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    When it comes to political scandals, Ontario’s Liberals have made legal history.

    Not just not guilty. Not even close.

    An extremely rare “directed verdict” from a judge throwing out the prosecution’s unfounded case before the defence needed to even defend itself. Because “no reasonable jury” could possibly fathom a conviction in this three-year-old case that the Ontario Provincial Police, the opposition parties and some pundits had described as a slam dunk from the first.

    And so for the first time in the 27-year history of Ontario’s Election Act, a judge has said, in so many words, that the law is an ass. Especially in the hands of the OPP and Crown prosecutors who surely should have known better.

    Read more:

    Judge dismisses charges in Sudbury byelection trial

    PC leader Patrick Brown fires back at Wynne’s libel threat

    Judge questions merits of charge against former top Wynne staffer in Sudbury byelection trial

    Two Liberal party warhorses — one working in the premier’s office, the other a Sudbury kingpin — faced bizarre allegations of bribery and influence-peddling merely for playing politics in a local byelection. Their supposed crimes?

    Persuading and dissuading.

    They tried to persuade Glenn Thibeault, a star candidate from the federal NDP caucus in Ottawa, to run for the Liberals in a provincial byelection. And they tried to dissuade a local aspirant with a far dimmer star — Andrew Olivier lost in the previous general election — from fracturing party unity, instead urging him to go off quietly (because the premier would never sign his nomination papers anyway).

    In a dramatic judgment delivered Tuesday, a judge tried to explain to OPP investigators and Crown prosecutors what they never learned in police college and law school:

    That there’s a difference between wooing and bribing a star candidate.

    And that pacifying a disappointed aspirant — urging him to remain active and involved — can’t be twisted into influence-peddling.

    That may be too nuanced for our opposition parties, who now understand their jobs to be forever opposing everything, even if always overreaching. Smelling blood, it was the New Democratic Party that first called in the cops as part of their continuing campaign, in league with the Progressive Conservatives, to criminalize the governing Liberals.

    When a judge called it all off this week, the NDP and Tories still wouldn’t give up. They claimed the Liberals had gotten off on a “technicality” — if that’s what you call the absurdity that the judge methodically laid out in his decision.

    This was never a complicated case, despite feverish attempts by the NDP, OPP, and Crown to raise it to a higher level. Like many perceived transgressions, this one first went viral on social media, when a disgruntled Olivier revealed in a Facebook posting that he’d recorded Premier Kathleen Wynne’s deputy chief of staff, Patricia Sorbara, and local Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed, offering him volunteer or paid positions if he would play ball.

    It is in the nature of most Ontarians to ignore provincial politics most of the time. Even when people pay attention, it’s usually from a distance.

    The big eye-catching headline was Sudbury bribery. But there less to the case than met the eye.

    Volunteer party jobs aren’t exactly bribery. Being invited to apply for a job as a constituency assistant — which typically pays $35,000 to $45,000 a year — hardly qualifies as big money.

    The tape recordings were certainly awkward, as most private conversations can be when aired in public — just ask the Tories, for example, if they’d be OK with transcripts of their own conversations being released. Out of context, anything can sound like everything, but police and prosecutors are meant to dig deeper than Facebook postings.

    Instead, they laid criminal charges against Lougheed — a prominent fundraiser in Sudbury for the Liberals, but also a famously generous donor to local medical facilities — before having second thoughts and downgrading the allegations to provincial offences under the loose language of the Election Act. They also roped in Sorbara, accusing her of inducing Thibeault to quit the NDP and join the Liberals for the price of a couple of short-term jobs for old staffers that amounted to a few thousand dollars.

    As I wrote last year, when the police were still in hot pursuit: “It’s easy to confuse democracy with criminality, and to conflate take-no-prisoners campaigning with bribery and skulduggery. But any informed reading of the Elections Act makes it clear that it was written to guard against influence peddlers trying to pervert the course of democracy by buying off corrupt politicians, not political operators trying to recruit winning talent to their team (while ridding themselves of losers).”

    By dragging it out for years, the police did undeniable damage to the reputations of Lougheed, Sorbara and Thibeault (who was never charged despite being sullied). And tarnished the Liberal party in the process.

    In so doing, the OPP did the work of the NDP and the PCs — not deliberately, but inadvertently. And the Crown did a disservice to us all by failing to exercise its prosecutorial discretion to crumple up the charge sheet before their case crumbled in court.

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

    Ontario’s Liberals make legal history in Sudbury bribery trial: CohnOntario’s Liberals make legal history in Sudbury bribery trial: Cohn

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    Justin Trudeau’s Liberals added the Quebec seat of Lac-Saint-Jean to their ranks on Monday for the same reason Stephen Harper did in a byelection a decade ago. In both instances, a plurality of Lac-Saint-Jean voters wanted one of their own at the federal government table. And so they returned the riding to the Liberal fold after a 33-year absence.

    Lac-Saint-Jean used to be a Bloc Québécois stronghold. Lucien Bouchard held it for as long as he was in the federal arena and then ran provincially under the Parti Québécois banner in the same region. If the BQ were even going to come back to a position of pre-eminence in Quebec this is one of the first ridings it would normally win back.

    But on Monday, the party — despite the support of a strong Parti Québécois local organization and a viable candidate — received less than one in four votes, up only marginally from its last election finish of 18 per cent.

    Read more:

    Trudeau, Scheer and Singh do the math in Quebec and none champion an anti-racist stance: Tim Harper

    Quebec justice minister explains how ‘niqab ban’ would be applied after widespread criticism

    Lower deficits, better growth mean breaks for families, federal government says

    That would suggest that Quebecers — even in the province’s nationalist heartland — are mostly done with voting for a permanent federal opposition party.

    The Conservatives and the New Democrats could hardly have hoped for better byelection timing than Monday’s. The ruling Liberals literally spent the campaign tripping over their shoelaces on and off Parliament Hill.

    The small business tax reform brouhaha; the controversy over Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s less than arm’s-length disposal of his personal wealth; the spectacle of Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly falling flat on her face on the much-watched Tout le monde en parle talk show over her deal with Netflix, all provided fodder for the opposition parties to exploit on the hustings.

    Polls show widespread concern among Quebecers over the imminent legalization of marijuana. The Conservatives played hard on those fears. The New Democrats used a visit to the riding by their new leader, Jagmeet Singh, to highlight their continued willingness to play by made-in-Quebec referendum rules.

    Trudeau landed in the riding last week on the day after the national assembly adopted the controversial law that prescribes provincial and municipal services be dispensed and received with one’s face uncovered. During his visit, the prime minister was dogged by questions as to whether he would fight Quebec in court over Bill 62. He eventually left the door open for his government to do so.

    Based on Monday’s outcome, voters did not hold that against his party. So far, being consistently offside with what pollsters purport to be a Quebec consensus on religious wear has not hurt Trudeau in his home province. Back in 2015, his opposition to the proposed Conservative ban on niqabs at citizenship ceremonies had not stood in the way of the Liberals winning a majority of Quebec seats.

    The religious accommodation issue may have a lot of traction in the polls, but the ballot box payoff of state-enforced secularism remains elusive. (As an aside, on Tuesday Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée walked back much of her talk about forcing individuals — whether they wear sunglasses or face-covering Muslim-veils — to remove them to use a vast array of public services. In her latest take on her own bill, people would — at least in the case of public transit or local libraries — have to uncover their faces for identification purposes only.)

    It would be tempting to sum up the Lac-Saint-Jean results as a failed introductory test for the rookie leaders of the Bloc Québécois, the Conservative party and the NDP. But the opposition weaknesses the byelection exposed were already in place on the night of the last general election.

    In 2015, only a favourable division of the Quebec vote accounted for the seat gains of the BQ and the Harper-led Conservatives. The NDP has been in decline since its massive Quebec breakthrough in 2011. That decline has been accelerated by the decision to oust Thomas Mulcair from the leadership.

    By way of consolation for Singh, the party under one of his leadership rivals would not have fared much better than it did Monday.

    Andrew Scheer lost the Lac-Saint-Jean seat, but the Conservatives’ main concern should be the poor performance of the New Democrats. Their support dropped 16 points to 12 per cent on Monday.

    Shave a few percentage points off the NDP across the board in Quebec and 20 more seats are within the reach of the Trudeau Liberals in 2019 — leaving the other three parties to divvy up electoral crumbs in Canada’s second-largest province.

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

    Liberals byelection win in Quebec spells trouble for other federal parties: HébertLiberals byelection win in Quebec spells trouble for other federal parties: Hébert

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    The Ontario government has, for decades, turned a blind eye to “outrageous” pollution causing serious health effects in Indigenous communities, the province’s environment watchdog said Tuesday.

    In the annual report delivered to Queen’s Park, Ontario environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe recognized recent progress, but condemned years of inaction by the provincial government in the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley, and in mercury-contaminated Grassy Narrows in northwestern Ontario. Both have been subjects of investigations by journalists, including those of the Star.

    “The conditions faced by these Indigenous communities would not be tolerated elsewhere in Ontario, yet have long been deemed unworthy of priority, effort or expense,’ said Saxe. “After decades of neglect, the province is finally taking some steps, but the pollution that these communities still face is outrageous.”

