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Canadian weightlifter in line for London 2012 gold medal after doping revelations

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 18:02:01 EDT


Canadian weightlifter Christine Girard’s bronze medal from the London Olympics could be upgraded to gold after the two women who finished ahead of her were nabbed in doping retests.

“It looks good for Christine if that’s the case,” Canadian Weightlifting Federation president Paul Barrett said.

The International Weighlifting Federation announced Wednesday that samples of 11 weightlifters from the 2012 Games showed positive results.

Svetlana Tsarukaeva of Russia, who finished second in the women’s 63-kilogram division, was among the 11 athletes. She tested positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, an anabolic steroid.

Gold medallist Maiya Maneza of Kazakhstan was already caught testing positive for stanozolol in an earlier batch of retesting

Medals in London were determined by the sum of each lifter’s best result in the snatch and the clean and jerk, with three attempts allowed in each.

Girard narrowly missed out on silver in 2012, finishing third with a total of 236 kilograms behind Tsarukaeva at 237. Maneza totalled 245 kilograms.

Both Tsarukaeva and Maneza have been provisionally suspended but it would take months, or even years, for a redistribution of Olympic medals.

“These people still have a right to appeal and the right to a second test,” Barrett pointed out.

Girard placed fourth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The CWF president said Girard was tested a lot during her career.

“She has been,” Barrett said. “She would have tested at both those Olympics because she was a medallist (in 2012) and she was in fourth place (in 2008).

“I know she’s been tested on many occasions. We won a gold medal at the Pan Americans in 2011. She won medals at the Commonwealth Games, so she’s been tested.”

Barrett said he has not been contacted by either the IWF or the Canadian Olympic Committee about a possible upgrade for Girard.

Women’s weightlifting made its Olympic debut in 2000. Girard was the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic medal in the sport.

Girard grew up in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., but now lives in the Vancouver area. The 31-year-old is married with children. She and husband Walter Bailey co-founded the Kilophile Weightlifting Club in Surrey, B.C.

Shot-putter Dylan Armstrong of Kamloops, B.C., was upgraded from fourth to the bronze medal almost seven years after the 2008 Beijing Olympics due to doping.

Cross-country skier Beckie Scott of Vermilion, Alta., moved up from bronze to gold two and a half years after the 2002 Winter Games when the medallists ahead of her were caught doping.


Why does Toronto‚??s east end hate everything?

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 12:20:00 EDT


Over the years, residents in the east end neighbourhoods of Leslieville and the Beach have complained about everything from breweries to music festivals and even a mysterious hum only some can hear.

But the region’s latest grievance – that toddlers playing in a park are too loud – has some wondering whether the east end doth protest too much.

“NIMBYism at its worst. This is why the Beach has such a bad rep in the city,” wrote one member of The Beaches Facebook group. “Give me a break, get a life. Let kids be kids,” wrote another.

“It’s probably just our demographic here,” said Beach Village BIA director Jessica Wright. “We’re bringing in some younger people but at this point it’s still a little bit of an older crowd.

“They’re used to kind of a sleepy neighbourhood a little bit.”

Local councillor Gary Crawford said recent complaints about a children’s sports program in Lynndale Parkette — in the Upper Beaches along the border with Scarborough — were related more to safety than noise; people were worried about the number of cars coming onto the quiet street.

“I’m hoping that there’s no NIMBYism here,” Crawford said.

Liz Rykert, co-founder of Shape My City, understands the frustration that noisy new businesses or music festivals can bring, but said neighbours in residential areas such as the Beach and Leslieville need to work together to find solutions.

“There’s so many things going on in Toronto that people are sometimes like, ‘Enough already. I just want to sit on my porch and have a quiet evening’,” she said.

Things Leslieville and the Beach have complained about:

Beer

Neighbours of Left Field Brewery worked themselves into a froth in 2015 over the sound of chatter and laughter coming from its customers.

Music

Toronto’s popular Afrofest music festival was threatened with having its two-day permit curtailed after residents near Woodbine Park complained about the noise last year.

Food trucks

In 2013, food trucks stationed in Woodbine Park as part of a city-led pilot project were driven out after residents complained about noise and exhaust fumes.

The homeless

The news that an 80-bed homeless shelter was planned for Leslie Street north of Eastern Avenue prompted a flood of concerns from residents concerned about crime and property values.

Soccer

Ryerson University turfed plans to upgrade the soccer field at St. Patrick High School in June, after an outcry from residents worried it would cause traffic jams.

A mysterious ‘hum’

According to some residents, there’s a maddening, low-frequency hum that’s always present in Leslieville. Its existence has not been proven, some east enders have reported hearing it constantly for months and even years.


Clinton is only qualified candidate, Obama says

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 12:00:15 EDT


PHILADELPHIA—The third day of the Democratic National Convention in one Joe Biden word: “malarkey.”

A critical campaign evening formally devoted to national security turned into a mocking all-hands-on-deck assault on the credibility and character of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who was depicted by a procession of high-profile speakers as a phoney, a charlatan, a dilettante.

“Folks, you cannot believe one word that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth,” said Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine. “Our nation is too great to put it in the hands of a slick-talkin’, empty-promisin’, self-promotin’ one-man wrecking crew.”

The night was capped with a stirring address by President Barack Obama, who sought at once to defend his legacy and repudiate Trump’s vision of a dystopic nation beset by threats from dark-skinned foreigners.

