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    Craig Weaver was walking his dog through High Park earlier this month, when he heard the caterpillars feasting.

    “They were everywhere,” he said.

    “All you could hear was crunching.”

    Weaver thought gypsy moths were the culprit; the pests have been chewing through Toronto tree leaves for more than 20 years.

    But a surprise intruder has caught the city off guard this year: inchworms.

    “We weren’t expecting this at all,” said Ray Vendrig, manager with Toronto’s urban forestry department.

    You may have seen inchworms, properly called cankerworms, dangling from silk threads around the city this year.

    They’re a relatively rare visitor; this is the first cankerworm infestation since 2000.

    The city’s website says cankerworms have caused “significant defoliation” in High Park, Glen Stewart ravine, Glen Davies ravine, Baby Point, Etobicoke Creek Ravine and parts of the Don Valley Ravine.

    The hungry caterpillars also hit Mississauga, Hamilton and Burlington, said Jessica McEachren, Missisauga’s manager of forestry.

    “You can’t necessarily plan for these guys,” said McEachren. She said Mississauga sprayed a bacterial insecticide in some areas to prepare for cankerworms, but they were not expecting so many.

    With a roughly 10-year cycle, a cankerworm invasion is a hard thing to anticipate, Vendrig said, particularly because the eggs are tiny and hidden in tree tops.

    After they hatch, larvae spend about two weeks munching through leaves before dropping to the ground.

    The feeding frenzy is pretty much over by now, however, and the caterpillars are either hanging off trees or have burrowed underground forming a cocoon, said Vendrig.

    While some trees may look ravished, they will likely sprout new leaves soon, he said.

    “Generally, with cankerworm, trees will rebound,” he said.

    Toronto was planning for a gypsy moth infestation this year, and sprayed the Btk insecticide over certain areas in the spring

    Gypsy moth infestations are much more common in the city. Vendrig says they’re much more destructive; the moths spend seven to eight weeks feeding on tree leaves, while cankerworms only feed for about two.

    Vendrig says they had “great success” with spraying for gypsy moths this year, and said those caterpillars are under control.

    Vendrig said staff has been responding to calls about cankerworms for the past few weeks, and are taking note of affected trees.

    In the fall, staff will come back and wrap a sticky band around tree trunks, he said, to capture the cankerworms as they go to lay their eggs in the upper branches. The city’s website provides information on how people can “band” their own trees.

    McEachren said that while healthy trees will bounce back from the cankerworms, growing a new set of leaves take a lot of energy.

    “This has to be a multiple-year thing, that’s for sure,” she said.

    Janet McKay, executive director of the non-profit Leaf, said she’s seen a lot of defoliated trees this year. She said the rainy spring has been a big benefit for the city’s trees, but says it’s important to be aware of things such as winter salt or construction that can impose stress on urban forests and make it harder for trees to bounce back from defoliation.

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    SALT LAKE CITY—A video of a young Mormon girl revealing to her congregation that she is lesbian and still loved by God — before her microphone is turned off by local church leaders — is sparking a new round of discussions about how the religion handles LGBT issues.

    Savannah, 13, spoke on May 7 in Eagle Mountain, Utah, about her belief that she is the child of heavenly parents who didn’t make any mistakes when she was created. Her comments came during a once-a-month portion of Mormon Sunday services where members are encouraged to share feelings and beliefs.

    “They did not mess up when they gave me freckles or when they made me to be gay,” she said, wearing a white shirt and red tie. “God loves me just this way.”

    Her mother, Heather Kester, said Friday that her daughter was passionate about coming out in church to be a voice and example for other LGBT children who struggle for acceptance within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She asked that Savannah’s full name be withheld to protect her privacy.

    The Mormon religion is one of many conservative faith groups upholding theological opposition to same-sex relationships amid widespread social acceptance and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage. At the same time, the Mormon church is trying to foster an empathetic stance toward LGBT people.

    The video, which Kester says was taken by a friend of Savannah who came to support her, has generated buzz after it was circulated online this month and featured in a Mormon LGBT podcast.

    While some consider Savannah a hero, other Mormons are upset that it was videotaped and is being circulated by church critics to try and paint the church in an unflattering light.

    Judd Law, the lay bishop who leads the congregation south of Salt Lake City, said in a statement distributed by church headquarters that Savannah is a “brave young girl” and that the congregation is making sure she and her family feel loved.

    But he called problematic the unauthorized recording and the “disruptive demonstration” by a group of non-Mormon adults who were there.

    Law said they exploited the events to politicize worship services and violate church decorum. “We do not politic in our chapels, and exploiting this recording for political purposes is inconsistent with the nature of our worship services,” he said.

    Law didn’t address or explain the decision by two of his counsellors to cut the microphone. Law wasn’t at the service that day.

    Savannah read from written notes from the pulpit. Kester said she is not Mormon, but her husband is and Savannah has been raised in the religion.

    “I do not choose to be this way and this is not a fad,” Savannah told the congregation on May 7. “I cannot make someone else gay. ... I believe that God wants us to treat each other with kindness, even if people are different, especially if they are different.”

    Her microphone was muted after about two minutes — shortly after she said she’s not a “horrible sinner” and that she someday hopes to have a partner, get married and have a family. She turned around to listen to something a man in a suit told her and then was walked down from the pulpit.

    Kester said her daughter came and cried in her lap. She told her she was beautiful and that God loved her, Kester said.

    “I was devastated for her,” said Kester, adding. “I was angry at how that was handled.”

    After the Utah-based Mormon church received backlash in 2008 for helping lead the fight for California’s Proposition 8 constitutional ban on gay marriage, religious leaders spent several years carefully developing a more empathetic LGBT tone. That was interrupted in 2015 when the church adopted new rules banning children living with gay parents from being baptized until age 18.

    In October, church leaders updated a website created in 2012 to let members know that that attraction to people of the same sex is not a sin or a measure of their faithfulness and may never go away. But the church reminded members that having gay sex violates fundamental doctrinal beliefs that will not change.

    Scott Gordon, president of FairMormon, a volunteer organization that supports the church, wrote a blog defending the church against a rash of criticism over the incident.

    Gordon said it would have been OK for Savannah to come out as gay during testimony, but that she crossed the line when she mischaracterized church teachings by saying God would want her to have a partner and get married.

    “While you can believe almost anything you want to believe, you can’t preach it from the pulpit,” Gordon said.

    Britt Jones, a bisexual Mormon who runs a podcast called “I like to look for Rainbows” that featured Savannah’s story, said the leaders should have allowed Savannah to finish.

    “Queer issues don’t get talked about in the church enough,” said Jones, who is married to a woman and has children. “It was really brave and really admirable, particularly for somebody that young, that she not only wanted to talk about it herself but be a voice for others suffering in silence.”

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    With the deadline for negotiations between the LCBO and its employees looming over the end of the weekend, Toronto shoppers seized what could be their last chance to load up on booze from the store ahead of a potential strike.

    “Everyone is kind of freaking out this weekend, (and) going to stock up,” Danica Bennewies said, while toting a “nice big bottle of tequila,” some coolers and wine at the LCBO’s underground PATH location near Union Station.

    Bennewies said she and her friends want to have their liquor supplies full for the Canada Day long weekend.

