- RSS Channel Showcase 8088829
- RSS Channel Showcase 1965113
- RSS Channel Showcase 4053731
- RSS Channel Showcase 9051520
Articles on this Page
- 11/02/17--09:09: _‘Devoted and hardwo...
- 11/02/17--14:20: _Ottawa’s all talk a...
- 11/02/17--14:36: _50-year-old woman d...
- 11/02/17--15:26: _New rules will requ...
- 11/02/17--15:15: _Condemnation of sex...
- 11/02/17--17:00: _Twitter employee on...
- 11/02/17--18:16: _Eight ‘House of Car...
- 11/02/17--16:02: _Pam McConnell’s leg...
- 11/03/17--03:00: _Several key trends ...
- 11/03/17--03:00: _Fight for girls’ ho...
- 11/03/17--03:00: _Netflix Canada need...
- 11/02/17--17:18: _Policing reform bil...
- 11/02/17--18:30: _Skepticism, optimis...
- 11/02/17--14:36: 50-year-old woman dies in immigration detention
- 11/02/17--15:26: New rules will require forensic labs to be accredited
- 11/02/17--15:15: Condemnation of sexual assaults can’t be selective: Teitel
- 11/03/17--03:00: Several key trends inform the Star’s path forward
- 11/03/17--03:00: Fight for girls’ hockey rights led to some dark corners
- 11/02/17--18:30: Skepticism, optimism from families greets proposed police reform
A veteran truck driver and father of nine who worked tirelessly to support his family in northeastern Ontario was one of three people killed in a pileup that set off a massive fireball on a highway north of Toronto, his grieving wife said Thursday.
Nikiyah Mulak-Dunn said she first feared the worst for her husband Benjamin Dunn after a friend pointed out images in the media of what appeared to be his truck engulfed in flames.
Provincial police later confirmed the grim news, plunging the family into despair and uncertainty, she said. Grief counsellors have been at the family's North Bay home to help Mulak-Dunn talk to her children, who are between one and 16 years old, about the loss of their father, she said.
“It's just been devastating,” she said. “I don't know where we're at right now, we're just trying to process and we're all in shock and disbelief and just pretty traumatized, I'd say, so it's going to have to be day by day.”
She said her husband — who was the family's sole breadwinner — had been working as a trucker for at least a decade and drove that same route regularly. He also juggled two other jobs as a miner and a welder, she said.
“He was just a devoted and hardworking husband and father and he would just do anything for anyone if they asked and even if they didn't ask, he was a very caring, intuitive person. He loved people and cared about them a lot.”
Friends have rallied behind the grieving family, organizing meal trains and offering to plow their driveway all winter, Mulak-Dunn said. Others have launched online fundraising campaigns.
Police have not publicly identified those killed Tuesday night in the multi-vehicle crash on Hwy. 400 that set off a massive fireball and sent motorists running for their lives.
That stretch of highway south of Barrie was closed for more than 24 hours after the crash, which police have said involved at least four transport trucks and two fuel tankers that spilled thousands of litres of fuel on the road.
Police said the impact sent a wave of fuel and flames rushing down the highway, leaving behind charred, twisted metal and debris. One lane of the northbound highway will be closed again sometime Thursday for an environmental cleanup, they said.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation but police suggested the blame may lie with the driver of a transport truck they say crashed into slowing traffic.
Just days earlier, provincial police had sounded the alarm about fatal collisions caused by distracted truck drivers.
The force said last week that since Jan. 1, its officers have tracked more than 5,000 transport truck-related collisions that have left 67 people dead.
The Ontario Trucking Association has said the industry is committed to road safety, noting that there has been a 66 per cent decrease in the fatality rate from large truck collisions between 1995 and 2014 despite a 75 per cent rise in large truck vehicle registrations.
‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash
Canada’s Indigenous population, Statistics Canada has recently reminded us, is growing at a rate that dwarfs that of the country’s non-Indigenous population.
It is also a younger population. Close to 30 per cent of the Indigenous population is under 15, almost double the non-Indigenous percentage in that age group.
And that youth too often starts behind.
Canadian children who identify as First Nations, Metis or Inuit make up about 8 per cent of all Canadians aged 4 years and younger, yet they make up more than half the pre-schoolers in foster care.
Of all children in foster care in this country, more than four in 10 are Indigenous.
Children only get one childhood, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Thursday. So there must be some urgency in righting wrongs.
But official Ottawa is where urgency goes to die.
Two of the most vital measures of Indigenous reconciliation, the gap in child welfare funding and the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, have returned to centre stage this week.
To listen to those seeking change in recent days is to hear the quintessential Canadian laments about stifling bureaucracy, overlapping jurisdictions and work being done at cross purposes.
Bellegarde was in the capital Thursday for a “day of action” to press the government on a gnawing wound for Indigenous leaders, the continued foot-dragging by the Liberals who have been ordered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to stop discriminating against Indigenous on-reserve children on funding for health and welfare.
Cindy Blackstock of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the AFN won a ruling against the government in January, 2016, and Ottawa has not moved despite three binding orders of non-compliance.
It is a case of discrimination, nothing less.
“Everybody gets it,” Bellegarde said. “Let’s get it done.’’
Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott wants to move and she will convene an emergency meeting with the provinces in early 2018 to deal with the “crisis-level’’ rates of Indigenous children in care.
The status quo is not working and reform of the child welfare system is immediately needed, she wrote in a letter to the provinces released this week.
Philpott pledges Ottawa will step up and she concedes that much provincial work is already being done.
As recently as June, Philpott was being accused of trying to quash provisions of the tribunal ruling, even as she maintained the government was merely trying to “clarify” provisions in an application for a judicial review.
The provincial involvement is needed, but it raises the jurisdictional mess of 13 bilateral agreements.
Ottawa, however, could move immediately and comply with the tribunal. The AFN has calculated $155 million is needed immediately to close the gap with off-reserve spending.
A day earlier, more frustration was aired, this time from the national inquiry, a key to the Liberal reconciliation endeavour, but now an inquiry which has drawn national attention only for its false starts, postponed hearings, firings and resignations.
It too is straddling jurisdictional lines legally, simultaneously holding 14 joint inquiries because each province and territory allowed it to probe within their jurisdiction.
It is also trying to do things differently, de-colonizing the system on the go, as it put it in its interim report. The inquiry system it is working under is unable to respond quickly or flexibly based on “Indigenous worldviews.”
It bared its list of frustrations.
