Friday, October 31, 2014

Man gunned down in North York plaza

TORONTO - Investigators are hoping surveillance video will help them track down the killer who gunned down a 26-year-old man at a North York strip mall.

Toronto Police say they responded to a call for the “sound of gunshots” late Thursday in the retail plaza on the southwest corner of Keele St. and Sheppard Ave. W. just before midnight.

Officers arrived to find the lifeless body of a man with “multiple gunshot wounds,” Homicide Det.-Sgt. Steve Ryan said in a statement released Friday.

The victim, whose name was not released, was pronounced dead in hospital, becoming the city’s 48th murder victim of the year.

The plaza remained cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape throughout Friday as police gathered evidence. No arrests have been made and no suspect description was released.

However, homicide detectives are reviewing video footage from security cameras in the plaza that may have captured the deadly shooting.

It’s not the first time someone has been gunned down at the strip mall.

Just after midnight on July 2, 2010, the plaza was packed with people following a fireworks display across the street at Downsview Park when gunfire suddenly erupted.

A man in his 20s was killed.

Investigators are appealing for witnesses.
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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tunnelling to Toronto's island airport

TORONTO - Word is the new tunnel under the 122-metre wide Western Channel that will convey people to and from the Billy Bishop (formerly the Port George VI, Toronto Island and then City Centre) Airport will be ready for use early next year.

This $82.5 million project was started two years ago, but for a number of reasons the anticipated completion date just wasn’t to be.

Interestingly, one of the reasons it wasn’t had to do with some interesting harbour history. At least that was one place where the contractor laid the blame. Love it, blame history even though the facts were there for all to see.

And just what was that historical “oversight”?

Apparently someone forgot to recognize the fact that nearly 80 years ago work had been started on a previous tunnel to the Island in the same location at the foot of Bathurst St.

Seems some of these old pilings were in the way of building the new tunnel and this along with an extremely cold 2013-2014 winter plus the city’s refusal to allow the use of explosives to cut through the bedrock led to unforeseen construction delays.

Obviously, someone isn’t a regular reader of this column or listener to my am740 radio show where the history of trying to build an Island tunnel has been explained several times.

And if you missed it yourself, here’s a brief recap.

One of the promises the federal government made when the newly organized Toronto Harbour Commission (now the Toronto Port Authority) came into being in 1911 was to provide funds for a bridge to Toronto Island. This may have been as a result of a conversation several local businessmen had with a senior government minister back in 1908. Minister Pugsley decided a tunnel for Toronto wasn’t important enough and nothing happened.

Then in early 1935 the Conservative government under R. B. Bennett made another promise, this time to give the City of Toronto $1 million to build a pedestrian tunnel under the Western Channel that would serve the proposed airport that was to be built at the west end of Toronto Island.

Work began, that is excavations were dug and steel pilings sunk, but with the change in governments following that year’s October 14 federal election the new Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, (who was no fan of Toronto even though his grandfather was our city’s first mayor) ordered that the Island tunnel project be re-evaluated.

To those of the Liberal persuasion it came as no surprise when on December 12 (just in time for Christmas) the funding was officially rescinded and more than 100 men put out of work.

Over the intervening years there have been other plans for either a tunnel or a bridge to the airport. Again nothing happened. But now fast forward 80 years to sometime in early 2015 and that illusive Island airport tunnel will finally open (assuming no more pilings are found and we don’t have another really cold winter).
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John Tory releases $2.48-million donor list for Toronto Mayor

TORONTO - John Tory is heading into election day having raised $2.48 million from more than 5,000 donors.

Tory’s campaign released his donor list on Saturday — a few hours after rival Olivia Chow called him out for failing to make the list public on Friday.

The list includes several high-profile names from politics, business and sports including former Ontario Premier David Peterson, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and grocery magnate W. Galen Weston.

But the list, like Chow’s list, doesn’t reveal how much money each person donated.

Chow’s campaign released its donor list on Wednesday and revealed that they’ve raised more than $1.7 million so far from 6,848 donors.

“We raised the money we needed to finance the campaign and we’ll probably have a surplus,” Tory said on Saturday — any surplus would go to the City of Toronto.

Mayoral candidate Doug Ford — who had yet to release his donor list by 5 p.m. on Saturday — said his list will come out but won’t compare to Tory’s list of donors.

“Mine’s not going to be as large as his by any means. But, we’ll release that. I have no problem whatsoever,” he said. “He raised $2.4 million. I probably raised a few hundred thousand.”

He went on to suggest Tory’s donors will be “waiting for the favours to be handed out.”

“He has $2.4-million. That’s a lot of favours, in my opinion,” Ford said.

Tory dismissed Ford’s comments.

“I think that is among the more ridiculous of his assertions,” Tory said. “I am a person that has prided myself on being able to have people see that I’m a person of integrity and would just never even contemplate that sort of thing. I mean it is crazy.

“We went out and raised the money and I’m very gratified at the success we had raising money including from lots of people who gave very small amounts. We had people come into our office with $10 in cash to give us.”

Chow’s campaign shrugged off the release of Tory’s donor list.

“Mr. Tory was forced into this by Olivia and the media and waited until the 11th hour to be transparent,” said Chow campaign spokesman Jamey Heath. “We prefer being the campaign with more donors because it shows broad support among average people.”
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Feds tell Maria Augimeri to stop 'misinformation' about Downsview Park

TORONTO - A federal cabinet minister has instructed a long-serving city councillor to stop spreading “misinformation” about plans for Downsview Park as she campaigns for re-election.

But York Centre (Ward 9) Councillor Maria Augimeri has dismissed the criticism, accusing the government of selling off pieces of the park.

“We urge Councillor Augimeri to stop the spread of misinformation and instead work with us to help deliver Downsview Park for the people of the city she represents,” Public Works Minister Diane Finlay said in a Sept. 17 letter.

Finlay insisted the federal government has spent millions on reintegrating the former military base into the community through the Canada Lands Corporation which has overseen work at Downview Park.

“The government’s position has been clear from the start: the parkland will not be sold,” Finlay said.

Anthony Fernando, who is running against Augimeri, said he wrote the minister to see if plans for the lands have changed. The current federal plan would see some development take place where old housing already exists on the base, not on the parkland portion.

He accused Augimeri of using fear of development to drum up votes.

“(Augimeri) knows fear is an effective motivator and she’s trying to scare them by creating a bogeyman with Downsview Park and portraying herself as the only one who will fight against it,” he said.

Fernando also alleged that Augimeri is using her taxpayer-funded office resources in her efforts to “save” Downsview Park. He’s filed a complaint with the city’s integrity commissioner, but says it won’t be heard until well after the election.

“At the very least we believe the citizens of Toronto and Downsview need to know the truth,” Fernando said.

But Augimeri countered parts of the park are currently up for sale.

“If it’s misinformation, it’s their misinformation. I’m using their maps,” she said of federal information used in her campaign literature.

Augimeri said Downsview-area residents don’t believe Fernando, adding that she’s been using her office resources to fight for the park for years and denying that the integrity commissioner is investigating.

“Does it matter what he’s saying?” she added. “After (the election) he’ll be gone. It doesn’t matter what he’s saying, right? People know that it’s not true because people in the community and I have been fighting for Downsview Park for 17 years.”

She also dismissed Finlay’s letter, predicting the federal Conservatives will lose their seat in the area over the issue.

“Who would believe them anyway?” she said. “There’s a for sale sign up there. There’s a sales centre. You can buy a house there now as we speak.”​​
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Arson eyed in North York townhouse blaze on Grandravine Dr.

TORONTO - Police and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office are probing a suspected arson at a North York townhouse.

Toronto Fire crews raced to the home on Grandravine Dr. — in the Jane St.-Finch Ave. W. area — around 4:20 a.m. Tuesday and quickly doused flames.

“It was escalated to a second alarm but firefighters were able to contain the flames to the kitchen,” Capt. Mike Strapko said Tuesday.

He said about 55 firefighters responded to the scene.

“The two occupants of the home managed to make it outside,” Strapko said, adding one person was taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

“And two cats were rescued from inside the home.”

Strapko said the blaze, which caused about $75,000 worth of damage, was deemed suspicious.

“Fire crews saw something out of the ordinary,” Strapko said, unable to elaborate.
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Andy Donato honoured by dad's Italian hometown

TORONTO - So far-reaching is the popularity of renowned Toronto Sun cartoonist Andy Donato, that he has been made an honorary citizen of his father’s hometown in southern Italy.

