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    HAZARD, KY.—The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that he will sign a new rule overriding the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

    “The war on coal is over,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared in the coal mining state of Kentucky. He said no federal agency “should ever use its authority” to “declare war on any sector of our economy.”

    For Pruitt, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan will mark the culmination of a long fight he began as the elected attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt was among about two-dozen attorney generals who sued to stop president Barack Obama’s 2014 push to limit carbon emissions, stymieing the limits from ever taking effect.

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

    Closely aligned with the oil and gas industry in his home state, Pruitt rejects the consensus of scientists that man-man emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change.

    U.S. President Donald Trump, who appointed Pruitt and shares his skepticism of established climate science, promised to kill the Clean Power Plan during the 2016 campaign as part of his broader pledge to revive the nation’s struggling coal mines.

    In his order Tuesday, Pruitt is expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.

    It was not immediately clear if Pruitt would seek to issue a new rule without congressional approval, which Republicans had criticized the Obama administration for doing. Pruitt’s rule wouldn’t become final for months, and is then highly likely to face legal challenges filed by left-leaning states and environmental groups.

    Pruitt appeared at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at Whayne Supply, a Hazard, Kentucky, company that sells coal mining supplies. The store’s owners have been forced to lay off about 60 per cent of its workers in recent years.

    While cheering the demise of the Clean Power Plan as a way to stop the bleeding, McConnell conceded most of those lost jobs are never coming back.

    “A lot of damage has been done,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “This doesn’t immediately bring everything back, but we think it stops further decline of coal fired plants in the United States and that means there will still be some market here.”

    Obama’s plan was designed to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule dictated specific emission targets for states based on power-plant emissions and gave officials broad latitude to decide how to achieve reductions.

    The Supreme Court put the plan on hold last year following legal challenges by industry and coal-friendly states. Even so, the plan helped drive a recent wave of retirements of coal-fired plants, which are also being squeezed by low cost natural gas and renewable power. In the absence of stricter federal regulations curbing greenhouse gas emissions, many states have issued their own mandates promoting energy conservation.

    The withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan is the latest in a series of moves by Trump and Pruitt to dismantle Obama’s legacy on fighting climate change, including the delay or roll back of rules limiting levels of toxic pollution in smokestack emissions and wastewater discharges from coal-burning power plants.

    On Thursday, Trump nominated former coal-industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to serve as Pruitt’s top deputy at EPA — one of several recent political appointees at the agency with direct ties to the fossil fuel interests.

    The president announced earlier this year that he will pull the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. Nearly 200 countries have committed to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

    “This president has tremendous courage,” Pruitt said Monday. “He put America first and said to the rest of the world we are going to say no and exit the Paris Accord. That was the right thing to do.”

    Despite the rhetoric about saving coal, government statistics show that coal mines currently employ only about 52,000 workers nationally — a modest 4-per cent uptick since Trump became president. Those numbers are dwarfed by the jobs created by building such clean power infrastructure as wind turbines and solar arrays.

    Environmental groups and public health advocates quickly derided Pruitt’s decision as short sighted.

    “Trump is not just ignoring the deadly cost of pollution, he’s ignoring the clean energy deployment that is rapidly creating jobs across the country,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club.

    Trump administration to abandon Obama-era clean power plan, EPA chief saysTrump administration to abandon Obama-era clean power plan, EPA chief says

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    Of the three historic milestones that Jagmeet Singh represents — the first non-white, first South Asian and first Sikh to become leader of a national party — it is his faith, to which he so visibly and proudly belongs, that is of the utmost symbolic and substantive significance.

    A century after facing raw racism on their arrival in British Columbia, Sikhs have emerged a bigger political force than any other visible minority group. Theirs has been a long and arduous journey that, at long last, constitutes a great Canadian story.

    In electing Singh as leader, the New Democratic Party atones for the sins of its precursor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which demonized the Sikhs from India — often mislabeled as Hindus — landing on the west coast in the early 1900s. CCF leader J.S. Woodsworth proclaimed that they were “decidedly grotesque” and “sadly out of place in Canada.”

    Echoing him was the labour movement, the other founding pillar of the future NDP. In 1907, the Vancouver Trades and Labour Council passed a motion of “emphatic protest” against the “Hindoo laborers.” The Trades and Labour Council of Canada urged exclusion of “races that cannot be assimilated.”

    Reflecting prevailing prejudices, the Vancouver press portrayed the new arrivals as a danger to chaste “white women.”

    The B.C. legislature in 1907 disenfranchised all “natives of India not of Anglo-Saxon parents,” and barred them from logging on Crown lands as well as entering the legal and medical professions.

    Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier wrote: “The situation with regard to the Hindoos is serious ... and, to speak frankly, I see no solution for it except quietly checking the exodus from India.” His labour minister and future prime minister, Mackenzie King, said, “the Hindu is not suited to the climate of this country.”

    In 1908, Ottawa enacted the infamous “continuous journey” law. Those from India would have to travel non-stop to Canada. Except that no shipping line offered direct passage. Which was the point. Other rules disallowed those not speaking a European language, and barred the re-entry of those who had gone home to visit wives and family.

    By 1911, the mostly Sikh Indian population in Canada was reduced by half to 2,342.

    The first real challenge to these racist policies came from an unexpected quarter. On May 23, 1914, Komagata Maru, a Japanese freighter chartered by Gurdit Singh, an enterprising Sikh from Malaya, anchored in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet. It carried 376 citizens of the British Raj, 340 of them Sikhs.

    “Hindu invaders now in the city harbour on Komagata Maru,” screamed a Vancouver newspaper.

    The passengers were not allowed to disembark for two months. Prime Minister Robert Borden had the ship escorted out to the Pacific Ocean.