Federal privacy laws mean that Ottawa would not give the inquiry the contact information for victims’ families and survivors who were involved in the pre-inquiry period.
Federal insistence on security clearances means it takes on average four months to hire someone and procurement policies mean it can take eight months to open an office. Even then, the inquiry said in its interim report, the offices opened without the telephones, computers and Internet service needed because of foot-dragging by bureaucrats.
And Ottawa’s contract policies have meant it has been slow to pay cultural advisors or elders at the hearings or make timely payments for travel or out-of-pocket expenses. That makes it difficult to hire and keep Fire Keepers or Knowledge Keepers, positions that need to be filled if the inquiry is to deliver a family-first, non-colonial process.
This government may have its heart in the right place when it comes to Indigenous reconciliation. But muscling aside an entrenched bureaucracy that slows, rather than speeds, action, will take more than that.
Tim Harper writes on national affairs. firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @nutgraf1
Ottawa’s all talk and no action on Indigenous reconciliation: Tim Harper
A 50-year-old woman detained by Canadian immigration officials in a maximum-security jail in Milton died on Monday, according to a brief news release from the Canada Border Services Agency.
The agency, which has the power to arrest and jail non-citizens, would not disclose the woman’s identity, country of origin or her cause of death, as per its usual protocol.
The woman is the 10th person to die in immigration detention in the last five years and at least the sixteenth since 2000.
Immigration detainees are not criminally charged, but are detained on an indefinite basis, either because they have been deemed a danger to the public, are unlikely to show up for their deportation or because their identity is in doubt.
The average length of detention last year was 19.5 days, but there is no limit to how long someone can stay in detention and some cases drag on for months or years.
In Ontario, immigration detainees are held either at the Immigration Holding Centre, a minimum-security facility in Etobicoke exclusive to immigration detainees, or in maximum-security provincial jails, where they are treated as sentenced criminals and those awaiting trial are.
An immigration detainee’s detention is reviewed every 30 days by the quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board, but where the person is detained is at the sole discretion of CBSA officers and is not subject to any oversight.
This aspect of the system was recently criticized by Superior Court Justice Alfred O’Marra, who ordered longtime immigration detainee Ebrahim Toure, who had spent four-and-a-half years in a maximum-security jail, to be transferred immediately to the less-restrictive Immigration Holding Centre.
The woman who died on Monday was detained at the Vanier Centre for Women, where she was apparently “found in medical distress and immediately taken to hospital,” according to the agency’s release.
She died “shortly thereafter.”
The CBSA did not clarify whether she died at, or on the way to, the hospital, nor did it say to which hospital she was taken.
It refused to answer the Star’s questions on how long the woman had been detained, nor would it give the grounds for her detention.
Canada’s immigration detention system has come under increased scrutiny this year, in the wake of a number of high-profile court challenges.
In April, Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer released Kashif Ali, who had spent seven years in maximum-security jail because immigration officials were unable to deport him, saying Canada could not “purport to hold someone in detention forever.”
In August, Justice Edward Morgan ordered the immediate release of an immigration detainee whom, he said, was jailed “for no real reason at all.”
The Liberal government has vowed to improve the system, saying it intends to reduce the use of maximum-security jails and expand alternatives to detention. The Liberals are detaining fewer people for immigration purposes than the Conservatives did under Stephen Harper, according to the most recent statistics
But they have not made any policy changes to a system that has been widely criticized by human rights organizations.
“People keep dying in immigration holding centres and maximum-security prisons,” said Nisha Toomey, spokeswoman for the End Immigration Detention Network.
“People will stop dying when the Canadian government stops leaving them there to die.”
This latest immigration detention death is the fourth since March 2016, when Melkioro Gahunga and Francisco Astorga both died in a single week.
Gahunga, a 64-year-old Burundian refugee, reportedly hanged himself at the Toronto East Detention Centre, while Astorga, a 39-year-old Chilean migrant, died after overdosing on fentanyl and methamphetamine, according to a coroner’s inquest into his death.
A 24-year-old man died at the Edmonton Remand Centre in May 2016.
His identity, country of origin and cause of death have never been disclosed.
50-year-old woman dies in immigration detention
The province has committed to new legislation that will require accreditation for forensic laboratories operating in Ontario in the wake of a Star investigation that revealed thousands of child protection cases across the country had relied on faulty evidence from the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk lab.
The new Forensic Laboratories Act, announced Thursday as part of a broader government effort to modernize policing in Ontario, aims to create better oversight of forensic labs to ensure they meet mandated standards going forward and is the first legislation of its kind in Canada.
It’s a move Toronto criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown called a “really great step forward,” but one that’s “long overdue.”
“There was certainly a need for forensic lab accreditation and better controls over the evidence that’s being presented in criminal courts,” he said. “Hundreds of people have been impacted by faulty scientific evidence in the court rooms.”
As revealed by a Star investigation thousands of child protection cases and at least eight criminal cases across Canada relied on the results of Motherisk’s discredited hair-strand drug and alcohol tests between the late 1990s and early 2015. At the same time, the lab was earning millions of dollars in revenue. The Hospital for Sick Children closed the Motherisk lab in 2015.
The revelations followed another Sick Kids scandal, which also highlighted the risks of faulty science, involving disgraced pathologist Charles Smith, whose mistakes tainted more than a dozen criminal cases.
Under the province’s new accreditation framework forensic labs will be subject to proficiency testing, annual audits, performance reports and surveillance visits.
“Our government is committed to holding forensic laboratories in Ontario to a consistently high standard,” said Yanni Dagonas, a spokesperson for Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde, in a statement.
It’s unclear how many labs will be affected by the new legislation given the current lack of oversight, but the government is proposing a transitional period of up to two years to give laboratories time to go through the accreditation process, which can take between 18 and 24 months, he said.
Once the new accreditation standards come into force accreditation bodies would be able to issue warnings, suspend lab activities and revoke accreditation if labs fail to comply with the rules.
The proposed legislation also says unaccredited labs that conduct testing covered by the act could be subject to fines of up to $30,000 for a first offence.
Though Brown said most of his concerns regarding standards for forensic labs were addressed during government consultations earlier this year, he is concerned the new legislation won’t address the admissibility of evidence from labs that may not be accredited and instead leave it up to the courts’ discretion.
“The problem in the past is that the courts have failed to properly scrutinize evidence from non-forensic lab sources,” he said, pointing to the case of Tamara Broomfield, who was tried in 2009 and convicted for breaking her son’s bones and feeding him cocaine, as an example.