    “What I need to stock up on is the hard liquor,” she said, adding that she will have options for the rest. “I’m not concerned with beer or wine because of Loblaws, Wine Rack, the Wine Shop; it’s all covered.”

    The LCBO and Ontario Public Service Employees Union have said they planned to negotiate around the clock ahead of the union’s threat of job action at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

    Details of the bargaining are under a “media blackout” that OPSEU says was imposed by a conciliator Saturday morning.

    The union says it won’t be providing any information about the talks while the blackout is in effect.

    At the LCBO on Cooper St. near Yonge St. and Queens Quay Saturday, at least three employees pushing carts loaded with booze circled the store, refilling the blank spaces left by customers stocking up.

    There were few morning shoppers, but by 4:30 p.m., every cash register was full with long lines reaching the shelves.

    “We’re expecting guests over the next few weeks, and so we want to make sure that we have enough liquor to entertain them,” said Andrew Reddon, who left the shop with a box of vodka, gin, tequila, rum and wine in tow.

    It’s more than he would normally buy, he said. Expecting to need to make more wine purchases soon, he said he’s willing to make a trip to Niagara Falls “if we get desperate.”

    “I certainly want to see the union members get what they’re due, so if that requires a strike, we’ll live with it,” Reddon said.

    The union is asking for more certainty from the LCBO over scheduling and guarantees about eventually gaining full-time jobs for its workforce, 84 per cent of whom work part time.

    “I’m hoping they don’t strike, but I feel for the employees,” said Brian Kellett, a regular customer at the Maple Leaf Square location.

    Kellett said that while union demands are important and its radio advertising campaign to get the message out was effective, he’d like to see stores stay open for the season.

    “I think the timing of it is really funny because it’s the summer and it’s Canada Day coming up, so that’s kind of sad,” Kellett said.

    And while some local shoppers listed their “Plan B” stores to buy alcohol, others said they would hit up pubs in the event of a strike.

    “We go to the Firkin. They won’t run out of beer . . . we have a backup plan,” said Jason Vanderholt, who picked up some white wine to pair with a fish dinner.

    “My thoughts are to roll with it because I don’t really stock up to offset,” he said.

    “I’ll just suffer along with the strike.”

    With files from The Canadian Press

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    U.S. president Donald Trump on Saturday called out Obama administration officials for not taking stronger actions against Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, contradicting his past statements and suggesting without proof that they were trying to help Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

    His tweets came after the Washington Post revealed Friday that the Obama White House had received reports as early as August 2016 regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in the cyber campaign with instructions to defeat or damage Clinton and help to elect Trump, according to “sourcing deep inside the Russian government.”

    The Obama administration would not publicly say Russia was attempting to interfere with the election until Oct. 7, and the news of Putin’s attempts to aid Trump would not surface until after the election.

    Trump has long disputed that the Russians interfered with the election, calling it “all a big Dem HOAX” just this week.

    But on Friday evening, after the publication of the Post’s story, Trump demanded to know why Obama hadn’t done more to stop the meddling.

    His first tweet read: Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?

    He followed up with more tweets on Saturday, attempting to put the focus on Obama’s inaction.

    One read: Since the Obama Administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!

    The Post article explains in detail why Obama, who reportedly was gravely concerned by an August CIA report about the hacking, managed to approve only “largely symbolic” sanctions before he left office.

    Those reasons included partisan squabbling among members of Congress, initial skepticism by other intelligence agencies about the CIA’s findings, and an assumption that Clinton would win the election and follow up.

    “We made the judgment that we had ample time after the election, regardless of outcome, for punitive measures,” a senior administration official said in the article.

    Trump, however, raised his own theories, tweeting: Obama Administration official said they “choked” when it came to acting on Russian meddling of election. They didn’t want to hurt Hillary?

    He provided no explanation or evidence for why this would have helped Clinton.

    The Post article recounts how Obama learned about the Russian intrusions and the administration’s attempts to find support to make the information public.

    According to the article, less than a month after 20,000 stolen Democratic Party emails were leaked to the public, a CIA memo warned Obama that the hack had been ordered by Putin in an attempt to “defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee.”

    Interviews with administration officials revealed that Obama directly confronted Putin over the allegations during a meeting of world leaders in China. He also ordered his deputies to safeguard the election and seek bipartisan support from congressional leaders to condemn Russia’s actions.

    “The administration encountered obstacles at every turn,” write Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous.

    Complacency may have also undercut the administration’s efforts to punish Russia. Like many polls suggested, it believed Clinton would win despite the hacks.

    By his final weeks, aside from warnings and rhetoric, Obama had approved only narrow sanctions and a plan to plant “cyberweapons in Russia’s infrastructure” — if the next president so chose.

    As one senior Obama official told The Post, “I feel like we sort of choked,” which Trump would quote in his tweet.

    For some Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, the bombshell report affirmed what they said they had long suspected.

    “Nothing like the extensive hacking effort and manipulation effort could occur without involvement,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., told CNN. “Now we actually know: Yes, Putin directed it . . . He had a specific goal to defeat Hillary Clinton.”

    Some Republicans expressed concern about another country threatening democracy in the United States.

    Rep. Adam Kinzinger tweeted: #Russia is a problem & they attacked our democracy. This is about defending the integrity of our government & our election system.

    “The reality is, in two or four years, it will serve Vladimir Putin’s interest to take down the Republican Party,” Kinzinger told CNN. “If we weren’t upset about it, we have no right to complain in the future.”

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    To capture a big country, it helps to have a big screen.

    And if that screen covers the domed roof of a gigantic igloo, showing live action scenes from across Canada at 360 degrees, you’ll get a sense of what it might look like if you were trampled by a herd of caribou.

    The 20-minute film, called Horizon, has been entertaining viewers for the past four days in an inflated red igloo set up in Regent Park. Sunday is the last day for free screenings before it’s taken on a seven-city tour of Ontario, an August showing in Mexico and a later stop in Beijing.

    “It’s a celebration of the land and our relationship to it,” says executive producer and project co-founder, Joanne Loton, referring to the 90 scenes filmed in every Canadian province and territory.

    “I often describe it as Planet Earth meets Cirque du Soleil,” she adds, referring to the BBC nature series and the Montreal-based entertainment company.

    It’s also a groundbreaking technical achievement that took 18 months to produce and brought together volunteer specialists from coast to coast.

    Special rigs were designed to hold cameras. Multiple cameras were used to shoot each scene and then “stitched” together, in some 3,000 hours of post-production work, by 360-degree technicians at Toronto’s Red Lab Digital company. The igloo dome and screen was designed by Cirque du Soleil alumni Guy St-Amour.

    “We feel like we’re pushing the boundaries of what we’re doing in the industry,” says Loton, 38, who was inspired by the cinematic legacy of the 70 mm IMAX film technology that caused a sensation at Montreal’s Expo 67.

    The result, in ultra crisp 9K resolution, is a spectacular roller coaster of people and nature, including Bhangra dancers at the Vancouver Public Library, Parkour acrobats at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, hip hop dancers in an Ontario forest, Inuit throat singers in Ottawa, figure skaters on a frozen lake in Whitehorse and a rousing choir in a Prince Edward County barn.