Donato, who was inducted into the Toronto-based Italian Walk of Fame earlier this year, is now an honorary citizen of Fardella, a town of around 400 people located in Italy’s southern Basilicata region. It’s a town Donato and his family have visited several times before. His late father, Luciano, was born and raised there before moving to Canada in 1922.

“I was doing one of my vacation painting trips, and my son and daughter went with me ... and my son, he wanted to go and see his grandfather’s hometown,” said Donato, who has done cartoons of Fardella which the town continues to display. “I think it was one of the things that (the town) looked at, that I’d become reasonably well known in Toronto and in Canada in some ways ... and they kind of wanted to honour me in that regard.”

The town will also be holding cartooning contests. Donato may end up being a judge, and first prize will be a scholarship towards a post-secondary art program.

For Donato, the honour is a sentimental one.

He explained that his father originally wanted him to become a doctor, a lawyer or take over the family’s Scarborough grocery store. However, he was supportive — albeit a tough critic — when Donato decided to follow his love of cartooning.

“He said to me, ‘Do you like what you’re doing?’ and I said, ‘I love it.’ He said, ‘Good, I’ll sell the store.’”
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Toronto’s condo crisis


“Life is a journey not a destination.”

Toronto voters appear to have adopted these words by American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson to signal their number one mayoral election issue: Transportation.

But I suggest we need to shift our perspective.

It really doesn’t matter how we get there if we don’t have a nice place to go.

A 2013 survey by Statistics Canada reveals one in eight households now live in condos.

In Toronto, 23% of the city’s population hangs “home sweet home” signs in their condos.

I live in one.

But according to the 2013 documentary, The Condo Game, there’s nothing sweet about it.

Toronto is rapidly expanding.

The city expects to double its current population of 2.8 million in the next 20 years.

In 2005, the province passed legislation banning urban sprawl, so the only place to put the new masses of people will be by stacking them one on top of the other.

Not surprisingly, the number of condo towers in Toronto has doubled in the last decade to 1,300. That number continues to grow.

Former city councillor and current Liberal MP Adam Vaughan says Toronto has the highest condo development rate in North America.

He describes it as a problem that has “spiraled out of control.” Making matters worse is the Ontario Municipal Board.

It’s an independent organization appointed by the province to be a watchdog over development.

Yet according to planners, politicians and local residents, the board routinely overrules city council.

So, many condos are not only being built quickly but also cheaply and with little city oversight.

The result is often quick fixes that quickly fall apart.

In 2011, there were a slew of new condos that shed their glass balconies, sending the slabs shattering to the sidewalks.

Remarkably no one was killed.

But it was a wake-up call.

If parts of these new condos were crashing and burning three years in, how scorched will the city be in 10, 20 or 30 years?

Many critics believe today’s glittering condos could become tomorrow’s embittering slums.

Toronto Chief City Planner Jennifer Keesmaat says the city has been “very reactive” rather than proactive in addressing the burgeoning condo crisis.

She points out the development industry was let to set the standard.

Now she says the city is at a tipping point.

I want to ensure we tip in the right direction, so I reached out to all three major candidates in the mayoral race: John Tory, Olivia Chow and Doug Ford.

I wanted to know where they stood on the issue of condo development.

Did they see it as a problem and if so, did they have a plan to fix it?

At first I got vague responses from Chow and Tory, which necessitated follow-ups.

Eventually, Tory’s team admitted condo development is “fraught with potential to go sideways.”

But they tried to reassure me John is the man to bring in good policy and make sure developers abide by it.

Chow’s team said, “Olivia has committed to requesting that our city be exempt from the Ontario Municipal board” adding, “Olivia knows how to work with developers.”

Ford’s campaign gave no assurances.

His team ignored my email and telephone requests for comment. But we do know the Ford brothers like to boast about “cranes in the sky”.

So in light of these unsatisfying or non-existent attempts at leadership, I am reminded of another Emerson quote: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rob Ford's medical records accessed 'inappropriately': Mt. Sinai

TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford’s medical records were “inappropriately accessed” by two Mt. Sinai employees, the hospital revealed Thursday.

Ford — who is continuing to battle cancer while running for council in Ward 2 — was in the hospital last month after an abdominal tumour was discovered. He was back in the hospital again this month for another round of chemotherapy and is expected to go back again after election day.

The hospital revealed the breach with a short statement but wouldn’t specify when it took place or provide any details about the employees involved.

“Two Mt. Sinai staff members who are not part of the patient’s care team have inappropriately accessed his health record,” the statement read. “We became aware of this activity through a robust system of safeguards and auditing procedures designed to ensure compliance to our security and privacy policies. We immediately investigated and appropriate action has been taken, as per our strict code of conduct and privacy policies. As per legislative requirements, the patient was notified of the situation.

“We sincerely regret that these privacy breaches occurred. Privacy for all of our patients is paramount and we will continue to be diligent in upholding our privacy policies and practices.”

Doug Ford — the mayor’s brother — said before Thursday’s mayoral debate that he wasn’t aware of the incident.

“I don’t know about it,” Doug Ford said. “I’m sure I’ll talk to Rob about it.

“All I can tell you is Mt. Sinai is one of the best hospitals in the entire world and they did a lot of good things for Rob and millions of others over the years.”

Ford said he was confident the hospital will “handle it appropriately.”​

“I know they’ll do the right thing,” he said.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Arrest in double murder outside Etobicoke high school:

TORONTO - A 17-year-old boy now faces charges stemming from his involvement in the deadly shooting that claimed the lives of two Catholic high school students in Etobicoke earlier this month.

But it seems the killer is still on the loose.

Toronto Police say the teen was arrested Tuesday in connection with the Oct. 6 double murder of Zaid Youssef, 17, and a 15-year-old victim outside the School of Experiential Education near Islington Ave. and Dixon Rd.

However, the accused is not facing a murder rap.

“This (arrest) results from an incident that occurred just prior to the homicides,” Staff-Insp. Greg McLane, who heads up the homicide squad, said Wednesday, unable to elaborate.

“The person responsible for the murders is still at large,” he added.

The accused teen, who can’t be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, is charged with attempted murder, pointing a firearm, weapons dangerous to the public peace, failing to comply with a recognizance order, possession of a firearm while not being a valid licence holder and possession of a firearm with no permit.

The charges, the first laid in the 10-day-old double homicide, suggest more than one gun was involved.

But detectives provided no further details of the arrest, so exactly what happened over the lunch-hour that day is still unclear.

Investigators have said from the outset there was a crowd of 15 to 20 youths present when a fight erupted and neither Youssef, who attends nearby Don Bosco Catholic Secondary, nor the other teen, were the intended targets.

Youssef’s parents believe their son was a curious onlooker who was there just to watch the fight.

In the wake of the double slaying, the city’s 43rd and 44th murders of the year, police released images of numerous “persons-of-interest” captured by area security cameras fleeing the scene hoping the public could help identify the youths.

Police have not said if the teen arrested was among that group.

Investigators urge anyone with information regarding these murders to call 416-808-7400 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
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Woman found bloodied in Toronto park behind Wallace Emerson Community Centre, near Dufferin and Dupont Sts. was murdered: Cops

TORONTO - Investigators have concluded a woman found bloodied and dying in a west-end park Wednesday morning is the city’s latest murder victim.

And Toronto Police say the woman slain behind Wallace Emerson Community Centre, near Dufferin and Dupont Sts., may be a grandmother who disappeared after heading out for a walk around 9:30 a.m.

“It’s possible it’s her,” Homicide Det. Hank Idsinga said at the scene Wednesday.

He said a passerby spotted the victim on the grass behind the community centre around 10:30 a.m. and called 911.

The woman was covered in blood and suffering from such severe facial trauma that police initially thought she may have been shot.

Investigators have since determined a gun was not involved, but the cause of death was not immediately available.

Idsinga said a lifeguard from the community centre rushed to help the woman and firefighters also responded.

“So first aid was being rendered very quickly after she was found,” he said.

Emergency responders were still administering CPR as they whisked the woman away to hospital, but she was pronounced dead soon after, making her the city’s 47th murder victim of 2014.

Police cordoned off the large park on the south side of the community centre as Forensics officers gathered evidence.