In that case, which blew the lid off the Motherisk scandal, Motherisk tests on her son’s hair, which claimed to show he had consumed high levels of cocaine over 15 months, were admitted by the court.
“That was done by a lab that wasn’t forensically accredited and nobody raised that issue at her trial and part of the problem is that they lacked the scientific literacy to do that,” Brown said, adding, “we can’t simply rely on the word of experts because … sometimes the experts can lead the courts astray.”
Brown, who is also a Toronto director with the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, tried to have Broomfield’s case reopened in 2010. Her cocaine-related conviction was eventually overturned in 2014, prompting the Star’s investigation.
Many other cases that relied on Motherisk tests are now under review as well. Altogether, the disgraced lab performed tests on more than 25,000 people in Canada.
Brown said he hopes to see the new rules enforced as soon as possible.
“Cases are taking place everyday in the criminal court system and the family court system that are relying on forensic evidence and we want to make sure that the way this evidence is being presented in court and the standards that underlie the science are sound,” he said.
With files from Rachel Mendleson
New rules will require forensic labs to be accredited
Alleged serial rapist Harvey Weinstein has been blacklisted by his peers and ousted from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But there remains one very exclusive group that will have him: the Edenbridge Bonfire Society.
The EBS is world famous for lighting up enormous effigies of widely loathed figures on Guy Fawkes Day, such as U.S. President Donald Trump and disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter. The group recently announced that Weinstein’s image has been selected to burn in this weekend’s Guy Fawkes celebration, in what will be a demonstration of a career gone up in flames. Meanwhile, two other Hollywood big shots — director James Toback and producer Brett Ratner — stand accused of sexual misconduct, though neither one has had his likeness scorched in public. But tomorrow is another day.
If I were a predatory Hollywood producer I’d be very afraid. Only a truly committed cynic could argue that attitudes have not shifted in favour of victims of sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry, in light of the recent allegations. And yet, despite this weekend’s symbolic burning at the stake, there is still great reason to be cynical about our culture’s attitudes toward victims of sexual assault. Even though we have made significant strides at condemning abuse in one area of entertainment, we remain virtually silent when it comes to condemning it in another area: the world of adult entertainment.
Two of pornography’s mega stars — men who are arguably more famous internationally than Harvey Weinstein — are facing allegations of serial harassment and sexual assault. Ron Jeremy is a 64-year-old porn legend, and James Deen is a 31-year-old porn legend in the making. Both men have made appearances in mainstream entertainment: Deen starred alongside Lindsay Lohan in the 2013 Paul Schrader film, The Canyons, and Jeremy’s long-standing pop culture status needs no explanation.
Both men are also alleged serial abusers. Multiple women, including a former partner, have accused Deen of sexual assault, and Jeremy faces multiple accusations of groping (in addition to an accusation of rape by a former co-star). Last year, a webcam model known as Miss Lollipop tweeted the following: “Not my 1st, but at a my 1st adult con, posing for a photo w ron jeremy — he slips his finger under my panties and into my vagina. #notokay”
Former porn actress turned professional writer Aurora Snow outlined the well-known reality of allegations against Jeremy and Deen in a piece in the Daily Beast this week. Snow wondered, understandably, why the two stars (who deny the allegations against them) appear to have been spared the public evisceration their Hollywood counterparts are now enduring. Unlike Weinstein et al, porn industry insiders and fans have not excommunicated Jeremy and Deen nor burned their images in a gigantic bonfire.
Nor has mainstream entertainment. In fact, Esquire magazine, a publication that has been critical of Weinstein in recent weeks, published a glowing interview with Jeremy in September, positioning the porn legend as a “feminist” who “cares deeply about animals.”
Esquire editor Nate Erickson writes: “Social media has helped him (Jeremy) reveal another side: a guy who understands civil rights better than our own president.”
He’s also a guy, Erickson fails to mention, who, like the president, stands accused of groping multiple women.
So what gives? Why are we eager to burn a replica of a bathrobe-clad Weinstein but we appear content to let Jeremy and Deen go unscathed?
The answer can’t be that in cases of sexual abuse, we believe the accused should be given the benefit of the doubt. After all, Weinstein certainly doesn’t have the benefit of the doubt. What he does have, however, is a lineup of sympathetic accusers. Weinstein’s accusers, many of them A-list actresses, are beautiful, intelligent, moneyed and seemingly trustworthy.
Many of Jeremy and Deen’s accusers, on the other hand, have participated in the adult entertainment industry. They are exactly the kind of women about whom men have zero qualms making statements such as “She was asking for it” and “Well, what did she expect? Look what she does for a living.”
Of course beautiful, “dignified” women, like Angelina Jolie and Lupita Nyong’o, are in no way immune to sexual predatory behaviour by powerful men. But their claims are, as evidenced by Weinstein’s fall, taken far more seriously than the claims of women who are paid to act in the buff.
What this may mean is that despite all of the inspirational social media campaigns (#Metoo) and endless talk show chatter around the Weinstein allegations, our attitudes have not shifted in favour of victims of sexual assault. They’ve shifted, rather, in favour of sympathetic victims of assault: women who have done Shakespeare — not porn.
This is a step, forward yes. But it’s a small one. And until we are prepared to issue sympathy to every kind of victim, and condemnation to every kind of creep, we won’t make it very far.
Condemnation of sexual assaults can’t be selective: Teitel
WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter account was deactivated for 11 minutes Thursday night by a company employee on the last day on the job, Twitter said, raising serious questions about the security of a tool the president uses to set major policy agendas, aggressively go after his critics, and connect with his core voter base.
The company has suspended other high-profile accounts in the past for violating its terms and conditions. It has also faced questions over why it has not previously suspended Trump’s Twitter account for violating its terms of service — a decision it defended by saying Trump’s position means his messages meet a higher standard for “newsworthiness.”
But there has not been a case where an employee has acted alone to take down the account of a well-known person, seemingly on their own.
The president is aware of the issue and the White House is in touch with Twitter, said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a delicate matter.
Twitter initially posted a statement Thursday night saying Trump’s “account was inadvertently deactivated due to human error by a Twitter employee.”
For those few minutes, visitors to Trump’s account were simply met with the message, “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”
“The account was down for 11 minutes, and has since been restored,” the statement read. “We are continuing to investigate and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again.”