    “I loved it,” said Cecile Brenton, 60, who grew up in Regent Park. “Just seeing Canada all in one go-round; the different cultures, different places — we have a beautiful country.”

    “The scenes all stand out, but I loved hearing Gordon Lightfoot with the (Prairie) trains coming in,” she added. “It fit perfectly.”

    Nick McLean, 54, who moved to Toronto from the United Kingdom three years ago, described it as “a good way to capture the whole diversity of Canada.”

    “It was an emotive spectacle,” he said.

    The project, which includes a virtual reality app, was financed largely by a $10.5-million grant from Heritage Canada, as well as $2 million from Ontario’s Ministry of Culture Sport and Tourism.

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    A Fête nationale parade Saturday afternoon in Montreal has lit up the Internet for the wrong reasons, with more than 200,000 views of a clip showing a float pushed by four Black men followed by an all-white chorus that has been criticized as racist.

    The clip, filmed and posted on Facebook by a bystander, shows singer Annie Villeneuve performing a version of “Gens du pays,” a song often sung on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, on a float followed by a choral group passing the corner of Boucher and Saint-Denis Sts. The people in the chorus appeared to be white and dressed in white clothes, while the four Black men pushing the float were dressed in beige outfits.

    “I’m not sure the organizers of the parade understand the concept of diversity,” wrote Félix Brouillet, the bystander who shot the video. It has been shared at least 5,000 times in three hours.

    The parade was intended to depict fifteen scenes from the history of the province, and the float in the video was based around the founding of Fort Ville-Marie, which later became Montreal, in 1642.

    “It’s fine to tell the history of Quebec, but the subtext given off by the scene and the context in which it put its participants makes no sense,” Brouillet told La Presse.

    Montreal’s Fête nationale organizing committee posted its own video of the float on its Facebook page, which was deluged with outraged comments.

    Rachelle Houde Simard commented, criticizing the choice to put four Black men in “slave outfits” and called the float “disgusting.”

    Administrators of the facebook page later posted, by way of clarification, that all of the parade’s floats were being pushed by members of a Montreal school’s sports team. The video was later deleted.

    La Presse was unable to reach the organizers by press time.

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    Their kids have witnessed “vulgar” verbal attacks, seen teachers chased down the hall, even assaulted, and say too-frequent lockdowns at their elementary school have made students anxious.

    A group of Oshawa parents says the situation has grown so out of hand at Beau Valley Public School that their children sometimes don’t want to go to class. And they are calling on the Durham public board and province for changes to help curb such disturbing incidents across all boards — and better support students with special needs who need more support workers with them in class.

    “There are many parents that feel the same as I do,” said Erin MacCormack, a mother of two daughters. “I have talked to many parents from different cities, and their stories are all shocking and sad. Kids are struggling in today’s classrooms. They see kids hitting other kids, kids hitting teaching staff, (protective gear) on staff, classrooms destroyed.

    “They are fearful when these things are happening.”

    It’s an issue the elementary teachers’ union is lobbying the government to address — arguing its members are twice as likely as secondary school teachers to take time off because of workplace violence, noting that rate in general is higher for education workers than for other professions.

    Some relief is on the way. Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said in an interview the province has added $219 million to a local priorities fund for boards across the province to hire 875 teachers and 1,600 education workers to help address the problem.

    In the Durham public board, that means 27 new educational assistants and 13 full-time elementary and five secondary special education teachers, said superintendent John Legere.

    He also said the board regularly reviews staffing levels, and “we intend to provide some additional support” to Beau Valley, in terms of special education staff.

    The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario is urging the government to fund more staff this fall — from educational assistants to social workers to counsellors to psychologists — as well as implement better training and reporting procedures.

    President Sam Hammond acknowledged the government has made “some progress on these issues, (but) there is much more work to be done . . . We’re talking about the need for more services to address children’s mental health, as well as the need to ensure that funding for special needs is also allocated to front-line support services to help ensure the success and well being of every student.”

    Hunter said the province is also working with the unions and the Ministry of Labour to ensure health and safety rules are being followed, incidents properly reported and training improved. Enforcement teams will visit every board starting this fall, she added.

    “Everyone who is under the roof of a school needs to feel safe and included in their work environment, and students also need to be safe,” Hunter said, adding that changes will be made so that all staff have the information they need about the students in their classroom, which doesn’t happen consistently across the province.

    “It’s important if there are certain sensitivities or certain triggers that that information is shared so that our students can be supported.”

    In Durham Region, local ETFO president David Mastin heard so many concerns that last fall, the union conducted a survey to find out what exactly was going on.

    “The worst case this year was a member whose head was smashed against a desk, and she was off for several months,” he said. When she returned to work, it was to the same situation, with no extra help.

    The survey of his 2,500 members — of which 791 responded — found that more than three-quarters feel unsafe sometimes or always, and almost one-quarter had filed violent incident claim forms. Some 60 per cent said they were the victims of violence but had not officially reported it.

    “It is a major part of this conversation — the education perspective, the teacher perspective. We talked about kids witnessing this day in and day out,” said Mastin. “It’s a gender issue, too — I have significant concerns about students who are going home after witnessing violence against women.”

    One special education teacher in the Toronto board said he’s happy with ministry initiatives on youth mental health, but what’s needed is early intervention. Integrating students with behavioural issues into mainstream classes is the goal, he said, but they must be properly supported or their learning, and that of their classmates, suffers.

    As it has at Beau Valley, said Oshawa mom Tanya MacLeod, who describes her two daughters as anxious or sometimes fearful to go to school.

    “The school is in distress,” she wrote to officials last fall in her unsuccessful pitch for extra staff. “I do feel the teachers are doing all they can but do not have the appropriate support to deal with these situations . . . Also, how can learning exist when children’s routines are constantly disrupted and learning is sidelined?”

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    The myth: The beaver etched on our five-cent coin can’t possibly compete with more majestic symbols, such as Britain’s lion or the U.S. bald eagle. But the rodent doesn’t just represent an idea of strength and fierceness — it played a role in the founding of Canada.

    Beaver pelts hang from racks in the cavernous warehouse of North American Fur Auctions in northwest Toronto, one of only a few places in the world where wild fur is still sold to the highest bidder.

    Nearby are neat rows of lynx and bobcat skins from the southern U.S., as well as farmed mink, all divided into sample lots so bidders can examine the quality of the fur. A slightly sour smell wafts off the dried unprocessed skins.

    A grader pulls a bundle of red-tinged beaver pelts onto a table for inspection, explaining how the fur has been burned by urine, which can happen after a winter of beavers crammed one on top of the other in their lodge.

    Above, the patter of the auctioneer plays over the warehouse speakers, piped in from the adjacent bidding room — “Selling Lot 172. Let’s start this one off at $20. Do I have $20?”

    The auction house can trace its roots to 200 years before Canada was founded, when beaver pelts were in such demand they set a standard of trade for other goods — four pelts for a pint of brandy, two for a pair of boots and 10 for a three-foot gun.

    Sales of beaver at NAFA — which was founded by the Hudson’s Bay Co. but is now owned by fur farmers and trappers — have been eclipsed by other fur such as wild bobcat, lynx and even coyote. And by millions of farmed minks.

