Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel

Embed this content in your HTML


Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels

Channel Catalog

Channel Description:

    0 0

    One step back for two steps forward — the homemade stairs constructed by 73-year-old local resident Adi Astl in Tom Riley Park are being taken down, but will be replaced by official, City-made stairs.

    The DIY staircase was built to solve a problem it seemed the city wouldn’t. The Etobicoke park had a steep incline that Astl had noticed senior citizens and children struggling on, but when the city said that building the stairs would cost between $65,000 and $150,000 to construct, Astl took matters into his own hands.

    His makeshift staircase, built last month, cost only $550 to make, but city inspectors roped it off as unsafe.

    This morning, the issue of what to do with them and the problem they sought to fix is being addressed with the takedown of the stairs and the beginning of work on new ones.

    Mayor John Tory said he wants “to thank Mr. Astl for taking a stand on this issue,” and that “his homemade steps have sent a message that I know City staff have heard loud and clear.”

    “The original cost estimate for the City of Toronto to build stairs in Tom Riley Park was absolutely ridiculous and out of whack with reality,” he said. “I’m not happy that these kinds of outrageous project cost estimates are even possible. I’ll be working to identify what changes we can put in place to make sure this doesn’t continue to happen.”

    Work on the new steps begins today, and the new staircase should be ready within a matter of days.

    “The new stairs will be safe, durable and reasonably priced,” Tory said.

    0 0

    The Ontario Provincial Police have charged Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs with extortion after an investigation into “allegations of criminal wrongdoing that include a municipal official and local resident.”

    Two other Thunder Bay residents have also been charged.

    Keith Hobbs, 65, and his wife Marisa Hobbs, 53, have been charged with one count of extortion and one count of obstructing justice. Mary Voss, 46, has been charged with extortion.

    A news conference will happen Friday at Thunder Bay’s City Hall at 11 am.

    On Thursday night, councillors were hastily called to City Hall for an emergency meeting. The charges against Hobbs then followed Friday morning.

    The accused are scheduled to appear in court in Thunder Bay on Sept. 26.

    In a statement the OPP said they will not provide further information at this time to protect the investigation and court process.

    Mayor Keith Hobbs said in April that he will not seek re-election in Thunder Bay’s 2018 municipal election, CBC reported.

    Keith was first elected mayor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.

    Before municipal politics, he worked with the Thunder Bay Police for 34 years.

    Thunder Bay has been in crisis, with racial tensions running high, since the deaths of seven Indigenous youth. All teens were found in the waters in and around Thunder Bay and were from remote reserves and were in the city to either go to high school or access mental health services.

    On May 6, Tammy Keeash, a 17-year-old high school student from North Caribou Lake First Nation failed to make curfew at her group home.

    That same night, Josiah Begg, a 14-year-old from KI First Nation vanished. He was in town with his father for Josiah’s medical appointments. Both teens were found dead in Thunder Bay waterways within two weeks of their disappearance.

    For years, many Indigenous people have complained about the level of racism they face daily in the city.

    During the eight-month long inquest into the deaths of seven Indigenous high school students (they died between 2000 and 2011) that wrapped up at the end of June, 2016, many youth complained they were the subjects of racial taunts, unprovoked assaults and had garbage thrown at them from passing cars.

    Of the seven students who died, five were found in the rivers and of those, three of the deaths were ruled undetermined by the coroners jury.

    After Keeash and Begg’s deaths, Indigenous leaders said they no longer trusted the local police force and they held a Queen’s Park news conference asking for the RCMP to be brought in to investigate their deaths and the unexplained death of 41-year-old Stacy DeBungee, an Indigenous man found in the rivers in October, 2015.

    The Thunder Bay Police have been under investigation for systemic racism in how they handle all Indigenous death and disappearance cases since last November by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director — a civilian oversight body. Also under investigation is the Thunder Bay Police Services Board by their provincial oversight body.

    In June, Ontario’s chief coroner announced that York Region police would be brought in to investigate Begg’s and Keeash’s deaths.

    0 0

    A golden retriever named Sonic is recovering after he possibly ate marijuana at an off-leash dog park, and the owner is facing a $1,500 bill.

    Satoshi Takano said he took his six-year-old dog to the Colonel Samuel Smith Park on Tuesday. Takano said he was at the park for about 45 minutes until he was alerted by another dog owner that Sonic was acting strange.

    “My dog still acts like a puppy so he’s really playful and energetic but then he started lying down, which he never does,” Takano said. “He also looked weak.

    “As we were leaving the park I could just tell he was not himself.”

    Takano took Sonic to an after-hours pet hospital. By the time they arrived, the dog had trouble walking and standing up.

    Sonic received blood and urine tests, an X-ray and an ultrasound at the Veterinary Emergency Hospital of West Toronto that evening.

    Dawn Paterson, a registered veterinary technician at the hospital, said Sonic “appeared drunk” and was wobbly when walking.

    She said his tests came back negative but that is not uncommon, and she still suspects Sonic ate marijuana.

    “This is really quite common, we see dogs come in that have eaten marijuana and even other prescribed medications at least three to four times a month.”

    Paterson said even a small amount can significantly affect the dog’s behaviour.

    Takano also took his dog to his regular clinic and a pet neurologist on Thursday, and his bill has reached around $1,500.