    A joint investigation by the Star, Global News, National Observer, the Michener Awards Foundation and journalism schools at Ryerson and Concordia universities revealed a troubling pattern of secrecy and potentially toxic leaks in the area known as Chemical Valley. There are 57 polluters within 25 kilometres of Sarnia registered with the Canadian and U.S. governments.

    The investigation raised questions about whether companies and the provincial government are properly warning residents of Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang when potentially toxic substances, including benzene, known to cause cancer in high levels of long-term exposure, are leaked. Aamjiwnaang is surrounded on three sides by petrochemical plants.

    In the report, Saxe said there is “strong evidence” to suggest pollution is causing “profound” health problems in Aamjiwnaang, which neither the federal nor provincial governments have properly investigated.

    Following the joint investigation, provincial Environment Minister Chris Ballard committed to funding a study examining the health effects of pollution in the Chemical Valley, something residents had sought for nearly a decade.

    But Saxe said the government still needs to take the cumulative effects of pollution into account, do more air-monitoring, update regulations and properly enforce those on the books. It currently ignores some forms of common emissions, such as those from flares, used to burn off materials dangerous to plants.

    Last week, Aamjiwnaang resident Vanessa Gray filed a request for the province to investigate a flaring incident caught on video at Sarnia’s Imperial Oil plant from February 2017, where clouds of fire and steam billowed from its smokestacks for hours. Gray said the episode caused a burning sensation in her nose.

    “It is wonderful that the government’s going to do a health study, but what they really need to do is clean up the air,” Saxe told reporters.

    Ron Plain, who has spent the past 25 years living in Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang, said he hopes Saxe’s report will open the eyes of those who thought the issue isn’t that bad. Plain has cancer; the 55-year-old’s doctors have told him he’ll likely be dead in a year.

    “It’s about time,” Plain said of Saxe’s report. “I live it . . . . Everybody here is living it.”

    Speaking to media at Queen’s Park Tuesday, Aamjiwnaang Chief Joanne Rogers said nothing in Saxe’s report was new; the community has long asked for action, and Saxe isn’t the first commissioner to identify the issues.

    But Rogers said she’s confident change can happen this time if the First Nation is included in discussions going forward.

    “We breathe that air, so why is there delay after delay?” she said.

    In her report, Saxe recommended the provincial environment ministry post real-time air monitoring data for the people of Aamjiwnaang — a plan to do so is already in the works — and update air standards for sulfur dioxide, a component of acid rain that can cause a range of health issues, even below the threshold where humans are able to smell it.

    In response, Ontario Environment Minister Chris Ballard said his ministry will soon release new sulfur dioxide regulations, updating laws set in 1974 that haven’t been revised since. In her report, Saxe said the current standard doesn’t protect human health, and this is something the government has been aware of for years.

    “I don’t think our government has been slow to respond to these issues,” Ballard said when asked if institutional racism was a factor in the government’s delayed responses in Aamjiwnaang and Grassy Narrows.

    “A lot has been done. A lot more has to be done.”

    On Friday, a statement released by Rogers and the First Nation’s council suggested the issues in Chemical Valley may be a violation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The declaration says Indigenous communities have the right to the “conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources.”

    Saxe’s report, delivered Tuesday, also condemned government inaction on mercury poisoning in the Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations near Dryden, Ont. Contamination of the Wabigoon River there has sickened residents for generations; the most recent study found 58 per cent of community members are either diagnosed with or suspected of having Minamata disease, a severe neurological illness caused by mercury poisoning.

    “[T]he Ontario government declined to take action for decades, largely ignoring the suffering of the Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong peoples. Over and over, the Ontario government chose to do nothing. It chose not to remove the sediment, not to investigate in more detail, not to monitor whether mercury levels were indeed declining. In other words, it chose to allow the ongoing poisoning of the communities,” the commissioner wrote in the report.

    After a nearly year-long Star investigation that found, among other things, mercury tainted soil upstream from Grassy Narrows, the province committed earlier this year to paying $85 million to clean up the contamination.

    Mercury survivor and Grassy Narrows environmental health coordinator Judy Da Silva said those already poisoned are still facing “hopelessness” and a lack of support.

    “We’ve been so ignored for decades that our people are in disbelief of anything ever changing,” she said.

    Saxe’s report also called attention to the 36 First Nations communities in Ontario under water advisories, including 17, which have been without a safe water source for more than a decade. Although the problem is the federal government’s responsibility, the provincial government can and should help by protecting water sources and by providing more technical training, Saxe said.

    “The Ontario government must make environmental justice part of its pursuit of reconciliation with Indigenous people.”

    Enviro watchdog blasts province for inaction on ‘outrageous’ pollution in Indigenous communitiesEnviro watchdog blasts province for inaction on ‘outrageous’ pollution in Indigenous communities

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    An Uber driver is facing a sexual assault charge after a customer said she was touched inappropriately in Courtice.

    Durham Region police said they were called to a home near Prestonvale Rd. and Bloor St. at around 4 a.m. for a report of a sexual assault.

    A 24-year-old woman called an Uber to pick her up from a Whitby restaurant, police said. Once they reached her home, the driver allegedly touched the woman inappropriately.

    Rahmanuddin Safi, 30, of Whitby, has been charged with sexual assault.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact Durham police investigators or Crime Stoppers.

    Uber driver in Durham Region charged with sexual assaultUber driver in Durham Region charged with sexual assault

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    The family of a man in crisis who was shot dead by police is calling on Ontario’s Attorney General to ensure that all police officers receive thorough training on crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques to reduce the risk of fatalities to those who are vulnerable due to mental health issues.

    “No one should die at the hands of police simply because they are not adequately trained,” said Joanne MacIsaac, the sister of Michael MacIsaac, a 47-year-old man who was shot dead in Ajax by a Durham police officer in December 2013.

    The Innocence Project and MacIsaac made its request in a letter delivered Wednesday to Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde.

    The letter asks for an immediate amendment to Section 44 of the Police Services Act. Presently Section 44 demands that a police officer complete an initial period of training within six months of his or her appointment.

    MacIsaac, who was working in conjunction with the Innocence Project, is demanding that the required training “include training with respect to crisis intervention and de-escalation of conflicts with individuals who are or may be mentally ill and individuals in crisis.”

    “I believe that if the officer who killed my brother had the type of training that we’re proposing today, Michael would still be alive,” said MacIsaac.

    Lalonde said that the government is committed to reviewing the police training program and enhancing it.

    “We’re looking at the possibilities of giving other tools to officers who have to interact everyday with our most vulnerable population,” said Lalonde.

    At present, all police officers in Ontario receive comprehensive use of force training and part of that training includes de-escalation. As a requirement, all police officers have to go through this training every year.

    “We need to make sure the training component at (police) colleges moving forward is adequate in terms of the 2017 reality,” she said.

    Naqvi said the province is already working to update the Police Services Act but did not say whether that would include the change requested by the group.

    “Part of the work is looking at training, looking at how police interact with people with mental health issues and techniques and strategies around de-escalation,” he said.

    On the day MacIsaac’s brother, Michael, was shot, he was experiencing the delirious aftermath effects of a seizure. While naked, he ran to a neighbour’s house and broke off the leg of a patio table. An officer, responding to the disturbance, asked him to drop his weapon. He shot at him after he refused to drop the table leg, in an interaction that lasted 12 seconds.

    Training might not have changed the outcome, said Karolina Visic, a caseworker with the Innocence Project at Osgoode Hall. “But what training does is gives you a mindset: ‘okay this man, he’s naked, it’s December, there’s snow, its cold. There’s probably something not right here’,” she said.

    “[The police officer] could’ve taken a step back, he could’ve gone around his car, he could’ve created space, created time,” said Visic. “Training would provide that mindset.”

    The Police Services Act has not been reformed in 27 years. To date, police recruits in Ontario are required to complete a 12-week basic training program; there is no standardized training after this. The Innocence Project found that much of this training focuses on “use of force” training.

    The Project also found that since 1978, 65 individuals who were mentally ill have died in an interaction with police Ontario. In 1999, the jury in the coroner’s inquest into the death of Edmond Wai-Kong Yu recommended that the Police Services Act should be amended to “require annual Crisis Resolution Training.” In the 43 coroner’s inquests that subsequently took place over 18 years, similar recommendations were also made, that included additional calls for creating crisis teams, non-lethal use of force tactics and employing mental health specialists.

    The inquest into Michael MacIsaac’s death earlier this year also recommended that “specific training should be provided…around effective (calming) communication and de-escalation…that such training focus on individuals with mental health issues.”

    Members of the government have also spoken about police reform on multiple occasions; earlier this year, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, announced that new legislation would be launched in the Fall of this year.

    Alan Young, Director of the Innocence Project, said that they are asking the government to commit to something it has already promised. “The time has come for the government to take real measures to end the violence and devastation that often occurs in interactions with the mentally ill,” said Young. “Its time for the government to act with some courage and some will.”

    MacIsaac doesn’t understand the lack of action and instruction. “It causes you to question everything about your surroundings,” she said, who says she now gets nervous if she sees a police car in her rearview mirror.

