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TOPSTORIES

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    An online petition decries Midtown restaurant, Kukum Kitchen’s dishes that contain seal meat tartare.

    Petition asks that seal meat be removed from Toronto restaurant’s menuPetition asks that seal meat be removed from Toronto restaurant’s menu

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    Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, many sick people across the island remain in mortal peril.

    ‘The whole island is critical’: Puerto Rico faces dire medical crisis after storm‘The whole island is critical’: Puerto Rico faces dire medical crisis after storm

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    In a series of recordings played in court today, accused negotiator Ali Omar Ader tells Lorinda Stewart the men holding Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan want nothing less than $2 million.

    Amanda Lindhout begged her mother to pay ransom after severe beatingAmanda Lindhout begged her mother to pay ransom after severe beating

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    The only thing we have to fear about the minimum wage is fear-mongering itself.

    Time to follow America’s lead on minimum wage: CohnTime to follow America’s lead on minimum wage: Cohn

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    Trustees seek support from other boards in their call for no tests while Ontario reviews educational curriculum, report cards and how students are assessed.

    Peel Board wants province to cancel EQAO tests this yearPeel Board wants province to cancel EQAO tests this year

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    A judge ruled last month that Mark Nurse’s right to be tried within a reasonable time had been breached and steps Orangeville police took to locate him were “woefully hollow if not non-existent.”

    Drug charges dropped against Orangeville man in jail — because police couldn’t find himDrug charges dropped against Orangeville man in jail — because police couldn’t find him

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    Georgina Chapman is the target of outsized online vitriol. Everyone wants to know was she aware of her husband’s alleged behaviour? How could she have been married to such a pig? Did her silence enable him?

    Harvey Weinstein’s wife a victim of our judgment: TeitelHarvey Weinstein’s wife a victim of our judgment: Teitel

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    Team says it is more focused on engaging fans.

    Blue Jays fire 23, including most of media departmentBlue Jays fire 23, including most of media department

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    The list of suppliers left hanging by the Sears Canada bankruptcy reads like a who’s who of retail. And it reaches right around the globe.

    Sears collapse will ripple through the economySears collapse will ripple through the economy

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    An RCMP guide for screening asylum seekers includes several questions that appear to target Muslims. When asked about the questionnaire, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told the Star the RCMP has suspended its use.

    RCMP officers screened Quebec border crossers on religion and values, questionnaire showsRCMP officers screened Quebec border crossers on religion and values, questionnaire shows

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  • 10/12/17--08:22: Article 2

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    Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman and their children are on their way home after five years held hostage in Pakistan by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.

    Boyle called his parents early Thursday morning to tell of their rescue. He also told his father that they’ve had a third baby in custody, a little girl who was born two months ago.

    “Josh said he was doing pretty well for someone who has spent the last five years in an underground prison,” Patrick Boyle told the Star early Thursday, about his conversation with his son.

    Boyle, 34, and Coleman, 31, were kidnapped by the Haqqani network in October 2012. Coleman was five-months pregnant at the time and the couple was backpacking through Central Asia.

    Their families did not know they had crossed into Afghanistan.

    Coleman gave birth to her first son in custody, followed by a second boy a few years later.

    In a letter to his parents from captivity, Boyle described delivering the child in secret, by flashlight.

    “Ta-da!” he wrote. “The astonished captors were good and brought all our post-partum needs, so he is now fat and healthy, praise God.”

    A “proof-of-life” video showed the children alive for the first time last December.

    In the video, Coleman appeals to the U.S. and Afghan government, calling their plight“Kafkaesque.”

    The couple’s daughter was born this summer.

    Pakistan’s government issued a press released Thursday confirming the rescue “through an intelligence-based operation by Pakistan troops and intelligence agencies.”

    The statement said that U.S. agencies had been tracking the family and kidnappers in the Kurram Agency, an area in Pakistan on Afghanistan’s border and that the rescue was based “on actionable intelligence from U.S. authorities.”