    “I care more about my dog’s health, but this really is an inconvenience and I don’t want this to happen again to Sonic or any other dog.”

    Paterson’s advice to dog owners is to keep an eye on your pets, but that really isn’t much they can do.

    “Especially at an off-leash park there isn’t much you can do. Some dogs just eat anything in their path. This can happen to anyone at any time.”

    0 0

    Robust protections for vulnerable workers are critical to modernizing Ontario’s economy, advocates told government Friday at a packed committee hearing on its sweeping proposals for labour reform.

    If passed, the legislation introduced in May will be the most far reaching set of updates to existing laws in two decades — boosting the minimum wage from $11.40 to $15 an hour by 2019, and prohibiting pay discrimination against part-time and temporary employees doing the same work as their full time counterparts.

    But at the last in a set of province-wide public deputations, economists, labour activists and business leaders clashed over Bill 148’s implications.

    “(This reform) has the potential to bring labour legislation into the 21st century, and to improve the lives of millions of Ontarians,” said Sheila Block, an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

    “The weight of economic evidence is behind the drafters and the supporters of this legislation.”

    Conversely, Ontario Chamber of Commerce policy director Ashley Challinor called discussions on the rise of precarious work “overstated” and warned the proposed reforms would be burdensome for businesses who create jobs and stimulate growth.

    “The pending legislation will create winners and losers; job loss, increased costs of consumer goods, and economic hardship. This does not demonstrate fairness,” she said.

    In addition to wage hikes, the new laws would introduce two paid emergency days for all workers in Ontario, penalties for employers who change workers’ schedules at the last minute, and increase holiday entitlement from two weeks to three.

    Chris Buckley, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, lauded those moves but said government needed to go further — including measures to make it easier for all workers to unionize and to increase the number of paid emergency days to seven.

    “This is a chance to get it right and improve conditions for workers across Ontario whether they are unionized workers or not,” he said.

    As previously highlighted by the Star, workers’ rights advocates have expressed concern that the bill does not go far enough to regulate temporary help agencies, which statistics show have increased by 20 per cent across the province over the past decade.

    Buckley said the proposed bill should also include just cause protection for non-unionized workers, and extend full coverage to so-called dependent contractors: self-employed people who are economically reliant on one company for work. Critics say that measure is crucial to protecting the growing number of people working in the gig economy.

    “There is a real concern with the ongoing bifurcation of good jobs and not-so-good jobs,” said Pedro Barata of United Way Toronto.

    “This is an issue that really impacts all of us and does not belong to one community alone.”

    The bill is expected to go to second reading in September. Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Premier Kathleen Wynne said the committee hearings would help fine-tune the legislation so it’s better for employees and employers.

    “We’ll be looking to those delegations and the information that was gathered to find good ideas to support small businesses. I am committed to helping business and I am committed to making sure that people are treated fairly,” the premier said.

    “Those things should not be in conflict with one another. In a country and a province as rich as we are we should be able to make sure that people can live, they can feed their families, they can look after themselves, and that they can find a decent job,” said Wynne.

    “We have said quite clearly that we are going to work with businesses — particularly small businesses — to make sure that we do everything we can to help with the phase-in. Exactly what those mechanisms will be, I can’t tell you at this point,” she added.

    Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers vice-president Gary Sands said small business already struggled to compete with corporate giants who, by virtue of their size and power, are able to cut costs by extracting concessions from suppliers.

    “Small- and medium-sized businesses do not have the clout of a Walmart,” he said.

    Research from the CCPA shows the overwhelming majority of minimum wage employers are larger businesses. According to a study by the United Way, around half of all jobs in the GTA are now precarious in some way.

    That, according to two medical professionals who testified at the hearings, is causing a distinct strain on the health care system.

    “Lower income is associated with a significant higher burden of disease and higher mortality,” said Hasan Sheikh, an emergency room doctor at St. Michael’s hospital in Toronto.

    Psychiatrist Michaela Beder called the legislation a “bold move to improve the health of Ontarians.”

    “What’s critical in terms of our research is that precarious employment is increasingly about all of us,” Barata said.

    “Increasingly we’re seeing that the face of precarious employment is the face of Ontario.”

    0 0

    Metrolinx has decided not to appeal a judge’s ruling that blocked the agency from terminating its troubled $770-million vehicle contract with Bombardier.

    The provincial transit agency filed a notice in May that reserved its right to appeal the decision, which Judge Glenn Hainey of the Superior Court of Justice delivered the month before.

    Friday wasthe deadline to move ahead with the case, and a spokesperson for the agency confirmed that Metrolinx has decided not to proceed.

    Instead, the agency is continuing to pursue a dispute resolution process with the Quebec-based rail manufacturer.

    “Metrolinx is concentrating on the dispute resolution with Bombardier . . . . We have decided to not continue with the appeal process,” wrote Anne Marie Aikins.

    She declined to provide an update on the dispute process, and it’s not clear when it will conclude.

    Metrolinx signed the deal for 182 light rail vehicles (LRVs) in 2010, with the intention of running the cars on the $5.3-billion Eglinton Crosstown and other Toronto-area LRT lines.

    Last October,Metrolinx attempted to terminate the contract, claiming Bombardier was in default. The first two prototype vehicles were supposed to be delivered in 2015, but Metrolinx still hasn’t received them, and the agency said Bombardier’s production woes risked delaying the opening of the Crosstown.