    But there’s no diminishing the animal’s place in Canadian history — even if Late Night host Stephen Colbert recently mocked it by cutting away to a photo of a beaver in a suit during a reference to our minister of natural resources.

    The beaver may be a buck-toothed rodent but it fuelled the fur trade, and therefore the economy here, for hundreds of years.

    Still, not everyone is happy with the beaver’s prominence as the only animal that is an official emblem for Canada.

    In 2011, Conservative Nicole Eaton told fellow Senators the “dentally defective rat,” which wreaks havoc on her dock each summer, should be replaced with a “polar bear, with its strength, courage, resourcefulness and dignity.”

    Her remarks incited support from some Ottawa-area farmers whose trees had been felled and lands flooded, but the majority of the response was negative, she told Maclean’s at the time, and she dropped it.

    But the debate proved the industrious mammal’s ability to repopulate after the fur trade nearly wiped it off the map.

    Beavers have made a comeback, and there are now anywhere from six to 12 million of them in Canada, more than the estimated six million at the start of the fur trade. Many of them are living close to humans, and their ability to build a dam in days, and flood a forest, corn field or cottage creates frustration. There are now so many that an industry has grown up around removing “nuisance beavers,” which account for a fifth of the beaver pelts auctioned off at NAFA.

    Others defend the animal as “nature’s architect,” a reference to its ability to manufacture an environment that is essential to its survival.

    They are “one of the fantastic species when you look at the way they modify the habitat,” says Pierre Canac-Marquis, a trapper and biologist, retired from Natural Resources Quebec. “It really takes some knowledge, some intelligence, because it’s a very complicated process,” he says of building a dam out of sticks and mud.

    The water it holds back keeps the beaver safe from predators and provides easy access to the trees on shore. Beavers pile up branches in front of their lodges so they have food when the water freezes in the winter months.

    “They spend six months like this, in the full darkness,” says Canac-Marquis. “Otherwise the species would never survive.”

    Their downfall began in the 1600s, when Europeans were colonizing North America. Beaver hats were so valued by Europeans that the Eurasian species — Castor fiber— had already been hunted to near extinction in the Old World.

    The animal was highly prized because its luxurious under-fur could be removed from the skin and processed into a felt that was waterproof and could be formed into a variety of shapes, from top hat to the later bicorne synonymous with Napoleon.

    The North American species, Castor canadensis, was a close enough match. It’s estimated at least 100,000 pelts a year were sent to Europe.

    Old skins worn by Indigenous trappers during the hunting season were particularly prized by the Europeans because the long guard hairs of the beaver had already fallen out to reveal the duvet, the beaver’s soft inner fur.That meant it was easier to felt.

    For hundreds of years, trade was strong because Indigenous people valued the metal goods and tobacco they could get from the Europeans in exchange for a creature they could trap in abundance, says Ryan Hall, an assistant professor of history and Canadian studies at U of T.

    “And making it even better, the furs that the Europeans most wanted were old furs that had been worn for a while,” says Hall.

    But the exchange also introduced sinister elements to Indigenous populations such as disease, war and later, the treaty system, he says.

    “I think it’s important to remember that the fur trade was sort of the opening phase of colonialism,” says Hall. “And even at the time, if traders bought into it voluntarily and enthusiastically when it began, in retrospect this is the opening phase of an incredibly destructive process.”

    The lust for the animal ended in the 19th century, when silk hats became fashionable, but by then, the beaver population was nearly hunted to extinction in some regions.

    In the ’30s, provincial governments halted trapping for a number of years. Beavers were reintroduced by air to areas of the wild where they were low in number.

    Populations increased and by 1980, about 522,000 beaver pelts were harvested. The popularity of wild fur ended when the stock market crashed in 1989 and a recession set in two years later, says Alan Herscovici, a former executive director of the Fur Council of Canada, which represents the industry.

    Today, beaver accounts for a minute proportion of Canada’s fur trade, fetching about $3.25 million at auction in 2014, less than 1 per cent of all sales. Like most fur, it’s shipped overseas for manufacturing to countries such as Korea, China and Russia.

    But reminders of the fur trade remain.

    The beaver, which was given national emblem status in 1975, is on our five-cent coin — as it was on our first stamp — as well as in the Hudson’s Bay logo and other emblems such as Montreal’s coat of arms.

    It’s estimated that half the trappers in Canada — about 2,500 — are Indigenous. Many of them live on reserves where companies such as HBC built trading posts.

    Riley Sakakeesic, 45, remembers rushing home as a youth from school to hear his grandfather’s stories, one about trading a pile of beaver pelts for a gun where he lives in Big Cat First Nation, which once had a trading post run by Hudson’s Bay. The Ojibwa reserve is about 180 kilometres northwest of Sioux Lookout, Ont.

    The part-time trapper, the lone employee of the local airport, still catches beaver. It’s mostly for the meat, as there is little money in it.

    In 1945, a pelt fetched $50, which would be about $800 today. Now, they go for $15 at market, although trappers can sell the anal glands for another $10. The glands contain castoreum, which can be used in perfume and vanilla flavouring.

    The North West Co., which had fierce fights with HBC for trading dominance in the west, still operates department stores called Northern Stores, in parts of Canada.

    Sakakeesic says trappers will sell marten pelts for as little as $15 there when they can’t wait for the next auction in North Bay — the only other wild fur auction in North America — where the pelts can fetch more than $100.

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    To celebrate our country’s birthday, the Star is showcasing 150 of the quintessential Canadian sporting characters and moments of the last 150 years. In Part 4 of our 10-part series, we shed light on some of the more disappointing and heartbreaking events in our history:

    Ben Johnson

    He seemed to redefine what was humanly possible in 1988 when he exploded out of the blocks and crossed the line in 9.79 seconds to win the 100-metre sprint at the Seoul Olympics.

    Ben Johnson was so far ahead he had to glance back at his American rival Carl Lewis when he raised his right arm in the air to indicate that he was No. 1.

    And the 26-year-old Canadian was — for two days — until his lab tests came back positive for anabolic steroids and he was stripped of his Olympic gold medal and world-record time.

    Canadians who had stayed up late to watch the thrilling race on TV and felt buoyed by his triumph now owned his humiliation as well.

    Coming in the glamour event of the Summer Games, it set off one of the worst scandals in Olympic history. And for Canadians those wounds were held open long after Johnson left Seoul thanks to the two-year-long Dubin Inquiry into the use of banned substances in sport.

    “A gold medal — that’s something no one can take away from you,” Johnson had said.

    Except it was, with Johnson serving as the first high-profile athlete to be stripped of gold.

    Johnson was by no means the only runner in that Olympic final who had used banned substances — it’s since been dubbed the “dirtiest race in history” — but he is the one that left Canadians jaded about the state of sport and heartbroken, to some degree, for Johnson, who took what he was given, and for Canada’s tarnished reputation for fair play.

    Sylvie Frechette

    Four days before she was scheduled to leave for Barcelona to compete at the 1992 Olympics, Sylvie Frechette returned home from practice to discover her fiancé had committed suicide in their Montreal condominium.

    If anyone deserved things to go well at those Olympics it was Frechette and, after delivering the best albatross spin of her life in the figures portion of the solo synchronized swimming competition, she thought it had.