    “We’re here four years later, and we’re still trying to prevent this happening to another family.”

    With files from The Canadian Press

    Family of man shot dead by police asks province for more police trainingFamily of man shot dead by police asks province for more police trainingFamily of man shot dead by police asks province for more police trainingFamily of man shot dead by police asks province for more police training

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    About three years ago, a married Portuguese woman began seeing another man. The affair was brief — and after two months, the woman wanted to end it.

    In response, the woman’s former lover turned to her husband, telling him his wife had been unfaithful, according to Portuguese media outlets. The couple divorced. But the two men, both enraged, worked together to plan an attack on the woman.

    In June 2015, the former paramour kidnapped the woman and held her down while the ex-husband beat her viciously with a nail-spiked club, leaving bruises and lashes all over her body.

    After charges were filed in the assault, the ex-husband was given a 15-month suspended sentence and a fine of about $2,000, according to The Associated Press. A prosecutor thought he deserved a harsher sentence, and asked an appeals court in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, for prison time of three years and six months.

    But the appeals judges decided against it.

    Why? Because the judges felt it was somewhat understandable that a husband in a “depressive state” would act out against a wife who had betrayed him.

    In a written ruling that harked back to the 19th century, Judges Neto de Moura and Maria Luisa Abrantes justified the lighter sentence with biblical references that condemn adultery.

    “Now, adultery by a woman is a very serious attack on a man’s honour and dignity,” the judges wrote. “Societies exist where the adulterous woman is stoned to death. In the Bible, we can read that the adulterous woman should be punished with death.”

    They argued that the “disloyalty and sexual immorality” of the woman caused her husband to fall into a “deep depression.” It was in this clouded mental state that the husband committed the act of aggression, the judges wrote.

    The judges cited a criminal law from 1886 that called for merely a symbolic penalty against a husband who, finding his wife committing adultery, killed her.

    “These references are merely intended to emphasize that society has always strongly condemned adultery by a woman and therefore sees the violence by a betrayed, vexed and humiliated man with some understanding,” the judges wrote.

    The written ruling was filed Oct. 11 but was not made public until Portuguese news outlet Jornal de Notícias reported the news earlier this week.

    The sentence has stunned women’s rights activists, legal experts and even religious authorities who saw it as an attempt to justify domestic violence with references to the Bible. Across social media, Portuguese commentators and feminist groups called out the ruling for perpetuating victim-blaming and “legitimizing” violence against women.

    Amnesty International Portugal said in a statement that citing the Old Testament in a court ruling presents a “manifest violation” of the separation of church and state, which is part of the Portugal’s constitution.

    UMAR, the Women’s Union for Alternative and Response, has called for a protest rally on Friday in downtown Lisbon in response to the ruling. In a statement, the group said the verdict was “perplexing,” “revolting” and violated the rights, freedoms and “dignity” of the individual.

    “Evoking the Bible does not combine with the rule of law in our country and discredits the judicial norms,” UMAR said in the statement. The group said the decision could lead to “serious consequences” for Portuguese society, particularly for women.

    “It also conveys a message, especially to younger generations, of total impunity,” it added.

    Even some religious authorities condemned the ruling. The Rev. Manuel Barbosa, secretary of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, told the religious news agency Ecclesia that the judges incorrectly referred to scriptures in their ruling. He said no one should “justify any kind of violence, in this case domestic violence, even in the case of adultery.”

    While Barbosa said adultery should not be accepted in his faith, he urged the importance of preserving the dignity of women. He cited teachings from Pope Francis on forgiveness and mercy.

    The woman could appeal the decision to Portugal’s higher courts, the Associated Press reported.

    “It is evident that no human being can be satisfied with this,” Erica Duraes, a lawyer representing the woman, told Portuguese news outlet Diario de Noticias. She said the victim is “very worn out and tired from all of this” but declined to say if she would be taking further legal action.

    Portugal’s Superior Magistrates Council, which oversees judges, acknowledged the public criticism but said it could not intervene in judicial matters, even in light of “archaic, inappropriate or unfortunate” remarks from judges, according to Diario de Notícias

    It does not appear to be the first time Judge Neto de Moura has turned to biblical teachings when preparing sentences for domestic violence cases, the BBC reported.

    In one example, last year, the judge overturned a previous sentence of two years in prison in an assault case, questioning the “reliability” of the female victim’s testimony.

    “A woman who commits adultery is a false, hypocritical, dishonest, disloyal, futile, immoral person,” he said at the time. “In short, a person who lacks moral credibility.”

    According to Reuters, “ultra-orthodox patriarchy,” still exists in parts of the country. Before Portugal’s 1974 revolution, it was one of the “cornerstones” of the regime of dictator Antonio Salazar.

    The deputy director of the Portuguese news outlet that first reported the news, Inês Cardoso, wrote commentary on Monday criticizing the court decision. Cardoso titled it: “She was asking for it.”

    “Is this an isolated case in the Portuguese courts?” she asked. “Perhaps not, because sentences with discriminatory and abusive references arise sporadically.”

    In a discussion that echoed recent commentary in the U.S. over sexual harassment and assault, Cardoso equated the judge’s ruling to victim-blaming.

    “Even when she is a victim of aggression, harassment or sexual abuse, she is often considered the cause of the crime,” Cardoso wrote. “Either because she dresses provocatively, or because she fails in her role as a dedicated wife, or because she acts with ‘sexual disloyalty and immorality.’”

    “We know that there is much to be done to combat marital violence and gender inequality,” she said. “But the courts, like the other organs of sovereignty, exist to promote justice and equality. Not to validate prejudice and discrimination.”

    Portuguese man who kidnapped, beat ex-wife dodges jail time because her affair insulted his ‘honour’Portuguese man who kidnapped, beat ex-wife dodges jail time because her affair insulted his ‘honour’

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    Police have charged a 76-year-old man who was pulled from the wreckage after an explosion caused his house to collapse on top of him in central Hamilton Tuesday afternoon.

    Police say Murdoch Campbell has been charged with arson in the aftermath of the explosion at 134 Gibson St.

    Emergency responders rescued Campbell from the rubble after a natural gas explosion levelled the two-storey home around 2:15 p.m.

    The blast caused damage to neighbouring houses and people had to evacuate their residences on Gibson, which just east of Birch Ave.

    Police said Wednesday they and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office executed a search warrant at 134 Gibson Ave., an investigation that led to the charge.

    Heavy equipment arrived Wednesday morning to clean up damage on the street.

    Witnesses described the force of the blast taking the home “straight up in the air” from its foundation.

    It took emergency crews about an hour to rescue a man — described by neighbours and family as blind and hard of hearing — from the rubble before taking him to Hamilton General Hospital at about 3:30 p.m. with what paramedics described as serious injuries.

    Campbell’s sister-in-law Helen Evans said Tuesday he had lived in the house for 30 or 40 years, with his wife, Grace, who died in August after a long battle with a liver disorder.

    The Hamilton Spectator reported earlier this month that the city named a public lane off Gibson Ave. after Grace, a well-known neighbourhood volunteer who spent more than 40 years helping keep the alley clean.

    The story said Murdoch is blind and hard of hearing, but still bowls, curls and walks five miles a day.

    More to come.

    Hamilton man, 76, charged with arson after house explosionHamilton man, 76, charged with arson after house explosion

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    The Liberal defendants were acquitted and the case is closed, but Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown is refusing to apologize for claiming Premier Kathleen Wynne was on “trial” in Sudbury.

    Despite the verdict, and Wynne’s libel notice against him, Brown told the Star on Wednesday there’s no reason to correct or clarify his statements.

    “The premier knows it’s a baseless legal threat, and, if she really wanted to move on, she’d proceed to a public hearing on an expedited basis,” he said, daring her take to take him to court “right away.”

    On Sept. 12, Brown told a Queen’s Park press scrum that Ontario had “a sitting premier sitting in trial” and that Wynne “stands trial” in Sudbury.

    In a four-page notice of libel last Friday, her lawyers said the Tory’s statements were “false and defamatory” and meant to suggest “that Premier Wynne was on trial for bribery, which was not the case.”

    Brown’s comments had come on the eve of the premier testifying as a Crown witness in the trial of Patricia Sorbara, her former deputy chief of staff, and Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed.

    Sorbara and Lougheed were acquitted after Judge Howard Borenstein dismissed the Election Act case against them for lack of evidence‎ in a rare directed verdict, before any defence witnesses were called.

    “This . . . is obviously a complete vindication, but also raises questions about why they prosecuted this matter to begin with, this misguided police investigation, misguided decision by the Crown to carry through,” Lougheed’s lawyer Michael Lacy said.

    Sorbara’s lawyer Brian Greenspan said that after such a “total exoneration,” it’s clear “these charges ought never to have been brought.”

    The two Liberals were accused of offering prospective candidate Andrew Olivier jobs or positions in exchange for abandoning his bid for the Liberal nomination in a February 2015 byelection, making way for Wynne’s choice, MP Glenn Thibeault, who was defecting from the NDP, and who is now her energy minister.

    Brown, whose Tories have been plagued by nomination controversies across the province, conceded that Borenstein’s 20-page ruling could set a precedent that would clarify things for all political parties.