A large knife was recovered from a nearby storm sewer but it’s not yet known if it was the murder weapon.

Officers also visited a home on nearby Lappin Ave. after a man from the residence reported his mother missing.

Police were tight-lipped about the possible connection, saying only that the victim is “believed to be in her 50s.”

However, neighbours expressed concern for a 65-year-old grandmother, who lived in the Lappin Ave. home and went missing.

Angela Mior, a senior who lives across the street, was washing leaves away from the front of her home around 9:30 a.m. and saw her neighbour heading out for her regular walk.

“She looked at me, waved and then off she went,” Mior said. “She’s a nice lady.”

Although she didn’t know her long-time neighbour’s name, she said she spoke to the woman’s son briefly and he was visibly upset.

“He was crying, he thinks it’s his mom,” Mior said. “He said his mother always comes back home (after walking), but today she did not come home.”

The son, who also lives in the home with his wife and their toddler, was too distraught to talk to media.

It’s not the first time cops have investigated a murder behind Wallace Emerson. In 2005 a man was shot to death in the park.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Parents charged in death of boy, 4, in North York

TORONTO - A four-year-old boy was allegedly left to die in his North York home and his parents now face charges, according to Toronto Police.

Residents at the tot’s townhouse complex — in the Finch Ave.-Don Mills Rd. area — were as shocked to hear of his tragic demise as they were to learn of his existence.

“It’s scary to think there were two little kids (living) there and we’ve never, ever seen them,” Cecelia Frank, who lives a few doors away, said Tuesday. “It’s so sad.”

“It’s as if those kids were hidden or something,” the mother of three speculated.

Toronto Police say emergency crews responded to a 911 call at a townhome around 2:30 a.m. Monday.

“When we got there, we found a four-year-old boy without vital signs,” Const. Victor Kwong said.

The child was pronounced dead at the scene.

Kwong said homicide detectives were immediately notified because they typically probe any death of a child under five.

“It breaks my heart,” Frank said of the boy’s untimely death.

Like other neighbours, she was awakened when the flashing lights of emergency vehicles filled her home and she peaked out through an upstairs window.

“When you have little kids, you want to know what’s happening when there are so many cops around,” Frank explained.

Shortly after police, fire and EMS arrived in the normally quiet complex, she saw officers lead a man away in handcuffs.

Moments later, a woman was taken away in cuffs, as well.

Afterward, Frank said officers carried a child, believed to be the dead boy’s surviving sibling, from the house “wrapped in a blanket.”

The sibling, who she believes “couldn’t have been more than five years old,” was led to an awaiting police cruiser and driven away from the complex.

“That child was alive,” Frank said. “I’m not sure if it was a boy or a girl because it was dark, but it was a small child.”

She said her kids play outside all the time and she often sees many of the other young families in the complex outdoors, as well.

But Frank had never seen the accused couple or their youngsters before Monday.

The couple’s townhouse remained cordoned off with yellow police tape Tuesday as police officers gathered evidence.

Although the boy’s death was not immediately deemed a murder, Det.-Sgt. Pauline Gray and Det. Ted Lioumanis visited the scene Tuesday afternoon.

They refused to comment on the case, but Gray did confirm the parents are charged with failing to provide the necessities of life.

The accused man and woman remain in custody.

But police have not released their names, nor have they identified the victim.
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

3 events left their mark on Toronto in 1954

TORONTO - When we look back six decades at the year 1954 many will recall three events that occurred that year, three events each of which had a major impact on our city. And all three continue to stir up memories, both happy and sad.

The first of these memorable events was the opening on March 30 of Canada’s first “rapid transit subway”, the 7.4 km (4.6 mile) Yonge line from Union Station to Eglinton Ave. Little did those first passengers of 60 years ago realize that the need to improve this “pioneer” route to and from the heart of the city would become a major feature included in the long list of promises put forward by those seeking the demanding job as Toronto’s next mayor.

Then, during that year’s CNE a yet unknown 16-year-old Toronto schoolgirl captured the hearts of all Canadians when she accomplished what the world famous American marathon swimmer Florence Chadwick could not. It all started late in the evening of September 8 and after nearly 21 hours had passed Toronto’s Marilyn Bell had become the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. The pride of all Canadians, especially those here in her hometown, was passionately obvious.

But with the happy came the sad for it was a little more than a month later that the totally unexpected happened. Officially born in the Caribbean on Oct. 5, a category 4 hurricane identified as “Hazel” came ashore at the border of North and South Carolina, barreled its way north and then did the unanticipated. The eye of the storm made straight for the western outskirts of Toronto. When it came ashore the winds had dropped below hurricane force, but the rain was torrential. Bad perhaps, but with the ground already soaked from previous rainfalls the results were disastrous.

The cost of the damage to houses, stores, roads and bridges was astronomical. But worse was the loss of life. In total 81 people from all walks of life would never see another sunrise. Five victims were members of a volunteer fire department, serving their community without thought of payment. On Weston’s Raymore Drive dozens of houses were simply washed into the river. All nine occupants of one house, #142, were victims. Six bodies were recovered and are buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. While three children are listed on the headstone they are not there. Their bodies were never found.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Munira Abukar: Toronto Ward 2 candidate's sign vandalized with racist graffiti

TORONTO - Munira Abukar said the racist defacing of one of her Ward 2 campaign signs “is really disgusting” and current councillor Doug Ford agrees.

A friend of the Etobicoke-North council candidate alerted her on Saturday to the vandalism of a sign posted in the Martin Grove and Dixon Rds. area. The message, “go back home” was scrawled in red marker at the top of the sign; over top of the candidate’s name, was the word, “B----.”

“It was frustration and shock that I had to be reading the language on it,” said the 22-year-old Somali-Canadian. “My parents took it a lot worse. They experienced a lot of racism when they first came to Canada and to live vicariously through that again through their children isn’t the easiest experience.”

Abukar and her parents decided to take the sign home instead of leaving it up, because they didn’t want other people to see it to be “triggered” and get upset by seeing it.

She doesn’t believe “Ford Nation” -- despite the sign being in the heart of it -- is to blame.

“I’d like to believe there’s good in everybody,” she said. “That, yes, the Fords do have some explaining to do for racist things that have happened in the past, but the reality is I choose not to speculate who it is.”

Akubar tweeted about the incident on Saturday.

“When people tell me to ‘go back home’ I’m always like oh you mean back to my crib in Etobicoke? Miss me with that racist/xenophobic speak,” Abukar tweeted after posting pictures of the sign.

Abukar is planning to file a police report about this incident.

Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow said she empathizes with Abukar being told to “go home” as a heckler at a recent debate to her to “go back to China.”

“It’s disgraceful,” she said. “There’s no room for racism in this city. I hope she stays strong.”

Chow said she asked her staff for examples of online comments that have been written about her containing racial slurs.

“‘Poor baby, if you can’t stand a little criticism, then get the f--- out of the race, go make some rice’ and ‘F--- you, ch---.’ This is all recent,” she said.

Doug Ford – the current councillor for Ward 2 – called the graffiti “disgusting.”

“I’d like to find the person, charge them. They should be thrown in jail,” the mayoral candidate told the Sun after being shown the photos.
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Pedestrian struck, killed by TTC bus on Lawrence Ave near Allen Road

A senior was killed after she was struck by a TTC bus at Lawrence West station Saturday morning, Toronto Police said.

The 65-year-old was crossing from the south to the north side of Lawrence Ave. W., near Allen Rd., just before 10:30 a.m., when she was hit by the westbound bus.

"He was exiting the bus depot and making a left-had turn on to Lawrence and struck the woman," Traffic Services Const. Clinton Stibbe said at the scene.

"She was trapped underneath and was pronounced dead."

Stibbe said the investigation is ongoing and police are trying to determine who had the right of way.

"Was there any light violation? Did the bus go through on a red? We can't just assume she had the whole right of way," Stibbe said.

"We have to see where she started (crossing) and that's where the video will come in handy."

Police have received video footage from the TTC bus and are combing though it. Stibbe said investigators will also look at other video footage from the surrounding area.

He estimates a determination on who had the right of way -- the pedestrian or the 34-year-old male driver -- won't come about until a few weeks from now. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday at the latest.

The coroner was on scene.

At 12:30 p.m. the draped body was still located under the bus parked on Lawrence Ave. W., but was removed shortly after.

Tammy, an eyewitness who did not want her last name used, said she was leaving a job interview and saw the grisly incident.