    The legal case was sparked in February when Bombardier filed an application for an injunction against the termination. The company argued that Metrolinx couldn’t unilaterally cancel the deal, and that, whether the company was in default should be decided through the dispute-resolution process written into the contract.

    The judge agreed.

    Bombardier maintains that it has not defaulted on the order.

    A spokesperson for the company didn’t immediately return a request for comment Friday afternoon.

    In May, the provincial transportation minister announced that Metrolinx had agreed to buy 61 LRVs from French-based company Alstom as a back-up for the Bombardier order.

    If the dispute-resolution process determines that Bombardier is in default, Metrolinx will deploy 44 of the Alstom vehicles on the Crosstown. The other 17 are slated for the Finch West LRT.

    Both lines are scheduled for completion in 2021.

    The Alstom deal cost $528 million, and was issued on a sole-source basis, which the minister said was necessary because of the tight timelines for opening the Crosstown.

    Siemens, a German-based rail manufacturer, has complained that the province violated its own procurement policies by not opening up the contract to a competitive bid.

    0 0

    “With hindsight being 20/20, yes, there probably could have been a better way to resolve it.”

    And, with that, in response to a question from a juror, Const. Brian Taylor concluded his testimony Friday at the coroner’s inquest into the death of Michael MacIsaac.

    Taylor, who has been with Durham regional police since 1999, shot and killed the 47-year-old naked man on an Ajax street Dec. 2, 2013, saying MacIsaac was advancing on him with a table leg.

    He was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit.

    During cross-examination Friday, Taylor’s lawyer, Bill MacKenzie, attempted to poke holes in the MacIsaac family’s belief that Taylor did not shout commands at MasIsaac before shooting him.

    A 911 call placed by a civilian, Ron Nino, at the scene when Taylor arrived does not capture Taylor shouting commands or MacIsaac saying “Come on, come on,” as Taylor said he did.

    The officer, testifying for the second and final day, reiterated his speculation that the call dropped and did not capture everything that was said.

    “I’m suggesting 911 called back and interfered with the call,” MacKenzie said to Taylor while on the stand. “The jury is left to speculate on Mr. Nino’s evidence.”

    The suggestion angered Michael’s family, sitting in the front row. They had the call analyzed by a forensic scientist who indicated in a report that “there are no definite signs of alterations or breaks found on this recording.”

    Nino , himself, did not say on the stand Wednesday that there were any issues with his call to 911. What he did say is that 911 kept calling back, after the shooting, when Nino was attempting to record video of the officers handcuffing MacIsaac.

    The SIU has never said if it listened to the call, or even obtained it.

    “I can understand why he’s desperate to go back to that, absolutely,” Michael MacIsaac’s sister, Joanne, told the Star about the questions around the 911 call. “But it is more ridiculous than it is desperate.”

    Earlier Friday, Taylor was questioned on his use of the term “excited delirium” as part of a broader range of questions on dealing with individuals in crisis.

    He had testified that he believed this may have been MacIsaac’s condition as he was heading to the scene and heard over the radio that the person may have mental health issues and was aggressive toward police.

    MacIsaac’s family said he did not have mental health issues, but they believe he was in crisis after suffering an epileptic seizure.

    The lawyer for the Empowerment Council, an advocacy group for people with “lived” experience of mental health and addiction issues, listed what are typically described as common characteristics of excited delirium: violent behaviour; imperviousness to pain, and superhuman strength.

    “But, do you know ‘excited delirium’ is extremely controversial, over whether it’s even a condition at all?” Empowerment Council lawyer Anita Szigeti asked Taylor. He replied, “yes.”

    Szigeti pointed out that organizations such as the World Health Organization and American Medical Association don’t even recognize it as a condition. She said those who believe it is a condition are basically just the “maker of Tasers” and law enforcement.

    She was “puzzled,” she said to Taylor, because, while he used the term “excited delirium” at the inquest, it does not appear anywhere in his notes of the shooting, nor in his interviews with the SIU or the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

    “I’m going to suggest to you that you never thought about ‘excited delirium’ at all until long after the events when you shot Mr. MacIsaac,” she said.

    Taylor disagreed.

    As the officer, his lawyer and officials with the police union left the courtroom after his testimony, Joanne MacIsaac, sitting in the front row, glared at the man who killed her brother.

    “I was glad that he finally had to answer to someone, and he looked like he was sweating up on the stand. That made me happy,” she said. “I wanted to glare at him, because I was hoping he would look me in the eyes because I wanted him to know that this is not done yet.”

    The inquest continues Monday.

    0 0

    Premier Kathleen Wynne is defending Hydro One’s takeover of an American utility that owns a coal plant after years of Liberal boasting that Ontario has banned the plants to cut pollution and greenhouse gases.

    She suggested the $6.7-billion purchase of Avista, based in Washington state, heralds the spread of Ontario’s clean-energy push beyond the province’s borders.

    “As you all know, Ontario has shut down all of the coal-fired generation in the province. Hydro One has made a business decision to acquire a . . . company that has a small minority share in a coal plant,” Wynne said Friday in Ottawa.

    “Let me just say this: you won’t find another jurisdiction — pretty much around the world — that has gone as far in terms of renewable clean energy as Ontario so I see this as a real validation of our opportunity to take that influence elsewhere.”