Twelve years to the day of his star-making address in 2004, Obama presented Trump as a hatemongering extremist out of step with the values of the “generous, big-hearted, hopeful country” country he is vying to lead.

Obama said the values of his grandparents from Kansas — kindness, hard work, humility — are cherished by all Americans, from people wearing cowboy hats to people wearing Muslim hijabs.

“They’re as strong as ever, still cherished by people of every party, every race, and every faith. They live on in each of us. What makes us American, what makes us patriots, is what’s in here,” Obama said, touching his heart. “That’s what matters.”

And the president placed the Republican nominee in the same category as the very Islamic terrorists on whom he has focused.

“Anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end,” Obama said. Turning a Republican icon against the Republican nominee, he said, “Ronald Reagan called America a shining city on a hill. Donald Trump calls it a divided crime scene.”

“And that is not the America I know,” he said. “The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity. The America I know is decent and generous.”

Obama was preceded by an impassioned address by his vice-president. Alternating between a furious shout and a near-whisper, appealing to the white working people with whom Hillary Clinton has struggled, Biden described Trump as a mean-spirited know-nothing merely pretending to care about average Americans.

“He’s trying to tell us he cares about the middle class? Give me a break. That’s a bunch of malarkey,” Biden said.

“He has no clue about what makes America great. Actually, he has no clue, period,” he said.

At that, the crowd at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center launched into a thunderous chant of “not a clue.”

“There’s only one person in this election who will help you,” Biden said. “There’s only one person in this race who will be there, who has always been there for you. And that’s Hillary Clinton’s life story. She’s always there. She’s always been there.”

The third night of the four-day convention was sprinkled with unusual appeals to moderates and conservatives worried about Trump’s unorthodox behaviour.

Mitt Romney, the last Republican nominee and now a Trump critic, was featured in a video series of conservatives depicting Trump as deranged. The Democrats rose in passionate applause when a retired navy rear admiral defended the previous Republican nominee, John McCain, from Trump’s disparagement of his capture during the Vietnam War.

And former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire and political independent who was elected as a Republican, delivered a scathing takedown of Trump’s business record, lending his credibility as a bona fide titan to a case the Democrats have tried to make for weeks: Trump as a fake, merely playing a tycoon on television.

“I’m a New Yorker. And I know a con when I see one,” Bloomberg said. Calling his fellow Manhattanite a “dangerous demagogue” and a “risky, reckless and radical choice,” he added: “Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.”

Bloomberg also raised a point the Democrats have been loath to address: Trump’s mental health. In a direct appeal to fellow independents, he said, “Let’s elect a sane, competent person.”

The night served as a national introduction for Kaine, a folksy Virginia senator. In his typical conversational manner, and occasionally in Spanish, Kaine described his work as a civil rights lawyer, Jesuit missionary and governor.

And then he turned to the task for which some Democrats worried he was ill-suited: savaging Trump. He took special aim at one of the businessman’s favourite phrases: “Believe me.”

“It’s gonna be great — believe me!” he said, deepening his voice in a poor Trump impression. “We’re gonna build a wall and make Mexico pay for it — believe me! We’re gonna destroy ISIS so fast — believe me! There’s nothing suspicious in my tax returns — believe me!”

“Here’s the question,” Kaine concluded. “Do you really believe him? Donald Trump’s whole career says you better not.”

Trump, as is his habit, managed to seize headlines early in the day, this time with a statement perhaps more extraordinary than any other of his gonzo campaign.

At a news conference at one of his Florida resorts, he explicitly asked Russian intelligence to find a way to obtain the personal emails that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton deleted from her controversial private server, almost explicitly asking a foreign power to spy on America.

“Russia, if you’re listening: I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said at a bizarre news conference at his resort in Doral, Fla. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.”

The explosive invitation to a foreign government alarmed virtually everyone else in U.S. politics and appeared to catch even his own campaign off guard. Aides and surrogates scrambled to offer implausible and contradictory explanations.

Trump was just making a “joke,” Newt Gingrich wrote on Twitter. Trump was not egging on hackers, said senior adviser Jason Miller, just inviting Russia or anyone else in possession of the emails to “share them with the FBI immediately.”

But almost nobody was convinced, and Clinton’s campaign had former military officials rewrite their speeches to include shots at him.

“That’s not law and order. That’s criminal intent,” said retired navy Rear Admiral John Hutson. “It is inconceivable to me that any presidential candidate would be that irresponsible,” said former defence secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta.

Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats emphasized the threats of gun violence and climate change over Daesh terrorism.

“Trump says global warming is a hoax. I say Trump is a fraud,” said California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Showing unprecedented assertiveness on gun policy, Clinton’s campaign put forward seven consecutive speakers who advocated more restrictions.

Related:

Obama tasked with getting Democrats to work together

Photos: Day 3 of the Democratic National Convention

Tidbits from Democratic National Convention Day 3: A Canadian fails to deliver a cheesesteak pledge

Donald Trump wants Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s ‘missing’ emails


CMHC adds new cities to its list of overheated housing markets

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:18:36 EDT


Canada’s housing agency says there is evidence of increasingly “problematic conditions” in the national home market, prompting it to upgrade its assessment of the country’s troubling signs from weak to moderate.