"She flew up in the air and her shoes fell off," she said. "I was so shaken I couldn't focus. I saw the driver (out of the bus) was walking back and forth."

Tammy described the pedestrian as a Caucasian woman wearing a cream-coloured jacket.

Dina Jeffrey, 18, said she frequently sees buses turn that corner quickly.

"They're speeding out of the station," she said. "Either the bus driver didn't see her walking or she ran across trying to catch a light and the bus driving was speeding out and hit her."

TTC spokesman Mike DeToma said it is too early to determine whether the driver is at fault. However, the transit authority will do its own internal investigation.

"The TTC extends its deepest sympathies to the family of the victim and we are cooperating fully with the police investigation," he said.

This is Toronto's 22nd pedestrian fatality this year and the 34th fatality. At this time last year, there were 28 pedestrian fatalities and 46 total fatalities.

"Twenty-four of our fatalities last year were elderly, so she falls into that group," Stibbe said.

The westbound lanes remain closed for the police investigation.
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Friday, October 10, 2014

TCHC earmarks an extra $61.5 million for repairs

Toronto Community Housing Corp. has approved an additional $61.5 million for building repairs next year but some residents say the only fix is to raze buildings.

Regent Park resident Brandon Kerr said any fix at this point will amount to little more than a Band-Aid.

“Everything needs to be torn down and rebuilt,” Kerr said.

TCHC said the new money will go towards improvement at 335 of its buildings, starting in 2015, and will support the $175 million capital program planned for 2015.

Next year’s budget is an increase of 300% over the 2013 allotment earmarked for restoring TCHC’s buildings — 1000 of which are more than 50 years old.

The board says the 2014 capital program is delivering $128 million in repairs, with $114.8 million in projects approved, underway or completed this year.

Kerr said he has waited more than a year to have his toilet fixed and for workers to replace rotting tiles. He complained paint is peeling off walls and that elevators are constantly in need of repair.

“We need more cameras. Maybe that would stop people from urinating in the elevators and vomiting in the stairwells. It never really gets cleaned up,” Kerr said.

Amanda Degaust added even when repairs are completed, the work is shoddy.

“They promised to fix the splash pad for kids and it’s never been done,” the Regent Park resident said.

“They said they would fix the park, but just brought old stuff in and never painted it.”

The newly-approved funds will allow the city-owned agency to plan and schedule projects strategically and respond to unplanned work, said TCHC Chairman Bud Purves,

“Toronto Community Housing (Corp.) is on track to deliver its 2014 priorities, and is well positioned for success in 2015. We have the financial resources to deliver our capital programs next year,” Purves said.

TCHC has a plan which secures one-third of the required funding for capital projects during the next 10 years, but that pool will start to dry up in 2016 without an additional influx of cash and support from other levels of government.

“Despite all the great work we are doing to repair our homes — and the benefits this work provides our residents — communities and the city we will have to wind down our capital program sometime in 2016 if we do not get the investment support we need from other orders of government,” said TCHC President Greg Spearn, “We are looking to the federal and provincial governments to invest in repairing our social housing infrastructure so that we do not have to vacate and board up any more homes.”
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Toronto Police monitoring reports of possible terror attack

TORONTO - Toronto Police say while they are not responding to American reports about a possible terror attack in Canada, they are monitoring the situation.

“We currently have no comment on the RCMP’s report or newspaper articles concerned,” Const. David Hopkinson, a media relations officer, said Thursday.

However, he said, “The Toronto Police Service takes public safety very seriously” and “we are ever vigilant to threats of all nature directed at the people of Toronto and the rest of Canada.”

Police are being asked about potential threats following Canada’s decision to send fighter jets to engage ISIS in Iraq and an NBC report that Canada was mentioned as a possible location for a terror attack.

Much of the world is reeling following a number of beheadings of innocent people in the Middle East.

There is work being done to keep Torontonians safe, Toronto Police insist.

“We regularly liaise with security agencies, police services (both federal and provincial, foreign and domestic), government agencies and private industry in our search to keep our community safe,” Hopkinson said.

At this point, Toronto Police have no immediate plans to comment further.

“The results of the information we gather and operational strategies we undertake are shared with the community where appropriate,” Hopkinson said.
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lack of focus on Toronto trustee elections is concerning

TORONTO - Trinity-Spadina public school trustee candidate Richard Klagsbrun was barely one minute into his opening statement at Monday night's debate when moderator and interim trustee Briony Glassco interrupted and warned him to just say "nice things about people."

What ruffled the feathers of the fill-in school trustee-- appointed four months ago after board chair Chris Bolton resigned over a myriad of school board scandals, including one related to his own charity--was that Klagsbrun dared raise the somewhat questionable past of his opponent, Muslim Ausma Malik.

"This is a table of respect," Glassco chirped, muzzling him before he could finish what is on the public record about the controversial Malik, who is endorsed by NDPers Mike Layton, Olivia Chow and would-be councillor Joe Cressy.

"You've said enough ... just be nice to people," Glassco added, while a contingent of Malik's NDP pals and recognizable QuAIA supporters clapped vigorously.

As revealed in this space 10 days ago, Malik attended what she characterized as a peace rally during the heat of the conflict between Israel and Lebanon in 2006. At that rally there were numerous Hezbollah flags. Malik delivered a blistering attack on Israel, contending the country committed "state-sanctioned murder" --a comment she confirmed as correct in an e-mail to me.

According to published reports in The Varsity from September of 2008, Malik also played a key role in a complicated and controversial bid to overturn a March election that saw the incumbent lose as president of U of T's powerful Arts and Science Student Union. Malik, in that same e-mail to me, denied doing anything inappropriate.

It was this latter issue that Klagsbrun endeavoured to raise before being shut down by Glassco --especially legitimate in my view since Malik kept talking all evening about bringing "integrity, transparency and accountability to the TDSB."

Yet, why should those entrenched in the far too leftist-driven TDSB worry considering how few pay attention to trustee races. The massive Central Toronto Academy Auditorium was less than one-quarter full--shocking considering that the seat is up for grabs for the first time in 11 years and that the TDSB has been so mired in spending and other scandals, including very public incidences of trustees actually bullying each other, over the past four years.

What followed was a surreal exercise in political correctness and nearly two hours of Glassco-ordered fuzzy-wuzzy happy talk.

There was not a single question about curriculum or what the candidates would do to ensure students graduate from high school with the ability to make proper change or perform basic math without a calculator.

There was a question as to how candidates would support "queer youth" in Ward 10, sadly predictable. By the way, being an openly gay woman, I absolutely loathe the use of "queer."

But let's get back to our Muslim candidate. Never mind Malik's seemingly checkered past or that she characterized my column about her and other media reports on her past as "vicious, mean-spirited and misleading attacks" aimed at limiting her participation in public life.

It is how she came across that troubled me even more. Even though Glassco's questions were mostly Pablum, at least the other eight would-be candidates had some interesting thoughts about how to tackle their role and how to make a difference at the TDSB. Besides Klagsbrun, Colleen Kennedy and Sabrina Zuniga had some very practical things to say.

The darling of the left and self-proclaimed progressive, Malik, however, spoke largely in mind-numbing NDP bumper stickers all evening, not surprising given who has endorsed her.

She talked about "building an inclusive and responsive public school system," "the diversity of need" in Ward 10, "safe and welcoming spaces," "willing partners," the need to "engage in an ongoing dialogue," "marginalized" youth and "community building."

Ugh. There must be an NDP script of meaningless phrases passed on from trustee to councillor to Queen's Park.

That is what should also be concerning about the lack of focus on trustee elections.

I know from my years of covering education and political issues that the school board is often the stepping stone to bigger and better things.

Premier Kathleen Wynne got her political feet wet first as TDSB trustee in 2000, jumping immediately into provincial politics from there. Chow--a mayoral candidate and former NDP MP--and Councillors Janet Davis, Paula Fletcher, James Pasternak, Josh Matlow and Shelley Carroll were all once Toronto school trustees. Mike Del Grande was a Catholic school trustee and is looking to return there.

For that reason alone we should be paying far more attention to who are suitable candidates.

Now, as for Glassco, when I approached her after the debate about her efforts to muzzle Klagsbrun, she told him she was "sorry if she hurt his feelings."