    It was not until 72 years later, in May last year, that Ottawa issued a formal apology. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons: “No words can fully erase the suffering of the Komagata Maru victims. Today, we apologize and commit to doing better.” Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp, featuring the ship and Gurdit Singh. This year, Stratford Festival mounted a new adaptation of the 1976 Sharon Pollock play, The Komagata Maru Incident. Peel Art Gallery and Museum mounted an exhibition in Brampton, where Punjabi is now the second-most spoken language and which Jagmeet Singh has represented in the Ontario Legislature since 2011.

    Contemporary influx of Sikhs to Canada began in the 1970s, along with other groups from Asia under liberalized immigration.

    That was the time when Sikhs in India were agitating for a separate homeland, Khalistan, the land of the pure. From a relatively peaceful, political protest movement it evolved into a militant campaign, with its leader and armed followers taking refuge in the Golden Temple, the Sikh’s holiest shrine, in Amritsar, in 1982. In 1984, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian army in.

    A reported 1,500 were killed in that military operation. In retaliation, Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards as she came out of her residence in Delhi. That triggered retaliatory attacks on Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere, killing an estimated 3,000.

    In 1985, an Air India flight out of Toronto was blown up by an on-board bomb, off the coast of Ireland, killing 329 people — the worst terrorist incident in Canadian history. Suspicion fell on a group of West Coast Sikhs, but only one, Inderjit Singh Reyat, was convicted (and paroled last year). All the facts were never established due to a prolonged, botched RCMP investigation and despite two federal inquiries.

    All this has remained a sore point with India — and also many Canadian Hindus. Both tend to see Sikh critics of India as radical “Khalistanis.”

    In 1987, on a foggy July morning, 174 Sikhs were found standing on a highway in Shelburne County, N.S. They had been let off near the shore by a boat. One asked where he could find a taxi to Toronto. Eventually, they were accepted as refugees, as were thousands of other Sikhs.

    In Canada, Sikhs continued battling numerous challenges to their right to wear the turban and kirpan, the ceremonial dagger. In 1989, more than 90,000 Canadians signed a petition opposing turbans in the RCMP. The Reform Party, led by Preston Manning, fully backed that campaign. It was not until 1990 that Baltej Singh Dhillon became the first turbaned Mountie.

    Buffeted by overseas and domestic developments, Sikhs started organizing the community. They were soon contesting federal and provincial nominations with vigour. That prompted right-wing media and pundits to repeatedly raise the spectre of “ethnic politics,” with nary a mention of why it has always been laudable for other Canadians to recruit friends, fellow farmers, bankers or any other like-minded group for a political cause but not for the Sikhs.

    The 1993 federal election turned out to be a mini-milestone — Sikhs had more seats in the Commons than the Conservatives, three to two.

    Gurbax Singh Malhi of Malton became the first turbaned Sikh member of Parliament — in fact, the first in the Western world. During question period in the Commons, he was seated in camera range right behind Jean Chrétien his blazing red turban announcing the emerging new Canada.

    Non-turbaned Sikhs also gained national prominence — among them, Herbance Singh (Herb) Dhaliwal, a federal minister, and Ujjal Singh Dosanjh, NDP premier of B.C. who later became a Liberal and was named to the federal cabinet.

    Sikh success in Canadian politics and the public sphere since has been remarkable.

    Their annual community event, the Khalsa Day is celebrated in every major city. It has become de rigueur for political leaders from the Prime Minister on down to be present. Politicians of all parties routinely visit gurdwaras, Sikh temples, where they take off their shoes, cover their heads as per custom and sit on the floor in separate men’s and women’s sections, and later volunteer at the langar, the dining hall where people take turns serving free food to one and all.

    Today, of the 41 elected South Asian members of Parliament and the provincial legislatures, 30 are Sikhs. And last year, Sabi Marwah, the first turbaned Sikh vice-chairman and chief operating officer of the Bank of Nova Scotia, was appointed to the Senate.

    When Justin Trudeau named four Sikhs to his cabinet — Navdeep Bains, Bardish Chagger, Harjit Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi — the prime minister boasted that he had more Sikh ministers than the federal cabinet in India.

    That ill-advised remark rankled New Delhi, which has also kept a wary eye on several Canadian Sikhs, including Jagmeet Singh. He has been a vocal critic of India’s handling of the 1984 Sikh killings. He has said that the euphemism “riots” is “a misnomer for what happened. These were not riots between the two (communities — Hindus and Sikhs). It was a state-sponsored massacre.”

    In 2014, he was denied a visa to India, with Indian spokesmen accusing him of “fomenting contempt” against India. He responded that India “continues to use visa denial as a form of silencing its critics.”

    In April this year, he voted for a motion passed at the Ontario Legislature describing the 1984 killings as “genocide.”

    Singh’s rise to the leadership of the NDP clearly changes the Canadian political calculus.

    Sikhs used to vote overwhelmingly for the Liberals. The Conservatives have made inroads in recent years. The NDP less so, partly because Sikhs tend to be socially conservative, as seen in their objections to the changes in sex education curriculum in Ontario schools, something that Singh initially opposed.

    But with his new national status, “there’ll be much interest in the NDP among the Sikhs, in a big way, especially in Brampton and Mississauga, and out west in Surrey and Delta in B.C., and in Edmonton,” says Harinder Takhar, MPP for Mississauga-Erindale.

    Takhar ran for the leadership of provincial Liberal party in 2013, losing to Kathleen Wynne. To delegates at that convention, he made a poignant personal observation: one of his greatest regrets was to have cut his hair and beard in the 1970s to get a job — “I ended up losing a part of myself.”

    He sees the rise of Jagmeet Singh, the unapologetic observant Sikh, as “a great leap forward in multicultural Canada.”