Two hours later, Twitter updated its statement, saying an investigation showed the deactivation “was done by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day.” Twitter said it would be conducting a full internal review.
Trump has used the account since March 2009. He has tweeted more than 36,000 times and has 41.7 million followers.
Trump has spoken publicly about his reliance on Twitter before. In an interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business Network last month, Trump credited his use of social media as among the reasons he was elected.
“You have to keep people interested also,” he said. “You know, you have to keep people interested.”
Twitter also serves as among Trump’s main tools for deflecting criticisms and attacks. In the same interview, Trump said, “When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing and I take care of it.”
Trump conceded that those close to him try to steer him away from social media. But he insists on tweeting — spelling errors included — as a weapon against “fake news.”
Twitter employee on last day of job deactivated Trump’s account, company says
NEW YORK—CNN is reporting that eight current or former House of Cards workers claim that Kevin Spacey made the production a “toxic” workplace and one ex-employee alleges the actor sexually assaulted him.
The workers’ identities were withheld from Thursday’s report because they fear professional fallout, the cable news channel said.
Among them is a former production assistant who alleged that Spacey assaulted him during one of the Netflix show’s early seasons, and CNN reported that all of the people described Spacey’s behaviour as predatory.
The report accuses Spacey of allegedly targeted staffers who were typically young and male with nonconsensual touching and crude comments.
The talent agency CAA is no longer representing Kevin Spacey as of late Thursday evening.
A person with knowledge of the decision who was not authorized to speak publicly confirmed that both CAA and Spacey’s publicist Staci Wolfe have parted ways with the actor amid growing claims of sexual harassment against him.
Representatives from the agency did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The fallout stems from last weekend’s BuzzFeed News report in which actor Anthony Rapp said that Spacey attempted to seduce him in 1986, when Rapp was 14.
Spacey apologized earlier this week for the incident but said he didn’t recall what might have been “drunken behaviour.” In a statement Wednesday, Spacey’s publicist said he’s seeking unspecified treatment.
Eight ‘House of Cards’ workers accuse Kevin Spacey of harassment, report says
Here’s hoping the custodial staff at city hall have access to some kind of industrial-strength cleaning solvents. They’ll need them, and plenty of hot water, to rid the government chamber of the scummy residue of the appointment process that took place Thursday.
At the end of it, Lucy Troisi, a former manager with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, lifelong resident of Ward 28, and head of the Cabbagetown Youth Centre was appointed to replace the late Pam McConnell as councillor for the remainder of this term until next fall’s municipal election. In her remarks to council, Troisi seemed like a friendly and competent woman — if one also mildly unprepared on some questions about electoral redistricting she admitted she hasn’t even thought about — and her resume certainly appears to qualify her to serve in the role. I hope it is no slight to her to note she was carried into office on an avalanche of slime.
What happened here was disgusting on multiple levels. A bunch of city councillors appointing a representative for the people of Ward 28 rather than allowing them to elect one themselves. A lineup of well-spoken, earnest, qualified candidates making their case to a deliberative body full of people who had already determined their votes before the first speech was made. And a majority of council, shepherded by council’s budget chief Gary Crawford, using the death of a long-serving advocate for one downtown ward as an opportunity to crap on her legacy.
In a nutshell: McConnell was famously one of council’s longest-serving members, and one of its most reliably progressive in her actions and votes, a member of the NDP, a vocal supporter of LGBT rights, and most of all an anti-poverty campaigner who recently spearheaded the mayor’s anti-poverty strategy. She voted, repeatedly, against the Scarborough subway, against keeping up the eastern Gardiner and various other Fordisms, she has never been a supporter of any low-tax agenda.
When council decided to appoint someone to replace her instead of holding an election, a man who had worked closely with McConnell on that anti-poverty strategy emerged as the obvious successor. His name is Michael Creek: an openly gay man, living with a disability, who was formerly homeless and has emerged as a strong activist working with various levels of government to address poverty. He drew the endorsement of McConnell’s family, of dozens of residents' associations and community service organizations in the ward, of the city councillors in the closest neighbouring wards. He had worked closely with her and knew the files.
There is a tradition, and I think a moral obligation, when council appoints someone, to respect the voters they are giving representation to by trying to find someone who will carry on the work of the councillor they are replacing, and stay to the same political leanings. When there was talk of appointing a replacement for Rob Ford (though ultimately an election was held after he died), this was front of mind. When a replacement was appointed for Ron Moeser, ideological consistency and the wishes of Moeser’s widow were cited as highly important by councillors across the political spectrum. I have seen council do the same in the past, replacing Doug Holyday and others after they resigned to pursue other offices.
Frankly, council has no business appointing people to fill vacant council seats to represent wards. Elections should always be held, in my opinion. If there’s not enough time to hold an election, just leave the seat vacant and let staff serve constituency matters.
But if they are going to appoint someone, trying to give citizens a representative who supports the same things they voted for most recently is a minimum obligation. Very basic human decency would dictate you don’t exploit someone’s death as an opportunity to defy voters and turn a political balance to your advantage.
Indeed, Mayor John Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat tells me the mayor felt an “obligation to Pam McConnell to support Michael Creek.”
Budget chief Crawford, representative of Scarborough Southwest, felt no such obligation. He began lobbying for Troisi, a more likely conservative-friendly vote. And convinced a majority of council to go along with him — including almost all of the mayor’s closest allies, even though the mayor himself voted for Creek.
In his own speech, Crawford went out of his way to make it seem like somehow this wasn’t about political leaning — he spoke about McConnell’s proud legacy as his reason for supporting Troisi, prompting someone in the gallery to shout “how dare you.”
Michael Thompson, representative of Scarborough Centre, went further, working himself up into high-raised-voice sanctimony about how McConnell’s legacy demanded a woman replace her.
Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong did everyone the favour of being honest. He asked Troisi “point blank” he said, a lot of questions, and she said she’d “support the mayor’s agenda,” vote for low taxes, support the Scarborough subway extension, supported the Gardiner. Basically, on every question he said he asked her, she directly opposed what McConnell stood for. That’s what Minnan-Wong, a career-long opponent of McConnell’s, liked. “I would like someone who would vote the way I think this council should be going,” he said.
In other words: let me use this woman’s death to overrule what she and the voters who elected her believed in so that my own political leanings have an additional council vote. It’s a vile sentiment. As disrespectful as it is anti-democratic. But you’ve got to admire that at least he didn’t pretend it was about something else, as so many others did.