Oy vey. I rest my case.
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Doug Ford moves into near tie with Tory: Poll for Toronto Mayor

TORONTO - Is John Tory about to get passed by a Ford?

A new Forum Research poll has Tory essentially tied with Doug Ford in the mayor's race.

The poll conducted on Monday shows Tory at 39% and Ford at 37% with less than three weeks to go until Election Day. Olivia Chow remains at the back of the frontrunner pack at 22% while only 2% said they were undecided or would vote for another mayoral candidate.

Tory shrugged off the poll.

"I think you learn just to sort of stay with your message, I'm talking about SmartTrack which I am proud of and enthused about and committed to," he said. "I'm talking about keeping taxes low and managing the city well. And most of all, a positive, one Toronto kind of approach to government and some stability so I'll carry on with that message and polls will come and polls will go."

Ford - who held a rally at Don Mills and Sheppard on Tuesday night - said the poll shows people are turning away from Tory's transit plan.

“I think it's very clear why that is happening. People are seeing John Tory's so-called pie-in-the-sky transit plan has holes all over the place," Ford said. "People don't want LRTs. They are proposing LRTs down this stretch out here in North York - it's unacceptable.”

Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow shrugged off the latest poll.

"Polls go up and down," Chow said.

The poll was an interactive voice response telephone survey of 1,218 Toronto residents. Forum considers the results accurate plus or minus 2.8%, 19 times out of 20.
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Monday, October 6, 2014

Andrew Surage: slain outside after-hours club 'dedicated father and husband' in Toronto

TORONTO - One suspect and three people of interest are being sought in the early October murder of Andrew Surage, Toronto Police said.

Homicide squad Det.-Sgt. Graham Gibson released images of the wanted man and people of interest — taken from video surveillance during a press conference at police headquarters Thursday.

Surage, 42, was shot dead outside an after-hours club on Weston Rd. near Rogers Rd. around 5:45 a.m. on Oct. 5.

The city’s 42nd homicide this year was a husband and father of five who was not previously known to police, Gibson said. He died shortly after being shot once.

Surage and his friends were at the club — which was not licensed to serve alcohol — “by chance” and only stayed for a short period of time, he said.

“After exiting, a friend of Mr. Surage’s was approached by a male suspect,” Gibson said. “This male spoke briefly with this friend and then grabbed a chain from around the friend’s neck.”

The friend was also assaulted during the theft of his chain, he said.

“Mr. Surage came to his friend’s aid and asked the suspect to return the chain,” Gibson added. “The suspect refused and left the area.”

Video surveillance then shows the suspect walking to a vehicle parked nearby, around 5:40 a.m.

“I believe it was at this point that the suspect retrieved a handgun,” Gibson alleged.

The suspect — described by witnesses as in his 20s, with a muscular build and curly black hair in a ponytail — came back to where he had robbed Surage’s friend and “fired one shot, which struck Mr. Surage.”

Gibson said the man then left the crime scene in a car that is possibly a dark-coloured, late-model Honda Accord.

The three people of interest — two men and one woman — should contact police immediately, he added.

“At the moment leading up to the shooting, I believe the persons of interest were aware that the suspect had access to a gun and further, that those same persons of interest are now aware that the suspect shot Mr. Surage,” Gibson said.

Anyone who recognizes the people in the images released by police or anyone who left the scene without speaking with police should also contact investigators at 416-808-7400 ext. 77405 or ext. 77411 or anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
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At least 6 shots fired in deadly downtown Toronto shooting

TORONTO - One man was shot dead in the downtown core Monday and three males considered armed and dangerous are being sought by police.

The shooting happened in an alley just east of Parliament St., south of Shuter St., just before 3 p.m.

“One male victim in his 20s was involved and has succumbed to his injuries and we are looking for three male suspects,” Toronto Police Sgt. Corey Crawford said.

“We don’t have a lot of information but can confirm at least six shots were fired.”

Homicide Det. Tam Bui said police didn’t know the victim’s identity. “We are working with witnesses to confirm the ID,” he said.

Four schools in the area were placed in lockdown, including Lord Dufferin, St. Paul, Nelson Mandela and a daycare. Students were allowed to leave escorted by a guardian.

Descriptions of the suspects haven’t been released.

Bui said one man seen fleeing the scene was taken into custody, but it was determined he wasn’t involved.
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Two teens dead in 'targeted' shooting in Etobicoke

TORONTO - Two young people are dead following a “targeted” double shooting in Etobicoke Monday that resulted in the lockdown of one high school and the securing of three others.

Toronto Police were called around 12:30 p.m. to a green space behind a social housing complex on Islington Ave., near Dixon Rd., and found two males in their teens suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

One was pronounced dead at the scene, while the other died hours later in hospital.

Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School, which is located across the street from the apartment complex, was placed in a hold and secure situation by police for almost two hours, while the Toronto District School Board’s School of Experiential Education, which backs onto the shooting scene, was placed in full lockdown mode.

St. Maurice Catholic school and Kingsview Village Junior School were placed in hold and secure as well.

Police at the scene said both victims were in their teens, but wouldn’t confirm if they were students from any of the nearby schools.

Insp. Ron Taverner said investigators don’t believe the shooting was random.

“We believe this was targeted,” Taverner said.

Const. David Hopkinson said investigators are looking for at least three suspects. One person of interest was taken into custody shortly after the shooting.

Catholic board trustee Maria Rizzo reportedly told media one of the two victims was a 15-year-old student from James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School, located in the Finch Ave. W. and Keele St. area.

Calls made to Rizzo for confirmation and further explanation were not returned.

A spokesman with the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) said they were waiting to hear from police to confirm if either of the victims was a student.

“Like everyone else, we’re waiting,” spokesman John Yan said. “As soon as we get confirmation, our first priority is to ensure that our students — if (the victims) indeed are our students — that the school is looked after.”

Like the TCDSB, the TDSB was waiting to hear from the police as to who the victims are, spokesman Shari Schwartz-Maltz said.

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Man gunned down outside after-hours club in Toronto

TORONTO - A murder victim was shot multiple times during an apparent early morning robbery outside an after-hours club in the city’s west end on Sunday.

Toronto Police Det.-Sgt. Graham Gibson said the man was shot while leaving an “after-hours club” called The Captain’s Social Club — located in a commercial plaza on Weston Rd., near Rogers Rd.

Officers were called to the scene around 5:45 a.m. The man, who attended the club with friends, was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“It appears that there might have been a robbery as they exited the place and a brief struggle and one of the males who has since died was shot,” Gibson said.

The victim is described as a man in his 40s. Investigators have not yet released his name.

Police are so far searching for one suspect, described as a white male of average build who was wearing a light jacket, dark shoes, and dark pants. He also had a dark ball cap and may have had his hood on.

Gibson said investigators are currently looking at surveillance footage from cameras dotting the complex and also interviewing witnesses.

Jose Conde, who owns a unit in the plaza, that after arriving Sunday morning, he viewed video footage of people running out of the plaza and driving away in a hurry.

“I don’t think it ever gets as busy during the day as it was last night, to be honest, from what I’ve seen on the cameras,” he said.

Police have a copy of the footage, which Conde said does not show the actual shooting.

The dozens of people he saw on camera swarming to get out of the plaza was surprising, he added.

“Because I didn’t know there was much action here,” he said. “I had no idea.”

Krista Williams, who lives nearby with her two-year-old son, said that “every weekend, there’s a fight or yelling” at the plaza where the shooting occurred.

She blamed “drunk people that can’t handle their alcohol” for the constant commotion.

The recent violence was “bound to happen” but still frightens her, she said.

“That’s scary to know,” Williams said. “I’ve lived here for four years but I’ve never heard any gunshots.”

The investigation continues.
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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Man seriously wounded in Jane-Wilson shooting in North York

TORONTO - A man in his 20s was rushed to hospital after a shooting in the Jane St. and Wilson Ave. area Saturday morning.

Police said the incident took place in the 2200-block of Jane St. just before 10 a.m. when "as many as three shots were fired" at the man.

"He was hit at least once, looks like in the leg," said Staff-Sgt. Ian Lamond. "They did an emergency run to the hospital, it might have just been precautionary."

There were witnesses around, which police are speaking with, he said, in order to get a better suspect description.

"It was just one (man) seen running from the scene," Lamond said. "Whether he's the shooter or not, we're not sure. It's very much (preliminary).
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Friday, October 3, 2014

'I understand the numbers': Doug Ford stands by pledge to reduce land-transfer tax for Toronto

TORONTO - Doug Ford says he can reduce the city’s land-transfer tax without cutting services.