    In an interview, Takhar said that Singh’s ascendance has “serious ramifications for all parties at both the federal and provincial level” — beyond the voting patterns in the Sikh community, now estimated at 750,000 across Canada.

    “His greater impact would be on policy,” given his social justice agenda.

    Singh, a frequent victim of racial profiling — he says he has been pulled over 11 times by police — has long campaigned against carding.

    In the post-9/11 period, he has felt the lash of being mistaken as a Muslim. He has been firm in defending the right of Muslim women to wear the hijab and the niqab, even if the latter stance has rankled some Quebecers. Lately, he has tried to finesse the issue by saying that he respects Quebec’s jurisdiction but that he thinks the courts would overturn a ban on the niqab, anyway.

    His bigger hope is to convince Quebecers to consider what’s in his head, not what’s on it.

    It remains to be seen whether he’d be allowed to enter the Quebec National Assembly with his turban and dagger. And whether India would deny him entry to the land of his parents’ and his people’s birth.

    Jagmeet Singh’s success closes some chapters of Canada’s checkered history in dealing with diversity. And it opens several others, with national and international implications.

    Alok Mukherjee, former chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, and Haroon Siddiqui, former columnist and editorial page editor emeritus of the Toronto Star, are distinguished visiting professors at Ryerson University.

    Pariahs to power brokers: Sikhs have become a major political force in CanadaPariahs to power brokers: Sikhs have become a major political force in Canada

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    Jason Wisdom believes a Toronto jury found him guilty of first degree murder based on evidence he was in a gang, sold drugs and kept “bad company,” not because the Crown proved he was one of the triggermen who shot two innocent men, killing one of them, as they sat in a car stopped at a Scarborough intersection during the evening rush hour on March 3, 2004.

    “There's three large black guys there (in the prisoners' box) — better just to say guilty then let a murderer out free, that's the last thing the public wants.”

    Wisdom said this last week, sitting in the mid-town Toronto office of James Lockyer, the defence lawyer who argued the appeal that led to the 32-year-old, a day earlier, leaving court a free man after serving 13 years and four days in custody.

    “It's still surreal. It's like waking up from a nightmare into another dream — a more pleasant dream, but it's still a dream,” Wisdom said of his whirlwind 24 hours that included a reunion with family.

    After leaving the court, “It still didn't hit me, I was walking, I think on York St., everything just moving so fast ... the city's different now, right?”

    Eight summers ago, Wisdom, and co-accused Tyshan Riley and Philip Atkins yelled and pounded the plexiglass dividers separating them after jurors found them guilty of murder, attempted murder and murder to benefit a criminal organization, a band of hardscrabble youth known as the Galloway Boys.

    It had been the largest street gang prosecution in Canadian history.

    The Crown's theory was that the drive-by shooting was a case of mistaken identity, that Riley — the gang's leader — his close associate Atkins and Wisdom ambushed the vehicle believing the occupants were rival gang members from Malvern, a neighbourhood in the northeast part of the city.

    Riley and Atkins did not testify.

    But Wisdom did, and admitted getting involved in “criminal activity” after dropping out of high school — preferring the more lucrative dollars that came from selling drugs to the money earned washing dishes at a local restaurant.

    When it came to the double shooting, Wisdom addressed the jury directly. He was not one of the shooters who killed Brenton Charlton, or seriously wounded his friend Leonard Bell, as the two men waited for the light to turn green. Wisdom said he was at home watching TV at the time, backed by his mother's testimony but ripped apart by the Crown as unreliable.

    Bell, a general contractor shot multiple times on March 3, 2004, said his initial reaction to Wisdom's release was “disgust.”

    “I was satisfied with the police investigation that led to the convictions,” Bell told the Star over the Thanksgiving weekend.

    But Bell added “no one who is innocent should be in prison.”

    Riley, Atkins and Wisdomeach received life sentences with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

    Back in Lockyer's office last week, Wisdom repeated the denial he made in 2009.

    “Leonard's got to know I didn't shoot at him,” Wisdom said turning to look into the lens of a videocamera — similar to his direct appeal to the jury. “I got through pen time better knowing that I was innocent.” He added later: “I wasn't a gun guy. I sold drugs, smoked some weed with the guys. I wasn't ... shooting — that's a different step.” Before his arrest for murder when he was 19, Wisdom had a couple of driving offences and one drug-trafficking conviction.

    The reason for Wisdom's release relates to some of the evidence presented during the trial. In August, the province's highest court ruled details about Wisdom's participation in a botched attempt to steal $100,000 from a cheque-cashing outlet should not have been allowed and had a “significant prejudicial effect” on jurors.

    “Given the relative weakness of the Crown's case against Wisdom, it is not possible to conclude the admission of that evidence did not result in a miscarriage of justice,” the Court of Appeal decision said. The court rejected the grounds of appeal for Atkins and Riley.

    A new trial for Wisdom was ordered.

    But last week, the Crown announced it would instead stay the charges.

    “After the Court of Appeal ruled that some of the evidence called at the first trial was inadmissible, the Crown carefully examined all aspects of the remaining evidence in this case,” Emilie Smith, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Attorney General, wrote in email.

    “After completing that review, and giving the matter very careful consideration, the Crown concluded that with the evidence that remained there was no reasonable prospect of conviction and stayed the charges,” Smith said.

    The Crown could still prosecute Wisdom within a year. Lockyer said he will be asking instead that the charges be withdrawn. The ministry would not comment on his request.

    During the trial, there were no witnesses, no fingerprints, no DNA, no guns nor wiretapped confessions.

    The Crown based much of its case on two witnesses. The defence branded them unsavoury liars.