    Four judges scored her in the mid-9s but the fifth judge, who had intended to give her a 9.7, recorded 8.7 by mistake and was unable to make the recall button work or attract the attention of the referee before the results were disclosed publicly which, according to the rules, made them impossible to change.

    She outscored her American rival Kristen Babb-Sprague in the final routine but not by enough to overcome the points deficit from the judging error and was awarded the silver medal. Canada appealed but it wasn’t until 16 months later that the governing bodies relented and finally awarded Frechette the gold medal she’d rightly earned.

    Tom Pate

    Football is a sport that is inherently dangerous with gigantic men heavily padded and extraordinarily strong colliding at high speed in a confined area.

    And tragedy can strike at any time.

    On the afternoon of Oct. 18, 1975, Tom Pate of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, a rookie in just his 12th game as a professional, was blocked, his head thudding against the McMahon Stadium turf.

    Pate suffered an aneurysm on the play and never regained consciousness, dying three days later in a Calgary hospital.

    It remains the only fatality directly linked to a single play in CFL history and the 23-year-old Omaha native and graduate of the University of Nebraska is memorialized today by the Tom Pate Outstanding Community Service Award, given annually by the CFL Players Association.

    Bill Barilko

    There may be no greater feeling of accomplishment for an NHL player than to score the goal that wins the Stanley Cup.

    Imagine, if you can, how Bill Barilko would have felt on the night of April 21, 1951, when his overtime shot past Montreal Canadiens goalie Gerry McNeil powered the Toronto Maple Leafs to a Cup win.

    It was the last goal he would ever score, a heartbreaking story of glory followed by tragedy.

    That August, Barilko, a native of Timmins, Ont., took a fishing trip to Seal River, Que., with his friend and dentist Henry Hudson and, on their return, the single engine plane they were travelling in crashed north of Cochrane, Ont., far off their charted course, and all aboard perished.

    Search parties tried and failed to locate the plane for years. Finally, in June 1962 and just weeks after the Leafs ended their 11-year drought with another Stanley Cup victory, the wreckage was discovered by a helicopter pilot.

    Battle of the Brians

    Brian Orser carried the Canadian flag into the opening ceremonies of the 1988 Calgary Olympics. With that flag, he knew he carried a nation’s love and support but also additional pressure to beat American Brian Boitano and deliver Olympic gold for a nation that had never won one on home soil.

    Both men were their national figure skating champions and each had a signature triple jump in their arsenal. They were so close after the compulsory figures and short program it would come down to the long program to decide the gold medal.

    Boitano skated first and was technically flawless. Orser went next. He received higher artistic marks but he stepped out of a triple flip, a small mistake as these things go in figure skating, and it impacted his technical score.

    That tiny step cost Orser the victory. It was so emotionally wrenching for him that he couldn’t bring himself to even watch the video of his otherwise extraordinary Olympic skate until a full decade had passed.

    Greg Moore

    The 24-year-old from Maple Ridge, B.C., had it all. He was a five-time winner on the Champ Car circuit, had an Indy Light Series championship to his credit and held a bright, unlimited future — until the unspeakable happened.

    Coming out of a turn on the 10th lap of the final race of the 1999 CART season, the Marlboro 500 at the California Speedway in Fontana, Moore lost control, sliding violently onto the infield grass at a speed estimated at greater than 320 kilometres an hour, flipping and then colliding with a concrete infield wall that crushed his body between his mangled vehicle and the wall.

    And in those few seconds, a life, a career, a future was lost. The sustained massive head and internal injuries and was pronounced dead not too long after in a California medical centre.

    Perdita Felicien

    The reigning world champion leapt from the starting blocks and powered to the first hurdle as she had so many times before. But, on this day in the final of the 2004 Athens Olympics, when perfection mattered most, Perdita Felicien’s lead leg hit the hurdle hard, throwing her off balance and crashing into the Russian runner in the next lane.

    The 100-metre hurdles is a race of nerves and milliseconds but it was unimaginable that the Pickering, Ont., runner, a gold-medal favourite, could be brought down in that fashion.

    That crushing race would also turn out to be Felicien’s last appearance on the Olympic track. A foot injury forced her to pull out of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a false start at the 2012 Canadian trials kept her from making it to London, ending an eight-year search for redemption.

    No golds in Montreal

    Imagine a time when television networks didn’t broadcast 24 hours a day. Imagine a time when one of them signed off with a stirring video that included a dramatic Olympic high jump moment. Imagine a time when a country could celebrate that moment, even though it didn’t result in a Games gold medal. Imagine Canada and the worst performance by a host nation in Olympic history.

    That jump from Greg Joy — part of CBC’s nightly au revoir for years after the 1976 Montreal Games — resulted in one of five silver medals won by Canada, which up until the 2010 Vancouver Games was the only host nation that had failed to win a gold medal.

    Silvers went to Joy, canoeist John Wood, swimmer Cheryl Gibson, a men’s medley relay swim team that included Stephen Pickell, Graham Smith, Clay Evans and Gary MacDonald, and Michel Vaillancourt in equestrian, but not one athlete among the 385 Canadians who took part in the 173 events in 23 sports could mount the top of the medal podium.

    Nagano men’s hockey

    To this day, almost 20 years later, the question resonates.

    How could they have a shootout and not use Wayne Gretzky?

    Such will be the historical lament for the first Canadian men’s Olympic hockey team to include the stars of the NHL, a heavily-favoured squad that came away from the 1998 Nagano Games without a medal of any colour.

    The lingering point of contention is a semifinal loss to the Czech Republic where head coach Marc Crawford submitted his list of players for the shootout without including The Great One. He instead wrote down the names of Theo Fleury, Ray Bourque, Joe Nieuwendyk, Eric Lindros and Brendan Shanahan — all five were stopped by future Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek — and Canada fell 2-1 to the eventual gold-medal winners.

    To make matters worse, a Canadian team devastated by the semifinal loss could not summon the fortitude needed to get up for the next day’s bronze medal game, one they wound up losing 3-2 to Finland, leaving them with little more than sad, bitter memories.

    Blue Monday

    So close. And yet so far.

    Baseball fans in Montreal were ready to celebrate like never before on Oct. 19, 1981, when the Expos were playing the deciding game of a best-of-five series with the Los Angeles Dodgers at Olympic Stadium with a spot in the World Series on the line.

    Then it became Blue Monday.

    In a 1-1 tie heading into the top of the ninth inning, Expos manager Jim Fanning called on ace starter Steve Rogers to preserve the deadlock. Rogers got two outs and all looked good until Rick Monday of the Dodgers slugged a solo home run to give Los Angeles the lead, and the series.

    The Expos got two men on in the bottom of the ninth but closer Bob Welch got the final out and Montreal’s best shot at a World Series was gone.

    Harry Jerome

    From 1959, when he broke a 31-year Canadian record in what was then called the 220-yard dash and ran one of his many world-record-equalling 100 metres, through to 1968, when he ran his final race at the Mexico City Olympics, Harry Jerome posted more world-class performances than any sprinter of his era.

    He co-held the 100-metre world record of 10 seconds flat and won gold medals at the 1966 Commonwealth Games and 1967 Pan Am Games, but the Olympic victory that Jerome sought eluded him at three consecutive Summer Games — he pulled a muscle in the semifinals in Rome in 1960, won bronze medal in 1964 in Tokyo, then finished seventh in Mexico City — and he never truly got the respect he deserved.