In a tense interview with CBC Metro Morning on Friday, Ford stood by his campaign promise to start to cut the land transfer tax by 15% next year if he wins the election. The Etobicoke North (Ward 2) councillor also defended missing 53% of votes in his last year at council and denied the accusation that he’s a bully.

Metro Morning host Matt Galloway asked Ford about Friday’s Toronto Sun editorial that questioned his land-transfer tax proposal and stated: “We don’t see how the numbers are going to add up.”

Galloway asked Ford how he is going to make the more than $50-million revenue reduction work.

“I’m not going to cut anything,” Ford said. “I don’t listen to the armchair quarterbacks, the media, yourself, the Toronto Sun.

“I sat on the budget (committee) - I understand the numbers, you guys have never seen the numbers.”

Mayor Rob Ford’s tough-talking brother dismissed studies from the University of Toronto about the city’s budget.

“They can twist the numbers,” Ford said. “They haven’t been down there, they don’t understand it.”

Asked about missing more than half the votes at council in 2014, Ford accused Galloway of being “disingenuous.”

“I worked 18 hours a day, I never missed a council meeting,” Ford said. “I’ve never missed a council meeting in four years to the exception of one meeting in four years.

“Did I miss a few votes about maybe a stop sign or about lunch, extending a lunch, or extending a speaking time? Yeah. You know something, I was in the chamber, all the councillors saw me in the chamber.”

Then Ford went on to suggest he was out “lobbying votes” when he missed votes.

“You don’t just sit in your chair at council when they pontificate over nothing for six hours about a stop sign,” Ford said.

Galloway went on to bring up Ford’s “divisive” behaviour at council.

“You just don’t understand because you aren’t there,” Ford said.

“It’s politics, it’s City Hall, you don’t sit there and sing Kumbaya. It’s not a church picnic, Matt. You have to stand up for what you believe in, you don’t waffle.”

Asked directly if he thinks he’s a bully, Ford said no.

“And everyone knows that down there. Absolutely not,” Ford said. “If it means being called a bully to stand up for my brother and stand up for the taxpayers.”

Ford did manage to get in several shots at his main mayoral rival John Tory.

“I can hit the ground running,” Ford said at one point. “He doesn’t understand City Hall.”

He also continued to slam Tory’s SmartTrack plan.

“It’s pie-in-the-sky this idea that he has,” Ford said.

Throughout the interview, Ford tried to stay on his campaign messages.

“This city is booming, everyone knows it,” Ford said.

That prompted Galloway to ask: “Why do you take credit for what your brother did?”

“Because I was beside him,” Ford said. “I was working day in and day out.”
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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bombardier workers settle dispute over $50M jackpot

TORONTO - An aircraft mechanic and his fellow Bombardier workers settled their lawsuit Thursday over his share of a $50-million Lotto Max jackpot.

Chris Bates, 54, and his 24 co-workers ended their civil trial four days into the two-week proceedings by reaching an agreement, his lawyer Michael Cochrane said in an interview Thursday.

The terms are covered by a confidentiality agreement.

Bates was on vacation in January 2011 and missed depositing his $5 share one week. He claimed he was then shut out of the subsequent Jan. 28 draw that scored his co-workers the huge jackpot, court heard.

Each player won more than $2 million and another $2 million was held in trust after an Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation investigation.

“Everyone was relieved to be out of the justice system because it’s a stressful environment, even depressing at times,” said Cochrane.

“I have no idea how Bates will celebrate. I hope a message goes out to people who play group lotteries to be careful, keep track of who is in the group, track of the winnings, whether it’s free tickets, $20 or $100,” he said.

“And for group leaders, you have some responsibilities, you’re holding money in trust and when you undertake to buy certain tickets and numbers, you have to meet your obligations. Ontario courts have been prepared to say group leaders should treat each other with a duty of good faith and fairness.

“Group participants should be treated fairly. That means that simply being away on vacation is not a justification for excluding people from participation in the pool,” Cochrane said. “There’s an implied contract and a duty to treat each other fairly.”

Bates, who said he co-founded the lottery pool with a co-worker, gave the leadership of the pool to Sherif Morsi in June 2010.

Morsi wouldn’t allow Bates to join the pool for the next draw in Jan. 28 because they were using free tickets won in the previous draw that Bates missed while vacationing.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Woman second killed by St. Clair streetcar in two weeks in Toronto

TORONTO - For the second time in less than two weeks, a pedestrian has been struck and killed by a streetcar travelling in a TTC right-of-way lane on a busy stretch of St. Clair Ave. W.

Toronto Police say the latest victim, a 73-year-old woman, was hit in The Junction — near Keele St. — around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Emergency responders arrived at the scene to find the woman’s lifeless body “pinned beneath” the streetcar, Const. David Hopkinson said Tuesday.

“The victim was vital signs absent when paramedics arrived,” he said, adding the woman was pronounced dead soon after.

Her injuries were “quite bad,” Hopkinson said.

Const. Clint Stibbe, of Traffic Services, said the senior citizen was attempting to cross St. Clair from the south to north side mid-block when she was hit by the eastbound streetcar.

Mayor Rob Ford, recently released from hospital after his first round of chemotherapy, was spotted at the scene, which prompted citizens to snap photos and post the images on social media.

The mayor told the Toronto Sun’s Joe Warmington he was driving eastbound along St. Clair behind the streetcar when he came upon the accident.

Ford has long raged against the designated TTC lanes, describing them as a “disaster” and a “fiasco.”

“People hate this St. Clair (Ave. right-of-way), they hate these streetcars,” Ford told council during a the Sheppard subway debate in 2012. “You can call them what you want, people want subways ... They don’t want these damn streetcars clogging up our city.”​

At the last debate before he was hospitalized with cancer, Ford and the other mayoral candidates were confronted by a woman who claimed her husband died in hospital after being hit by a streetcar on St. Clair on Aug. 7.

After the woman left the Sept. 9 debate, Ford said, “My heart bleeds for that lady.”

More recently, on Sept. 18, a 79-year-old man was killed by a streetcar while trying to cross the right-of-way lane on St. Clair Ave. W., just east of Avenue Rd.

“The man stepped in front of the streetcar and was struck,” police said at the time. “The man suffered life-threatening injuries and was taken to hospital where he died.”

TTC spokesman Brad Ross said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the latest fatality while it was still under investigation.

“We want to offer our sincere condolences to the victim’s family and our operator,” he said, adding such deaths are “always tragic.”

Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow also offered her sympathies to the woman’s family.”

“It’s all very sad when a person dies from an accident,” she said. “I don’t know the details as to why and how. Whether it was preventable or not, I really don’t know.”
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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ontario crime rates drop but police ranks don't: Report

TORONTO - The plunging crime rate does not mean officers are doing less work, Ontario police groups say.

A Fraser Institute report has found that, while the crime rate has dropped significantly -- for example, by 42% the past decade in Toronto -- the number of police officers has not decreased either.

Municipalities with the highest percentage of police officers could consider reducing their numbers, the study Police and Crime Rates in Canada says.

Ken East, president of the Ontario Association of Police Services Board (OAPSB), said the report “over simplified” the situation because police officers have far greater demands on them than are reflected in the crime statistics.

Many communities identified by the Fraser report as possibly overstaffed have specific concerns such as a major casino or a high population of homelessness that puts particular pressure on policing, East said.

That doesn’t mean the overall rising cost of policing is not a significant issue for municipalities, he said.

Other options for controlling those costs including looking at whether some activities carried out by police (such as crime scene forensics) could be outsourced to civilians, he said.

Jim Christie, Ontario Provincial Police Association president, said the OPP look after 332 municipalities, highways and waterways.

“We still have to have minimum staffing levels even in lower populated areas,” Christie said. “Somebody calls 911 a police officer has to show up.”

Crime has changed from stealing a barbeque off a cottage deck to Internet-related theft, he said.

“We have a large Internet crime squad for child pornography, predatorial-type offences on the internet and we have detectives working 24-7 on them,” he said.

Jason Clemens, executive vice-president of the Fraser Institute, said a public discussion around police staffing is difficult but important because municipalities are constricted by tight budgets and need to use their resources as effectively as possible.

Policing is arguably the most important service provided to municipal residents, Clemens said.