    The prosecution used the witnesses’ corroborative testimony to help prove its case against Riley and Atkins. Not so with Wisdom.

    One of the witnesses, Roland Ellis, implicated Wisdom in a sworn statement, which led police to charge him, in April 2005, with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting of Charlton and Bell.

    Wisdom said last week “that's where I think the mistake started from and it just spiralled.”

    The ministry spokesperson did not respond to the Star's request asking if an attempt had been made to locate Ellis, who was under police guard while testifying back in 2009.

    “I believe if they found him, it wouldn't matter to me much,” Wisdom said last week.

    He prefers to think about what lies ahead. Lockyer, his lawyer, points to his client’s “remarkable” record behind bars.

    After Toronto police advised Fenbrook Institution, the medium-security prison near Gravenhurst, that he was no longer an “active member of the Galloway Boys,” Wisdom was elected vice-chair of the inmate committee three years in a row.

    Wisdom said he also spent his prison time reading — he often had a book with him during the trial — and taking business management courses, playing basketball and working out.

    “I just can't wait to live a pro-social life, no crime, no jaywalking, none of that stuff,” he said.

    “I was a young man and made bad choices, I'm sure a lot of young men do, and that 13 years, boy, straightened me out...I didn't deserve it but I learned a lot.”

    Convicted in Galloway Boys shooting, Jason Wisdom is released from prison after his murder conviction is stayedConvicted in Galloway Boys shooting, Jason Wisdom is released from prison after his murder conviction is stayed

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  • 10/10/17--08:43: Article 1

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    TORONTO—The union representing faculty at Ontario’s 24 public colleges has set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 16.

    The Ontario Public Service Employees Union said in a news release late Tuesday that the date was set after the College Employer Council walked away from the bargaining table.

    J.P. Hornick, the chairman of the OPSEU bargaining team, says the employer again refused to consider key issues in the ongoing dispute.

    He says the goal of setting a strike deadline “is to get negotiations moving before it’s too late.”

    OPSEU, which represents more than 12,000 employees in the college system, has said the key issues include giving faculty and students more of a voice in academic decisions and what it calls the “ongoing exploitation of contract faculty.”

    Hornick says the employer “is not moving forward on the issues faculty care about most — even in the case of no-cost items like academic freedom or longer contracts for contract faculty.”

    Faculty at Ontario colleges could go on strike on Oct. 16Faculty at Ontario colleges could go on strike on Oct. 16

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    Ontario colleges are spending $160 million more than they receive from the government to provide mental health services and supports for students — a need that continues to grow and must be addressed, says a new report.

    The report, released Tuesday, “is highlighting that we are seeing the acceleration of these challenges beyond what we might have expected to see,” said Linda Franklin, president of Colleges Ontario, which represents the province’s 24 public institutions.

    At a time when general overall funding per student has been declining, colleges are “currently diverting significant funds from general operations and academic programming to provide student at-risk support programs and services,” says the report from Deloitte.

    “This approach is not sustainable. As a result, colleges have pursued a number of innovations aimed at doing more with less.”

    Including, it adds, “more proactive and holistic student support to address problems before a crisis occurs, expanding faculty and staff involvement, adopting new technological solutions, and building community partnerships that share resources and knowledge.”

    The report also urges the provincial government to make sure that high school students are better prepared for the academic rigours of post-secondary life, “by encouraging the Ministry of Education to modify high school programs to better meet college requirements.”

    Colleges Ontario first looked into the issue of student mental health five years ago, but felt an update was necessary because “over the intervening years, leaders in the college system, student leaders and faculty were saying to us that they were experiencing increasing levels of students coming to them with mental health (needs),” said Franklin.

    Some students can’t find the supports they need in their local community, so they turn to the colleges, which provide services to those studying full- or part-time.

    Franklin said colleges are looking for more funds, new pilot projects, as well as partnerships with the government and community agencies to better co-ordinate services.

    A three-year, $720,000 pilot out of Humber College that began in 2012 provided “Mental Health First-Aid” training to college staff across the province, who then returned to their institutions to train others. About 3,000 in total took part, said Meg Houghton, associate dean of student wellness and equity at Humber.

    “It’s helping people to understand what to ask, how to support someone experiencing distress… and referring and getting support,” and how to distinguish moderate distress and crisis situations, she said.

    The report notes that half a million students attend colleges in this province, and “over time, this student population has become increasingly populated by non-traditional students at risk of not completing post-secondary education,” in particular students with learning and mental health disabilities, mature students, and those who are the first in their family to go beyond high school studies.

    Deb Matthews, the provincial minister of advanced education and skills development, said she has heard “loud and clear at every campus” about the “need to better support mental health on campus.”

    “There is no disputing that this is a huge issue on campus, right across our province,” she said in a statement to the Star.

    Matthews noted that the government has worked with colleges and universities on a number of programs, and continues to boost funding.

    “Colleges serve as an important ‘point of entry’ and resource for students who are seeking help with their mental health, often far from their home community or family supports,” said Matthews. “We will continue to work with colleges in the effort to improve the accessibility and quality of mental health supports for students.”

    Student mental health needs growing, Ontario colleges sayStudent mental health needs growing, Ontario colleges say

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    At mid-term, the Liberal government is stuck.

    A mid-term malaise is not rare, but no new government in recent memory had ascended to power with greater expectations than Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

    Now, it needs to recast itself as the progressive government Canadians thought they had elected in 2015, or face significant political threats on both of its flanks.

    This is the time in the life of a government when it must face the fact that lofty aspirations have flown head first into the rock face of reality, and much of that will be on display this week as Trudeau meets U.S. President Donald Trump.