One of those signposts has been planted just down the road from Toronto in the neighbouring city of Hamilton.

A third-quarter report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) on Wednesday said overvaluation in Hamilton was similar to that of Toronto’s property market.

That means home prices are higher than would normally be explained by factors such as population, employment and income.

There’s no specific data proving Torontonians are moving west on the QEW in search of cheaper housing, said Abdul Kargobo, CMHC analyst for the city of about 520,000 people.

“But if we look back to 2013, we do see that Hamilton is attracting some buyers that are priced out of Toronto because Hamilton is relatively affordable,” he said.

The economic development department in Hamilton recently reported its average home price of $451,000 was nearly half that of Toronto’s $940,000.

“The sales-to-new-listings ratio was 84 per cent, reaching its highest quarterly level on record and significantly above the 75-per-cent threshold used to identify evidence of overheating,” said CMHC’s Housing Market Assessment report.

The other hot Toronto-area market is Durham Region, according to CMHC analyst Dana Senagama. The east end of the region is attracting many first-time buyers with housing prices that are significantly lower, she said.

“There are supply constraints, but the advantage Durham has is that it is about 50 per cent less on average in terms of house pricing,” she said.

The Toronto area’s housing vulnerabilities continued to be termed “strong” in the third quarter. But, in its latest report, CMHC put Vancouver in the same assessment category.

Both cities are experiencing overheating, overvaluation and price acceleration according to the CMHC study and each has consumers paying record sums in aggressive bidding wars.

On Monday, the British Columbia government also announced a 15-per-cent tax on property transactions involving foreign buyers, also considered to be a factor driving that market.

Also contributing to CMHC’s national assessment is a combination of overvaluation and overbuilding in cities such as Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina, said Bob Dugan, the agency’s senior economist.

If CMHC detects more broad-based price acceleration in the future as Toronto and Vancouver market conditions spread to neighbouring areas, its next assessment could be upgraded further from moderate to strong, he said.

Average Toronto home prices climbed 16.8 per cent year over year in June, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

A lack of single-family homes has continued to push Toronto prices higher.

“Fewer launches of new single-detached projects in recent years meant demand has been increasingly absorbed by the resale market,” said CMHC.

That, in turn, is pushing more buyers into condos and a low vacancy rate in the rental market is also helping absorb unsold highrise units, it said.

The report is further evidence, the building industry said, that provincial intensification polices are driving up home prices in the Toronto area.

“The homebuilding industry has been consistent in its advocacy to increase housing choice in the GTA marketplace. The industry is building far fewer lowrise homes, especially single-family detached homes, today because we are mandated to,” said Bryan Tuckey, CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association.

The CMHC assessment is based on a number of signals in 15 major Canadian markets.

The objective is to identify signs of instability in housing prices.


Canadian woman arrested in California with 38 kg of heroin

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 11:10:41 EDT


MODESTO, CALIF.—Police in Central California say they arrested a Canadian woman allegedly carrying 38 kilograms of heroin after a police dog alerted his handler to drugs inside her pickup truck during a traffic stop.

The Modesto Bee reports 63-year-old Kathleen Landry, of British Columbia, was arrested Monday on Highway 99 in Modesto.

Modesto Police spokeswoman Heather Graves says investigators would not release the moving violation allegedly committed by the driver that led to the probable cause for the stop.

Graves says patrol officers, with the assistance of the Modesto Narcotics Enforcement Team, obtained a search warrant for the truck and recovered 38 kilograms of heroin with an estimated street value of more than $2 million (U.S.)

Landry was arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance for sales and transportation of a controlled substance.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 (209) 521-4636


Boy charged with criminal negligence after girl dies in Caledon crash

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 11:03:00 EDT


A boy has been charged with criminal negligence causing death after a girl died in a single-vehicle crash in Caledon early Tuesday.

Ontario Provincial Police said the boy and the girl were both younger than 16 and both in the car during the crash.

They said the girl, who was the passenger, was pronounced dead at the scene. The boy was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The crash happened at about 4:15 a.m. on Highway 10. Police said the car was travelling north on the highway when it crossed into the southbound lanes and struck an object in the ditch.

The boy, who cannot be identified because of his age, faces several charges, including criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.

He is set to appear in court in Orangeville, Ont., Friday.

OPP Highway Safety spokeswoman Lynda Cranney said collisions involving young drivers without licences are rare, and not something for which the force compiles statistics.

There have been a few recent cases of underage drivers killing or injuring others in Ontario.

A 16-year-old Toronto boy was killed in 2010 when he was ejected from a car driven by a 15-year-old boy.

In 2013, two 13-year-old boys and one 15-year-old boy who police allege were driving a stolen truck were arrested in Oshawa and charged with several offences. The province’s police watchdog found the boy driving the truck lost control of the vehicle and seriously injured three pedestrians.

In 2011, a York Region police officer was killed after stopping a teen at the wheel of a minivan. The 15-year-old drove away, dragging Const. Garrett Styles for several metres before the vehicle rolled over and pinned the officer.

The driver, who is now quadriplegic as a result of the crash, was found guilty last year of first-degree murder in connection with the incident. He was sentenced to nine years of conditional supervision rather than prison time.


Ontario man pleads guilty to cheating lottery group out of $7M prize

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 12:58:07 EDT


An Ontario man who pleaded guilty after trying to trick a group out of a $7-million lotto win says he still “can’t make it up to them” more than three years after the betrayal.