So Crawford got a majority of council to go along with him — the final vote was 24-19. In the process, he created a toxic split in the city council, with those who supported Creek believing a sacred line has been crossed. And Troisi will now serve on a Toronto-East York Community Council in which only one fellow member voted for her, and the others feel her appointment was a horrible injustice and an insult to the memory of their beloved colleague. And with many residents associations and community groups in the ward she represents feeling the same way.
It’s hard to see why this was worth the anger and rupture for Crawford and his allies — it is very unlikely any vote this budget season will turn a different direction because of this one vote. If anything, it seems the poisoning of goodwill among the council minority will make building ad hoc coalitions harder.
By the end, several councillors — including a few who voted for Troisi — swore they would never support an appointment rather than a byelection again. If they keep their word on that, then at least one good thing will have come out of this.
Edward Keenan writes on city issues email@example.com. Follow: @thekeenanwire
Pam McConnell’s legacy sullied by Toronto councillors seeking political gains: Keenan
If there has been one constant for the Toronto Star since its launch 125 years ago it’s change — and how the Star has evolved to meet that change.
It was true in 1922 when the Star launched one of the first radio stations in Canada, broadcasting from the Star’s own building. It was true in the 1950s when television swept the country. It was true in the 1990s when the internet gained prominence.
It’s just as true today with more and more consumers now getting their news and information on digital devices such as smartphones and tablets.
At the Star we are always striving to deliver the quality, in-depth journalism that consumers have relied on for generations. It’s no different today than it was 125 years ago.
Today we are hard at work on a major initiative to transform the company to meet the needs of consumers in an increasingly digital world.
At the Star we are focused on winning in digital as well as print. Our competitors these days aren’t just other print newspapers, but huge companies such as Google and Facebook. They move very quickly and we will, too.
So we are building a strong digital business at the same time we are managing our print business.
We still are the most-read print newspaper in Canada. We still have one of the biggest newsrooms in North America. And we still remain firmly committed to investing in great, original journalism, with more depth, more investigative reporting.
But clearly our business is changing and the need to transform the Star is obvious.
Several key trends inform our path forward.
First, print media is challenged and will continue a slow decline; second, consumers of all ages are getting more and more of their news and information from mobile devices; third, the advertising business is evolving; and fourth, the digital world has exponentially expanded.
Importantly, all of our ongoing transformation work is being conducted against the backdrop of a new purpose, mission and vision for our company.
Our purpose is to keep customers informed with what matters most to them, to help make their lives, communities, country and world better. Our customer obsession will enable us to serve our clients more effectively, using customer data to improve the products and solutions we provide to advertisers.
Our mission is to profitably grow by delivering and engaging each customer with trusted news, information and content that is the most relevant to their personal passions, needs and desire for positive change in our communities.
And we envision a world where our customers, communities, country and businesses are connected, informed, thrive and continuously grow along with the Star.
One of the questions I’m often asked these days is whether I see a future for the print edition of the Star — the paper that lands on doorsteps every morning.
We understand we have a mature print business, but we also have good growth in many of our key digital offerings. Indeed, we are growing our total audiences when you look at all of our products and all our platforms.
And I do see our printed newspaper as sustainable — and I see it as healthier than it is today. I see a future in paid print, albeit with a targeted customer segmentation and content for those segments and targeted advertisers who want that segmentation.
To achieve that, the Star, like all newspapers, must compete better in terms of providing advertisers and markets with the advanced data analytics they now require to make smart advertising decisions. In this age of data, advertisers need much more information about consumers then ever before to help them make informed buying decisions.
As the Star moves forward on its transformation path, we will continue to uphold the values that are so wonderfully reflected in the newspaper and on our digital offerings.
We will continue to be a credible and trustworthy source of news and information, balanced, fair and compassionate and an advocate for positive, progressive change for our consumers and our communities.
We will continue to maintain the Atkinson Principles, the intellectual foundation on which the Star has operated and have given the paper its distinctive voice.
We cherish our traditions.
We are also excited — and confident — about our future in the years ahead.
John Boynton was named president and CEO of Torstar and publisher of the Toronto Star effective March 31, 2017.
Several key trends inform the Star’s path forward
This week, as we count down to the Star’s 125th anniversary, we revisit stories that have inspired readers and changed lives.
It began as a hopeful, somewhat naive plea from a 12-year-old. Then it played out as a lengthy courtroom saga that would forever alter kids’ hockey in Ontario.
And if Justine Blainey-Broker understood the suffering she would endure, it’s unlikely she would have made the push to break the gender barrier and play boys’ hockey back in the mid-’80s.
“If I knew how hard and hurtful it would be, the things that people would say, the things people would think about me, there’s no way,” she says now. “I wouldn’t have been strong enough.”
“I had no conception of how far we’d go, how difficult it would be, that it would be a precedent — no clue. That was probably an asset in helping me get through it.”
Blainey-Broker turned the hockey world, a male bastion at the time, upside-down as her fight took her through the Supreme Court and the Ontario Human Rights Commission. But it got ugly outside the courtroom. The teenager had arena coffee dumped on her and was spat upon at the rink. She was shunned by friends and teammates, and even pushed down the stairs in a subway station.
To this day, it is rare she will ride a bus or subway alone.
“It was hurtful for me but helpful for women’s hockey,” says the 44-year-old, who is now a chiropractor with her own wellness centre in Brampton.
Today women are in the Olympics and in the Hockey Hall of Fame. There are 2,910 female teams in Ontario, compared with around 250 in 1985. Last season, around 1,500 girls were in the 33,000-player Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) at all levels. But in 1985 such crossover was unheard of and women’s hockey was in its nascent stages.
That’s when a preteen girl from Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood, frustrated in her attempts to play boys’ hockey, wrote to the Sunday Star.
On a page called Have Your Say — a mishmash of readers’ letters, many soliciting help — prominently displayed was an appeal from Justine Blainey, as she was known then. In the letter, she explained that tryouts were starting for the Metro Toronto Hockey League (the precursor to the GTHL) but, in the past, she’d been told that while she was good enough to play on a boys’ team, she wasn’t allowed.
She explained that boys’ hockey was more competitive than what was available to her and girls’ teams only played half the games of a top MTHL team.
“Is there an individual or group that can help me? Is there a lawyer willing to donate his or her time to fight this unfairness? I want to be judged on my ability alone,” she concluded.
In the next day’s paper, the Star published a news story on Blainey-Broker that explained how she had played three years of girls hockey for the Leaside Wildcats and believed her play had grown beyond that level.