“If you ask Canadians are you willing to pay a little more to keep crime rates low, they’re going to say yes,” Clemens said. “But if you say are you willing to pay a little more to have just more police with almost no effect if any on crime rates, then it’s a very different situation.”

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario has expressed concerns about the high cost of policing, particularly rising salaries, benefits and pensions.

The Fraser Institute report, authored by Lakehead University Professor and institute senior fellow Livio Di Matteo, says Ontarians spent more per capita on policing than any other province in 2012 at $272.50, compared to the lowest in PEI at $142.20.

In Toronto, where more than 37% of employees at Toronto Police Services make $100,000 or more a year, the per capita cost for policing has hit $387 even though the overall number of officers and the crime rate has dropped.

According to Statistics Canada, Toronto’s 2013 police-reported crime rate had dropped 42% over the past decade.

Between 2012 and 2013, the city’s crime rate fell 7%.

Similar declines were experienced in other major urban Ontario centres with crime rates falling 25% in London, 42% in Barrie, 41% in Hamilton, 42% in Ottawa, 27% in Kingston, 30% in Peterborough -- all between 2003-13.

Statistics Canada says Toronto had 9,967 police officers in 2013, down 2.2% from 2012, which works out to 169 officers per 100,000 Toronto residents.

Toronto has more officers per capita than most Canadian cities reviewed by Statistics Canada, but fewer than the Ontario average.

In 2013, there were 26,359 police officers in Ontario -- a rate that works out to 195 for every 100,000 Ontarians.
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Was Babe Ruth's first home run in Toronto?

TORONTO - Earlier this month there were a number of stories in the media celebrating the 100th anniversary of the day Babe Ruth hit his first home run as a professional baseball player.

That date as recorded in the history books was Sept. 14, 1914.

Other details around that special event: the 19-year-old Ruth, who had started that season with the Baltimore Orioles, was soon traded to the American League Boston Red Sox, a team that, unfortunately for the talented youngster, already had numerous good pitchers. As a result, Ruth was demoted its minor league team, the Providence Grays.

As it would turn out, that Sept. 14, 1914 game was against the rival International League Toronto Maple Leafs.

While “twirling” a 9–0 shutout over the Leafs, Ruth struck out seven batters and, with two men on base, scored three runs when he hit that historic home run in the sixth inning.

Now here’s where it gets confusing.

For years it has been recorded on a historic plaque erected south of the border that Babe’s first home run was hit during a game played on March 7, 1914 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Thanks to some detective work, retired Toronto newspaper sports writer Lou Cauz has deduced that the March 7 game was a non-scheduled event and simply a pickup game between some Orioles players passing through on their way south and intended to entertain some Fayetteville fans. The teams called themselves the Buzzards and the Sparrows. Ruth was a Buzzard when he hit that home run.

Interesting, but certainly not of historic proportions.

Lou also wishes to dispel the myth that the historic “Babe Ruth baseball” -- the one that supposedly landed in the Blockhouse Bay area of Toronto Harbour -- is not, nor was it ever, in the bay.

Here’s Lou’s story, one that has been corroborated by his friend and Blue Jays radio announcer Jerry Howarth:

Years ago the two chatted with a fellow who, as a 12-year-old Canadian National Railways telegraph messenger, was present at that Sept. 14, 1914 game. His job was to get the scores from the game to the telegraph office so they could be distributed to newspapers as fast as possible. The youngster witnessed the ball land in the right field bleachers where it was pocketed by a fan. A home run ball for sure, but certainly not one that became buried in the mud as many believe.

(Note: cancel my request for a substantial federal grant to go find it.)

As the witness -- who went on to become a monsignor at the beautiful St. Augustine Seminary in Scarborough -- told Lou and Jerry, young George Ruth had yet to become any sort of iconic ball player, so there really was no reason to think much of what was just another home run hit at the old ball stadium across the bay.

Another Toronto myth bites the dust. Darn!!
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I smoked crack with Rob Ford: Sister to cops

TORONTO - The sister of Rob Ford admitted to police that she and the mayor were smoking crack cocaine in her basement in the infamous second crack video in April this year, according to police documents released Wednesday.

Justice Ian Nordheimer released the Information to Obtain search warrants that contained the contents of Kathy Ford’s two interviews earlier this year with Toronto Police detectives.

In the interview, Kathy Ford said she, her brother, accused drug dealer Alexander “Sandro” Lisi and Michael “Jugga” James were in her basement last April 26 when James surreptitiously recorded her and the mayor smoking the crack that James supplied to them. Kathy Ford said she knew that it was James who made the video.

She discovered that the drug party was being recorded “when it was featured in The Globe and Mail and the reporters started calling her for a comment,” the document stated.

It’s alleged that James wanted to sell the video to the media. James, who provided the drugs to the Fords, sought a six-figure sum for the video.

Kathy Ford also told Toronto Police detectives Gary Giroux and Joyce Schertzer that her brother never beat up his pal Lisi, but was simply play-fighting, that night.

Giroux and Schertzer are heading up Project Brazen 2, an investigation into any possible crimes committed by Mayor Ford.

The photos of the Fords smoking crack were revealed in The Globe and Mail in April and later through an interview with James in The Toronto Star.

Kathy Ford told detectives that an “intoxicated” but not high Rob Ford was driven to her home by his driver, Jerry, who departed after dropping the mayor off.

The mayor’s sister said Lisi and James took no drugs. She said James “sells heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine,” but neither her brother nor Lisi knew that James was supplying the drugs on April 26.

Kathy Ford said her brother “was getting loud and boisterous” and then James left. She said she has known James for “about two years.

James, who is black or “Guyanese,” was brought up in Rexdale and has a white mother and black father.

There was no mention of Mayor Ford using racial epithets against James or tossing pennies at him as a sign of disrespect, which was reported earlier in James’ interview with the Star.

Lisi, a friend of Ford and his former occasional driver, is facing drug charges and an extortion charge for allegedly attempting to retrieve an infamous Rob Ford crack video last year from alleged drug dealers who were trying to sell it to the Star and Gawker.

Lisi is on bail with a condition prohibiting him from assocating with anyone with a criminal record, the document states. Kathy Ford’s criminal record has been widely reported in the media so Lisi “would have known about Kathy Ford’s record and that he wasn’t supposed to associate with her,” the document states.

The release of the documents was delayed until Wednesday so that lawyers for James and Lisi could have an opportunity to make submissions on whether the material should be made public.

James was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon — brass knuckles — but had that charge stayed, which means it is no longer before the courts, although the charge can technically be re-activated by the Crown within a year.

Jugga, 20, is known to be involved in the drug world, but has no convictions, the documents indicated.

*******

Here are highlights of court documents released Wednesday. None of the allegations have been tested in court:

    Kathy Ford and her brother, Mayor Rob Ford, were smoking crack in her Rexdale basement while her daughter slept upstairs.
    Kathy Ford said drug dealer Michael “Jugga” James “just showed up” at her door and she invited him into her basement.
    Once inside the basement, James supplied crack cocaine to both Fords while Alexander Sandro Lisi watched and James surreptitiously videotaped it with his cell-phone. He aimed to sell it for a six-figure sum to the media.
    Rob Ford was “getting loud and boisterous” when James left.
    Kathy Ford said she never knew she was being recorded until it was featured in The Globe and Mail.
    Lisi and Ford didn’t know James, but Kathy Ford knew him for about two years. He sold heroin, crack cocaine and cocaine.
    Mayor Ford was intoxicated, but wasn’t high, when he arrived at his sister’s home.
    Kathy Ford remembered this event because it occurred on the night of a power failure when one of the hydro poles at Kipling Ave. and Dixon Rd. caught fire.
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Timeline: Murders at GTA schools 1975 to present

May 28, 1975: At Brampton’s Centennial Secondary School, 16-year-old student Michael Slobodian shoots and kills a teacher, fatally wounds another student and injures 13 others before killing himself. Slobodian is the first recorded high-school killer in Canada.

Nov. 5, 2003: Konstantin Kocherga, 18, is fatally stabbed during a massive brawl on the grounds of Georges Vanier Secondary School in North York just after night school classes had finished. Kocherga was not a student at the school. Two 17-year-olds are charged with first-degree murder.