In a St. Catharines courtroom Tuesday, Frank Galella, 67, entered a guilty plea to theft over $5,000 and counselling to commit the crime of false pretenses, tied to an attempt to keep the jackpot in the family rather than splitting it among his 10 fellow Lotto 6/49 winners.

“Am I feeling all right? Of course, I’m not feeling all right,” Galella said from his home in Niagara Falls.

“I can’t make it up to them.

“I’m a Catholic,” Galella added. When asked if he has he been to confession recently, he replied: “Not lately.”

It all started in late July 2013. Galella, acting in his regular role as “group captain” of his Niagara-area lottery crew at the time, shelled out $11 for a $7-million jackpot draw, said OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti. He said the group won with a string of seven lucky numbers on July 31, 2013 — but the 10 other men on the ticket didn’t seem to know it.

Instead, Galella’s daughter, Joanne Galella, now 35, and his son appeared at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. prize centre at Yonge and Dundas Sts. in Toronto, presenting the winning ticket, Bitonti said.

The cash never made it into the family’s hands.

“From my understanding, (Frank Galella) told the group members that (their ticket) wasn’t a winner, but that his daughter won,” Bitonti said. “That’s when the suspicions arose.”

All ticket claims over $1,000 go through a brief review process, but “the one piece of information we don’t have is who bought the ticket,” he said. The OLG doesn’t record the identity of lotto ticket buyers, he said.

Soon after the supposedly exclusive jackpot, group members got suspicious.

“I was quite surprised,” said Angelo Long, one of the 10 men who would eventually collect their rightful winnings in the draw.

Calls to OLG from some of the 10 other winners — still uncertain of the windfall that awaited — escalated into a police probe and eventually to the Ontario Provincial Police’s investigations and enforcement bureau, attached to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

In a release Wednesday, the OPP stated: “Mr. Galella was the group leader of a lottery group that won $7,036,047 in a Lotto 6/49 draw.

“In an agreed statement of fact read before the courts, Mr. Galella enlisted the assistance of two family members to claim the winning Lotto 6/49 ticket as their own.”

Frank Galella, who was the 11th member of the group, was arrested in October 2014.

His daughter was charged in connection with the case, which is still before the courts, according to a St. Catharines courthouse staffer.

Frank Galella is due back in court for sentencing on Sept. 8, 2016, in St. Catharines Superior Court, according to an OPP press release.

He’s the only one who hasn’t come forward to claim his share of the loot. He did not offer a reason for holding off on collecting the cash.

Bitonti said there’s no apparent reason for OLG, a Crown corporation, to withhold it should he show up, “but we’re not proactively going after him.”

Ultimately, Bitonti said OLG documents from the winners, dated and signed from July 2013, showed them to be the rightful winners — along with Frank.

The 10 other winners received their novelty cheque in October 2014, each basking in about $640,000 of jackpot cash.

The 11 Ontarians typically played “quick pick” computer-generated numbers, gambling on two $11 tickets for each of the Wednesday and Saturday Lotto 6/49 draws, Bitonti said.


Blue Jays loss to Padres can be traced back to Martin‚??s sauna mishap: Griffin

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:34:32 EDT


In some convoluted, twisted way, the genesis of Wednesday’s ugly 8-4 Blue Jays loss to the Padres with R.A. Dickey on the mound can be traced to catcher Russ Martin’s not-so-excellent misadventure with the sauna and shower Friday.

Due to a combination of circumstances, mixed with manager John Gibbons’s on-the-fly strategy, Dickey was pitching on short rest, taking over Marco Estrada’s turn in the rotation. He allowed seven runs in 5 2/3 innings, despite just four Padres hits.

It seems not to have worked, so why do it? What’s the best reason for flipping Dickey and Estrada? He can play, but Martin is still nursing that twisted knee from his freak shower slipup, dizzied, it seems, by too much time in the sauna. Because of that, given the 12-inning night game Tuesday, Josh Thole would have been asked to catch Wednesday vs. the Padres. So instead of having his backup catcher Wednesday and again for Dickey on Friday, Gibbons chose to flip the two assignments. Unfortunately Dickey struggled once again, three straight losses since the break.

“It may not be the results we want, but I’ve got no doubts about that,” Gibbons said of the imperfect storm that led to his decision.

“I actually thought he had a pretty good knuckleball today. They got some big hits, a couple of homers and then a big double. There’s a lot of reasons we did it, didn’t work out I don’t regret that at all. I tip my hat and appreciate (Dickey) doing it for us.”

The bad news for the Jays is Dickey’s record dropped to 7-12, with a 4.66 ERA. It was the fourth game this season in which he allowed six earned runs, a season high. More bad? In his past two starts, both home losses, studying the last 39 batters faced by the 41-year-old knuckleballer, he has allowed 11 hits, including two doubles and four homers, with six walks, three hit batters and 13 runs. The opponent batting average is .367 and his OPS 1.346. He is five games under .500.

This is usually the time of the season when Dickey’s fortunes begin riding an upward path towards a winning record, much as it happened last year. Does he ever allow self-doubt to creep in after these three tough outings in a row coming out of the all-star break?