    “Certainly parties are allowed to run their nomination process . . . ; we do have the right to disqualify candidates,” he said.

    Asked about the similarities between the Sudbury case and a Hamilton Police probe of the Tories’ Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas nomination contest in May, Brown bristled.

    “I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. We haven’t had any concerns brought to us by Elections Ontario, so I don’t think this is the comparative,” he said.

    In the Hamilton case, a spurned candidate, Vikram Singh, complained to police. Singh, a Hamilton lawyer, is pursuing a civil action against the Tories.

    Hamilton Police confirmed in August that “a concern was raised regarding the process used to select the candidate.”

    Detectives have interviewed several Tories as part of their continuing probe.

    Brown noted that Jeff Peller, another runner-up in the messy Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas nomination won by Ben Levitt, has withdrawn his court application against the Tories.

    In a statement last Friday night, Peller acknowledged “the PC Party’s power to control their internal candidate selection process.”

    His action was not related to the court case launched by Singh.

    PC leader Patrick Brown dares Premier Wynne to take him to courtPC leader Patrick Brown dares Premier Wynne to take him to court

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    Taking the stand in his own defence earlier this year, Toronto police sergeant Christopher Heard had adamantly denied the allegations of two young women with strikingly similar accounts of being groped by him, an officer they’d trusted, inside his police car.

    “Absolutely not,” Heard said during his June trial, when asked if he inappropriately touched the inner thigh of a 27-year-old woman he’d picked up in the Entertainment District in September, 2015.

    “Not once” he’d said when questioned on whether he’d similarly sexually assaulted a 25-year-old woman inside his police vehicle less than six weeks later.

    The vehement denials didn’t pass muster with Ontario Court Justice Russell Otter, presiding over Heard’s judge-alone trial on two counts of sexual assault.

    The “blunt and terse denials of inappropriate touching” lacked in reliability and credibility, the judge ruled, finding much of Heard’s evidence to be “not credible.”

    But Otter had significant doubts, too, about the reliability of the two complainants’ accounts — concerns sufficient enough to dismiss the charges against the longtime Toronto police officer at a Scarborough court Wednesday.

    Heard, a 46-year-old married father of three, hugged his wife and supporters when Otter announced the not-guilty finding after reading out his lengthy judgment to a full courtroom. The officer later left the courthouse without comment.

    Heard has been suspended with pay since the second sexual assault charge was laid in May 2016. It was not immediately clear Wednesday whether Heard will return to active duty; the officer is still facing professional misconduct charges stemming from the case.

    While clearing Heard of criminal charges, Otter levied harsh criticism at the officer for his conduct, chastising him for “egregious” and “brazen” behaviour that included failing to turn on his in-car camera both times he picked up the women to drive them home.

    Otter noted in particular that Heard knew he was under criminal investigation by Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), in connection to the first alleged sexual assault — “yet he conducted himself in a highly similar fashion with (the second complainant) . . . He offered a lone intoxicated female a safe ride home in his police vehicle with all police recording equipment shut off.

    “Such blatant conduct defies common sense and risks his professional career.”

    Gary Clewley, Heard’s lawyer, acknowledged the judge’s criticisms about Heard’s professionalism but said, overall, his client is happy and relieved. He called Otter’s judgment “lengthy and thorough.”

    Asked whether Heard would be picking up lone women and offering them rides home, Clewley said no — “those days are over,” he said.

    Neither of the complainants, whose identities are covered by a publication ban, were in court Wednesday.

    The two complainants, strangers to one another, had come forward with “strikingly similar” accounts, Otter said, adding there was no evidence of collusion.

    Both women testified that they had trusted Heard when they accepted his offer of a ride home, believing they were safe with a police officer.

    “I expected to trust an officer of the law,” said one of the alleged victims.

    Otter nonetheless found the testimony of the first complainant was inconsistent with her friend’s account of the night, including how much she had to drink. The judge also ruled that the 27-year-old complainant had “antipathy” toward the police and “this strongly felt sentiment significantly, in my view, affected her overall credibility and reliability.”

    The young woman’s evidence was insufficient to find Heard guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge ruled.

    Otter came to the same conclusion concerning the second complainant, who alleged she was assaulted on November 1, 2015. Citing among his reasons phone records that directly contradict her evidence, the judge found the 25-year-old woman’s testimony inconsistent.

    “I find that I have reasonable doubt as to whether the sexual assault occurred,” he wrote.

    At the time of the incidents, Heard was supervising a group of constables in downtown Toronto’s 52 Division, but had been working alone on the shifts in question.

    In both cases, Heard did not inform Toronto police dispatch that he was transporting a young woman home. “I should have. It just didn’t seem like a big thing . . . I wasn’t going to be gone for long,” he testified.

    Heard is still facing misconduct charges under the Ontario Police Services Act in connection to the September incident, including not activating his in-car camera, a failure that means there is no audio or video evidence of his contact with the first complainant.

    Heard also faces a misconduct charge related to his failure to record all of his interaction with the 27-year-old woman in his police notes.

    Indeed, as criticized by Otter, Heard only made notes about his interaction with that woman after he was advised that the SIU had opened an investigation into his conduct that September night.

    “His failure to abide by police policies and protocols in the use of police equipment defies logic and common sense. I agree with the Crown that such a failure created the opportunity to engage in wrongful conduct that would go undetected,” Otter wrote in his decision.

    A Toronto police spokesperson confirmed Heard is also facing further professional misconduct allegations in connection to the November 1 incident, but the details were not available by press time Wednesday.

    Wendy Gillis can be reached at

    Toronto police sergeant found not guilty on two counts of sexual assaultToronto police sergeant found not guilty on two counts of sexual assault

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    Ontario’s post-secondary minister says it is “very troubling” that the province’s colleges and the union representing 12,000 striking faculty are not even trying to reach a deal.

    “I’m very worried about the impact the strike is having on students,” Deb Matthews, minister of advanced education and skills development, said Wednesday at Queen’s Park. “There’s a lot of anxiety, a lot of unanswered questions, and it’s very disappointing that the two parties have not yet found their way back to the table. I’m urging everybody to think of the students … why the parties aren’t bargaining is beyond me.”

    The strike by full-time and partial-load instructors at Ontario’s 24 colleges — now well into its second week— has left more than 300,000 students out of class.

    A petition calling on both sides to return to the table that also demands a tuition refund should the strike be prolonged, now has more than 108,000 signatures.

    Matthews met with petition organizers and Humber College students Greg Kung and Amir Allana on Wednesday, where they were told student loan funds “should not be a problem” and that the province has been reassured by the federal government that international students’ visas will not be affected by the strike.

    “Students have a lot of unanswered questions, they certainly have a lot of anxiety,” Matthews also told reporters. “This is really unfortunate that this is dragging on as long without them actually talking to each other.

    “If they were at the table, if they were hammering out the issues, I’d have a different opinion,” she added. “But the fact that they are not even finding a way to get to the table is very troubling.”

    Don Sinclair, CEO of the College Employer Council which bargains for the institutions, said he understands the minister’s frustrations as “the colleges are also frustrated because we believe this is an unnecessary strike that’s disrupted hundreds of thousands of students. Our faculty should be in the classroom teaching their students.”

    He said the union “has created this mess, they know where the settlement zone is in this, but refuse to seek it.”

    The union has previously said it modified its offer before hitting the picket lines. It is seeking about 9 per cent over three years, more academic control and a guarantee that at least 50 per cent of positions are full-time.

    The colleges raised their salary offer to 7.75 per cent over four years, and Sinclair said there is “language that gives preference” to full-time hiring.

    “Quite frankly, we need them to come back to the table with practical proposals — ones that are affordable to our system and will not be harmful to the quality of programs,” Sinclair added.

    As it stands now, the two sides are about $250 million apart on salary and staffing costs, something union bargaining lead J.P. Hornick has said is not a lot when spread out among the 24 colleges.

    At Queen’s Park, opposition PC Leader Patrick Brown said he wants the government to put pressure on the union and colleges, saying “the premier has lots of tools at her disposal … the hands-off approach isn’t working.”

    NDP MPP Peter Tabuns blamed underfunding for the labour strife, saying the Liberals “have neglected this sector. They have caused this problem. Maybe they are going to have to look at bailing out the students” by refunding tuition.

    Kung and Allana said they are counting on the provincial government to take some “tangible action to bring both parties to the table.

    “From where we stand, we don’t see them doing it on their own,” said Allana. “We respect the process, we want bargaining to happen, but it won’t happen with the two sides not talking at all.”

    They are particularly worried about students losing apprenticeship hours that may not be recoverable when the strike is over.

    On Tuesday during Question Period, NDP MPP Cindy Forster asked Premier Kathleen Wynne about the strike, saying the “overuse of part-time faculty has ballooned to a shocking 81 per cent at colleges across Ontario. Instructors are forced to string together multiple contracts across multiple colleges, and many are required to find additional employment just to make ends meet.” She said impending labour legislation that will mandate equal pay for equal work “means nothing if the government refuses to support more full-time faculty positions.”

    Wynne said “let me just say that we want to see students back in college classrooms as soon as humanly possible … I have committed to them and to all who have asked me that we’ll do everything we can to encourage both sides to get back to the table.”