“Last year I was like a one-man team,” said the young defender. “There’s not much you can do when there’s no one to pass (the puck) to and there’s no one to pass it to you.”
Longtime Star minor hockey writer Lois Kalchman helped connect the Blaineys to a lawyer, Anna Fraser, who took on the case pro bono. Justine’s parents were divorced and her mother couldn’t afford a long legal fight.
A boys’ organization called the Toronto Olympics signed Blainey-Broker to play on its peewee A team, the third highest level. However, the MTHL said it would reject the registration because the sport’s provincial governing body, the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), dictated girls could not play on boys teams.
Fraser argued that rule didn’t apply under Canada’s Charter of Rights.
The gloves came off and the case worked its way through the courts.
The legal wrangling got complicated, but more than two years after Blainey-Broker’s initial letter, the matter went before an Ontario Human Rights Commission board of inquiry in the summer of 1987.
That inquiry heard experts say playing on a boys’ team distorted a girl’s personality in the teenage years, and that girls were “out of their league” physically trying to compete with boys.
Awaiting a decision, Blainey-Broker played on girls’ teams and practised with boys. Sometimes she travelled to tournaments in the U.S. with the boys, registering as Justin.
In December 1987, inquiry commissioner Ian Springate ruled in her favour. The far-reaching decision said “discrimination on the basis of sex in athletic activities is now unlawful in Ontario.”
Blainey-Broker was thrilled, but at almost 15, she was no longer sure if she could even make a boys’ team. She’d stopped growing at five-foot-four. But she eventually suited up for the A-level Toronto East Enders in the formerly all-male MTHL.
Not everyone was happy.
“It’s been a two-and-a-half-year, useless, obscene waste of money,” MTHL president John Gardner said at the time. “It will cost the OHA well over $100,000. Now that it’s over maybe we will be spared the agony of hearing any more about the name and the cause.”
Fran Rider, president of the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA) called the ruling a “negative step for females in sport,” believing the best girls should stay together and develop the game. Rider said defections could create other problems such as weakening girls’ argument for equal ice times or causing some teams to fold due to a lack of players.
Kalchman, now retired, wrote about the case, and recalls the anger Blainey-Broker often faced.
“She felt the whole hockey community was against her at that time,” she says. “(Rider) felt it was going to destroy women’s hockey. It certainly has not because it’s grown so tremendously . . . (Blainey-Broker) opened it up for girls being allowed to play on male teams and I think that in the long run that has been helpful.”
Rider, today, stands by the stance the OWHA took in the ’80s, though she calls Blainey-Broker “a good person and a good athlete.”
“We were against the principle, not the person,” says Rider, who remains OWHA president. “We still feel as much as we’ve grown, had we been on the winning side of that case, we would have had more opportunity to grow.”
Rider says she is “saddened still that women playing women’s sports are not given more credibility.” She believes that when the top female athletes aspire to play men’s sport, it hurts that credibility.
While the Blainey-Broker legal proceedings played out, it was a tumultuous time for the girl who just wanted to play hockey like her brother.
Strangers confronted her on the street. Teens and adults would question her morals and falsely accuse her of sexual misbehaviour. She recalls teachers slamming doors in her face or trying to fail her, despite her 80-per-cent average, because she’d spent so much time in court. And adults pressuring kids to sign a petition to get her out of hockey.
“In girls hockey, I was hated,” she recalls. “People wouldn’t be friends with me, they wouldn’t talk to me. At one point, I went into a dressing room and all the girls got up and moved to the other side of the room to dress. You can imagine 16 girls on one side and I’ve got a bench all to myself because I have the cooties and no one wants to sit beside me.”
Blainey-Broker says she was similarly ostracized at school where no one would have a locker beside hers. There would be prank, sometimes obscene, calls to the house. Police even discovered her name on the “hit list” of a sexual predator who had been calling her house trying to meet her.
“I was told that I was gay and that was the reason I wanted to play hockey. Or I was told I’d never have kids. No one would ever want to marry me,” she says. “When you’re 14 or 15, that hurts.”
In women’s hockey, she often played with much older teammates and began drinking at age 12, desperate to fit in and make friends. She says she stopped at 19.
Blainey-Broker believes that by hanging in and showing girls could play at a higher level, she helped bring women to the game. Coverage of her in the paper, she says, also got more people thinking.
There’s no question that women’s hockey grew rapidly in the late ’80s and early ’90s but that was also the time when it was being accepted globally, with a world women’s tournament at North York in 1987, a world championship at Ottawa in 1990 and Olympic approval in 1992 (and a debut in 1998). Female role models such as Angela James emerged as well.
After a little more than three seasons in boys’ hockey, Blainey returned to the women’s game at 19, eventually playing at U of T — where she headed a campaign to save the threatened program — and with Brampton of the National Women’s Hockey League.
Now she and her brother, David, run the Justine Blainey Wellness Centre — the J is shaped like a hockey stick in the logo — a bustling medical centre of chiropractors, naturopaths and massage therapists. She is married to fellow chiropractor Blake Broker, and they have two teenagers: a son who plays AA minor midget in the GTHL and a daughter who hates hockey but is a competitive figure skater.
Blainey-Broker speaks at grade schools and universities and shares her stories. She hopes they inspire others, especially those who feel discriminated against, to work through barriers.
“If they can realize they’re not alone, they realize that even when there’s tough times like I went through, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Blainey-Broker still plays recreational hockey a couple of times a week.
One of those sessions is on a men’s team.
Read more on the Star’s 125th anniversary in Saturday’s special Insight section and athttps://www.thestar.com/anniversary.html
Fight for girls’ hockey rights led to some dark corners
Documentaries such as 13th, movies such as Beasts of No Nation, TV shows such as Narcos— Netflix is host to some mind-expanding infotainment, with shows that are centred on the voices of those whose stories are being told, their locales, their perspectives, their narratives.
Netflix is perceived as edgy, it appears to get “doing the right thing”; it dumped House of Cards faster than you could say, “Claire for president!” after allegations emerged about creepy Kevin’s sexual misconduct with young actors.
Plus, it didn’t back down from airing Dear White People, despite the outrage of those who deemed it racist for not centering on the feelings of white people.
So far, so good.
Why, then, why does it beam bigoted Bollywood movies into our homes?
Bollywood is not to be confused with Indian cinema — there are marvelous independent films in various languages. Bollywood refers to Hindi films by big studios, with big stars, big bucks, formulaic rom/com song-and-dance.