    The handling of the bilateral Canada-U.S. file had been one of the triumphs of the Trudeau government, but all the strategic nurturing in the world hasn’t stopped the U.S. from throwing NAFTA proposals on the table which many believe are poison pills meant to kill a deal, or from targeting the Canadian aerospace industry with a ridiculous 300 per cent tariff.

    Nowhere has the gap between expectations and delivery been wider than on Indigenous reconciliation, part of a sweeping series of pledges Trudeau made on the campaign trail.

    It has had two effects — it has helped elevate Indigenous issues in this country to the national conversation and has delivered a greater awareness of historic injustice, but it has also highlighted that Liberal gap.

    Despite a commitment to end all drinking water advisories on reserves within five years, the government says there were still 41 short-term advisories as of Aug. 31 and 103 advisories that have been in place for more than a year. The statistics do not include British Columbia.

    Symbolic measures have outnumbered substantive measures, but all Liberal efforts on the file will be overshadowed by the failings of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which, in a further sign it is not ready for prime time, announced its latest resignations on a Saturday in the middle of a long weekend.

    This should have been the lowest-hanging fruit when it came to Indigenous reconciliation.

    Another Liberal promise, electoral reform, was cynically tossed overboard after a long series of sham hearings and questionnaires.

    The early glow as Trudeau’s government welcomed Syrian refugees has long ago faded. Now the debate revolves around those arriving illegally at land crossings and whether Trudeau oversold the welcoming nature of this country’s immigration system.

    Promised deficits of under $10 billion for two years before a return to balanced books was quickly punted and although this year’s deficit is smaller than forecast, there is no longer any timetable for balance.

    Two years after pledging that Canada would return to a peacekeeping role as a sign the country is back on the international stage, the plan is in limbo.

    Worse, this government can seem petty, whether moving to tax employee discounts (now apparently under government review), a measure that goes after low-paid retail clerks, not the 1 per cent, or spending more than $110,000 fighting an Indigenous girl’s $6,000 dental claim.

    It has spent more than $700,000 fighting a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order that it cease discriminating against Indigenous children when it comes to health and social services spending.

    Trudeau’s finance minister, Bill Morneau, has stumbled in trying to sell promised tax reforms, underestimating the opposition from small business and farmers and handing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and his Conservatives a ready-made cause.

    And, after playing with an empty net on the other side, Trudeau now faces two parties energized by new leaders, the Conservatives under Scheer and the New Democrats under Jagmeet Singh.

    A recent gaggle of polls show the Conservatives drawing even with the Liberals, but polling data two years from an election is largely irrelevant.

    The good news for the Liberals is that voters still appear to give Trudeau a long leash and he remains personally popular.

    What it does show is the Liberals can no longer glide along on the 2015 headwinds which kept them comfortably ahead of two parties without permanent leaders.

    It shows that this is a government still grappling with the tough work of governing, with too many ministers having to find their way in the first half of the mandate.

    But it is also a government with two years to regain its progressive footing, whether it be on the environment, a smooth roll-out of marijuana legislation or a meaningful foreign policy victory.

    Right now, the malaise means danger to the Liberal brand.

    Tim Harper writes on national affairs., Twitter: @nutgraf1

    For the Trudeau Liberals, a mid-term malaise: Tim HarperFor the Trudeau Liberals, a mid-term malaise: Tim Harper

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    With his SmartTrack plan going to public consultations this week, Mayor John Tory says his signature transit project has reached a major milestone.

    But key questions about the plan remained unanswered Tuesday, including how many people are expected to use the service and how much it will cost them to do so.

    At a news conference in Scarborough ahead of the first of three public meetings planned for this week, Tory predicted SmartTrack will bring “new and improved service where it is needed the most in our city.”

    “Over the last year, city staff have been working hard at studying SmartTrack station locations and station designs …. City staff are now ready to take it to the public,” the mayor said, declaring it “an important day.”

    The city is holding the consultations in three affected neighbourhoods, with the goal of getting feedback on the plan’s six proposed new stops.

    Although they would be labelled SmartTrack stations, the stops would be added to GO Transit’s existing Kitchener and Stouffville/Lakeshore East lines. They would be operated as part of a wider expansion and electrification of GO Transit service known as regional express rail, which is being spearheaded by Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the GTHA.

    City staff are hoping to get input on the design of the stops, including station entrances, accessibility for people with mobility issues, and land use around the sites.

    However, James Perttula, director of transit and transportation planning for the city, confirmed at a media briefing that the city doesn’t yet have solid numbers for how many people are expected to use SmartTrack stations once they’re built.

    Although previous reports have estimated that the stations could attract as many as 9 million new riders to the GO Transit network each year, key factors that will influence ridership are still being worked out.

    According to the city’s public consultation materials, trains will stop at SmartTrack stations at frequencies of every six to 10 minutes during peak periods, and every 15 minutes outside of that. But Perttula told reporters details aren’t yet finalized. “Metrolinx is still working through their service model, and we have not been given updated service plans,” he said.

    And though Tory has pledged that transit users will pay a “TTC fare” to board at SmartTrack stations, Perttula said he was “not sure” what the fares will be. How much it will cost will likely be subject to the outcome of Metrolinx’s efforts to integrate the fare systems of transit agencies across the GTHA.

    Perttula also said he had “no answer” for whether trains servicing SmartTrack stations will be capable of “through service” at Union Station. If not, trains on the eastern and western arms of the SmartTrack “U” would turn back at Union, which would leave no direct link between stops on the two halves of the city and likely depress ridership.

    Perttula said that despite the unknowns, it is still worthwhile to consult the public about the proposed stations because many questions about design “apply to a station regardless of the specific ridership.”

    He said the city expects to release a report in the spring about “how the various elements of SmartTrack are shaping up” and may “need to update some of our analysis depending on how these other pieces of puzzle come together.”