    Minister ‘very troubled’ by lack of talks between colleges, union Minister ‘very troubled’ by lack of talks between colleges, unionMinister ‘very troubled’ by lack of talks between colleges, union Minister ‘very troubled’ by lack of talks between colleges, union

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    HALIFAX—Dalhousie University is withdrawing a complaint against a student leader who criticized “white fragility” during a campus controversy over Canada 150 celebrations.

    The Halifax university had faced a stiff backlash for taking disciplinary action against Masuma Khan for a profane Facebook post, igniting fierce debate about free speech, inclusion and equity on campus.

    Arig al Shaibah, vice-provost of student affairs, said Wednesday the university’s code of conduct may not place two core institutional values — freedom of speech and the prevention of demeaning and intimidating behaviour — in sufficient and proper context.

    Read more:

    Why did Masuma Khan’s post invite censure from Dalhousie if free speech is so vaunted?: Paradkar

    Dalhousie University accused of censorship after student investigated for ‘white fragility’ Facebook comment

    “There were enough questions and concerns about whether and how we balance these two fundamental principles, and I thought it was wise to withdraw the process so that we could have some thoughtful reflection and examination of that question,” she said in an interview.

    The administrator said the case has prompted the university to examine ways to resolve the complaint outside of the regular senate disciplinary process.

    The complaint stems from a Dalhousie Student Union decision to not endorse Canada Day celebrations or hold celebratory events on campus in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples.

    The decision prompted outcry from some groups, like the Nova Scotia Young Progressive Conservatives, who said in a Facebook post the student union “should be helping instill pride in our country, not boycott it on our most significant national holiday.”

    “The Dalhousie Student Union should prioritize advocating for student issues, not attacking Canada,” the Facebook post said.

    Khan’s response, which questioned why she should be proud of Canada’s colonial past and “400 years of genocide,” began with “F--- you all” and ended with the hashtags “whitefragilitycankissmyass” and “whitetearsarentsacred.”

    Al Shaibah said she understood the comments were an effort to “passionately express allyship for Indigenous peoples and name the legacy of colonialism.”

    But she said she also had to validate other students’ reasonable expectation to engage in campus debate “without being demeaned and derogated by a student leader.”

    When Khan rejected an informal resolution to the complaint put forward by the university, the matter was referred to a senate discipline committee.

    But rising tensions prompted the university to withdraw the complaint Wednesday.

    “Having considered and weighed all of the events of the last few weeks, and particularly the last couple of days, at this time, with the endorsement of the officers of senate and with the knowledge of the complainant and witnesses, I am withdrawing the complaint,” al Shaibah said in a statement.

    She said public conversations about the issue have become increasingly polarized, and in some instances, hateful, undermining the values of respect, inclusion and safety Dalhousie is seeking to foster.

    “It really saddened me,” al Shaibah said of the vitriol on campus and online, including threats against Khan and her identity, a Muslim woman of colour.

    However, some of the outcry came from faculty at the Nova Scotia university. A group of law professors at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law urged the university not to “police and censor” the tone of political speech, while the Ontario Civil Liberties Association accused the university of censoring political speech.

    Khan, a fourth-year student, said she received an email from the university three minutes before the public memo went out.

    “They still haven’t reached out to me personally. They still haven’t included me in this conversation,” she said. “The email didn’t really include any reasons as to why the university was withdrawing the case. I’m sure they felt pressured.”

    Khan said she will be considering her options for holding the university accountable, but she said students deserve an apology.

    “I don’t want this to be something that they sweep under the rug,” she said. “To me, this is still about the university not really addressing the issues of systemic racism on our campus. To me, this is about the university not really going about reconciliation in the right way and tokenizing us and silencing racialized women that are leading this work on our campus.”

    Yet al Shaibah — who said she has experienced racism and Islamophobia herself — said she is committed to taking action.

    “It’s not enough to have rhetorical commitment. We have to move to the reality of action,” she said. “I’m very much working with my colleagues and students who want to see action and change.”

    Dalhousie withdraws complaint against student leader over ‘white fragility’ Facebook postDalhousie withdraws complaint against student leader over ‘white fragility’ Facebook post

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    Amazon would like you to open your home to strangers. Not in the charitable, Thanksgiving dinner sense, but in the sense that if you’re a woman living alone, you might feel compelled to sleep with a hockey stick under your bed.

    This week the tech giant announced plans to launch a new package delivery service called Amazon Key that will grant Amazon employees permission and access to enter customers’ homes in order to deliver packages they’ve ordered online.

    The benefit to this service, which operates via security camera and a “smart lock” provided by Amazon itself, is that the packages you order online will not be stolen from your front door or otherwise misplaced.

    However, what the company might have failed to consider, judging by the shock and horror the product’s announcement provoked online, is that there are many possibilities in this life more disturbing than having a package stolen from your front door. Like, for example, getting robbed (or worse) by the person who delivers that package after you grant them access to enter your home.

    Or perhaps they did consider the fear that this possibility would stoke. It’s interesting, after all, that in the promotional material for Amazon Key on the company’s website, the model pictured in a delivery uniform stepping inside a customer’s house and dropping off a package is slim, beautiful, and female. So is the model pictured installing the product in a customer’s doorway. In other words, both Amazon employees in the ad are non-threatening (women you’d invite in for a cup of tea, as opposed to men who might sift around in your underwear drawer).

    But this seemingly shrewd marketing technique hasn’t stopped the internet from expounding on all that might go wrong should we let Amazon into our homes. A few choice tweets on the subject: “I’m excited to watch the 2030 Netflix docudrama about the Amazon Key murders,” and my personal favourite: “Amazon Key . . . the long-awaited answer to who let the dogs out.”

    Of course this reaction (though very funny) is decidedly over the top. Amazon couriers are not breaking and entering. They will be given explicit permission to walk into customers’ homes. And no one is being forced to purchase the service. (Packages will continue to be delivered the old-fashioned way.) Customers who do choose to purchase the system for roughly $250 will also be able to watch the deliveries to their homes take place in real time on an app. We are still, I suspect, a long way away from couriers using technology to murder us and let our dogs run out of the house into oncoming traffic.

    But this doesn’t mean that the product’s existence isn’t a creepy sign of things to come. The driving force behind a product like Amazon Key — the reason it exists — is that customers are increasingly comfortable sacrificing privacy for convenience. And it’s the goal of corporations like Amazon to have a monopoly on convenience.

    It’s important to note that Amazon Key is not a one-note service; it’s a means for the company to eventually perform more than 1,000 others. From Amazon’s website: “In the coming months, Amazon Key will provide customers with a convenient way to provide unattended access to professional service providers. This includes services from home cleaning experts Merry Maids and pet sitters and dog walkers from, as well as over 1,200 services from Amazon Home Services.”

    A.K.A., Your Life by Amazon.

    It’s fortuitous that the company announced this “unattended access” business feature at the height of our culture’s “emotional labour” conversation. First World people, many of them workingwomen, (like the woman depicted in the product’s promotional video) are overwhelmed and exhausted by the tyranny of the little things. Book the cleaner. Pay the cleaner. Buy a gift for mom before dinner tonight. Wrap it. Take the dogs out. Put the dogs back. Wouldn’t it be great if some benevolent Godlike being could just swoop in and take care of all of it in your absence? Well now it can, for a mere $249.99 and the gradual but total erosion of your privacy.

    My sincere hope is that the online backlash to Amazon Key isn’t just digital noise, but a signal of the product’s pending failure. I hope that Amazon Key tanks badly, as badly as New Coke and Crystal Pepsi combined, sending a message to tech companies that though we are naive enough to let corporations track our movements, our spending habits and our private conversations, we will stop short at letting them, flesh and blood, step through our front doors.

    For now at least.

    Amazon wants to move in with you: TeitelAmazon wants to move in with you: Teitel

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    The colourful town square just got noisier.

    Toronto is a minority majority city at last, fully 51.5 per cent of us identify as visible minorities and almost half, or 48.8 per cent, do so in the GTA.

    “At last,” not because this fulfils a dire take-over-the-country prophecy by “foreigners,” but because in a capitalist society, this was inevitable.

    A census, like this latest 2016 data from Statistics Canada is rarely just about numbers, or about sorting and counting the people in statistically correct ways.

    The data shows us who we are — not just what the colour of our skin is, or the faiths that we follow, but what values we truly cherish.

    The data tells us stories.

    It also casts light on how we understand race. In Toronto, for instance, should people of colour still be called visible minorities if they’re not a minority any more?

    This is a messy question with no easy answers. The largest minority group in the city, now, consists of people who identify as whites. The heterogenous rest are still a coalition of minority groups, a unifying factor being that they’re not white. (This group of minorities does not include Indigenous peoples.) Ideally, humans would have no labels, but discrimination based on these identities exist; not acknowledging that would erase those discriminatory experiences.

    On the Indigenous front, the data offered heartening evidence of resilience; the news that Indigenous populations are seeing an unprecedented boom in the modern history of this land. This is due to higher fertility rates, but also the willingness of more people to identify as one of the diverse Indigenous groups; either First Nation, Métis or Inuit.

