads, establish emergency power and deliver fuel to hospitals. He said telecommunications are available to about one-third of the island.
“Oh, I believe the Puerto Ricans are pulling their weight. I mean, I think they’re doing what they can,” he said.
Trump’s administration has tried in recent days to combat the perception that he failed to quickly grasp the magnitude of Maria’s destruction and has given the U.S. commonwealth less attention than he’d bestowed on Texas, Louisiana and Florida after they were hit by hurricanes.
“The bottom line is at least for the first week and a half the effort has been slow-footed, disorganized, and not adequate,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said.
He urged Trump “to stop calling names, stop downgrading the motives of people who are calling for help, but roll up his sleeves and get to work.”
Cruz was on ABC’s This Week, Long and Mnuchin spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sanders was on CNN’s State of the Union and Schumer appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation.
Trump calls his Puerto Rico critics ‘ingrates’
New Democrats have chosen Jagmeet Singh, a criminal defence lawyer and provincial legislator who rose to prominence as an upbeat opponent of police carding and precarious work, to lead their party into the next federal election.
Singh scored a solid victory in the first round of voting for a new NDP leader, with 53.6 per cent of voters placing him at the top of their ranked ballot in results that were unveiled at a waterfront hotel Sunday afternoon.
He will now take over from outgoing leader Thomas Mulcair, who headed a caucus of 44 members on Parliament Hill since and helmed the party since 2012.
The 38-year-old, whose parents are from India, is the first visible minority to lead a major federal party in Canada.
“Today is testament to an incredible team and thousands of volunteers and supporters who believed in us across the country,” Singh said from the stage at the Westin Harbour Castle, where the results were revealed Sunday afternoon.
“This is not my victory, this is all of your victory.”
Singh’s opponents in the race were MPs Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton and Guy Caron. Out of more than 65,000 votes, Angus got 12,505, Ashton received 11,376 and Caron got 6,164.
Singh, who signed up 47,000 members in the race, received more than 35,000 votes in the first round, giving him a solid victory.
Party officials said shortly before the vote that turnout was 52.8 per cent, representing more than 60,000 voters. That’s slightly higher than the 50.9 per cent turnout in 2012, when Mulcair won.
Before the results were unveiled, former MP Olivia Chow spoke of the importance of unity as the party moves on under a new leader.
Jagmeet Singh wins the NDP leadership race
An elderly couple has died after their Etobicoke home was found to have a high level of carbon monoxide.
Toronto Fire Services said at 9:26 p.m. at a house on Bywood Dr. and Remington Dr. near Kipling Ave., the man and woman were found in the garage and CPR was performed on scene. They are both in their 80s.
Carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas that is common in household appliances such as heating systems and some cooking appliances. A running vehicle engine can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Large exposure to it can cause loss of consciousness and death.
Toronto police said it is too early in the investigation to consider the incident as suspicious or not.
Toronto Fire Services said the carbon monoxide will not affect any of the surrounding homes.
Elderly couple dead after high levels of carbon monoxide found in Etobicoke home
Within days of opening her new bar in west-end Toronto, Carmen Elle had equipped the venue with what she considers a key piece of equipment: a naloxone kit.
Elle, who is also a musician, said it took time to find a pharmacy that carried the free kits, which are used to temporarily reverse overdoses from opioids including the deadly drug fentanyl.
But having one on hand — and making sure staff know how to use it — is crucial to ensure the venue, named Less Bar, is a safe space for all patrons, she said.
“Any possible way to avoid somebody seriously OD-ing and possibly dying, I think it’s the responsibility of everybody who manages and runs these spaces (to do it),” Elle said. “Why wouldn’t we all just do that? It’s so easy.”
As public health officials across Canada seek ways to tackle what they’ve called a growing opioid crisis, some in the nightlife industry are taking steps of their own.
Several bars and music venues in Toronto now stock naloxone kits, and while the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association does not have a policy on the opioid antidote, its president Tony Elenis said members are taking precautions nonetheless.
The bar owners association of Quebec, meanwhile, said it was weighing a policy on naloxone kits, with a decision expected in the coming weeks. The Alliance of Beverage Licensees of British Columbia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lee’s Palace, a popular music venue in Toronto, got a kit earlier this year after its assistant manager, Norm Maschke, was advised to do so by a friend who is an outreach worker.
Since then, Maschke has encouraged others to follow suit, saying the kits are “a must, not just a want.”
“People do like to party late at night at bars and music clubs and elsewhere and it would be in our best interest to make sure that if somebody does end up in a compromising position that we can at least help them as best we can. To not do it is negligent,” he said.
So far, there have been no fentanyl-related incidents at Lee’s, Maschke said. Still, he said, “I feel like it’s inevitable and I don’t want to just push it off and then be met with a situation and then I’m not prepared.”
Toronto Public Health said there are no downsides to having access to the kits in bars and other venues.
“Naloxone should be available at any location where there may be people at risk of overdose,” the agency said. “Additionally, anyone who needs access to naloxone should be allowed to carry and administer it, including people who use drugs, their friends and family, or others who may be in a position to administer this life-saving medicine.”
At least 2,816 Canadians died from opioid-related causes in 2016 and the country’s chief public health officer predicts that number will surpass 3,000 this year.