    Avista owns a 15-per-cent-stake in two of the four units at the Colstrip plant in Montana — a major coal-mining state — and plans to use them for electricity production until 2035, said a spokesperson for the company that also operates hydroelectric dams, natural gas and biomass generating plants and wind turbines.

    Colstrip is one of the top carbon-producing plants in the U.S. and has become a target of environmentalists and lawmakers in the fight against climate change.

    The Associated Press reported in January that two older units at the plant, dating to the 1970s and not owned by Avista, will be closed by 2022 under an agreement with environmental groups.

    Hydro One said in a statement Friday it will be “reviewing” Avista’s assets when the purchase, slated to close in mid-2018, is complete.

    But critics said Ontario, which sold a majority of shares in Hydro One to raise money for transportation infrastructure and now owns a 49 per cent stake, is taking a step backward with the deal.

    New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns blamed the Wynne government’s “fire sale” of Hydro One, which he said now operates on a profit motive to please shareholders.

    “No one should be surprised they’re doing stuff contrary to what Ontario has been doing,” said Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth).

    “It wouldn’t even be legal in Ontario,” he said of the Avista plant.

    Colstrip supplies about 9 per cent of the electricity to Avista customers. The company, headquartered in Spokane, Wash., serves Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

    Ontario “is in the coal business again,” said Progressive Conservative MPP Todd Smith (Prince Edward-Hastings).

    The Green Party said the deal undermines the government’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    “This is a bad move for Ontario and for our planet . . . keep in mind Montana borders British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, and air doesn’t respect national boundaries,” said Jose Etcheverry, the Green candidate in Markham-Stouffville for next June’s provincial election.

    “Hydro One has slapped us in the face by going shopping for a utility that owns one of the largest polluters in the U.S. northwest,” added Angela Bishoff of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance.

    Wynne told reporters she talked with Hydro One chief executive Mayo Schmidt about the deal on Thursday, raising her concerns.

    “I said: ‘You know, what about this?’ The fact is we have a coal-free electricity grid here in Ontario and . . . I expect that value system could be shared.”

    “I know that Hydro One will be reviewing all of the operations once the transaction is completed. But we are leading the way in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” she added.

    An article in Scientific American last year titled “Inside a Western Town That Refuses to Quit Coal” said the plant emits nearly 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, earning a spot among the top 20 carbon-producing power plants in the country.

    The power plant is one of the largest employers in Colstrip and is located near a coal mine, which supplies it with fuel.

    0 0

    A man who was found guilty of second-degree murder in a daytime shooting at the Eaton Centre was granted a new trial Friday after a judge found the jury that convicted him was improperly selected.

    The Court of Appeal for Ontario overturned Christopher Husbands’ convictions, saying the trial judge made an irreparable mistake by overruling a defence request regarding the method of jury selection.

    As a result, the three-member appeal panel said, the jury was improperly constituted and the verdict cannot stand.

    “In accordance with the current state of the law . . . what occurred here cannot be salvaged,” Justice David Watt wrote on behalf of the panel.

    The June 2012 shooting at the Eaton Centre’s crowded food court sparked mayhem in the mall and sent hordes of panicked shoppers running for the exits.

    Husbands was acquitted more than two years ago of first-degree murder but was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Nixon Nirmalendran, 22, and Ahmed Hassan, 24.

    He was also found guilty of five counts of aggravated assault and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

    Husbands, whose lawyers had put forward a defence of not criminally responsible due to post-traumatic stress disorder, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 30 years.

    Husbands’ appeal focused largely on the manner in which jurors were chosen.

    As part of the selection process, prospective jurors may be questioned as to whether they believe they can remain impartial. Two people from the jury pool take on the role of “triers,” meaning they weigh the answer and determine whether there is sign of bias.

    Lawyers for both the Crown and the defence then decide whether to allow the person on the jury.

    Each newly appointed juror replaces one of the two triers so that the responsibility is shared, a process called “rotating triers.”

    At the request of the accused, the court can appoint two people who will assess all the prospective juror responses. These are called “static triers” and do not get to serve on the jury.

    Watt said Husbands’ lawyers made it clear they wanted rotating triers but the judge, Superior Court Justice Eugene Ewaschuk, imposed static triers.

    “Expressly and repeatedly, counsel wanted rotating triers. Yet the trial judge forged ahead, despite the entreaties of defence counsel, without any inquiries of the trial Crown about her position and seemingly oblivious to the confining language of the enabling legislation,” Watt wrote.

    At least one other case presided by Ewaschuk has seen its verdict overturned on appeal over the same issue.

    Lawyer Dirk Derstine, who represents Husbands, said Friday’s decision was not surprising.

    “There’s been a lot of cases which dealt with similar situations involving this judge which came to the same conclusion,” Derstine said. “He had a very real belief that what he was doing was legal and proper and the Court of Appeal has found on a number of occasions that it was not correct.”

    It could take more than a year before a new trial for Husbands gets underway, he said, noting that his client is “looking forward to getting a fair trial this time.”

    Since the first-degree murder acquittal was not challenged, Husbands’ new trial will be on charges of second-degree murder, as well as aggravated assault and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

    0 0

    Royal LePage CEO Phil Soper says that, like a lot of chief executives, he is prone to optimism.