“I think it’s only human,” he said. “You question some of the methods, some of the selections. You go back and watch tape and think maybe I should have done this differently or what-not. At the end of the day, if I’ve learned anything through my experiences as a baseball player, you’ve got to have blinders on and trust the pedigree. I know it’s in there. It’s been in there for a number of years. I still have a third of my season left. There’s reason for optimism there and I’m going to roll it out.”

The good news for the Jays is Estrada will benefit from two extra days of rest for his wonky back that is good enough to pitch, but far from perfect. Plus, he will have the familiar Martin behind the plate instead of Thole. The all-star right-hander returned from the 15-day DL last Friday against the M’s and will be pitching on his seventh day. In fact, against the first-place O’s, the Jays will have their three most effective starters — Estrada, followed by J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez.

There was no score into the third inning Wednesday, but with one out, Dickey plunked Brett Wallace and allowed a homer to left by third baseman Adam Rosales. Recall that in his previous start vs. the M’s, the knuckleballer hit two batters in a row setting up a decisive Nelson Cruz grand slam.

The Padres have homered in 25 straight games, the longest streak in the majors this year and a franchise record. The major-league record for consecutive games with a home run is 27 by the Texas Rangers in 2002. With 123 homers in 102 games, the Padres are on pace for a franchise record.

In the fourth, the usually reliable Jays defence let Dickey down. With two out, he allowed a walk, then catcher Christian Bethancourt ripped a double to the centre field wall. Kevin Pillar bobbled the carom, then dropped it. Ezequiel Carrera then got the ball to Devon Travis whose one-hop relay bounced off Josh Donaldson with Dickey in the wrong position to back up the throw. Both runners scored. That must certainly be a jarring sight for a manager who is more used to seeing his club on “Plays of the Night.”

“We play better than that,” Gibbons said. “It’s one of those plays that happens every now and then, but that’s rare for us. What happens sometimes is that ball’s in the gap and there’s a chance for (a triple). It’s tough to slow yourself down to grab that thing. That’s unusual for us.”

The Jays, trailing 5-0, scored without benefit of a hit in the fifth inning on alert baserunning by Travis. He walked and advanced to second, reading a ball in the dirt that did not get out of the catcher’s shadow. He advanced to third on a grounder, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Darwin Barney. The Jays added three more in the sixth, sparked by a two-run double by Pillar.

The two newest Blue Jays joined in. Melvin Upton, Jr. played left and batted cleanup, with a hit and a run. Right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit made his debut in a shutout ninth inning.


City of Toronto investigating removal of trees on North York property

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 19:24:43 EDT


The “clear cut” of about 30 trees, including a towering 150-year-old Linden, from a controversial development site on leafy Bayview Ave. has enraged neighbours and the local city councillor.

City staff are investigating and say no permit was issued to remove trees on lots at 103 and 108 Bayview Ridge across from the Canadian Film Centre, south of York Mills Rd.

“Obviously it’s devastating for the neighbourhood,” said Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25 Don Valley West). “It’s really deplorable. I’ve had phone calls from people in tears.”

Robinson described the lot as having been “clear cut.”

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approved townhouses and detached homes on the lots, each previously with a single-family home, at the north and south corners of Bayview Ridge at the intersection with busy Bayview Ave.

Approval from the provincial appeal body came after neighbours objected to an application to the city for an official plan amendment and zoning bylaw amendment to allow something other than single-family homes.

Philip Russel, who lives next to one of the lots, said neighbours were shocked to discover the heavily treed lots cleared down to mud, trunks strewn about including a massive Linden — a flowering tree favoured by bees.

“They're screwing up the planning process, they're making a farce of the work we’ve been doing for a year,” working with Robinson and others to find a compromise, Russel said. “It’s very sad.”

City reports on the redevelopment applications list M Behar Planning and Design Inc. as the contact.

Behar told the Star he had nothing to do with tree removal and to contact Ali Mohtashami of Pegah Construction Ltd. Mohtashami didn’t respond to a request for comment on this article Wednesday.

Arthur Beauregard, Toronto’s manager of urban forestry tree protection, said in an email that the city “is actively investigating potential tree bylaw contraventions at this site.”

“The process for anyone or any company where tree bylaw-regulated street trees, or private trees, are involved, is to apply for and obtain a permit prior to tree removal.”

Beauregard said the city would not release further details.

Penalties for illegal removal under Toronto’s tree bylaw are a minimum of $500 per tree, and a maximum of $100,000 per tree. There is also provision for a rarely applied “special fine” of $100,000.

Robinson said she hopes that the city cracks down on illegal tree removal. The fact that it happens despite regulation suggests fines need to be higher, she said, so “they are not just a line item in a developers’ budget.”

There are several other townhouse applications pending for Bayview Ave., Robinson added, criticizing the OMB for approving such developments.

“It’s completely transforming the area,” Robinson said of developers snapping up lots. “A lot of houses are empty or for sale. What was once a very beautiful vibrant neighbourhood is becoming a ghost town.”


Storm ends girl‚??s bid to cross Lake Ontario less than 300 metres from shore

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 20:40:16 EDT


Less than 300 metres from shore, with thunder and lightening crashing around her, 14-year-old Maya Farrell was forced to abandon her attempt to be the youngest swimmer ever to cross Lake Ontario.

With Farrell swimming into the teeth of a storm after nearly 24 gruelling hours in the water, swim master Miguel Vadillo said he was forced to call off the swim for Maya's safety.