    The data also draws a changing landscape. It used to be that big cities — Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal were the hubs for new immigrants, but that trend is changing, too, the data shows. The wave of recent immigrants to the Prairies more than doubled over the last 15 years.

    Immigrants are going where the jobs are and visible minorities could comprise fully one-third of Canadians by 2036.

    One in five people across the country are born outside it. This isn’t new. In the early 1900s, a similar proportion of people were immigrants to the country. The difference this time is in the vast heterogeneity of their origins.

    People come from 250 different ethnic origins across the country, the data shows. Asia is the biggest source of immigration, while newcomers from Africa placed ahead of Europe for the first time.

    You don’t need a crystal ball to predict future trends. People identifying as Black, Arab and Indigenous — in other words, some of the most maligned people — have the highest percentage of young people. The oldest group comes from those who identify as “not a visible minority,” “Chinese” and “Japanese.”

    This 2016 snapshot makes for a colourful portrait and, in these divisive times, offers an opportunity to reflect: how are we going to get along?

    Who gets to speak and how will voices at the margins of the town square move toward the centre? How will we make it work for everyone and not just to prop up a few?

    The data offers a clear pointer to our first priority.

    Non-Indigenous populations, or around 95 per cent of us, complicit in settler colonialism owe much to those whose lands we enrich ourselves from.

    While 1.7 million people identified as Indigenous in 2016, that number is projected to cross 2.5 million in the next 20 years.

    Twenty per cent of Indigenous people live in a dwelling in need of “major repairs,” compared with 6 per cent of the non-Indigenous population.

    Their median personal income is just $25,526, compared with $34,604 for non-Indigenous people, while nearly one-quarter live below Statistics Canada’s poverty threshold.

    First Nations child advocate Cindy Blackstock said the first numbers she honed in were that Indigenous children account for more than half the kids under 4 — a critical development age — who are in foster care. That number is rising.

    “When I looked at those numbers I thought of how vital it is that Canada moves with dispatch to comply with the four existing orders from the Human Rights Tribunal to end its discriminatory funding of First Nations child welfare agencies across the country,” she said.

    “One of the things that I’m calling on the government to do is to ask the parliamentary budget officer to cost out all the inequalities that First Nations children experience. Everything from child and maternal health to education to child welfare to juvenile justice. And then develop a public plan to eradicate those inequalities.”

    Fixing these gaps will take billions of dollars. If we’re serious about reconciliation, and long-term development, we have to focus on the children.

    As Blackstock says, “No level of discrimination of children by the government should be accepted by Canadians.”

    Read more:

    A majority of Torontonians now identify themselves as visible minorities, census shows

    Ontario now home to Canada’s largest Métis population, census shows

    Canada has more same-sex couples, one-person households, census shows

    Highlights from the 2016 census

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

    The census makes for a colourful portrait, now how do we get along?: ParadkarThe census makes for a colourful portrait, now how do we get along?: Paradkar

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    OTTAWA—An independent assessment of the Toronto office of Canada's spy agency has uncovered concerns about bullying, favouritism and discrimination. Low morale is "pervasive" in the Toronto region of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and negativity is draining the energy of employees and managers, says an executive summary of the assessment. "Unfortunately, quite a few are considering leaving the organization disillusioned and disheartened," says the summary, released by CSIS late Wednesday.

    In a statement, CSIS director David Vigneault said the behaviour described in the report is "categorically unacceptable."

    The intelligence service's senior management ordered the study, conducted last spring, following a harassment investigation. Thirty per cent of staff in the Toronto region took part in the assessment.

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    The consultants, who spoke with participants for an average of 70 minutes each, found a majority of employees did not trust management or most decision-making processes.

    "Leadership skills are said to be wanting," the summary says.

    "Fear of reprisal is very present and employees have provided concrete examples that support this belief."

    Many deplored the "unprofessional behaviour, inappropriate comments and even bullying by colleagues and managers" that had gone unchecked for years, the report adds.

    "Although interpersonal relations are generally very good, a number of individuals feel they have been subjected to unwarranted and mean rumours and that they have been unfairly denigrated (often by managers), and that their reputation has been negatively affected."

    There were many examples of employees being blacklisted, being moved because of disagreements with management, or of mistakes going unforgiven.

    The assessment also found:

    — Employees who had served in the region more than two years referred to the past as an "old boys club" with behaviour that included yelling, swearing, and misogynistic and offensive comments about employees, including from managers;

    — Weekly drinking by "the in-group" in the office or at the pub where decisions — often staffing decisions — were made;

    — Lingering pockets in the office where jokes and discriminatory comments were still being made about ethnicity and the communities being monitored, as well as some bias against women;

    — Some employees seemed intolerant and judgmental towards their colleagues, and managers "do nothing to stop the character assassination and back stabbing that occurs."

    CSIS does not tolerate harassment, discrimination or bullying under any circumstances, Vigneault said in the statement.

    While the assessment mentions positive changes over the last two years, CSIS will continue to take steps to address the issues, he added.

    Five intelligence officers and analysts allege in a claim filed in Federal Court that they were bullied and harassed while working at CSIS. The spy service's statement of defence is expected this week.

    CSIS director calls behaviour ‘unacceptable’ after report uncovers bullying, reprisals at Canada’s spy agencyCSIS director calls behaviour ‘unacceptable’ after report uncovers bullying, reprisals at Canada’s spy agency

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    OTTAWA—Most people in Canada’s biggest city now identify as visible minorities, as new census data shows increasing diversity in Toronto and many of its neighbouring suburban areas.

    More than half of respondents to the 2016 census in the City of Toronto — 51.5 per cent — said they’re from visible minority communities, a milestone that was narrowly missed when 49 per cent identified that way in 2011.

    The news comes as part of a tranche of census data, released Wednesday, that paints a multifaceted portrait of a country where more than one in five people was born outside its borders. Canada is now home to millions of people who claim more than 250 distinct “ethnic origins,” with historical lineages through Indigenous groups and countries all over the world.

    “We’ve been seeing this for 20 years now, that Canada is becoming more and more diverse,” said Jean-Pierre Corbeil, Statistics Canada’s assistant director of social and Aboriginal statistics.

    “It’s not surprising that we see the share of people identified as visible minorities… increasing for sure,” he said.

    Across the GTA, almost half (48.8) per cent of census respondents identified as visible minorities.

    Almost 22 per cent of the Canadian population is foreign-born, while 1.2 million people immigrated here between 2011 and 2016, the census data shows. Forty-one per cent of Canadians, meanwhile, lay claim to more than a single ancestral group, the most frequent being English, Scottish, French or Irish.

    In Canada overall, more than 22 per cent of people reported in 2016 being from visible minority communities, up from 16.3 per cent in 2006 and 4.7 per cent when the government started gathering this information in 1981. Statistics Canada attributes the increase in part to an increasing proportion of immigrants from non-European countries. For example, Africa surpassed Europe as the continent-of-origin for the second-highest number of immigrants between 2011 and 2016, the data shows.

    The release showed a similar trend for two groups: the largest overall increase in the Indigenous population was in western Canada over the last decade, while the share of recent immigrants to the Prairies more than doubled over the last 15 years.

    “Immigrants are diffusing across the country,” said Michael Haan, a sociology professor at Western University in London, Ont.

    “What it’s forcing us to do, collectively, is think about our entire nation as being composed of immigrants, rather than just major cities.”

    Nearly half of major metropolitan areas are comprised of visible minorities, noticeably Toronto and Vancouver, said Doug Norris, chief demographer at Environics Analytics. But the figures are also on the rise in places such as Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg and Calgary, he added.

    “Places that people didn’t think were culturally diverse are becoming now culturally diverse.”

    The release is just the latest — and second-to-last — in a year-long series of statistical snapshots of Canada. It also marks the return of the long-form census for the first time in a decade.

    The data also shows a marked difference in diversity between the multicultural heartland of the Greater Toronto Area and the rest of the country. Twenty-nine per cent of Ontarians and 22 per cent of Canadians overall reported being visible minorities, versus a thin majority in the Big Smoke.

    Five of the suburban cities around Toronto — Ajax, Mississauga, Richmond Hill, Brampton and Markham — had majorities of people who identify as visible minorities. Markham posted the highest proportion (77.9 per cent), followed by Brampton (73.3 per cent) and Richmond Hill (60 per cent).

    Read more:

    Toronto still top-choice for recent immigrants, as more people flock to the Prairies

    Home ownership rates drop as more young Canadians opt to rent: census

    Ontario now home to Canada’s largest Métis population, census shows

    But while diversity — in terms of visible minority populations — increased in every census division in the GTA from 2011 to 2016, the numbers vary widely. Burlington and Oshawa had the lowest proportion of visible minorities for cities with more than 100,000 people, at 16 per cent each in 2016, followed by Whitby at 25 per cent and Oakville at 31.

    The numbers also varied in the City of Toronto. The higher proportions of diversity — more than 50 per cent — were clumped in the inner suburbs of Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke.