    “The success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards fighting this menace through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy.”

    The Haqqani network is a powerful Afghan group with a history of taking and holding Western hostages. Their highest profile captive was U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was held for nearly five years before being freed in a prisoner exchange in May 2014.

    On Aug. 29, 2016, an Afghan court sentenced the son of the powerful Haqqani network’s founder to death. In a YouTube video released around that time, Boyle told the Afghan government that if it does not stop executing Taliban prisoners, his family would be killed. He appeared to be reading from a script.

    Boyle’s parents made their own video this June, addressing the captors. “We’ve done the best an ordinary Canadian family can do. I’ve personally written to several of the most senior government officials in Afghanistan, those with great power over the execution of your brothers,” Patrick Boyle says. “We’ve done what you’ve asked of us, we’re now respectfully asking you to show mercy to our family members in return. Please.”

    This May 4th was the first time since his capture that Boyle’s parents didn’t celebrate his birthday.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland expressed relief that the family had been released.

    “Canada has been actively engaged with the governments of the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan and we thank them for their efforts, which have resulted in the release of Joshua, Caitlan and their children,” Freeland said in a statement.

    “Joshua, Caitlan, their children and the Boyle and Coleman families have endured a horrible ordeal over the past five years. We stand ready to support them as they begin their healing journey.”

    The U.S. has long criticized Pakistan for failing to crack down on the Haqqani network.

    The Pakistan press release appears to support what U.S. President Donald Trump alluded to in a speech Wednesday in Coleman’s home state of Pennsylvania. “Something happened today, where a country that totally disrespected us called with some very, very important news,” Trump said. “And one of my generals came in. They said, ‘You know, I have to tell you, a year ago they would’ve never done that.’ It was a great sign of respect. You’ll probably be hearing about it over the next few days. But this is a country that did not respect us. This is a country that respects us now. The world is starting to respect us again, believe me.”

    In a Thursday morning statement, the White House called the rescue, “a positive moment in our country’s relationship with Pakistan.”

    Another Canadian, Colin Rutherford, was released after five years in Taliban custody in January 2016.

    Like many Western nations, including the U.S., Canada has an official policy of not paying ransom to secure Canadian captives’ release. But negotiations always occur.

    Last year, an eight-part Star series investigated what happens when a Canadian is taken hostage abroad. The stories of victims and their families, along with interviews with nearly 50 witnesses, government, military, intelligence officials and private security consultants, revealed a system ripe for overhaul.

    Read more:

    Canadian hostage, children seen in just-released Taliban video

    Delivering his own son by flashlight: Kidnapped Canadian’s correspondence gives glimpse of life in captivity

    Family keeps hope alive for son, daughter-in-law kidnapped by Taliban


    Kidnapped Canadian family released after 5 years of captivity in PakistanKidnapped Canadian family released after 5 years of captivity in PakistanKidnapped Canadian family released after 5 years of captivity in PakistanKidnapped Canadian family released after 5 years of captivity in Pakistan

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    The list of suppliers left in the lurch by the Sears Canada insolvency reads like a who’s who of retail and it circles the globe.

    It has debts to businesses in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Gazipur, Bangladesh, Gurgaon, India, New Jersey, Ohio and Mont-Laurier, Quebec.

    It owes money to small contractors and conglomerates: Canada Post, Coca-Cola, Clinique, Crocs Canada, Google Inc. and Upper Canada Soap and Candle.

    It owes Adidas Canada Ltd. $871, 537. It owes Barbara Engram of Milltown, NL $1,134. Dican Enterprises, of Brampton, which supplied forklift parts to a Sears warehouse in Vaughan, is owed $17,000.

    “I think it’s a lot of money for anybody in soft times,” said owner Sayed Mohammed, who is waiting to see what kind of settlement he’ll get after the liquidation sales are done and the money from asset sales is distributed to creditors.

    He had been supplying Sears since 1995.

    “Like anything else, when you have a big account and things like this happen, you tend to feel it.”