    But that didn’t stop him from calling Toronto the least healthy housing market in the country when prices were galloping ahead in the double digits in the first quarter of the year, peaking at 33 per cent year over year in March.

    Soper says it’s not self-interest as a realtor that leads him to believe that Toronto’s slumped market will recover in the same way as Vancouver’s has. That market has lately rebounded after the B.C. government imposed a foreign buyers tax last summer, paving the way for Ontario to introduce a similar levy on non-resident transactions.

    Read more:

    Plunging GTA home sales lead to biggest national monthly decline since 2010

    More first-time home buyers putting purchases on hold after Ontario introduces new measures

    GTA home sales slump continuing in June

    But does the situation today resemble the last big Canadian housing correction in 2009? Is it a crash rather than a bump? Soper doesn’t think so.

    The last major national housing correction followed the global economic crisis in 2008. The conditions simply aren’t there this time for a major market meltdown in Canada, says Soper.

    “It’s very rare to see employment improving, the economy expanding — to see inflation under control and to see a significant collapse of the housing market,” he said.

    But he doesn’t deny there are unknowns — NAFTA, for example.

    “The most obvious external downside risk is the trade negotiations between Canada and the U.S.,” he said.

    “A significant negative outcome on trade wouldn’t have immediate impact on our economy, but it would have immediate impact on consumer confidence.”

    Nor does Soper suggest that the recent Vancouver correction wasn’t serious.

    “People say it wasn’t that bad (in Vancouver) because prices were only down by a couple of percentage points,” he said. “But they were going up by 30 per cent, so the trend reversed itself by some 30 to 35 per cent in weeks.

    “It was a very significant change in the direction of that market and a significant downturn.”

    Royal LePage calculates that the Vancouver housing correction took about $750 million out of the economy in ancillary spending such as home renovations, furnishings and lawyers fees.

    In Ontario, the slowdown will continue for a while, says Lu Han at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

    “The (Toronto area) market still needs time to absorb how the buyers and sellers are going to react to the policy,” said Han, who’s the academic director for the Centre for Real Estate and Urban Economics.

    Toronto Real Estate Board’s mid-month numbers for July show sales down 39.3 per cent year over year in the first 14 days of the month. On Monday, the Canadian Real Estate Association said a 15 per cent drop in sales in June in the Toronto region led to the largest decline in national sales in seven years.

    Provincial Liberal government policy, along with tighter lending restrictions and rising interest rates makes consumers more anxious in the short-term, but are all designed to ease affordability challenges longer term, says Han.

    “The rising interest rate will increase the costs for borrowing, but the house price is going to be reduced in the longer run as a consequence of these policies. So, in that sense, it is going to make housing more affordable in the future,” she said.

    While some sellers and buyers may have been caught in the sudden turnaround of the market this spring, the pause in the market frenzy is welcome, says James McKellar, a professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

    “When I say this downturn is good news, I mean it begins to challenge some assumptions we’ve made that the house price will go up — that we can always afford more, that we can consume more,” he said.

    In the 1950s, Canadians consumed about 300 sq. ft. of space per person. Today it is about 1,000 sq.ft.

    The correction also gives governments some breathing room to reconsider the supply part of the equation, said McKellar.

    More people, including the growing number of tech and creative sector workers, want to live in cities. Governments need to re-think what living there looks like apart from condo towers.

    “On the one hand the province is saying 40 per cent of all growth must be directed into inner cities and, on the other hand, the city is saying we have to protect existing neighbourhoods. There’s a conflict at the policy level. We’re protecting these old neighbourhoods but we’re not re-generating them with new people,” he said.

    McKellar contends that the current scenario has come as a shock because most Canadians don’t remember or have never seen it before. (He calls the 2008 housing market “a slight downturn.”)

    “We haven’t had a downturn really since 1991. It took from 1991 until 2004 for house prices to recover. The problem is that most of us have thought the good times go forever. This is a good signal that gravity still exists,” he said.

    Toronto realtor John Pasalis doesn’t discount the role of the press and social media in the almost overnight drop in home sales. Headlines about crashes and bubbles make consumers anxious.

    “It probably pulled many buyers out of the market. In the past, when news wasn’t as timely and everyone relied on what friends were saying, it prolonged the run-up,” he said.

    Pasalis was among the first Toronto-area realtors to raise concerns about the sustainability of the double-digit increases in the Toronto market. But he’s adamant that the doomsayers suggesting that values will decline severely are wrong.

    “We’d have to have a massive depression,” he said.

    He thinks the market will remain soft through the fall, but says there are signs that buyers are starting to look again and get ready to dip back into the market.

    “The big unknown is what the listings are going to be like in the fall. I think we’re going to see a lot of new listings in the fall. A lot of the people who can’t sell now are going to re-list,” he said.

    “If listings increase more than buyers increase you’re still going to have a soft market,” said Pasalis.

    Whatever happens the rest of the year, Toronto housing is probably a safe bet, said Han.

    “Toronto is a very attractive destination. It offers great consumption amenities but also great job opportunities,” she said. “When people try to buy a house here they’re not just buying a physical house, they’re buying this location — they’re buying the whole package including the infrastructure in the city, the transportation here, all the culture, the amenities here.

    “That itself is a very strong fundamental that would sustain the house price growth here.”