This genre of cinema also peddles sexist ideas, homophobia, colourism/shadeism and increasingly racism, specifically, anti-Black racism — all delivered as light-hearted fun. Never mind that it has an outsized influence on personal and social decisions such as whom to marry, whom to hire, whom to value, whom to discard.
I was looking for a break recently from bigotry, racism and sexism, the stressful discourse of which informs my work life.
Hoping to relax in the comfort of mind-numbing escapism, I perused Neflix’s “Recently Added” list and clicked on Ready, a 2011 film starring Salman Khan, the bad old boy of Bollywood still playing single young boy roles.
About five minutes in, a song-and-dance sequence called Character Dheela (“loose character”) begins. A light-skinned Indian actress dressed dominatrix style gets body surfed by suited men wearing top hats. A fully clothed Khan gets fawned over by scantily clad white girls.
This is a thing, by the way: white girls as extras in Bollywood films. Here they are, sultry dancers jerking to Indian beats, there they are, milling around in the background of a party scene, placed there just to up the glamour factor.
Fast forward about 15 minutes and the female lead, Asin, makes her first dramatic appearance. She is gorgeous (did I mention light-skinned?), dressed in bridal finery, and she’s running, scared, looking over her shoulder as she is chased by a group of men all cast in a greyish-blue light that made their dreadlocked silhouettes decidedly sinister.
I scan Netflix’s other options and choose Humko Deewana Kar Gaye (“You’ve left me lovestruck”), a 2006 film.
In the first 10 minutes, you see the requisite white party guest smiling vacantly at the Hindi dialogue around her, a dark-skinned supporting female lead — oops, the appropriate term is “dusky,” and a tired old homophobic joke, an innocent encounter that looks like two men making out followed by a stuttering, “It’s not what it looks like,” and the denial, “I’m not, I’m not…”
Then the protagonist, Akshay Kumar, lands in Canada in a big city full of white people. A random white girl shows up in a make-out scene in an elevator. In the course of a contrived love life, there is an old New York-style mugging scene. The muggers? You guessed it. Two Black men and a Black woman, who don’t sound Canadian. Immigrants then. Must be those immigrants.
At this point, my Netflix journey into Bollywood was starting to feel like work. So I started Googling newer films — surely in a digital world, anti-racism conversations travel globally? If they do, movie reviews of newer films reassure me they have bounced off Bollywood.
The sexualized white girl and the Black thug trope represent the toxic result of the subcontinent’s deep-seated colourism transcending racial boundaries. The fetish for light skin transported to a stereotype of loose white girl allows the Indian female to be sexy but not slutty. Using Black men to portray thugs versus the usual practice of employing villains who are dark skinned and even named Kaaliya at times (a play on “Blackie,”) deepens the revulsion for dark skin.
Urban India is in an adolescent phase of a sexual revolution, experimenting with different values to see what fits best. Certainly, its long repressed sexual attitudes can be traced to British colonialism, but the obsession with light skin well predates modern European colonialism.
A few years ago, I wrote a piece pairing visiting Bollywood celebrities with their equivalent Hollywood counterparts. It’s no coincidence that I could not pair any one to a Halle Berry or a Jada Pinkett Smith or even Mindy Kaling. That no actress in Bollywood looks like Mindy Kaling says a lot, and it’s not pleasant.
There is no escape — even in so-called escapist cinema.
Bollywood and its stars will have to weigh their role and responsibilities in promoting these oppressive ideologies for personal gain, whether in film or in ads for skin-lightening creams. Its audiences cover a wide geographical area from the Indian subcontinent to south-east Asia to the Middle East and east Africa.
It impacts us, too; there are a sizeable number of Bollywood-watchers in the country lapping up this brand of entertainment with little outrage.
If Netflix wants to sustainably change how we consume entertainment, it has to be serious about doing it in socially non-damaging ways — and not wait for a PR disaster to force it into doing so.
For starters, it needs to pull the plug on racist Bollywood films.
Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar
Netflix Canada needs to pull plug on racist Bollywood films: Paradkar
Sgt. Christopher Heard, accused of groping two inebriated women after offering them rides home in his cruiser from the Entertainment District in separate incidents, turning off his in-car camera both times. Acquitted in criminal court last month but still facing Police Act charges.
Suspended with pay: 18 months and counting.
Constables Leslie Nyznik, Sameera Kara, Joshua Cabero, accused of sexual assault against a parking enforcement officer. Acquitted in criminal court in August. Police Chief Mark Saunders has still not indicated whether they will be charged under the Police Act.
Suspended with pay: 33 months. (A Toronto police spokesperson told the Star on Thursday the officers remain on paid suspension and the internal investigation is “ongoing.”)
Officer James Forcillo, convicted of attempted murder in the shooting death of teenager Sammy Yatim, verdict under appeal.
Suspended with pay: 35 months.
Suspended without pay upon conviction and sentencing in July, 2016.
Constables Jeffrey Tout, Benjamin Elliott, Michael Taylor and Frank Douglas, criminally charged in January last year with 17 counts of obstruct justice and eight counts of perjury for allegedly planting heroin in a suspect’s car, then lying about it in court. Suspended without pay: 22 months and counting.
Cops in Ontario suspended with pay who earned more than $100,000 in 2016, according to a CBC investigation: At least 15.
We could go on. And on. And on.
This is the only province in Canada where suspended police officers must continue to be paid their full salary until and unless they are sentenced to serve time.
The landscape may change if a massive bill announced Thursday by the Liberals at Queen’s Park, including an overhaul of the Police Services Act, is ever actually passed, without dilution, and quite possibly not even then.
As so much with this government, what’s promised — what’s unveiled with plenty of bells and whistles — turns out to be drastically less than avouched in both essence and detail.
In a draft version of the bill posted online, the section dealing specifically with giving police chiefs authority to suspend officers without pay, would be only narrowly applicable to any of the aforementioned officers — those on-duty when the alleged criminal or discreditable conduct occurred. Nyznik, Kara and Cabero, for example, were off-duty.
“The devil is in the details,” Mike McCormack, head of the Toronto Police Association, told the Star. “I won’t be going out there to beat the drum until I have a better understanding of what this actually means.”