    Little known at the time of his bronze-medal win was that two years prior, while competing at the Empire Games, he had torn a muscle in his left thigh so severely that there was doubt he’d ever walk properly let alone race again. That last-place finish, coupled with his semifinal showing in Rome, resulted in some sportswriters labelling him a “quitter,” an unjustified description for a man who was among the best in his sport.

    Moscow Olympic boycott

    Elfi Schlegel was a 16-year-old gymnast with an Olympic dream. She had been training 30 hours a week for as long as she could remember in hopes of making the Canadian team for the Moscow Games and she succeeded — only Canada didn’t go.

    After the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Canada joined the United States-led boycott of the 1980 Games.

    “It was devastating,” Schlegel said some 30 years later. “It left a hole in my heart.”

    The boycott left a generation of Canadian athletes like Schlegel robbed of their chance to compete when they were at their very best.

    “Later in your life you live with people saying, ‘Oh, you didn’t go to the Olympics,’ as if that was the be-all and end-all and nothing you ever did in your career meant anything.”

    Christine Girard

    Elite weightlifting has long been rife with doping and winners from countries that, unlike Canada, do not run anti-doping programs designed to catch cheaters.

    That’s why it’s so incredible that Christine Girard, who has faced true testing her entire career, managed to become so strong and skilled that she won two Olympics medals against such great odds.

    But the woman who started competing when she was just 10 years old and dedicated 17 years to a hard training regime didn’t get her chance to proudly stand on the podium at the 2008 Beijing Games, as Canada’s first female Olympic medallist in weightlifting, nor did she get to hear the national anthem played for her at the 2012 London Games as Canada’s first ever champion in the sport.

    In 2008 she finished fourth and in London she was third, and it wasn’t until years later that sample retesting discovered how many of those ahead of her had cheated, resulting in her rise in the medals. So far she’s officially been moved to bronze for Beijing and silver for London but with the gold medallist recently disqualified, Girard is waiting for her final upgrade to the gold she rightfully earned.

    Barkley Marathons

    After running up and down mountains in the backwoods of Tennessee for three days and two nights, Gary Robbins hit the yellow gate marking the finish of the Barkley Marathons six seconds past the 60-hour cut-off.

    He was hoping to become the first Canadian finisher of a race that only 15 people over three decades have ever completed, and the idea that someone could be so close and yet still not make it was a heartbreaking story in April that reached well beyond the tight-knit ultra running world.

    Robbins’ own personal heartbreak was more intense.

    He knew that his single-minded drive to finish — “there was nothing else in the universe that existed for me other than a yellow gate and 60-hour timeframe,” he said afterwards — led him bushwhack down a mountain after losing the proper trail and across a chest deep raging river that easily could have killed him.

    Shawn O’Sullivan

    The levels of heartbreak for Canadian boxer Shawn O’Sullivan are almost unimaginable for a star since diagnosed with brain damage from the cumulative effect of his career.

    A gold-medal favourite as a light middleweight at the 1984 Olympics, the Cabbagetown product was basically robbed of a gold, losing to American Frank Tate despite giving Tate two standing eight counts in the three-round bout, a 5-0 verdict booed lustily by even the pro-American audience in Los Angeles.

    O’Sullivan won his first 11 bouts as a professional before being battered by Jamaica’s Simon Brown in Toronto, a letdown in front a home crowd that was devastating.

    His home was burglarized in 2007 and thieves made off with nine rings that were emblematic of not only his athletic prowess and accomplishments but his rich Irish heritage, a lifetime worth of memories gone.

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    SANTA ANA, CALIF.—Eleven days after laying his son to rest, Frank J. Kerrigan got a call from a friend.

    “Your son is alive,” he said.

    “Bill (Shinker) put my son on the phone,” Kerrigan said. “He said ‘Hi Dad.’ “

    Orange County coroner’s officials had misidentified the body, the Orange County Register reported Friday.

    The mix-up began on May 6 when a man was found dead behind a Verizon store in Fountain Valley.

    Kerrigan, 82, of Wildomar, said he called the coroner’s office and was told the body was that of his son, Frank M. Kerrigan, 57, who is mentally ill and had been living on the street.

    When he asked whether he should identify the body, a woman said — apparently incorrectly — that identification had been made through fingerprints.

    “When somebody tells me my son is dead, when they have fingerprints, I believe them,” Kerrigan said. “If he wasn’t identified by fingerprints I would been there in heartbeat.”

    Frank’s sister, 56-year-old Carole Meikle of Silverado, went to the spot where he died to leave a photo of him, a candle, flowers and rosary beads.

    “It was a very difficult situation for me to stand at a pretty disturbing scene. There was blood and dirty blankets,” she said.

    On May 12, the family held a $20,000 funeral that drew about 50 people from as far away as Las Vegas and Washington state. Frank’s brother, John Kerrigan, gave the eulogy.

    “We thought we were burying our brother,” Meikle said. “Someone else had a beautiful sendoff. It’s horrific.”

    The body was interred at a cemetery in Orange about 150 feet from where Kerrigan’s wife is buried.

    Earlier, in the funeral home, the grieving Kerrigan had looked at the man in the casket and touched his hair, convinced he was looking at his son for the last time. “I didn’t know what my dead son was going to look like,” he said.

    Then came the May 23 phone call from Shinker. Kerrigan’s son was standing on the patio.

    It was unclear how coroner’s officials misidentified the body.

    Doug Easton, an attorney hired by Kerrigan, said coroner’s officials apparently weren’t able to match the corpse’s fingerprints through a law enforcement database and instead identified Kerrigan by using an old driver’s licence photo.

    When the family told authorities he was alive, they tried the fingerprints again and on June 1 learned they matched someone else’s, Meikle said.

    Easton said the coroner’s office provided the Kerrigan family with a name of that person, but the identification hasn’t been independently confirmed. The attorney said the family plans to sue, alleging authorities didn’t properly try to identify the body as Kerrigan’s son because he is homeless.

    Sheriff’s Lt. Lane Lagaret, a spokesman for the coroner’s office, said the department extends regrets to the Kerrigan family “for any emotional stress caused as a result of this unfortunate incident.”

    Lagaret said in a statement Saturday that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is conducting an internal investigation into the mix-up and that all identification policies and procedures will be reviewed to ensure no misidentifications occur in the future.

    The mistaken death identification led the federal government to stop disability payments for her brother, Meikle said. The family is working to restore them.

    Meikle said her brother chose to return to living on the street and doesn’t understand how hard the mistake was on his family.

    “We lived through our worst fear,” she said. “He was dead on the sidewalk. We buried him. Those feelings don’t go away.”

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    When Daniel Mazzone walked away from home at age 15 to live on the streets, he wasn’t just leaving behind the comfort of his family and their residence, but also a passion for art his art-instructor mother ignited in him over years toiling over stained glass and ceramic pieces.

    As he slept in Scarborough movie theatres that only charged $2 for admission and took shelter in mall bathroom stalls, little did he know he would one day become one of Toronto’s most sought-after artists with celebrity customers and a six-month waiting list.