    Last month Metrolinx placed one of the proposed new SmartTrack stations, Lawrence East, as well as the proposed Kirby GO station in Vaughan, under review. The move followed a Star investigation that revealed the ministry of transportation pressured the agency into approving both stops despite internal reports that recommended they not be built.

    Metrolinx has said that if the review doesn’t determine the stations are warranted they won’t go ahead. The provincial auditor general is also investigating whether the stations provide good value for money.

    The version of SmartTrack going to consultation this week is significantly less ambitious than the plan Tory made the central plank of his successful 2014 campaign.

    He originally promised 13 new stations and a total of 22 stops, instead of six new stations and a total of 14 stops. His proposal to build a heavy rail link to the airport has since been replaced with a planned extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. He also pledged on the campaign trail to complete the project within seven years, but said Tuesday it would be done by the “early 2020s.”

    Councillor Gord Perks said that the current plan was not what the mayor promised.

    “It’s a little rich to refer to a handful of stations as ‘SmartTrack.’ The mayor promised 22 stations in seven years, with subway frequencies at TTC prices, and we’re not getting any of that,” said Perks, who is a frequent critic of the mayor.

    Last November, council agreed to be responsible for all the costs of the six proposed SmartTrack stops. The price tag is estimated at about $1.3 billion.

    Tory’s Smarttrack plan heads off for public inputTory’s Smarttrack plan heads off for public input

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    NEW YORK—An avalanche of allegations poured out Tuesday against Harvey Weinstein in on-the-record reports that detailed claims of sexual abuse and included testimonies from Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, further intensifying the already explosive collapse of the disgraced movie mogul.

    Three women accused Weinstein of raping them in a story published online by the New Yorker, including the Italian actress Asia Argento and a woman who was an aspiring actress in college when she caught Weinstein’s eye. A representative for the mogul vehemently denied the allegations in a statement to the magazine.

    Read more: Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein fired from own company

    Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment allegations represent a moment of reckoning for Hollywood: Analysis

    Harvey Weinstein’s friends turn against him as Hollywood condemnation grows louder

    In a followup to its earlier exposé, the New York Times also reported Tuesday that many other actresses have in recent days added to the chorus of accusations surrounding Weinstein. Paltrow described Weinstein’s attempt to lure her, then 22, into giving him a massage in a hotel room. The incident prompted her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt to angrily confront Weinstein at a film premiere.

    Both reports significantly ratcheted up the unfolding scandal surrounding Weinstein, who was fired Sunday from the Weinstein Co. They not only describe a mounting number of alleged incidents, but thoroughly document the systematic harassment, abuse and intimidation of women — almost always young actresses trying to succeed in movies.

    Lucia Evans, then a senior at Middlebury College, said Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004 at the Miramax offices in Tribeca. She had been brought in for a casting meeting with Weinstein. Argento, an actress and director, said Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999. A third woman spoke anonymously.

    “I know he has crushed a lot of people before,” Argento told the New Yorker. “That’s why this story — in my case, it’s 20 years old, some of them are older — has never come out.”

    Attorneys for Weinstein did not immediately return messages Tuesday. The New Yorker quoted Weinstein representative Sallie Hofmeister responding that “any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.”

    “Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. Mr. Weinstein obviously can’t speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual,” said Hofmeister. “Mr. Weinstein has begun counselling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path. Mr. Weinstein is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance.”

    The New Yorker story, written and researched by the NBC correspondent Ronan Farrow, claimed that 13 women have said Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them between 1990 and 2015. The incidents described range from unwanted groping to forced sex. Some of those incidents overlap with the eight allegations of sexual harassment previously reported by the New York Times, all of which resulted in financial settlements.

    But they also go much further. In the article, Rosanna Arquette and Mira Sorvino are among those who claim Weinstein sexually harassed them. Arquette described a 1990s incident at a Beverly Hills hotel in which Weinstein tried to make her give him a massage and then attempted to lead her hand to his penis. Afterward, the actress told the magazine, “He made things very difficult for me for years.”

    Jolie also told the Times that she has “a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth.” Since, she said, she has refused to work with him and “warn others when they did.”

    Representatives for the actresses involved in both reports did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

    The Italian news agency ANSA said it contacted Argento about the story, and said she responded with a text message that read: “It’s all true, everything is written in the New Yorker. Now leave me in peace.”

    Actress Louisette Geiss (Two and a Half Men) also came forward Tuesday, announcing in a press conference at Gloria Allred’s Los Angeles office that in a 2008 meeting at the Sundance Film Festival, Weinstein appeared nude in an open bathrobe and asked several times that she watch him masturbate.

    The New Yorker also reported that 16 former and current executives and assistants at the Weinstein Co. and Miramax either witnessed or knew of Weinstein’s unwanted sexual advances. “All sixteen said the behaviour was widely known within both Miramax and the Weinstein Company.”

    Representatives for the Weinstein Co. didn’t immediately respond to messages. Disney, which owns Miramax, also didn’t respond Tuesday.

    The New Yorker also revealed an audio recording made by the New York Police Department in 2015 in which Weinstein says he groped a model named Ambra Battilana Guitierrez. At the time, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced that an investigation didn’t support criminal charges.

    “If we could have prosecuted Harvey Weinstein for the conduct that occurred in 2015, we would have,” Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, chief assistant district attorney, said Tuesday.

    “While the recording is horrifying to listen to, what emerged from the audio was insufficient to prove a crime under New York law, which requires prosecutors to establish criminal intent,” she added. “Subsequent investigative steps undertaken in order to establish intent were not successful. This, coupled with other proof issues, meant that there was no choice but to conclude the investigation without criminal charges.”