“I left it as long as I possibly could,” he said by phone from Maya's support boat, while the storm still raged around them.

“Maya's being checked out by the team doctor now. She threw up a few times, and is totally exhausted,” Vadillo said.

Had Farrell succeeded in reaching the tip of the Leslie Street Spit, she would have claimed the record by a mere few weeks over current titleholder Trinity Arsenault.

At around 7:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Farrell and her team were nearing the shore at Vicki Keith Point when a huge thunderstorm blew in and pushed them farther out into the lake.

It was a crushing defeat after coming so close to her goal, Vadillo said.

“Maya is such a special girl, she deserves so much credit,” he said.

The swim was a fundraising effort for Music Heals, a charity that uses music therapy to help seniors, children’s hospital and palliative care patients, at-risk youth and people living with HIV and AIDS.

Farrell began her marathon from Niagara-on-the-Lake on Tuesday, hitting the water at 7:59 p.m.

Swimming through the night, she wore glow sticks so her support crew could see her and followed the lights of her three support boats.

Farrell told CTV Ottawa that the swim was her grandfather’s idea. He had recently cycled across the country raising money for a charity and, because Farrell’s a swimmer, “he said I had to do it,” she said.

To prepare, Farrell trained for over a year in pools and open water, doing everything from long-distance endurance swims to short intensity workouts.

Weeks before the swim, she completed a 30-kilometre practice swim, and the required 16-kilometre trial swim that all potential Lake Ontario swimmers must complete.

Vicki Keith, a marathon swimmer who crossed the lake five times, including a two-way swim and the only crossing using the butterfly stroke, knows exactly what the water feels like. The chilly waters of the Niagara River flow deep across the lake. As swimmers approach the Toronto Islands, that cold water gets pushed up against the islands to the surface.

“At the hardest point of the swim, when you’re the most exhausted, that’s when it gets the coldest,” she said.


Nova Scotia family angered by Air Canada‚??s treatment of teen travelling alone

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 19:23:48 EDT


The family of a 15-year-old boy who was bumped from an Air Canada flight and left to sleep alone overnight on the floor of Pearson airport while travelling solo is calling on the airline for a change of policy toward minors.

Hayden Levy was returning to Nova Scotia after a three-week visit with his father in Winnipeg when he and about 14 other passengers were bumped from their connector flight, he said. It was scheduled to depart for Halifax from Toronto at 8:50 p.m. on July 13.

A second flight, scheduled for around 11:30 p.m., saw Levy and others boarded onto a plane only to be shuffled off again due to a thunderstorm that cancelled the trip.

“I just lied (sic) out on the carpet . . . . I could see the planes through the windows,” Hayden said. “It wasn’t very comfortable. Every once in a while you’d hear a loud noise . . . like a floor-cleaning machine.”

In an emailed statement, an Air Canada spokesperson said the company “had no indication in the booking file that Hayden was a 15-year-old teenager travelling alone.”

The airline’s policy offers “special assistance” to solo travellers under 18, wrote Angela Mah. That includes arranging for a hotel room with a chaperone or, if a suite isn’t available, relying on “back-up plans involving staff who stay with the child.”

“However, we can only take the appropriate action if we are made aware of the individual’s circumstances. Our gate agent was only made aware he was a teenager travelling alone the following morning.”

Levy and his family disagree. “I was ready to go to Toronto and get my son and tear a strip off somebody,” his mother, Kim Hillier, said.

Levy’s stepmother was with him at the check-in desk in Winnipeg and “specifically told them he was 15 years old,” Hillier said. “It was notified when he checked in. What happened after that I don’t know.”

Levy said none of the delayed passengers was given hotel vouchers — no rooms were available, Air Canada said. All received a $10 airport food voucher a $400 discount on their next Air Canada flight.

“Ten dollars in Toronto International Airport doesn’t go far to (feed) a 15-year-old boy,” said Levy’s grandfather Brian Truelove.

When he woke up around 5 a.m., Levy realized he still wasn’t sure how he would be getting home. A family friend on his way back to the Maritimes, who had spotted the teen in the airport the night before, accompanied him to a customer service desk where they confirmed he was on standby.

Levy made it to Halifax around 1 p.m. July 14.

Mah said the airline’s customer relations team has been in contact directly with the family to apologize and offer compensation.

“Operational challenges sometimes create a lot of activity at the gate and in this instance we were taking care of a large number of customers who were affected,” Mah wrote.

Levy’s mother took the ferry to shore from the tiny island where they live in Mahone Bay, arriving in Halifax in the morning after several false starts.

Hillier said Levy’s stepmother had also written on his ticket that he was a minor, and that he should have received “better care” from the airline.

Air Canada stressed the minor’s age should be noted at the point of purchase, “as ticketing is electronic and rebooking is done automatically based on this information.”

Levy’s grandmother booked his flight, an annual summer trip out West, through a travel agent.

The airline offers service to unaccompanied minors service for passengers aged 8 to 17. The full treatment costs $100 each way and means unaccompanied children are escorted by airline staff. It is mandatory for anyone aged 8 to 11 and optional for passengers aged 12 to 17

Even if a passenger doesn’t want the service, he or she should note their age for special assistance in situations like those Levy encountered, Mah said.

