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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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Toronto's summer of 2014 ending in bloodshed

TORONTO - A summer that began as one of the most peaceful in recent history for Toronto has quickly become one of the deadliest thanks to a recent spate of killings.

In a 14-day span, between Sept. 4 and 17, eight people have been murdered in the city, Toronto Police have said.

“There’s no real rhyme or reason for it,” Toronto Police Staff-Insp. Greg McLane, who heads up the homicide unit, told the Toronto Sun recently. “There are no trends or any connections between those homicides that we know of right now.

“The motivations are different, the methods of death are different,” he said, explaining four of the eight recent murder victims were shot, two were stabbed and two were beaten.

And McLane pointed out that the summer of 2014 actually began with an extended “lull.”

The season, which began June 21 and wraps up Tuesday, was more than two weeks old when Rala Federick, 36, was gunned down July 6 on George St., northeast of Jarvis and Dundas Sts., becoming the first murder victim of the summer and the 22nd of the year.

A 37-year-old man was also wounded in the shooting.

By the midway point, Aug. 7, only two others had been killed. But then the violence, like the weather, heated up.

The latter half of the summer has so far seen another 12 people slain — four times more than the first half — bringing the total to 15 over the entire 95 days.

Of those 15 murder victims, eight were shot, three were stabbed and four were beaten to death. Nine of those homicides remain unsolved and two others have suspects who remain on the loose.

There has also been a steady stream of people wounded in shootings and stabbings this summer, many of whom could easily have been added to the list of murder victims if not for the life-saving skills of Toronto’s paramedics, doctors and nurses.

As recently as Friday, just before midnight, a man was stabbed in the stomach near Markham and Ellesmere Rds. in Scarborough.

The seriously injured man remains in hospital but he is in stable condition, police said.

The recent rise in the frequency of killings may be alarming but McLane pointed out that such “spikes,” like the “lulls,” occur occasionally.

And much of the recent violence hasn’t involved gangs, he said.

“Usually when we see firearm offences we think of street gang activity,” McLane said. “There has been some of that, for sure, but it seems that the street gang violence has tailed off a bit.”

While the recent rash of murders has kept his detectives busy, McLane said it’s nothing they can’t handle.

And he’s “confidant” his investigators will be able to bring the homicides that remain unsolved to a successful conclusion.

“Our clearance rate (the number of solved murders) is up over the last three years,” McLane said. “And we’re just shy of 80% clearance for 2013.”

It’s worth noting that while clearance rates may seem low initially, the numbers typically improve dramatically by the following year as cops track down the killers.

“Obviously the recent rash of murders is not something we want to see in the city because it impacts on people’s perception of safety in their communities,” McLane said. “But I want to assure the public that we’re in good shape on these investigations and we continue to solve murders on a daily basis.”

The homicide boss is optimistic the violent end to an otherwise relatively peaceful summer is just “a blip” and not a sign of things to come.

“I’m satisfied Toronto is still a safe place to be,” McLane said.


The summer of 2014, which wraps up Tuesday, began quietly enough with only three murders in the city by the midway point, Aug. 7. But the violence heated up during the later half of the season as another 12 people were slain and a 13th victim was deemed a murder nine months after dying.