    After nearly five years of homelessness, the now 37-year-old says, “I was thinking I have got to get off the street. I am going to die here ... I wanted to make a difference. I didn’t just want to be another person going through the motions.”

    So just shy of his 20th birthday, Mazzone headed back to the home he had fled amidst what he calls “topsy turvy” times, graduated from high school and became a mortgage broker.

    But something was still missing.

    “It wasn’t me,” he said. “Once Monday came, I was looking forward to Friday. I needed an outlet.”

    That’s exactly what he found when he was channel-surfing one day in 2011 and he came across a television show featuring artwork. It brought back floods of memories and reignited his artistic passion. He bought a canvas, five feet by four feet and “at first, I was going to paint, but then I thought, I don’t really know how to paint,” he says.

    Then he remembered an old newspaper collection he had and some of the stained glass techniques his mother had taught him. They inspired him to start creating a collage of Robert De Niro’s Taxi Driver character Travis Bickle — the first hints of an art-pop style he’s developed to include bright flourishes, newspapers dating back to the days of Napoleon and George Washington, and depictions of Michael Jackson, Prince, Charlie Chaplin, Queen Elizabeth and Frida Kahlo.

    Months later he had a home full of fresh works and a friend, the owner of the now-closed old-school Italian hot spot Centro, was begging to hang one at the restaurant, in hopes of selling it.

    Mazzone was reluctant. He had never envisioned selling his work and he wasn’t sure anyone would like it. The pieces usually cost him between $1,500 and $2,000 to make and he was afraid they wouldn’t fetch enough to cover the costs, but eventually agreed and handed over a piece featuring John F. Kennedy.

    “(My friend) called me a few days later and said ‘I sold your picture for $14,000,’ ” recalls Mazzone. “I dreamed about being an artist as a kid and I sort of lost that dream because I didn’t think it was possible. That was the moment where I realized it was going to be possible.”

    He quickly quit his job. Soon after Blue Jays star Jose Bautista, then fresh from his bat flip fame, spied one of Mazzone’s pieces — a Babe Ruth baseball card crafted with old New York Times pages — on a mutual friend’s Instagram account.

    Bautista desperately wanted it for his home, reached out and now he owns about seven of Mazzone’s works and has passed on the admiration to teammate Marcus Stroman, who Mazzone recalls first meeting at his exhibit at the ritzy 1 Hotel in Miami’s South Beach.

    “He had seen the pieces at Jose’s house, but didn’t know I was the same artist.”

    Mazzone directed him to a baseball card-style piece of Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball’s first African-American player. Stroman was hooked, as were businesswoman/investor Arlene Dickinson, luxury watchmaker François-Henry Bennahmias and Tampa Bay Rays part-owner Randy Frankel, whom Mazzone counts among his customers.

    The Tanenbaum family, who is among the world’s top 200 art collectors, have even scooped up some of his work. Dickinson’s co-star Michael WekerleDragons’ Den co-star Michael Wekerle, who bought eight of Mazzone’s pieces the day he met the artist and has now racked up 10, has even gone so far as to pronounce him “the next Andy Warhol.”

    “As an artist, you look up to these sorts of people. Even being compared to the same class as him is quite an honour,” says Mazzone. “It’s big shoes to fill. That’s obviously the dream.”

    And it’s a dream he says he’ll be happily working towards with his mother, who’s always on call to look at photos of his work he sends to her for advice, cheering him on.

    “She was one of those people that maybe couldn’t put everything down and do (art) and give it her all because she had kids at 17 and once you have a family, your priorities are different,” he says.

    “She’s saying, ‘you’re doing what I always wanted to do’ ... It’s really nice to have that and to be doing something that I really love every day.”

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    BAHAWALPUR, PAKISTAN—An overturned oil tanker burst into flames in Pakistan on Sunday, killing 153 people who had rushed to the scene of the highway accident to gather leaking fuel, a hospital official said as the death toll continued to rise.

    Dr. Javed Iqbal at Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital in south Punjab said the latest deaths occurred at a hospital in Multan where some of the 50 critically injured, many of whom suffered extensive burns, had been taken.

    The death toll could rise further as dozens are still in critical condition, said Dr. Mohammad Baqar, a senior rescue official in the area. There were dozens of other injuries of varying degree, he said.

    Local news channels showed black smoke billowing skyward and scores of burned bodies, as well as rescue officials speeding the injured to hospital and army helicopters ferrying the wounded.

    Saznoor Ahmad, 30, whose two cousins were killed in the fire, said the crowd of people screamed as the flames engulfed them.

    “The fire moved so fast,” he said. When the flames subsided the field was strewn with bodies, and nearby were the charred shells of motorcycles and cars that the villagers had used to race to the scene.

    As the wounded cried out for help, residents wandered through the area looking for loved ones.

    Zulkha Bibi was searching for her two sons.

    “Someone should tell me about my beloved sons, where are they? Are they alive or are they no longer in this world? Please tell me,” she pleaded.

    The disaster came on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. While Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim countries celebrated the holiday Sunday, Pakistanis will mark it on Monday.

    The tanker was driving from the southern port city of Karachi to Lahore, the Punjab provincial capital, when the driver lost control and crashed on the national highway outside Bahawalpur.

    A loudspeaker atop a local mosque alerted villagers to the leaking fuel, and scores raced to the site with jerry cans, said Rana Mohammad Salim, deputy commissioner of Bahawalpur.

    Highway police moved quickly to redirect traffic but couldn’t stop the scores of villagers who raced to collect the fuel, spokesman Imran Shah told a local TV channel.

    When the fire erupted, the same mosque loudspeaker called on the remaining villagers to help put it out.

    Mohammed Salim ran toward the smoke carrying buckets of water and sand, but said the heat was too intense to reach those in need.

    “I could hear people screaming but I couldn’t get to them,” he said.

    Abdul Malik, a local police officer who was also among the first to arrive, described a “horrible scene.”

    “I have never seen anything like it in my life. Victims trapped in the fireball. They were screaming for help,” he said.

    When the fire subsided, “we saw bodies everywhere, so many were just skeletons. The people who were alive were in really bad shape,” he said.

    Eyewitnesses said about 30 motorcycles that had carried villagers to the accident site lay charred nearby. Eight other vehicles were destroyed, they said.

    A state of emergency was declared at the Victoria Hospital in Bahawalpur, said Dr. Iqbal. Within 15 minutes of the fire the hospital had called in extra doctors and nurses, and had formed a team to handle the emergency.

    Iqbal said most of the patients suffered burns to upward of 80 per cent of their bodies. After being stabilized 22 patients were transferred by C-130 aircraft to hospitals in the provincial capital, Lahore. Some of the most badly burned were evacuated by army helicopters to Multan, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) away.

    The dead included men, women and children. Many were burned beyond recognition, Baqar said, and will have to be identified using DNA testing.

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    Every year, when Lucah Rosenberg-Lee goes to Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village to celebrate LGBT pride, he wears a rainbow sticker on his chest that says “Trans.”

    And every year, like clockwork, a stranger asks him why he is impersonating a transgender man.

    The thing is, Rosenberg-Lee isn’t impersonating anybody. The 28-year-old Toronto man is transgender, a fact that some people, even pride revellers in the heart of the city’s gay village, find hard to believe.