    0 0

    Toronto Star readers have helped a female genital mutilation survivor raise the funds she needs to have reconstructive surgery in the United States.

    Last week, the Star published the story of Yasmin Mumed— a 23-year-old University of Guelph student who was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) at the age of 6 in her village in Ethiopia. Since, dozens of people have helped her reach her fundraising goal of $6,650 through her GoFundMe page.

    The surgery itself is free, covered by a Las Vegas based organization, Clitoraid. The funds raised will be used to pay for transportation for Mumed and a support person. As well as prescription drugs and a hotel while she is recovering from the surgery.

    Mumed said this week she was touched by donations made by people she knew but had lost touch with, including an elementary school classmate who wrote on the GoFundMe page that she remembered Mumed’s “beautiful smile” and a high school drama teacher who Mumed said always “made me feel smart.”

    “You are even more amazing than I thought way back when you were in my class,” wrote her former teacher, Fiona McPhaden, on the page.

    Mumed added she was surprised by the many strangers who donated. “People were giving so much for someone they only knew through a story,” she said.

    Alongside a donation of $25, Megan Radford de Barrientos wrote: “I hope this surgery brings you hope and that your story encourages the government and the medical community in Canada to reassess their services to women who have gone through this, or girls who are at risk. Your courage is inspiring.”

    Female genital mutilation — also known as female genital cutting — varies from partial removal of the clitoris to its most severe form, a procedure known as infibulation, in which the clitoris and labia are excised and the vulva stitched together, leaving only a small opening.

    It has no health benefits for girls and women and can cause severe bleeding, problems with urination, and later cysts, infections, complications in childbirth and an increased risk of death for newborns, according to the World Health Organization. It can also deny women sexual pleasure.

    FGM affects more than 200 million women worldwide, according to UNICEF.

    Read more: ‘I just remember screaming’: Toronto FGM survivor recalls the day she was cut

    Mumed, who immigrated to Canada when she was 9 and grew up in Scarborough, is currently on a waitlist to have surgery with Dr. Marci Bowers, a California-based gynecologist who has performed more than 250 operations on women who have had FGM. The surgery removes the scar tissue from the clitoris and cuts ligaments around it, allowing it to descend, in the hopes of giving the woman back some sensation.

    Mumed’s clitoris and part of her labia was cut with a razor blade in a darkened room when she was just a child. She remembers a group of women holding down her arms and legs. The piercing pain. And then the blood.

    Having pushed the cutting out of her mind for many years, she didn’t remember what had happened to her until she became sexually active in her teens. She recently looked for support services in the Toronto area to help her live with the anxiety and confusion she was feeling because of the cutting, and to help her navigate day-to-day life, including dating. That’s when she found Dr. Bowers.

    The surgery has given Mumed hope. And, more importantly, she says, it has given her choice.

    “It’s something that was taken away from me without my consent,” she said of her cutting, adding that she is pursuing the surgery to have “that power back.”

    “I’ve made a decision over my body and I’m choosing to do it.”

    In addition to the donations, Mumed said she has been getting support from her friends and community, including women who, after reading her story, told her that they are now having conversations with their mothers, who have been cut, about FGM. Young men have called her to say that they are now thinking about the harmful effects FGM has on women, she said.

    She is happy to hear this, she says, because she did not make the difficult decision to speak publicly about such a sensitive topic because she wanted people to feel sorry for her. “I’m a warrior,” she says, smiling.

    She wanted to help empower young women like her, particularly Black Muslim women like her, to address FGM.

    “We can actually start talking to our moms, our grandparents, our cousins,” says Mumed. “This is how we stop it.”

    FGM is practised in 29 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East, India and other parts of Asia. It is seen by some as a rite of passage into womanhood or a condition of marriage. It occurs in both Islamic and Christian communities, but is largely a cultural tradition that dates back hundreds of years. In many areas, there is huge social pressure on families to have their daughters cut.

    An ongoing Star investigation has previously revealed that the federal government knows Canadian girls are being sent abroad to be subjected to FGM and is lagging far behind other developed countries in its efforts to prevent it. Experts say there is also a lack of support services in Canada available for women living with the physical and psychological effects of FGM, regardless of when and where it happened to them.

    In Ontario, some women have asked their doctors to reverse the most severe type of FGM. According to provincial records, in the past seven years Ontario has performed 308 “repairs of infibulations,” a surgery that creates a vaginal opening where it has been sewn mostly shut. There are currently no known procedures in Canada that replace tissue.

    Jayme Poisson can be reached at or (416) 814-2725

    0 0

    PETERBOROUGH—A driver has been charged after a dramatic video showed a 74-year-old cyclist viciously attacked on the side of the road with a club.

    Peterborough police said that just after 11 a.m. Tuesday, the cyclist was riding in the area of Erskine Ave. when an argument broke out between him and a truck driver.

    The driver climbed out of his truck and attacked the cyclist with a small club, police said.

    The video shows the cyclist on the ground with his attacker on top of him, striking him over and over in the head and torso. It shows the attacker stopping when witnesses approached and intervened.

    A truck sits beside them, with a bicycle crumpled on the street in front of the vehicle. The victim was seen bleeding profusely as he walked away.

    “I’m filming all of this,” the woman, who recorded the video, says as the driver gets back up and flicks blood off of his hands.