The teen’s grandfather says there’s no excuse for overlooking his age during check-in, and called for a change in policy.

“Because he is a minor he should never have been bumped,” Truelove said.

“You’re old enough to be bumped off a flight you were booked on, but you’re not old enough to be booked in a hotel, so you end up sleeping on the floor.

He said his grandson, who enjoys fishing for mackerel and “four-wheeling,” isn’t the type to kick up a fuss. “He’s an honest kid and believes that most people are honest.”

Air Canada states on its website that more than 10,000 young travellers fly unaccompanied with the airline each year.

“And regardless of whether they’re travelling on a short flight, or are embarking on a longer journey, our unaccompanied minor service ensures that children travelling alone receive the best of care, and are escorted by our highly trained staff from the moment they arrive at airport check-in until they reach their destination.”


Dozens of women raped by South Sudan soldiers near UN camp: witnesses

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 16:20:03 EDT


JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN—South Sudanese government soldiers raped dozens of ethnic Nuer women and girls last week just outside a United Nations camp where they had sought protection from renewed fighting, and at least two died from their injuries, witnesses and civilian leaders said.

The rapes in the capital of Juba highlighted two persistent problems in the chaotic country engulfed by civil war: targeted ethnic violence and the reluctance by UN peacekeepers to protect civilians.

At least one assault occurred as peacekeepers watched, witnesses told The Associated Press during a visit to the camp.

On July 17, two armed soldiers in uniform dragged away a woman who was less than a few hundred metres from the UN camp’s western gate while armed peacekeepers on foot, in an armoured vehicle and in a watchtower looked on. One witness estimated that 30 peacekeepers from Nepalese and Chinese battalions saw the incident.

“They were seeing it. Everyone was seeing it,” he said. “The woman was seriously screaming, quarrelling and crying also, but there was no help. She was crying for help.” He and other witnesses interviewed insisted on speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals by soldiers if identified.

A spokeswoman for the UN mission, Shantal Persaud, did not dispute that rapes took place close to the camp. The mission has documented 120 cases of rape and sexual violence against civilians throughout Juba since the latest fighting began, she said Wednesday.

“The mission takes very seriously allegations of peacekeepers not rendering aid to civilians in distress and the UNMISS force command is looking into these allegations,” Persaud said.

The reported assaults occurred about a week after rival government forces clashed in Juba, forcing opposition leader Riek Machar from the city and killing hundreds of people. As a ceasefire took hold, women and girls began venturing outside the UN camp for food.

The camp houses over 30,000 civilians who are nearly all ethnic Nuer, the same ethnicity as Machar. They fear attacks by government forces who are mostly ethnic Dinka, the same as Machar’s rival, President Salva Kiir.

As the women and girls walked out of the UN camp, they entered an area called Checkpoint, in the shadow of a mountain on Juba’s western outskirts. That stretch of road along one side of the camp saw some of the heaviest fighting and is lined with wrecked shops and burned tanks. It is now inhabited by armed men in and out of uniform.

In interviews with The Associated Press, women described soldiers in Checkpoint allowing them to leave to buy food but attacking them as they returned.

“When we reached Checkpoint, the soldiers come out and called the women and said, ‘Stop, please, and sit down,’ so we stopped and sat down, and they took one woman inside a shop,” a woman said. “Four men went inside the shop and they raped the woman while we three stayed outside.”

In another incident, one woman said a group of soldiers pulled two women and two underage girls from their group and gang-raped them in a shop, with more than 10 men to each victim. One girl later died, she said.

“I saw the men taking their trousers off and the ladies crying inside,” said a middle-aged woman. As she spoke, she began to cry. “They said, ‘This one belongs to me, this one belongs to me,’” she added.

Multiple Nuer women said soldiers threatened them because of their ethnicity or accused them of being allied with Machar. The women identified the soldiers as ethnic Dinka because of the language they spoke.

“One soldier came and he turned the gun to us. He said, ‘If I kill you now, you Nuer woman, do you think there is anything that can happen to me?’” one woman said. She said the soldier slapped her before another soldier intervened, allowing her to escape.

The number of rapes that took place outside the UN camp was unclear. The Associated Press interviewed more than a dozen witnesses of rapes or people who spoke with victims, both one-on-one and in small groups.

The Protection Cluster, a group of aid workers that monitors violence against civilians in South Sudan, noted a “significant spike in reported cases was observed on 18 July when large numbers of women began leaving (the camp) to travel to markets in town in search of food.”

The Protection Cluster said at least two victims are known to have died as a result of their injuries.

Civilian leaders in the UN camp have given estimates ranging from 27 to over 70 rapes from the time that women started venturing out for food. The United Nations says it received reports of dozens of cases. A South Sudanese rights group, the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, said it is investigating 36 reported rapes.

Hospitals inside the camp received four rape cases last week, including an underage girl who said she had been gang-raped by five men and a woman who said she had been gang-raped by five men and beaten, according to medical staff who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The number of victims reporting to clinics is believed to be lower than the actual total because of the stigma in Nuer culture attached to rape.

The rape of civilians has been a near-constant in South Sudan’s civil war which began in 2013, with both sides accused of using sexual assault, based on ethnicity, as a weapon of war.

Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang did not deny that rapes occurred after the latest fighting but said the military has yet to receive any formal complaints from victims.