    Why? Rosenberg-Lee’s best guess is that he “passes” easily. In other words, he doesn’t “look” transgender. He looks cisgender: like a person whose sex assigned at birth lines up with his gender identity. He also comes off as stereotypically heterosexual, leading some to believe that he’s a tourist at Pride, not a card-carrying member of the club.

    “Because I am a Black man,” he says, “people (in the gay village) sometimes think I am going to be homophobic or that I’m a voyeur looking at them. It’s tiring because I just want to fit in.”

    Instead, he stays away. Like many young LGBT Torontonians, Rosenberg-Lee lives and works in the west end, and he travels to the gay village very rarely, either to attend social events during Pride month in June, or to access transgender specific resources at the 519 community centre or the Sherbourne Health Centre. If these opportunities ceased to exist, he’s fairly certain he wouldn’t visit the village at all.

    This is the dissonant truth about Toronto’s gay village. For at least a decade, a lot of young queer life in Toronto has coalesced outside the village proper, in smaller bars along Queen St. W. and Dundas St. W., or in Kensington Market, Parkdale, and Leslieville.

    Even though Church St. between Wellesley and Carlton — a colourful strip of bars and clubs offering drag performances and trivia nights — still remains the heart of the city’s gay village and a popular address of LGBT tourism in Canada, it is not necessarily the heart of LGBT activity in the city.

    Hence the paradox: this weekend marks Toronto’s 37th annual Pride parade, the largest public display of LGBT unity in the nation. But the space in which that celebration takes place is anything but united.

    “The village,” says Jane Farrow, co-editor of Any Other Way, a new anthology chronicling queer life and history in Toronto, “is not coherent. It’s never been that way and it’s not that way now.” LGBT people have “sought out mixing and mingling outside the village for decades,” she says, but gentrification, real estate speculation and the popular misconception that gay people are a moneyed set have added to this incoherence in recent years.

    “Mostly people are not going to the village in the numbers that they were but there hasn’t been a change in the rental rates to reflect that.”

    According to Jade Pichette, community outreach co-ordinator at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, LGBT people — a large number of them gay men — flocked to Church St. in the 1950s and ’60s because rents were cheaper than they were on Yonge St., but it was still close to popular gay hangouts at the time, such as the King Edward Hotel. In fact, says Pichette, the village and its surrounding area (particularly Allen Gardens) have been a gay destination since the early 1800s. Alexander Wood, the Scottish merchant and Toronto magistrate from whom the village’s Alexander St. and Wood St. get their names, is considered a gay icon himself. The story goes that in the early 1800s a young woman claimed to have scratched her attacker’s genitals during a sexual assault. Wood inspected the genitals of several suspects in the neighbourhood looking for signs of such an injury.

    Today, LGBT people don’t need pretexts in order to get intimate with each other. Their rights are more or less accepted throughout the city, a factor that in addition to gentrification and real-estate speculation has contributed to LGBT people going elsewhere.

    But where exactly are they going?

    Catherine Jean Nash, a professor at Brock University who studies geographies of sexualities, points out that today Toronto’s LGBT population is “stretching out across the city,” in what appears to be a western migration. Nash’s take is necessarily vague; it’s difficult to determine precisely where Toronto’s LGBT people reside because to date the federal census has not asked about sexual orientation. But Nash says that while doing research about seven or eight years ago, she began to notice queer women migrating west. New destination neighbourhoods included Queen West — a.k.a. “Queer West” — and Parkdale. These are neighbourhoods with a vibrant LBGT presence and, most notably, a female presence; something the village — overwhelmingly a home to bars and clubs that serve gay men — sorely lacks. (Slacks, Church St.’s flagship lesbian bar, closed in 2013).

    Cultural events have begun moving in the same direction: the Drake and Gladstone hotels, on Queen West are now major hubs of Pride activity come June.

    “I think it’s a generational thing,” says Enza Anderson, of the westward migration. Anderson is a 53-year-old transgender woman who has lived in and around the gay village for several years. She ran for mayor in 2000, and today she works as an administrative assistant for the Bank of Montreal. I interviewed her on a warm May evening at a bar in the village called Woody’s, famous home to the infamous “best ass contest” — a beauty pageant for a single rarefied piece of male anatomy.

    Anderson says one of the leading factors in the thinning out of village life is social media. Pre-Internet, she says, “in order to connect you had to come down and hang out at the bars and cruise . . . now, with online dating, and hookup apps, it’s kind of demystified everything.” Today she thinks of Toronto as a city of “sub-villages” — the original Church-Wellesley Village being a place a lot of younger people visit but don’t live in.

    This raises the ominous question: is the outcome net-positive or net-negative when a minority group leaves its safety net for good? Is the gay village becoming to LGBT Torontonians what Little Italy is to Italian Torontonians, or Chinatown is to Chinese Torontonians? In other words, a place where members of a minority group meet one another for drinks and dinner but seldom stay to put down roots? Are we headed into a future where there are more rainbow flags hanging on buildings in the village than actual queer people living inside them? A term Rosenberg-Lee used to describe the village? “Theme parky.”

    But Michael Erickson, owner of Glad Day, an LGBT bookstore, café and bar on Church St., believes speculation about the village’s decent into Disney World status is premature.

    “I think people forget that some of the most marginalized LGBT people who face the most risks and barriers still see this neighbourhood as their home base,” he says. According to Michael Schneider, program co-ordinator at the AIDS Committee of Toronto, the village remains vital for the more than 20,000 people in Toronto living with HIV because it’s home to pharmacies that specialize in HIV medication. It’s also vital to people who are newly out and new to Toronto. And especially to newcomers to Canada, like Yvonne Jele, a lesbian refugee from Uganda, who made her way to Church and Wellesley only a few days after stepping on Canadian soil last year. “I was surprised to notice that there was a whole street where people of the LGBTQ community were free to express themselves,” Jele told me. “I noticed the little shops, bars, hangouts and even rainbow colours on the roads. Rainbow flags flying high, it was all intensely exciting and scary as well, because it was a new culture to me. The village is of great importance to the LGBTQ refugees.”

    In fact, people like Jele may be the tip of a movement that’s extremely rare for any minority group that has felt the siren call of assimilation: a return to ground zero. It’s possible the village is experiencing the first stirrings of a renaissance. Michael Erickson thinks so. The fastest-growing demographic at Glad Day, he says, are people under 30. He also believes the bookstore “must have the highest ratio of queer women at a bar on Church St.” Glad Day, previously a bookstore accessible up a flight of stairs on Yonge St., relocated last year to a ground level space on Church, a move that many in the neighbourhood have heralded as a game-changer. “More people are out (on the street), even in the winter,” says Pichette, since the store relocated.

    And the hybrid nature of Glad Day, from booze to baristas to books, may be the key to the village reclaiming its prodigal children — and seniors.

    People have abandoned the village in the past because it’s not in enough, or because it’s too in. But true assimilation is true normalization, a regression toward the mean of variation. Some people like to party; some people like to read; some people like to be able to be who they were meant to be for the first time in their lives, without fearing for their lives.

    Even Lucah Rosenberg-Lee, who has reason to be skeptical, sees a chance for redemption of the place. “It’s a little theme parky. But I’d be sad if it was gone.”