    The driver’s only defence was an adamant, and repeated, “I tried to walk away.”

    The driver then fled the scene in his truck.

    “Where am I bleeding?” the cyclist asks the woman recording.

    “Everywhere,” she replys.

    The woman asked for her name to be withheld when later contacted by Peterborough This Week.

    “The sound of the club hitting him was sickening,” the woman told the newspaper. “Blood was flying off it.”

    She said she didn’t witness what led to the encounter.

    “They were flailing their arms around and the guy walked back to his truck,” she said.

    She grabbed her phone to take a photo of the truck because she thought the cyclist might have been hit. Little did she know what the driver would do next.

    “He became enraged and you could see him snap in the truck,” she said.

    She continued recording and ran towards the men while yelling for the attacker to get off the bloodied man.

    When the woman and a handful of motorists came to the aid of the cyclist, the driver stopped, put the bloody club in his pocket and wiped blood from his own face.

    The woman helped the cyclist up from the ground and tried to stop the bleeding until paramedics arrived.

    “I didn’t know how bad it was because there was so much blood,” she said. “It was pouring down his face and he couldn’t see out of his eyes.”

    Additional witnesses tried to keep the driver in the area until police arrived but he drove off in his truck. The woman is afraid of what would have happened to the man if no one was around.

    “He attacked a senior man and drove away,” she said.

    The witness said she’s getting tired of people doing horrible things and getting away with them.

    “It is getting harder and harder to see that every day,” she said. “They have zero repercussions”

    Police made an arrest about an hour later. The cyclist was treated and released from Peterborough Regional Hospital. Police said the two men did not know each other.

    David Fox, 65, has been charged with aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. He was released from custody and scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 24.

    With files from Alexandra Jones

    0 0

    WASHINGTON—White House press secretary Sean Spicer abruptly resigned Friday, ending a rocky six-month tenure that made his news briefings defending U.S. President Donald Trump must-see TV. He said Trump’s communications team “could benefit from a clean slate” as the White House seeks to steady operations amid the Russia investigations and ahead of a health care showdown.

    Spicer quit in protest over the hiring of a new White House communications director, New York financier Anthony Scaramucci, objecting to what Spicer considered his lack of qualifications as well as the direction of the press operation, according to people familiar with the situation. Scaramucci, a polished television commentator and Harvard Law graduate, quickly took centre stage at a briefing, parrying questions from reporters and commending Trump in a 37-minute charm offensive.

    Trump offered Scaramucci the job at 10 a.m. The president requested that Spicer stay on, but Spicer told Trump that he believed the appointment was a major mistake, according to person with direct knowledge of the exchange.

    Read more: Meet Anthony Scaramucci, the fierce Trump loyalist who sparked Sean Spicer’s resignation

    As his first act on the job, Scaramucci announced that Sarah Huckabee Sanders would be the new press secretary. She had been Spicer’s deputy.

    The shakeup on the communications team comes as Trump is suffering from dismal approval ratings and struggling to advance his agenda. The president has been frustrated by all the attention devoted to investigations of allegations of his election campaign’s connections to Russia.

    Trump, who watches the press briefings closely and believes he is his own best spokesman, in a statement saluted Spicer’s “great ratings” on TV and said he was “grateful for Sean’s work on behalf of my administration and the American people.”

    Scaramucci, in an appearance after his appointment was made official, flashed the television skills that Trump has long valued: He praised Trump’s political instincts and competitiveness, cracked a few self-deprecating jokes and battled with reporters who categorized the West Wing as dysfunctional, saying “there is a disconnect” between the media and the way the public sees the president.

    “The president has really good karma and the world turns back to him,” Scaramucci said.

    Spicer said during a brief phone conversation with The Associated Press that he felt it would be best for Scaramucci to build his own operation “and chart a new way forward.” He tweeted that it had been an “honour” and “privilege” to serve Trump and that he would remain in his post through August.

    His decision to quit took advisers inside and outside the White House by surprise, according to people with knowledge of the decision. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the personnel matter publicly.

    Spicer’s daily press briefings had become must-watch television until recent weeks when he took on a more behind-the-scenes role. Sanders has largely taken over the briefings, turning them into off-camera events.

    The White House has been looking for a new communications director for several weeks, but struggled to attract an experienced Republican hand. Scaramuuci began seriously talking to the White House about the position this week, and Trump formally offered him the job Friday morning.

    A person with knowledge of the decision said Trump has been impressed by Scaramucci’s defence of the White House on television and his handling of a recent incident with CNN. The cable channel retracted a story about Scaramucci and fired three journalists.

    A shift in tone and style was immediate. A longtime television commentator, Scaramucci’s delivery was smooth and polished. Unlike Spicer, who had an at-times combative relationship with the press, Scaramucci was warm and more measured as he took questions.

    He did not commit to putting the briefings back on camera full-time. He also offered a level of support to some of Trump’s most outlandish statements, including his unproven claim that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election.

    “If the president says it ... there’s probably some level of truth to that,” he said.

    He also made clear that he would continue the West Wing’s plan to push back against media reports it doesn’t like — and would do a better job of selling its victories.

    “The president is a winner. And we’re going to do a lot of winning,” said Scaramucci, who blew a kiss to the press corps before departing.