    Weinstein was fired Sunday by the Weinstein Co., the studio he co-founded, three days after a bombshell New York Times exposé alleged decades of crude sexual behaviour on his part toward female employees and actresses, including Ashley Judd.

    Weinstein responded to the report in a lengthy, rambling statement in which he pleaded for a second chance and apologized for the pain he had caused.

    Since his firing, much of Hollywood has reacted with disgust and outrage, including Meryl Streep, Lena Dunham, Jennifer Lawrence and George Clooney. Congressional Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, have given charities thousands of dollars in donations they had received from Weinstein.

    In a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said she was “shocked and appalled” by the revelations about Weinstein. She praised the women coming forward: “Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behaviour.”

    Former president Barack Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, were “disgusted.”

    The Obamas released a statement saying: “Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status. We should celebrate the courage of women who have come forward to tell these painful stories. And we all need to build a culture — including by empowering our girls and teaching our boys decency and respect — so we can make such behaviour less prevalent in the future.”

    Matt Damon, who collaborated frequently with Weinstein, and won a co-writing Oscar for Good Will Hunting with Affleck, said he didn’t know about Weinstein’s behaviour.

    “This morning, I just feel absolutely sick to my stomach,” Damon told the trade website Deadline on Tuesday. “This kind of stuff can’t happen.”

    Weinstein has not publicly commented since Thursday.

    Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie join flood of allegations against Harvey WeinsteinGwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie join flood of allegations against Harvey Weinstein

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    Sidney Crosby is a lucky guy. On Monday, the Stanley Cup champion told the CBC that he “grew up under the assumption” that politics “wasn’t something really bred into sports.” From his side of things, he told the broadcaster, “there’s absolutely no politics involved.” And why would there be? He quite literally has no skin in the game.

    Like any white person who shares Crosby’s “side of things” and whose government does not devalue his life on account of the colour of his skin, he has the luxury of regarding politics as a force too far away to complicate his day to day.

    It was this luxury, presumably, that led the NHL captain to visit Donald Trump’s White House for a photo op on Tuesday alongside his teammates: the Stanley Cup championship-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. It was this luxury that enabled him to smile and shake hands with a U.S. president who recently asserted that “very fine people” existed on both sides of the summertime march in Charlottesville, Va., where neo-Nazis walked unmasked and triumphant down a city street and a 32-year-old woman died at the hands of one of them. (Very fine people indeed.)

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    Crosby’s Penguins on wrong side of history: Cox

    It’s this luxury that allows clueless white people to frame political indifference as a virtue akin to modesty. But not everyone has the luxury of standing guilt-free, quiet and “virtuous” behind this president. Among them, Black and brown athletes who are not, contrary to alt-right belief, rendered immune to racism because they are rich. LeBron James (a vocal critic of the president) may live in a mansion, but as he put it to the media shortly after that mansion was defaced with a racist slur in June, “No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being Black in America is tough.”

    Being Black was tough too for the more than 400 hockey players who comprised the Coloured Hockey League in Crosby’s home province of Nova Scotia from 1895 to 1930. CHL players did not have the privilege of political indifference when their league disbanded due to a number of factors, racism included. Later the government would demolish Africville, the African-Canadian village in Halifax, in which many of the league’s members lived and played.

    Apathetic white people who groan when athletes of colour get political, or who suggest as Crosby did that politics and sports do not mix, are in need of a reminder that for most, political activism isn’t a choice or a hobby. People don’t usually consider it fun or interesting to put their jobs on the line to speak out against a bigger power. The marginalized do not go looking for politics. It seeks them out. In this context, it sought them out when the President of the United States openly flirted with a racist ideology that would very much like to destroy them.

    There is an argument, quite popular among Sidney Crosby fans at the moment, which alleges that Crosby had no business rejecting an invitation to visit the White House because like many of his teammates, he is Canadian. These fans ask: Why should a Canadian kneel in protest of a foreign leader or refuse to extend a hand to one? But to suggest that the actions of the President of the United States, in this case a volatile president who appears to possess both the maturity of an 8-year-old (he recently challenged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to an IQ test) and access to nuclear weapons, has no bearing on the life of a Canadian or anybody who lives on this planet is absurd. Trump’s presidency will have bearing on all of us. Therefore the responsibility to speak out against it falls to all of us.

    And history will not look kindly on the hockey players who shirked that responsibility when they strolled into the White House on Tuesday in their Sunday best, and grinned behind the 45th president of the United States.

    “Everybody wanted to be here today,” Trump said about the Pittsburgh Penguins when the press conference began. Whether or not this is true, they were there. And that’s a shame.

    Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.

    Crosby, Penguins enjoy luxury of political indifference at White House: TeitelCrosby, Penguins enjoy luxury of political indifference at White House: Teitel

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    “Major Reinvention in Progress” says a sign in bold, capital letters, hanging above the entrance to a newly renovated Sears in Erin Mills Town Centre.

    The irony wasn’t lost on customers heading in and out of Canada’s failing department store on Tuesday afternoon, hours after Sears Canada announced its plans to close down all operations, putting its 12,000 store employees out of work. The news comes after Sears already closed 59 stores and announced the closure of another 11, including stores at Fairview Mall and Scarborough Town Centre.

    “Reinvention for who?” said Carolyn Hitchinson, a longtime Erin Mills resident, on her way into Sears. “That sign really irritates me. It is a misrepresentation of what they’re doing, getting ready to sell before Christmas and letting all those poor people go.”

    Liquidation sales at stores, including at Erin Mills Town Centre in Mississauga, are scheduled to begin Oct. 19 and would take 10 to 14 weeks to complete, pending court approval.

    As a watch repair licensee for Sears for the past three years, Shaukat Hussain was holding out hope that the department store would secure a buyer. However, as of Tuesday, Sears had been unsuccessful.