Naloxone is available without a prescription at pharmacies in several provinces, including Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
The number of kits distributed through Toronto pharmacies has increased since they were made available by the province in July of last year, according to public health officials.
Close to 1,400 were handed out by Toronto pharmacies between January and March of this year, with another 1,039 distributed by Toronto Public Health during that time, the agency said.
One hurdle for those interested in having a kit is that pharmacies can run out, said Elle, who said it took some searching to find one.
“It’s available but it doesn’t seem to be in great enough supply that you can just go into any Shoppers Drug Mart and grab one,” she said.
What’s more, obtaining one can be an intimidating process, she said, noting that she received what she called strange looks from those giving out the kit. It felt awful to experience even a fraction of the stigma that people who use substances must face, she said.
“I don’t want that to happen at Less Bar and I’m looking to create an atmosphere where that doesn’t really happen.”
Toronto bars, music venues begin stocking naloxone kits in face of opioid crisis
A battle over bike lanes is boiling over in Toronto’s east end.
Just three weeks after the city installed separated cycle tracks on a 3.7-kilometre stretch of Woodbine Ave., more than 3,000 people have signed a petition demanding Mayor John Tory have them removed.
Critics complain that the project has caused increased traffic congestion on Woodbine, and drivers are darting dangerously onto side streets to avoid it.
They also charge that the city didn’t adequately consult the community about the plans, and they claim there aren’t enough cyclists on Woodbine to justify designated lanes. According to cycling counts from May 2016, daytime cyclist volume on the street was between 150 and 200 cyclists per day.
Among the more outspoken critics is Warren Kinsella, the former federal Liberal strategist, who lives on a residential street off Woodbine. He’s likened the backlash to “a citizen’s revolt.”
“My street’s turned into a speedway,” he told a talk radio station recently. “And the concern, obviously, is a kid might get hit or hurt, or worse. It’s really created quite a mess of the neighbourhood.”
Proponents of the lanes say such concerns are overblown.
“It’s a knee-jerk reaction. It’s a NIMBY response,” said Mary Ann Neary, a leader of local cycling advocacy group 32 Spokes. She’s one of nearly 2,000 people who have signed a competing petition urging city hall to keep the lanes.
She argued that the cycle tracks have made the community safer for children, not more dangerous.
“I now actually see kids riding their bikes on the Woodbine bike lane... They now actually have a safe option to travel in the area,” she said.
The Woodbine lanes, which run from O’Connor Dr. to Queen St. E., were identified as a key cycling route in the city’s 10-year cycling plan council passed in June 2016.
They’re currently the only north-south separated bike lanes east of the downtown core, and they connect to key east-west cycling routes, as well as to bike lanes proposed on Danforth Ave.
Although the lanes aren’t packed with cyclists yet, Neary argues that, as the connectivity of Toronto’s bike infrastructure improves, they will induce demand.
“The whole thing we’re trying to do here is to get people who want to consider an alternate way to (get around the city) to be able to see themselves actually doing it in a safe way. That sometimes takes a little time,” she said.
The Woodbine project, as well as two much shorter lanes proposed for Corley and Norway Aves., are projected to cost an estimated $400,000 to install.
The configuration of the lanes varies; some sections of Woodbine incorporate a barrier in the form of flexi-post bollards, while others offer no more protection than painted “sharrows” on the pavement.
In general, car traffic has been reduced to one lane in each direction, with dedicated left-turn lanes at major intersections.
The design was “anticipated to provide sufficient capacity for accommodating traffic-flow,” according to a report that went before council. But longer traffic cues were expected at four major intersections, which staff have attempted to mitigate by retiming signals.
Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, the city’s director of transportation infrastructure management, said her department is aware thousands of people oppose the bike lanes and “we’re working to mitigate their concerns.”
She acknowledged city staff have observed congestion at the afternoon rush hour, but said some of the problem is a result of water-main work and streetcar track replacement at nearby Coxwell Ave. and Queen.
Her department plans to conduct a traffic study on Woodbine next spring and “make additional changes, as deemed necessary,” Gulati said.
“We’re not just slapping them down and walking away; we absolutely will monitor the situation,” said local Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32 Beaches-East York), a vocal proponent of the lanes.
In response to claims that public consultation was inadequate, McMahon said the city sent out more than 35,000 flyers and held two public meetings, and she and the other councillor representing the project-area knocked on every door on Woodbine.
“I can’t see what else we could have done besides actually sitting down for dinner with every resident,” said McMahon.
While cities such as Montreal and New York have pursued new cycling infrastructure aggressively in recent years, there is precedent in Toronto for removing bike lanes; most famously, in 2012, under then mayor Rob Ford. the city spent about $300,000 to scrub out the Jarvis St. bike lanes. Under Ford, who campaigned against the “war on the car,” the city also removed bike lanes on Pharmacy Ave. and Birchmount Rd. in Scarborough.
McMahon is adamant there won’t be a repeat on Woodbine; the new bike lanes are “locked and sealed into our 10-year cycling plan,” she said, which she added is key to improving bike safety and meeting the city’s climate change goals.
“We’re not ripping anything out from the cycling plan,” said McMahon.
“They’re going to stay put.”
Woodbine bike lanes here to stay despite controversy, councillor says