Dec. 10, 2004: Bramalea Secondary School teacher Aysegul Candir is shot to death by her estranged husband in the school parking lot. Erhun Candir is found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

May 23, 2007: 15-year-old Jordan Manners is shot and killed at C.W. Jefferys Secondary School in Toronto. Two 17-year-olds are charged with first-degree murder, but the first trial ends in a hung jury. A new trial in 2011 acquits the two 17-year-olds.

March 30, 2010: Michael McDonald, 16, is stabbed to death during a dispute at a bus stop across the road from Monsignor Paul Dwyer Catholic High School in Oshawa. Jacques Amakon, 18, who also attended Monsignor Paul Dwyer, is arrested shortly after and charged with second-degree murder. In 2012, he is sentenced to six years in prison.

Sept. 23, 2014: Hamid Aminzada, a 19-year-old student at North Albion Collegiate Institute, dies in hospital after he is stabbed inside the school.
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Vaughan murder: 'I heard gunshots ... Pop-pop-pop'

TORONTO - One man is dead and another injured after a late night shooting in Vaughan.

York Regional Police responded to a call about gunshots at a home on Via Borghese St. - in the area of Major MacKenzie and Pine Valley Drs. - around 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Upon arrival, officers discovered two men suffering from gunshot wounds outside the home.

Police say Gul Mohammed Alakoozi, 32, of Ajax, died at the scene. The second victim, a 26-year-old Toronto man, was rushed to hospital and is "expected to survive," Const. Andy Pattenden said.

When asked if it appeared to be a targeted shooting, Pattenden said he "can't say that at this point, but it's probably safe to say it's not a random act."

Police say they have been told that “multiple male suspects” fled the scene on foot and “likely left the area in a vehicle that was parked nearby.”

The suspects are described as black males, wearing dark clothing including hooded sweatshirts.

Roman Chirokob, 26, told reporters his mother was smoking on the front porch of their home, a few doors down from the house currently at the centre of the crime scene, when she heard gunshots.

"Then two minutes later, she'd seen two guys take off from the house, cross the street, into the forest," he said.

He was inside his house but heard the shots as well.

"I heard gunshots, like, six in a row," Chirokob said. "Pop-pop-pop. Then I came outside and like two or three minutes later, the police came. It was quick."

An ambulance followed soon after, he added. He saw one man undergo CPR on scene and another whisked away by paramedics.

"I couldn't go to sleep, I was sitting on my porch watching what was going on," Chirokob said.

He knew the residents of the home where the shooting occurred only as neighbours, describing them as a family consisting of one couple around 30 years old with a "little kid" and an older couple living with them.

But the victims of Tuesday night's shooting were not his neighbours, he explained.

"I was trying to see if it was my neighbour," Chirokob said. "Then half an hour later I'd seen him come out of the house all okay, walking with the detective. So he was okay. And then I see his wife with the little kid."

Police are expected to update the media later today.

While witnesses in the neighbourhood have cooperated with police, investigators are still asking for anyone who may have been in the area at the time of the incident to contact the homicide unit at 1-866-876-5423 ex. 7865 or at homicide@yrp.ca.

Police are also looking for any footage from surveillance cameras in the neighbourhood.
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Teen arrested after in Toronto school stabbing that killed a 19-year-old

TORONTO — A 17-year-old youth is facing a second-degree murder charge in connection with the fatal stabbing of another teen who police say intervened in a fight at a Toronto high school.

Police say officers called to North Albion Collegiate Institute in the city’s northwest during the noon hour Tuesday found 19-year-old Hamid Aminzada with no vital signs.

He was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and later died in hospital.

The 17-year-old — who cannot be identified under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act — was later arrested and is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

Police allege there was an ongoing dispute between two students, which led to a confrontation in a school hallway.


They say when another student intervened “to defuse the situation,” he was stabbed.

Aminzada, who arrived in Canada with his family some two years ago, was described as a “very kind young man” whose death left the high school “heartbroken” as students and staff struggled to cope with his death.

“This is a very nice and kind young man. It’s heartbreaking for us because all we’ve seen from him is just being respectful,” said school principal Naeem Siddiq.

“It’s a very sad story for us as he was quite focused on his family and his future. There’s no indication of this young man in any way being involved in anything negative and it’s just a tragic loss for us.”

Siddiq said Aminzada had been a “very active student” in the school’s English as a Second Language program and was well known to teachers and students.
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Teen second in Toronto history to be slain in school

Update: Toronto Police annouced Wednesday morning that a 17-year-old has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Hamid Aminzada

TORONTO -- In the seven years since 15-year-old Jordan Manners was gunned down at C.W. Jefferys C.I. in North York, there have been numerous close calls involving knives and guns at city schools.

So it was only a matter of time until tragedy struck again, as it did over the noon-hour Tuesday at North Albion C.I. with the brutal killing of Hamid Aminzada.

The 19-year-old, whose family immigrated recently from Afghanistan, was stabbed multiple times in a hallway at the school on Kipling Ave., just north of Finch Ave. W., and died later in hospital. He was the second student in Toronto’s history to be slain in a school.

“We’re obviously very heartbroken ... because he was a very nice young man,” said Naeem Siddiq, the high school’s principal. “It’s a tragic loss for us.”

Toronto Police say officers responded to the stabbing around 12:40 p.m. and found Aminzada bleeding from the stomach and face.

While the teen showed no vital signs, Const. Victor Kwong said firefighters revived him and he was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

But a couple of hours later, Supt. Ron Taverner broke “the very sad news” Aminzada had died.

“It’s very disturbing,” he said.

Taverner said Aminzada’s parents were notified and raced to be at their son’s side.

The teen’s mom initially went to 23 Division, where Taverner said she “collapsed” upon hearing the news and was treated by paramedics.

As doctors tried unsuccessfully to save the teen, the school was locked down and officers went room to room searching for the killer.

Officers also scoured the surrounding area, looking for a suspect described as a black male, about 17, and of medium height and build.

Upset parents arrived at the school during the lockdown, anxious to see their kids.

“Oh my God, it was devastating,” said Shelly Verge, whose 14-year-old daughter attends the school.

“I started freaking out at work and everybody was trying to calm me down,” she said, still shaking as she waited for her daughter to be released from school. “She must be terrified.”

She reached her daughter on a cellphone and found out she was fine.

An hour after the stabbing, students — many visibly shaken — began trickling out of the school one class at a time as their rooms were cleared by police.

“It was frightening,” Sameer Ali, 14, said, admitting he’ll be nervous to return to school.

Donna Quan, director of education for the Toronto District School Board, visited the school in the aftermath and said her thoughts are with the victim’s family and the school’s students and staff.

TDSB spokesman Sherri Schwartz Waltz said the school has two safety resource officers — who weren’t present Tuesday — two safety monitors and 39 security cameras.

Taverner said the city’s 38th murder of the year was not captured on video.
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Toronto Police to test body-mounted cameras

TORONTO - Some Toronto Police officers will be donning body-mounted cameras as part of a pilot project beginning as early as November.

Canada’s largest municipal police organization is in the process of choosing a supplier. Once a vendor is chosen, the service plans on purchasing 100 cameras for use in four locations across Toronto for a year-long period.

The use of body-worn cameras usually results in fewer complaints about officers and “less violence,” Deputy Chief Peter Sloly said Monday.

“The general research is the body-worn camera modifies the behaviour of the police officer and the member of the public — it’s a two-way street,” he said. “It is protecting their cops against malicious investigations, it modifies the behaviour of the person they’re dealing with, it provides best evidence in cases.”

The TAVIS rapid response team, a yet-to-be-identified area of traffic services, 43 Division’s community response unit, and 55 Division’s primary response unit will all be a part of the pilot project.

Body-worn cameras were recommended in a February review by Chief Bill Blair as well as in a July report by retired Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci. Similar cameras have been tested in Calgary, Edmonton, and Victoria, B.C.

Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack cautioned body cameras are not a “magic pill” to cure policing. Other changes could have a broader impact, he said.

“We’ve been advocating for years for officers on the front line to have access to Tasers, for instance,” McCormack said.

“We want to ensure that any type of pilot project, the cost-benefit analysis is looked at, and that there is strong policy and procedure around the use of lapel cameras and what the intended use is going to be,” he added.

The Special Investigations Unit — a provincial watchdog that probes death or serious injuries in incidents involving cops — noted that “video recordings from body-worn cameras will on occasion doubtless prove a valuable source of information to the SIU as it would with any investigative agency.”
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