    Spicer had long sought the strategic communications job for himself and had been managing that role along with his press secretary duties for nearly two months.

    Spicer had spent several years leading communications at the Republican National Committee before helping Trump’s campaign in the general election. He is close to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former RNC chair, and several of the lower-ranking aides in the White House communications shop.

    Priebus told The Associated Press he supports Scaramucci “100 per cent,” despite reportedly trying to prevent the financier from getting multiple administration positions. Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and her husband, powerful senior aide Jared Kushner, had known Scaramucci for years from New York and pushed for his hire.

    Scaramucci, a frequent visitor to Trump Tower during the transition, is expected to play a visible role as one of Trump’s defenders on television. But Spicer and other officials questioned his hiring as communications director ahead of the president’s push to overhaul the tax system and other policy issues.

    Spicer and other staffers had been feeling that they finally had the press shop operating effectively, aside from matters related to the Russia investigation, said one of the people familiar with the situation.

    Scaramucci notably said he reports directly to the president, not to the chief of staff — a highly unusual arrangement for a communications director and a possible reflection that Priebus’ standing with Trump is often uncertain.

    The financier had been told by the administration that he would be nominated as U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental economic organization that includes the world’s better-off countries.

    Spicer’s tenure got off to a rocky start. On Trump’s first full day in office, he lambasted journalists over coverage of the crowd size at the inauguration and stormed out of the briefing room without answering questions.

    Spicer, who often displayed a fiery demeanour in tense on-camera exchanges with reporters, became part of culture in the way few people in his job have, particularly through an indelible impersonation by Melissa McCarthy on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

    She portrayed Spicer as a hostile figure who tore through the briefing room on a motorized podium, willing to attack the press.

    Spicer remained loyal to Trump but frequently battled perceptions that he was not plugged in to what the president was thinking, and had to worry that Trump was watching and critiquing his performance from the Oval Office.

    The resignation comes a day after Mark Corallo, the spokesman for the president’s outside legal team, left his post. And in a separate move, former White House aide Katie Walsh is returning to the RNC, spokesman Ryan Mahoney said. Walsh will serve as an adviser on data and digital issues, and the appointment is unrelated to the White House personnel changes, he said.

    With files from The New York Times

    0 0

    An operator of unlicensed group homes in Scarborough has again been found in violation of fire safety rules, putting vulnerable residents at risk, city officials say.

    A threat to life notice was issued at a Rouge River Dr. home over fire safety concerns about the number of people living in the basement where there is only one exit. One person from that address and two others were relocated after city bylaw, fire inspectors and police officers descended on several suspected unlicensed group homes on Thursday.

    The operators of Comfort Residential Group Homes and Drew’s Residential Services were charged with several fire code violations, property standards violations and zoning infractions, the city said Friday.

    Violations include insufficient smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, cockroach and bed bug infestations and illegally operating as a rooming house.

    This is the second time a threat to life notice has been issued at the Rouge River home in less than two months.

    On June 2, fire officials found eight people living at the two-storey detached home where Comfort Residential operator Winston Manning also lives. A notice concerning the basement occupants was issued at that time.

    When officials returned Thursday, the number of residents had climbed to 13, a city source said.

    “Our focus is to make sure that all residents are living in homes that are properly maintained and in which personal safety is never compromised,” Fire Chief Matthew Pegg is quoted as saying in a city statement Friday.

    The crackdown comes after the Star reported on an OPP investigation into the “deplorable” conditions in the homes that provincial health ministry officials ignored because there is nowhere else for the occupants to go.

    The city’s municipal licensing and standards boss Tracey Cook noted in the city release the “significant amount of effort” needed to take the kind of action seen Thursday.

    Manning, who rents homes and collects disability, pension and other income sources from residents who are elderly or have mental health issues, faces a growing number of charges for fire and property violations.

    “I’ve been under siege for over 10 hours,” Manning told the Star by phone Friday. He said his computer and other documents were seized and said he thinks officials are looking for “something deeper.”

    Manning said only eight people live at the Rouge River address, and several others had just arrived temporarily with “no place to go.”

    “I feel bad about everything,” he said. “I don’t know why they’re on me like this every day. I guess because I’m breaking the fire code rules.”

    Convictions under the Ontario Fire Code can result in fines of up to $100,000 or up to a year in prison. Planning Act charges can lead to a maximum of $50,000 in fines.

    On Thursday, police stood guard outside a Fawcett Trail home, where several violations were found after officials interviewed occupants, seized records and scoured the property.

    Fourteen people were living inside the tiny beige brick bungalow, a different city source said.

    Michael Wyatt, 61, moved into the home near Morningside and Sheppard Aves. five months ago after he had a stroke. He pays $941 from his monthly disability cheque to the operators. For that he says he gets lousy food and shares a room in the basement with another man.

    “There’s a bed, and a dresser and TV. We get cable. There was talk of us getting the internet,” Wyatt said outside the house having a smoke as rain began to fall. There is a full-time support worker who lives on-site, and the medication Wyatt requires is administered daily, he added.

    “I don’t want to whine to you,” he said. “Let’s say it’s been a challenging few months.”

    The OPP investigation focused on Manning’s operations but concluded there is a systemic problem throughout the province of people turning regular residences into homes for vulnerable occupants. The situation has arisen “as a result of the housing shortage in the GTA.”