    For more than 27 years, Toronto based Ahearn & Soper Inc. supplied Sears with inventory management tools, from warehouse automation products to printers, mobile scanners and labels.

    While Ahearn sometimes did as much as $500,000 a year in business with Sears, in recent years it was closer to $250,000, said Danny Di Marco, Ahearn’s vice-president of finance and chief financial officer.

    “We basically saw the writing on the wall. We scaled back the terms and the amount of credit we gave them,” said Di Marco.

    Ahearn is owned $53,020, and Di Marco is not sure how much it will be able to recover. The bigger concern is how long it will take to replace the lost income.

    “To find another customer like Sears, who was loyal and bought as much product as they bought from us is not an easy task,” said Di Marco.

    Sears is not the retailer it once was, employing 41,000 people and doing $6.7 billion in sales, but the effects of the insolvency will ripple far and wide, according to experts.

    If the liquidation plan is approved in court on Friday, about 12,000 people will be out of work by the time all the Sears locations across Canada are closed between Oct. 19 and Christmas, including 74 full-line department stores, eight Sears Home stores and 49 Hometown stores.

    Malls will be faced yet again with the task of filling in empty spaces left by a prominent retailer, a little more than two years after discount department store retailer Target decamped following a failed launch in Canada.

    When Target closed its 133 Canadian stores in the spring of 2015, Walmart was expanding its grocery superstore concept in Canada and swooped in to buy 13 of the Target leases. Lowe’s Canada and Canadian Tire bought about a dozen each.

    There isn’t the same demand for retail real estate today.

    “The ‘B’ malls are going to have a tough time,” said retail consultant Ed Strapagiel.

    Not all of the effects will be negative.

    The liquidation sales at Sears during the holiday season may attract customers who would otherwise be shopping at Costco, Walmart and Hudson’s Bay, said Strapagiel.

    But the effect will be temporary. In the long term those same merchants stand to gain market share as they fill the space left by Sears Canada, which did $2.6 billion in sales in 2016.

    Apparel retail consultant Randy Harris said that in the apparel sector, Hudson’s Bay, Winner’s and Marshall’s stand to benefit the most. Reitman’s may also pick up sales.

    “If you kind of think of who goes to Sears, these people aren’t going to all of a sudden turn around and go to Nordstrom’s — a lot of them are on fixed incomes,” said Harris, president of Trendex North America and publisher of the industry newsletter Canadian Apparel Insights.

    Retailers in the home improvement sector stand to benefit too, according to Michael McLarney, founder and editor of Hardlines, a trade magazine that focuses on the retail home improvement industry.

    “There’s no question that Home Depot and Lowe’s Canada have that appliance business squarely in their sites, and in the smaller markets, Home Hardware,” said McLarney.

    The difference between the Sears insolvency and Target’s insolvency is that most suppliers this time around had an idea it was coming, said Lou Brzezinski, a partner in Blaney McMurtry's commercial litigation group, representing suppliers and landlords.

    “Sears caught nobody by surprise and Target caught everybody by surprise,” said Brzezinski.

    Many Sears suppliers purchased insurance against just such a thing happening although not all of them could afford it or thought it was worth the money.

    “It’s a significant amount of money off the bottom line,” said Brzezinski.

    Target creditors got more than 80 cents on the dollar for monies owed, said Brzezinski, which is almost unheard of. Currently some Sears creditors are selling what they are owned for about 30 cents on the dollar.

    The difference is that Target Canada’s debt was held by its parent corporation in the U.S., and it decided to subordinate its claim, allowing other creditors to be paid first, said Brzezinski.

    That’s not the case with Sears.


    Sears collapse will ripple through the economySears collapse will ripple through the economy

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    OTTAWA—A proposal for a multi-billion dollar transit hub at Pearson International Airport is getting serious consideration by the federal and provincial governments, the Star has learned.

    A high-level meeting involving stakeholders from all three levels of government was held at Queen’s Park Tuesday to provide an update on the proposal and map out next steps.