    Now, Hussain says his livelihood is in jeopardy. The 67-year-old isn’t sure he’ll be able to find a place to rent that’s as affordable or draws in as many customers as the small area off of Sears’ main lobby here.

    “There’s a tradition for customers of going to Sears to have their watches fixed and (the brand) Sears gives them extra trust and confidence in my service,” said Hussain who repairs as many as 50 watches a day.

    “It’s sad what’s happening. My customers say, ‘What will we do without Sears?’”

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    That’s a question Irene Ranieri, 87, doesn’t have an answer for on her way to pick up presents for a dozen grand- and great-grandchildren.

    She worked at the Square One Sears for 25 years, from the 1970s to mid-1990s. She said she “thoroughly enjoyed” working in the catalogue division, assisting customers who were picking up their ordered items.

    “At one time it was a thriving industry,” Ranieri, 87, said. “I’m very, very disappointed.”

    Shoppers Margaret and Jack Leishman both grew up in small Quebec towns and, as children, waited eagerly for the Sears catalogue to arrive. As a young married couple, they’d drop off their orders and pick up their purchases at the Sears office in Lachute. When they and their two daughters made the move to Mississauga 27 years ago, Sears was the first place where they shopped. In the first years of his retirement, Jack, 80, said he would wander over to browse “everything” — appliances, clothing, tools.

    “We’re devastated,” said Margaret, 75. “Really, honestly devastated.”

    The Sears catalogue is what defined Christmastime for Hitchinson when she grew up in the 1960s.

    “It was a big thing,” she said. “I’d wait for the catalogue and then cut, cut, cut and lay out all the things I wanted for Christmas.”

    Customers ‘devastated’ as Sears Canada announces plan to shutter all operationsCustomers ‘devastated’ as Sears Canada announces plan to shutter all operations

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    SALT LAKE CITY—A Utah police officer was fired Tuesday after being seen on video roughly handcuffing a nurse because she refused to allow a blood draw in an incident that became a flashpoint in the national conversation about use of force.

    Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown made the decision to fire Detective Jeff Payne after an internal investigation found he violated department policies when he arrested nurse Alex Wubbels and dragged her screaming from the hospital, department spokesperson Sgt. Brandon Shearer said.

    Brown said in a disciplinary letter that he was “deeply troubled” by Payne’s conduct, which he described as “inappropriate, unreasonable, unwarranted, discourteous, disrespectful” and said brought “significant disrepute” on the department.

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    “You demonstrated extremely poor professional judgment (especially for an officer with 27 years of experience), which calls into question your ability to effectively serve the public and the department,” Brown wrote.

    Attorney Greg Skordas, who represents Payne, said his client plans to appeal a firing he considers unfair and over the top. Skordas said Payne would still be employed if the body camera footage hadn’t generated so much attention and blown the events out of proportion.

    Payne’s supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, was demoted to officer. His lawyer, Ed Brass, couldn’t immediately be reached.

    Tracy made an impulsive decision in ordering Payne to arrest Wubbels without first taking time to understand the facts of the situation and the law, Brown wrote in his disciplinary letter.

    He said the order created chaos and unnecessarily escalated the situation.

    “Your lack of judgment and leadership in this matter is unacceptable, and as a result, I no longer believe that you can retain a leadership position in the department,” Brown said.

    The letter said Wubbels told investigators that Tracy minimized her concerns, intimidated and lectured her, and made her feel like she was to blame for the events.

    The Associated Press obtained the disciplinary letters for Payne and Tracy through a public records request.

    Wubbels’ attorney, Karra Porter, said they are pleased that Brown took action and recognized that the officers made crucial mistakes that have eroded public trust. Porter said she hopes the events are a catalyst to more public conversations about appropriate police behaviour.

    The case shows the vital importance of officers wearing body cameras and making those videos available to the public, Porter said.

    “Without the body camera footage, it would have been a she-said, they-said,” Porter said. “Alex feels very strongly that her story would have never been told if it weren’t for the body camera footage.”

    Asked about a potential lawsuit, Porter said she expects to meet soon with city officials to discuss next steps that could include settlement talks.

    The officers have five business days to appeal the decisions by the chief.

    The case received widespread attention after police body-camera video was released by Wubbels and her lawyer in late August.

    The video showed her explaining that hospital policy required a warrant or formal consent to draw blood from the patient who had been injured in a car crash.

    The patient wasn’t suspected of wrongdoing. He was an off-duty reserve Idaho police officer driving a semi-trailer when he was hit by a man fleeing police in a pickup truck.

    Payne nevertheless insisted on the blood draw, saying the evidence would protect the man.

    Payne told Wubbels his supervisor said he should arrest her if she didn’t allow the draw. Wubbels was later freed from the handcuffs and has not been charged.

    Both officers were investigated and placed on paid administrative leave after the video became public. Salt Lake City police apologized and changed their policies.

    Prosecutors, meanwhile, opened a criminal investigation into the arrest and asked the FBI to determine if there were any civil rights violations.

    Payne was also fired from a part-time job as a paramedic after he was caught on camera saying he’d take transient patients to the University of Utah hospital where Wubbels worked and transport “good patients” elsewhere.

    Payne had previously been disciplined in 2013 after internal-affairs investigators confirmed that he sexually harassed a female co-worker in a “persistent and severe” way.

    His tenure also brought commendations for solving burglary cases and being shot in the shoulder during a traffic stop in 1998.

    Tracy, meanwhile, earned commendations for drug and burglary investigations.

    Utah officer who handcuffed nurse in video after she refused to draw blood is firedUtah officer who handcuffed nurse in video after she refused to draw blood is fired

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