While the conversation was somewhat hypothetical, McCormack suggested that the only cases he could recall of officers who would be “caught” under the no-pay suspension provisions as outlined would be a couple of notorious criminal coppers: Richard Wills, the ex-Toronto officer convicted in 2007 of murdering his mistress, and Darin Cooper, the Toronto detective sentenced to 9 ½ years in 2001 for being part of a gang that robbed drug dealers during a three-month crime spree.
Ontario police chiefs have long advocated for suspensions without pay. It is certainly a matter of particular public revulsion — that single sentence appended to reports about police officers before the court or before a tribunal: “Suspended with pay.”
Yet the specificity of when a police chief can do so renders the provision all but useless, with yet another bureaucratic layer of notice and appeal built in.
The cluelessness of Marie-France Lalonde, community safety and correctional services minister, was evident when asked by reporters at the Romper Room briefing to clarify the unpaid suspension proposal. What is meant by “interim measure under specific circumstances”?
“Ten months ago, I became the minister of community safety. And this was probably the most discussed . . . in trying to find the right balance. Where the officers, the chief and the public would all find a way.
“The chief cannot, by default, choose this function. I want to be very clear that this will be made with the process. So, for instance, a chief of police feels that the officer should be suspended without pay. The chief would have to inform the officer within 60 days. The officer would have two choices: either agree to the suspension or don’t. If the officer chooses not to agree with this decision, then the (new Ontario Policing Complaints Agency) could, as an independent, make the final decision. We have to understand that there would be court proceedings, potentially, and a verdict at the end. So the suspension would have for the time of the duration. If the officer is found not guilty then it would be reimbursed.”
That could take years.
“This is moving forward,” Lalonde insisted. “After the impasse, this would give the chief a measure that they can suspend an officer for serious offences while not on duty. Certainly we want to expedite the process to ensure that the fastest decision is made in those cases.”
Clear as mud.
We should all have such generous and overarching protections from employers. Or not.
In the private realm, termination for just cause is common, although firing a person when charges are laid — prior to a finding of guilt — can be reversed by the courts (even, possibly, by a human rights tribunal). In a decision last year, involving a man charged with two counts of sexual assault, an Ontario Superior Court ruled in favour of the discharged employee, making it clear that “criminal charges alone, for matters outside of employment, cannot constitute just cause.”
Such cases are “fact sensitive,” depending on factors including the seriousness of the charge and the position of trust held by an employee. Radio personality Jian Ghomeshi, for instance, was canned by the CBC after management viewed a graphic video, for conduct deemed a “fundamental breech” of the national broadcaster’s “standard of acceptable conduct,” as stated in an internal memo — and was not reinstated despite acquittal on all criminal charges.
Everyone is presumed innocent until proven otherwise — in a court of law, not the court of public opinion or the court of the workplace.
If anything, police officers should be held to even higher standards of professional conduct, personal morality and behaviour which brings institutions of law enforcement into disrepute.
This omnibus policing and safety bill contains many heartening reform proposals — especially public transparency by the Special Investigations Unit, which has been exasperatingly clandestine about investigations and would, if the bill is passed, be given an expanded mandate, called in whenever an officer fires at a person.
But, except for allegations of serious misconduct or criminal charges — “serious” not defined — cops facing discipline, cops facing trial, would still be whiling away the days or shifted to desk-duty.
According to figures compiled four years ago by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, on an average day there were 25,208 people behind bars in provincial and territorial jails, a tripling over three decades. Nearly 55 per cent of them were in pretrial custody — legally innocent, awaiting trial or bail.
You’d have to look long and hard to find a cop among them. They’re getting paid to sit at home on their duffs.
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Policing reform bill may still allow charged cops to keep getting paid: DiManno
For families of people killed by police, forced to confront an unfamiliar and often frustrating police oversight system, reactions to Thursday’s announcement that major changes are coming ranged from optimism to disappointment.
“I think that the government and attorney general’s office really took a good look at what needed to happen, and that they are implementing what they know they can,” said Karyn Greenwood-Graham, whose son, Trevor Graham, was fatally shot by a Waterloo Regional Police Service officer in 2007.
“We are very much credited. I’m feeling very good about it (but) I know there’s always more,” said Greenwood-Graham, who founded the group Affected Families of Police Homicide
Yvonne Alexander, whose brother, Anthony Divers, was shot and killed by a Hamilton police officer last year, said the legislation gives her little comfort, as she saw nothing being proposed in terms of police interactions with people in crisis.
“I don’t see a lot about policing itself being changed,” she said. “If this would have happened last year, all these oversight bodies being changed, my brother would still be dead, it wouldn’t have changed that my brother was shot dead.”
Families have long complained of frustrating, to downright unhelpful, dealings with the Special Investigations Unit. The body, which probes police-involved death, serious injury and allegations of sexual assault is to be renamed the Ontario Special Investigations Unit.
“How is that going to make a difference, if it’s going to be the same people carrying out their jobs?” Heather Thompson said of the name change. Her son, Ian Pryce, was killed by Toronto police in 2013. “Once it stinks, it stinks, no matter what you call it.”
Complaints about the watchdog range from the length of time it takes to complete an SIU investigation, to the low number of criminal charges being laid against officers, and more generally the lack of information provided, not to just to the public but to families themselves.
La Tanya Grant, whose cousin, Jermaine Carby, was shot dead by a Peel police officer on a Brampton street in 2014, said it was “amazing” that the government is giving itself the power under legislation to limit the number of former police officers who can work at police oversight bodies, but said she would like to see no ex-officers on staff at all.
“There’s no reason why we should have police policing each other,” she said. “We won’t get the change we’re expecting any time soon with former police officers . . . . It should only be people from the community.”
Joanne MacIsaac, whose brother, Michael, was shot dead by a Durham police officer in 2013, has little confidence in the government’s promise to enshrine in legislation that the SIU director’s report be shared publicly in cases where no charges have been laid against officers.
The lack of confidence stems from her own experiences challenging the SIU’s version of events leading to Michael’s death. She said her family was outraged at the redacted version of the report into Michael’s case that they received from the SIU this year, following Justice Michael Tulloch’s police oversight review.
“That is a joke, to make people think that the government is listening to us,” she said. “There’s no information provided, it doesn’t help clarify any of the answers of how (the SIU) came up with their decision. It makes it feel like I’m being toyed with again.”
Alexander said she was surprised to learn that the release of the director’s report would include photo and video evidence — subject to privacy concerns — given the fact that she said her freedom of information request to view surveillance footage from the scene of her brother’s death was recently denied by the SIU.
Skepticism, optimism from families greets proposed police reform