    That meeting — which also involved the operators of Pearson airport and Metrolinx, the regional transit agency — brought together both transportation planners as well as the infrastructure officials who can provide the public funding needed to make the project a reality.

    “There’s definitely serious interest,” said one source familiar with the meeting who spoke on background because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

    The Greater Toronto Airports Authority has pitched its proposal for a transit hub as part of its strategy to help fuel further passenger growth at Pearson.

    That transit centre, located on airport lands, would be served by the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Finch West LRT, Mississauga Bus Rapid Transit, GO Transit rail lines, UP Airport Express and perhaps even high speed rail in the future.

    The hub has been dubbed “Union Station West.”

    The afternoon meeting, held in a boardroom in an Ontario government building adjacent to Queen’s Park, was organized by the federal government.

    The goal of the meeting was to hear updates related to the regional transit centre. Listed as outcomes were the “identification of next steps, to advance studies and discussions on potential working groups to facilitate integrated planning.”

    Those invited to the meeting included the deputy minister of Transport Canada and three other senior department officials; senior bureaucrats from Infrastructure Canada, the finance department and the Canadian Infrastructure Bank Transition office.

    The province was represented by officials from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Ontario. Officials from the cities of Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton were also present.

    Gianni Ciufo, who heads Deloitte’s public private partnership team, provided an overview of transit funding and financing options.

    The heavyweight presence at the meeting is a signal that it’s getting serious attention, the source said. “You don’t get those people out unless there is significant momentum coming behind a project,” the source said.

    Metrolinx — represented at the session by Phil Verster, its new chief executive officer, and senior planning staff — has made improved transit to Pearson one of its priorities.

    The agency’s draft regional transportation plan notes that the airport area has the second-highest concentration of jobs in the Greater Toronto Area and says that cutting down on auto use will require “more attractive and integrated transit services.”

    The draft document says that support for Pearson’s regional transportation centre should be a priority to improve transit access to the airport and better enable the airport region to support economic growth.

    The Greater Toronto Airports Authority declined to comment on Tuesday’s meeting. But it has been an advocate of its plan, presenting it to political decision-makers. It has issued a request for proposals for the design and phasing of the transit centre.

    According to the authority’s website more than 44 million people traveled through Pearson airport in 2016.

    A report done for the airports authority in 2016 described the need for a transit hub as “urgent” but said it would be “potentially one of the most effective, efficient and productive of transit investments in the region.”

    Both the federal and provincial governments are said to be interested in the proposal because of the opportunities to improve access to Pearson — Canada’s busiest airport — and improve access to transit to reduce congestion in the airport region.

    One next step will be to set in motion planning for the multiple transit lines planned to serve the centre — and how they would be funded.


    Momentum builds for new Pearson airport transit hubMomentum builds for new Pearson airport transit hub

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    The Art Gallery of Ontario ended a year-long vacancy for its top curatorial position Thursday, naming British-born Julian Cox as its chief curator.

    “I wasn’t quick out of the gate,” said the AGO’s CEO and director Stephan Jost, regarding the timeframe within which Cox was chosen. Jost, who took over as director in the spring of 2016, intentionally put off the search for six months. Being new, “I wanted to get to know the curators we had, to make sure we hired the right person,” he said. “We have a huge diversity of approaches at the AGO and I wanted to be sure we had the right fit.”

    As chief curator, Cox assumes oversight of all of the gallery’s exhibitions and content. His predecessor, Stephanie Smith, left the gallery in October 2016. She had been in the position only two years.

    Cox, who is coming from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, where he has been chief curator since 2010, arrives with some exposure to the AGO and to Toronto. In the late 1990s, while at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, he co-organized photography exhibitions presented here from renowned artists Man Ray and Julia Margaret Cameron.

    But Cox is quick to acknowledge that much has changed since his initial experiences here, and the social shifts in the city and country both were potent factors in his pursuing the job here.