Witnesses and aid workers accuse the armed UN peacekeepers, who are mandated to protect civilians with lethal force if necessary, of failing to act.

This is not the first time that UN peacekeepers have faced that accusation.

Last year, more than 1,300 women and girls were raped by government forces and allied militias during a scorched-earth campaign in Unity state, according to the Protection Cluster. Doctors Without Borders accused the UN mission of “complete and utter failure” to protect civilians there. The medical aid organization also blamed the peacekeeping mission over a government attack on the UN camp in the town of Malakal in February that killed about two dozen civilians. A UN investigation found confusion in command and control by UN forces.

In the latest clashes in Juba, residents of the UN camp accused peacekeepers of running away when the camp was shelled. Two Chinese peacekeepers were killed.

Aid workers said they asked the UN to increase patrols July 17-18 along the camp where women were most vulnerable, but that patrols in the area did not begin until July 21.

The UN has said it has increased patrols outside the camp in response to reported rapes.

One local woman, Christmas David, who said she was beaten by government soldiers but not raped, said the limited patrols were not enough.

“When the UN is moving, (the government soldiers) just stop the women and tell them to sit down,” she said. “When the peacekeepers leave the road, then they do the things.”


Const. James Forcillo to be sentenced for attempted murder of Sammy Yatim

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 17:37:02 EDT


Three years and one day after Const. James Forcillo shot and killed Sammy Yatim on an empty Dundas streetcar, he will be sentenced for attempting to kill the dying teenager by firing another six shots.

It is rare for a police officer to be convicted of unjustified use of force and rarer still for police officers to be sentenced to jail time.

But Forcillo’s case, as was repeatedly said during a five-day sentencing hearing in May, is unique — he is the only officer in Canada to have been convicted of attempted murder with a firearm while on duty, according to his lawyers. He is also one of the few people to be convicted of attempted murder when the victim died.

Forcillo, 33, faces a mandatory minimum of five years, but his lawyers have argued such a sentence would be unconstitutional and “grossly disproportionate” for a lawfully armed police officer duty-bound to act to stop a threat. Instead, they argued he should serve two years of house arrest.

The Crown argued that by shooting at Yatim a further six times when he posed no threat, Forcillo seriously breached the duty of care he owed the teenager in a state of crisis. An appropriate sentence is between eight and 10 years, they argued.

If Justice Edward Then rejects the defence’s constitutional challenge and bid for house arrest, it will mean there should not be a more lenient standard for police officers who use violence unlawfully, says criminal defence lawyer Reid Rusonik, who was not involved in the case.

“In that case, (police officers) should know going forward if they use force unlawfully, they will be judged like anyone else,” he said.

The public does have the perception that police get a free ride in the justice system, says Alan Young, a criminal law professor at Osgoode Hall.

He says it is difficult to compare sentences handed down to officers for serious offences to non-officers because charges and convictions for police officers are uncommon.

“When an officer comes before the courts, it is very important for the court to know the significance of their ruling,” he says. “If you don't bring accountability to law-breaking officers you erode trust between the police and the community. And the most divisive thing is perceived lenience given to police officers who break the law.”

Echoing a point made by Justice Then during the sentencing hearing, Carleton University criminologist Darryl Davies says the ruling must reflect that police already have special protections in the law allowing reasonable use of force. This case has clearly highlighted the need for police training reform, he says.

“Police officers must be held to a higher standard and that therefore means we need to rethink the whole process," he says.

Forcillo was acquitted of second-degree murder by a jury after a four-month trial that ended in January, a verdict that means the first three shots fired at Yatim, including the one that eventually killed him, were legal.

But the next six shots fired after a pause of five seconds went too far, the jury’s guilty verdict on the attempted murder charge suggests. Five of the six shots struck Yatim’s lower body, paralyzed from a previous shot to the spine.

It will be up to Justice Then to determine the facts of what happened that night based on the jury’s verdicts.

On the question of sentencing Forcillo to jail time, Then may consider that prison is known to be particularly dangerous for police. Officers who do go to jail are often kept in protective custody — effectively solitary confinement, says criminal lawyer Daniel Brown who was not involved in the case.

But in a case like this, involving a mandatory minimum prison sentence, it is unlikely to make a significant difference, he says.

“It is very rare for officers to spend any time in jail even when faced with very serious offences... but here there is no creative way around the sentence the judge must impose.”

In the case touted as most similar to Forcillo’s, that of an RCMP officer in Alberta who was convicted of manslaughter with a firearm after shooting an inmate, the officer served three months of his four year sentence in 2006 before being granted full parole.

Should Forcillo be sentenced to jail time, he is expected to seek bail pending appeal of his conviction and sentence. He may be released the same day.

He has already filed a notice of appeal on his conviction. His main argument is that the jury should not have been allowed to consider the murder charge and attempted murder as separate offences because both charges stem from one continuous act and as result the verdicts are inconsistent.

He also argues Then erred by refusing to allow the defence to present certain pieces of evidence to the jury, including testimony on “suicide-by-cop.”

It could take more than a year for the Court of Appeal to hear the case and rule on it. Depending on the result, the case could go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Forcillo also faces a police tribunal hearing that has been postponed until the sentencing is complete.

This story has been updated to state that Darryl Davies is a criminologist at Carleton University. A previous version of this story said he was a criminologist at University of Ottawa.




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