    Several areas showed proportions of visible minority communities as high as 90 per cent, with concentrations of people who identified as Chinese, for example, in places such as Scarborough’s Agincourt neighbourhood and the city of Markham. Two neighbouring Toronto census tracts with almost 4,000 residents off Steeles Ave. E. even showed a combined 99 per cent Chinese population, one of the highest proportions of a single visible minority in the GTA.

    Minorities in the GTA:

    More than half of 2016 census respondents in Toronto — 51.5 per cent — said they’re from visible minority communities: Here’s how the numbers break down:

    • South Asian: 12.59 per cent

    • Chinese: 11.13 per cent

    • Black: 8.91 per cent

    • Filipino: 5.67 per cent

    • Latin American: 2.87 per cent

    • Arab: 1.34 per cent

    • Southeast Asian: 1.55 per cent

    • West Asian: 2.24 per cent

    • Korean: 1.55 per cent

    • Japanese: 0.5 per cent

    • Visible minorities not included elsewhere: 1.37 per cent

    • Multiple visible minorities (people who belong to more than one group): 1.77 per cent

    In Canada overall, the largest visible minority communities were South Asian (1.9 million people), Chinese (1.6 million) and Black (1.2 million).


    • In 2016, 7.5 million people — about 21.9 per cent of the total population — reported being foreign-born individuals who immigrated to Canada. In 1921, the census reported that proportion at 22.3 per cent, the highest since Confederation. Statistics Canada projects that proportion could reach between 25 and 30 per cent by 2036.

    • The census counted 1,212,075 new immigrants who permanently settled in Canada between 2011 and 2016, 3.5 per cent of the total population last year.

    • 60 per cent entered under the economic category, 26.8 per cent to join family already in Canada and 11.6 per cent as refugees. During the first four months of 2016, refugees accounted for one-quarter of all immigrants admitted to Canada, thanks to an influx of refugees from Syria.

    • Asia, including the Middle East, remains the largest source of recent immigrants to Canada at 61.8 per cent, followed by Africa at 13.4 per cent. Europe — once dominant in this category at 61.6 per cent in 1971 — ranked third at 11.6 per cent.

    • More immigrants have been settling in the Prairies. The percentage of new immigrants living in Alberta reached 17.1 per cent in 2016, compared with 6.9 per cent in 2001; In Manitoba, it went to 5.2 per cent, up from 1.8 per cent, and four per cent in Saskatchewan, up from one per cent in 2001.

    • Visible minorities numbered 7.7 million in 2016, 22.3 per cent of Canada’s population. 30 per cent were born in Canada.

    • In 1921, more than 70 per cent of the foreign-born population reported English or French as a mother tongue, while fewer than 30 per cent reported a different language. In 2016, the precise opposite was true: more than 70 per cent reported a different mother tongue, compared to less than 30 per cent for English or French.

    • In 2016, nearly 2.2 million children under 15 — 37.5 per cent of all children in Canada — were either foreign-born themselves or had at least one foreign-born parent.

    • Some 1.9 million people reported being of South Asian heritage, fully one-quarter of the visible minority population. Chinese was the second-largest group at 1.6 million or 20.5 per cent of visible minorities, while blacks — surpassing the one-million mark for the first time — were third at 1.2 million, a share of about 15.6 per cent. Filipinos and Arabs rounded out the top five.

    • More than 9.5 million of the 14.1 million households in Canada owned their home in 2016, a rate of 67.8 per cent, down slightly from 69 per cent in 2011. However, rates varied widely depending on age: 70 per cent of homeowners in 2016 were aged 35-54, compared with 20- to 34-year-olds at just 43.6 per cent.

    • Condos are most popular in Vancouver, where they comprised 30.6 per cent of all local households. Calgary was second at 21.8 per cent, followed by Abbotsford-Mission, B.C., at 21.5 per cent, Kelowna at 21.3 per cent and Toronto at 20.9 per cent.

    • In 2016, 24.1 per cent of households — down from 24.4 per cent in 2006 — were spending 30 per cent or more of their average monthly total income on shelter costs, such as rent or mortgage payments, electricity, heat and property taxes or fees. Of those, the highest proportions were in Toronto (33.4 per cent) and Vancouver (32 per cent).

    • The census counted 1.67 million Indigenous people in Canada in 2016, accounting for 4.9 per cent of the total population — up from 3.8 per cent in 2006 for a growth rate of 42.5 per cent over the last 10 years, four times the rate of the non-Indigenous population.

    • The number of people who identified as First Nations reached 979,230 last year, up 39.3 per cent over 2006, while the Metis population grew by 51.2 per cent over the same period to 587,545 people. The census recorded 65,025 Inuit, 29.1 per cent higher than in 2006.

    • Winnipeg (92,810), Edmonton (76,205), Vancouver (61,460) and Toronto (46,315) reported the largest Indigenous populations, while the highest proportion of Aboriginal people were in Thunder Bay (12.7 per cent), Winnipeg (12.2 per cent) and Saskatoon (10.9 per cent).

    With files from The Canadian Press

    * This story has been corrected from an earlier version. The figure of people in the GTA who identify as visible minorities does not include those who identify as Aboriginal.*

    A majority of Torontonians now identify themselves as visible minoritiesA majority of Torontonians now identify themselves as visible minorities

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    An Ontario man accused of murdering a young Toronto woman whose body has never been found confessed to burning “a girl” and tossing her in a lake, a witness told court on Wednesday.

    Desi Liberatore said he was smoking weed and drinking peach schnapps with Mark Smich and a couple of friends in 2012, when Smich began rapping about “torching a body.”

    Smich then asked his girlfriend to leave the garage at his mother’s home in Oakville, Ont., Liberatore said, and once she left, Smich told his friends that he did, in fact, burn a girl and dump her body and a cellphone in a lake.

    Read more:A good guy emerges at grim trial into Laura Babcock’s murder: DiManno

    “We burned a girl and threw her in the lake. We killed someone,” Liberatore said Smich told him.

    “Did he say he killed somebody?” Crown lawyer Jill Cameron asked Liberatore.

    “I don’t think he said it exactly like that,” Liberatore said. “He said ‘we burned a body and threw it in the lake.’”

    Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., and Dellen Millard, 32, of Toronto, have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of 23-year-old Laura Babcock. The men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

    The Crown then played a video of Smich rapping.

    In the video, Smich is looking at an iPad with music playing in the background.

    “The b---h started off all skin and bone, now the b---h lay on some ashy stone,” Smich sings in the video. “Last time I saw her she was outside the home. If you go swimming you can find her phone.”

    Liberatore said he had never seen the video, but the rap Smich performed for him in the garage was “something like that.”

    The Crown alleges the pair killed Babcock in July 2012 at Millard’s Toronto home then burned her remains in a commercial incinerator that was found on Millard’s farm near Waterloo, Ont. The prosecution contends Babcock was killed for being the odd woman out in a love triangle with Millard and his girlfriend.

    Liberatore, 21, said he was 14 when he first met Smich outside an Oakville convenience store. Liberatore and a few other friends got Smich to buy them cigarettes. Later, Liberatore said, one of his friends would buy weed from Smich.

    After Smich talked about having killed someone, Liberatore said he and his two friends left the garage.

    “We were shocked, did that really happen? That must be B.S., there’s no way,” Liberatore told court.

    Under cross-examination from Smich’s lawyer, Thomas Dungey, Liberatore said he’s overdosed on drugs about six times and has a foggy memory.

    “I smoke myself into oblivion,” Liberatore told police in 2013, according to a police statement Dungey read in court.

    “That’s the state you were in, why your memory is so foggy, correct?” Dungey asked.

    “Yes,” Liberatore said.

    He also said he had been speaking with another potential witness about the case just a few days ago, but didn’t get into details, and he also admitted to reading several news headlines about the Babcock case in recent days.

    ‘We burned a body and threw it in the lake,’ Laura Babcock’s murder trial hears‘We burned a body and threw it in the lake,’ Laura Babcock’s murder trial hears

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    Ontario provincial police say they’re putting transport truck drivers “on notice” after laying charges in three horrific collisions involving big rigs that claimed the lives of six people this summer.

    Two of the collisions occurred on Highway 401, one near Port Hope, Ont., on Aug. 3, and the other in Chatham-Kent, Ont., on July 30. The third occurred on Highway 48 in Georgina, Ont., on July 27.

    Two people were killed in each of the collisions in which it’s alleged a transport truck crashed into traffic that was stopped or had slowed down due to road construction or a collision, OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes said Thursday.

    The four men, one woman and 14-year-old boy who were killed in the crashes were all occupants of vehicles at the end of traffic queues.

    “This series of horrific collisions is driver inattention at its worst,” Hawkes said in a statement, calling them “the most tragic reminder in recent history of the tremendous toll on the lives of innocent citizens when commercial transport truck drivers are not paying full attention to the road.”

    Hawkes said the details mirror a fourth collision on May 11 on Highway 401 near Kingston, Ont., in which three men and a woman died when their vehicle was struck from behind by a transport truck in a construction zone. Charges have already been laid in that incident.

    “We are putting drivers on notice that the OPP will pursue every investigative avenue following serious collisions and hold at-fault drivers accountable to the full extent of the law,” he said.

    As of Oct. 15 this year, there have been more than 5,000 transport truck-related collisions, with 67 deaths in 56 of the collisions, the OPP said.