    “Obviously, there’s a great deal for me to learn,” he said. “A high priority for me will be to get involved, to talk to the right people, to get out there in the community and sensitize myself to the specifics of those discussions. That’s something that really compels me and excites me.”

    Recently, the AGO has been working to address some of those shifts, in 2016 appointing Wanda Nanibush its first-ever associate curator of Canadian and Indigenous art. Then, just last week, the museum renamed its Canadian art department the Department of Canadian and Indigenous Art, to be led equally by Nanibush, who was promoted to curator of Indigenous art, and Georgiana Uhlyarik, who was elevated from associate curator to curator of Canadian art.

    The move, to make an explicit equivalency between Indigenous and Canadian culture, was among the enticing elements of the position, Cox said.

    “That is a signal of the kind of commitment the institution has, going forward,” Cox said. “And obviously it will be my responsibility to really make that happen for the institution, and really support the work that the curators in that department do. And for me to learn directly from them, which is a great opportunity.”

    Cox, whose own expertise is in photography, has a history of working at the intersection of art and social justice. While at the High Museum in Atlanta, Cox created an exhibition of photographs from the Civil Rights movement in the United States that he described as “the single most rewarding passage of my career.”

    At the same time, Cox arrives in a period of reinvention that has seen a high-profile departure. Andrew Hunter, the museum’s former top curator of Canadian art, resigned at the end of September, voicing concerns in a Toronto Star essay about the museum’s commitment to a diversity of voices. He specifically raised a concern that the chief curator position, not yet named by the time of his departure, would not be held by a Canadian. (Coincidentally, the Art Gallery of Guelph announced this week it had hired Hunter as its senior curator.)

    His final exhibition, Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood is seen as a triumph of inclusivity for its cross-cultural content and devotion to the local fabric of the city itself. Cox, who toured the exhibition with Hunter before his departure, called the show a shining example of “what curators can do if they’re really attentive to their environment. They can be shapers of the culture, and the dialogue around important issues.”

    Cox allayed some of Hunter’s concerns, saying that the gallery, on his watch, would remain committed to the cultural shifts raised in Every. Now. Then. “Most of the great museums in North America are put together usually through a medley of major private collections that are then put into the public sphere, and you build a narrative around them,” Cox said.

    Every. Now. Then“is a counterpoint to that narrative — a very bold, striking counterpoint. It’s something that’s there to be reckoned with and to be dealt with on an ongoing basis. It’s not a one-shot deal. And that will be the responsibility of the institution and its curatorial team to deliver upon going forward.”


    Art Gallery of Ontario names new top curatorArt Gallery of Ontario names new top curator

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    Call it a $5-million suggestion box.

    That’s how much money is up for grabs in next spring’s pre-election budget as Finance Minister Charles Sousa earmarks the cash for ideas from the public.

    It’s the fourth year the Ontario government has asked for submissions on a budget website, but the offer comes with a catch that’s designed — at least in part — to keep pranksters at bay.

    “We look forward to tapping into the skills and experiences of Ontario’s best and brightest,” Sousa said Thursday in launching the site, adding “innovation is the driver of good policy.”

    The proposals must be aimed at quick results on child care, helping seniors, small business, students and healthy living and be made online by midnight on November 3.

    No more than $1 million will be spent on each idea, which must be completed or show progress by spring 2019. The public will be allowed to cast ballots online for their favourites.

    Last year’s budget, for example, incorporated a suggestion to put energy-saving LED lights on section of Highway 401.

    There have been other ideas, too — including many for an end to public funding of Catholic schools, which the government has shot down.

    Competition is stiff. Last year, 404 ideas were submitted and just over 19,000 ballots cast. Suggestions to reduce food waste, improve digital services to libraries and access to digitized health date got the most votes.

    A budget date has not yet been set.


    Ontario Finance Minister Sousa opens up $5M ‘suggestion box’ for budget ideas from the publicOntario Finance Minister Sousa opens up $5M ‘suggestion box’ for budget ideas from the public

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