    In the Port Hope Crash, an eastbound tractor-trailer collided with two other vehicles heading in the same direction at about 10:30 p.m., causing a large fire, OPP said. Police closed the westbound lanes of the highway due to poor visibility due to smoke following the collision that killed two people.

    A 56-year-old Brampton, Ont., trucker is charged with two counts each of dangerous driving causing death and causing death by criminal negligence.

    In the Chatham-Kent incident, a westbound tractor-trailer collided with five vehicles stopped on Highway 401 due to a separate collision, police said.

    Two passengers in a pickup truck were pronounced dead at the scene and the driver and another passenger were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries as was the driver of another vehicle.

    A 52-year-old Brampton man is charged with two counts dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and three counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm.

    Five vehicles were involved in the Georgina collision when one vehicle rear-ended another that was stopped at a construction site, causing a chain reaction, police said. Two people were killed and three others injured, including a child and an adult who were airlifted to Toronto hospitals in critical condition.

    A 31-year-old Toronto man is charged in that incident with two counts each of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm and one count of dangerous driving.

    Transport truck drivers will be put ‘on notice,’ OPP say after laying charges in deadly collisionsTransport truck drivers will be put ‘on notice,’ OPP say after laying charges in deadly collisions

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    Marineland has filed a lawsuit against the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, alleging the organization maliciously targeted the theme park in order to curry favour with animal rights activists and boost fundraising.

    The lawsuit alleges the OSPCA launched a criminal investigation against Marineland last year for “improper purposes” and with the intention of harming the Niagara Falls, Ont., amusement park’s reputation.

    The investigation culminated with the laying of 11 animal cruelty charges against Marineland, which were then withdrawn this summer.

    In a statement of claim filed Tuesday, Marineland says the OSPCA laid the charges as part of a broader push to ban commercial zoos and aquariums and promote other policy goals.

    The allegations have not been proven in court and the OSPCA has not yet filed a statement of defence.

    But the organization, a private charity tasked with enforcing the province’s animal welfare laws, says it “vehemently denies all of the allegations and will defend itself.”

    Marineland is seeking $21 million in damages on grounds of malicious prosecution, negligent investigation, injurious falsehood, and abuse of power and process.

    “The OSPCA’s purpose in initiating the prosecution was not the enforcement of the law,” the statement of claim reads.

    “It was motivated by a series of improper objectives, including a desire to accomplish its own policy agenda, to mollify the animal activist community, to please its donors, and to effectively destroy Marineland.”

    The investigation was launched last November after the animal welfare agency received a complaint from an animal rights group.

    The Canadian Press also obtained a copy of the complaint and some of the stories it reported are cited in the lawsuit.

    Marineland was initially charged with five counts of animal cruelty late last year in connection with the treatment of peacocks, guinea hens and black bears. In January, the OSPCA laid six more animal cruelty charges against Marineland relating to elk, red deer and fallow deer.

    The charges were withdrawn in August after prosecutors found they had no chance of conviction on most counts.

    “The unfounded charges and public press announcements by the OSPCA had a direct and seriously negative impact on Marineland’s business and operations, causing Marineland damage,” the company alleges in the document.

    The lawsuit alleges that OSPCA investigators failed to make necessary inquiries of staff and veterinarians, conduct necessary medical examinations of animals noted as being of concern, or spend sufficient time with each animal.

    It further alleges the organization has publicly declared that it considers commercial zoos an antiquated business model that should be retired.

    Marineland sues OSPCA, saying agency was out to ‘destroy’ theme parkMarineland sues OSPCA, saying agency was out to ‘destroy’ theme park

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    A section of King St. W. is reopening after being shut down for more than three hours Thursday afternoon for a police investigation into what turned out to be false alarm regarding a person with a gun inside a pot dispensary.

    Toronto police received one call at about 1 p.m. about a person entering the business with a firearm and forcing another person inside, Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said. The building was found to be empty about three hours later.

    Douglas-Cook told reporters at the scene that police are no longer looking for a suspect.

    Const. David Hopkinson said police received the call at 1:02 p.m. and arrived on scene three minutes later.

    “What happened in those three minutes, who knows but a lot could have happened,” he said. “Ever since we’ve arrived we have been attempting to deescalate the situation.”

    Curious onlookers milled nearby as police tried to make contact with anyone in the store.

    When Emergency Task Force arrived, they surrounded Toronto 365 Dispensary and the Underground Garage located at King and Charlotte Sts. Officers were seen going inside just before 4 p.m.

    “A call of that nature we always take very seriously and I can tell you that we responded very quickly,” Hopkinson said.

    Nathan Sing, 19, lives next door and said a negotiator was repeatedly shouting, “Everybody inside, come through the front door. You will not get hurt.”

    He said there were about 30 to 40 officers surrounded the building.

    King St. was closed from Peter St. to Spadina Ave.

    TTC streetcars 501 Queen, 504 King and 514 Cherry are turned back due to the investigation causing traffic chaos just before rush hour.

    With files from Ainslie Cruickshank

    King St. W. armed hostage taker deemed false alarmKing St. W. armed hostage taker deemed false alarm

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    DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—New security screenings for all passengers on U.S.-bound flights began on Thursday, with airlines worldwide questioning flyers about their trip and their luggage in the latest Trump administration decision affecting global travel.

    Canadian travellers flying into the United States are subject to new security protocols implemented but airlines aren’t saying much about what the screening procedures entail.

    The U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced in June that there would be heightened security for international flights to the U.S. starting this fall.

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    The TSA said it would include increased screening of passengers and their cellphones and other electronic devices, as well as more security around planes and in passenger areas.

    Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick says the new measures are in effect for the airline but he wouldn’t say what they consist of because security is handled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    Fitzpatrick says all of the airline’s flights from Canada to the U.S. have passengers go through preclearance security, so they would encounter the new measures before taking off, not after landing in an American airport.

    A representative from WestJet says the airline is working with the TSA to implement the new protocols and does not expect any immediate impact on Canadian passengers travelling to the U.S.

    WestJet passengers go through preclearance security at some but not all of the Canadian airports the airline operates from.

    Passengers on Porter Airlines flights will have to go through the new security checks once they land in the U.S., as Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport does not offer preclearance. The airline says passengers can expect the same check-in experience as before.

    International airlines have been offering differing accounts of how they will implement the new security rules.

    At Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, long-haul carrier Emirates began questioning passengers about their luggage, liquids they were carrying and where they were coming from. Passengers also had to have their carry-on bags searched, along with their electronics.

    Emirates declined to discuss the new procedures in detail on Thursday. On Wednesday, it said it would conduct “passenger pre-screening interviews” for those travelling on U.S.-bound flights in concert with other checks on electronics.

    Elsewhere, things did not appear to be going so smoothly. In China, an official in the Xiamen Airlines press office, who would only give his surname as Qiu, said that the airlines received a “demand” about the new U.S. regulations and planned “to take some security measures, including security safety interviews from today on.”

    “We’re not going to interview all passengers, but focus on those with a certain degree of risk when checking the passengers’ documents on the ground,” he said, without elaborating.

    An official with the Eastern Airlines publicity department said that she saw media reports about security safety interviews but didn’t have immediate details on what her company was doing. An official at the Beijing Airport press centre would only say: “We always strictly follow relevant regulations of the Civil Aviation Administration when conducting security checks.” Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.

    At Air China, the country’s flag carrier, an official who only gave his surname, Zhang, said it would comply.

    “We will meet the demands from the U.S. side, but as for the detailed measures (we will take), it is inconvenient for us to release,” he said.

    South Korea’s Transport Ministry said that the United States agreed to delay implementing the new screening for the country’s two biggest carriers, Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines Inc., until next year on condition they deploy staff at boarding gates to monitor travellers.

    Royal Jordanian, based in Amman, also has said it would introduce the new procedures in mid-January.

    Other airlines with U.S.-bound flights at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport brought in as many as seven extra staff Thursday to question passengers under the new rules but there were no major delays, airport spokesperson Lee Jung-hoon said.

    Singapore Airlines passengers may be required to “undergo enhanced security measures” including inspection of personal electronic devices “as well as security questioning during check-in and boarding,” the carrier said on its website.

    Other carriers who announced the new regulations on Wednesday included Air France, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., the airlines of Germany’s Lufthansa Group and EgyptAir.

    In Hong Kong, passengers described some of the questions they were asked.

    “They asked me if I packed my own bag, where I packed it from, where I came from, they looked at my itinerary, verify where I was, who I was, from where I came from,” said Fran Young, who was travelling to Los Angeles.

    Some showed displeasure.

    “It’s a little inconvenient, I kind of just want to get my printed ticket and then just go inside,” passenger Gavin Lai said. “I don’t want to wait on people to interview me like that. So it’s a little annoying.”

    U.S. carriers also will be affected by the new rules. Delta Air Lines said it was telling passengers travelling to the U.S. to arrive at the airport at least three hours before their flight and allow extra time to get through security. United declined to comment, while American did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    With files from the Canadian Press

    Canadians flying into U.S. to face new security screenings, but airlines give few detailsCanadians flying into U.S. to face new security screenings, but airlines give few details

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