    JULY 6: Rala Federick, 36, was gunned down on George St., near of Jarvis and Dundas Sts., becoming the first murder victim of the summer and the 22nd of the year. A man, 37, was also wounded in the shooting. No arrests.
    JULY 8: Abshir Hassan, 31, a well liked supply teacher, was shot dead outside his building on Flemingdon Rd. in Lawrence Heights while a man, 22, and a woman, 18, were wounded. No arrests.
    JULY 15: Duane Small, 44, was beaten to death in a bus shelter at Victoria Park Ave. and Clydesdale Dr., north of Sheppard Ave. E. Raymond McCurdy, 39, faces manslaughter.
    AUG. 9: Mohamed Yay, 40, a father of five, was stabbed to death in a playground at a housing complex on The West Mall in south Etobicoke. No arrests.
    AUG. 19: Olatoyebi Waheed, 24, was killed and a man, 23, wounded by gunfire while in a vehicle stopped at a red light near Jane St. and Eglinton Ave. W. Franklin Afrifa, 25, faces first-degree murder and attempted murder. Benard Kissi, 24, is still sought for the drive-by shooting.
    AUG. 26: Jelena Loncar, 31, was killed outside a nightclub in the Entertainment District, near Wellington and Portland Sts. The shooter also wounded a man, 25, believed to be the intended target. No arrests.
    AUG. 30: Jorge Interiano, 40, was beaten to death at Concord Ave. and Bloor St. W., west of Ossington Ave. No arrests.
    SEPT. 4: Investigators deem two-and-a-half-year-old Jazara Garrison-Downey’s death a murder and arrest a woman, 18, who was baby-sitting the tot when she stopped breathing Jan. 3 at a home near Wellesley and Bleecker Sts. The accused, who can’t be named because she was 17 at the time, faces second-degree murder.
    SEPT. 5: Alexandre Joseph Lavallee, 53, was badly beaten in a Cabbagetown parkette, near Wellesley and Parliament Sts., and died the next day. Paul Douglas Richard, 56, faces second-degree murder.
    SEPT. 8: Dwayne Goodwin, 22, was fatally stabbed and a second man wounded when two groups clashed on Danforth Ave. east of Dawes Rd. Vaughan Shears, 19, and a boy, 16, who can’t be identified, face second-degree murder and attempted murder. Mehmet Akkurt, 22, is sought on a Canada-wide warrant.
    SEPT. 8: Joseph Okoro, 21, was gunned down in a parking lot behind a business near Jane St. and Lawrence Ave. W. No arrests.
    SEPT. 11: Travis Tash, 22, was gunned down behind an apartment building on Upper Canada Dr., near Bayview Ave. and Hwy. 401. No arrests.
    SEPT. 11: Richard Pepper, 60, was beaten to death in a fight in the west end, near Mabelle Ave. and Dundas St. W. Jamal Hassan, 22, and Gonffa Krow, 20, each face second-degree murder and assault causing bodily harm.
    SEPT. 14: Abdul Monir, 31, a recent immigrant from Afghanistan, was gunned down while working at Pizza Time on Markham Rd., south of Lawrence Ave. E. The pizza shop owner was wounded in the shooting. No arrests.
    SEPT. 14: San Tai Yuan, 56, was stabbed to death allegedly in an altercation with a fellow resident at a house on Axsmith Cr., near Don Mills rd. and Finch Ave. E. Zhebin Cong, 43, faces second-degree murder.
    SEPT. 17: Jules Jashawn Morrison, 21, was shot to death in the stairwell of a North York apartment building on Fountainhead Rd., near Finch Ave. W. and Keele St. No arrests.
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Police probing Toronto Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti fundraiser

TORONTO - The City of Toronto has asked Toronto Police to investigate Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s controversial 2013 fundraiser.

Council ruled in July that Mammoliti breached the code of conduct by pocketing $80,000 from a fundraising dinner.

At the time, councillors voted to suspend his pay for three months — the equivalent of $26,000. Mammoliti — who is running for re-election — is currently fighting that decision in court and the integrity commissioner’s original decision to investigate the fundraiser.

In that July vote, councillors also approved a push by Councillor Joe Mihevc to hire a criminal lawyer to review Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper’s report on Mammoliti and “determine if there are grounds” to send the matter to Toronto Police for further investigation.

City spokesman Jackie DeSouza confirmed Monday that the outside counsel was retained.

“The matter was referred to police to exercise their discretion on whether to investigate or not,” DeSouza said.

Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash confirmed the issue was referred to the service by the city.

“It will be with the financial crimes unit,” Pugash said.

He said the city referred the issue to Toronto Police within the last day or so.

In an interview on Monday, Mammoliti said the decision to refer the issue to police didn’t come as a surprise to him.

“I’m not surprised that a month and a half before the election I’m having to answer these questions,” he said.

Mammoliti stressed he challenged the integrity commissioner’s report before it came to council.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” he said.

In a statement issued late Monday, Mammoliti called the news "hypothetical and theatrical."

"City Staff won’t cut grass, trim trees, or clean the streets but somehow they have the time to keep the circus going at City Hall," he stated. "The event referred to was organized by my family and close friends while I was in recovery.

"To imply that myself or any one of my family members or friends was involved in criminal activity is offensive and crosses the line."
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Man dead after North York stabbing at 1 Axsmith Cres

TORONTO - A man is dead and another is in police custody after a stabbing at a North York home Sunday night.

Officers were called to 1 Axsmith Cres., near Don Mills Rd. and Van Horne Ave., around 8:45 p.m. about a person with a knife, Toronto Police Const. Jennifer Sidhu said Monday.

A 56-year-old man was declared dead at the scene.

“He had suffered obvious blunt trauma injuries to the head,” Sidhu said.

Two others were taken to hospital with injuries, including the woman who placed the 911 call and the 43-year-old man arrested in the case.

All three were tenants living in the basement of the two-storey house, Sidhu said.

There was no word on whether charges have been laid.
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Thousands in Toronto turn out for Terry Fox run

Terry Fox runs attracted thousands of Canadians who ran, walked or biked in remembrance of the young man behind the Marathon of Hope to end cancer.

Cyclist Reg Devonshire, 84, and six of his friends from a North York gym, took part in the Terry Fox Run at Cedarbrook Park, in the Markham Rd.-Lawrence Ave. area — one of 750 such events held across Canada.

The former police officer said he has been biking in Terry Fox runs since 2007.

“About eight or 10 years ago, four of us decided to do this and it just grew,” Devonshire said.

“We now have over 100 people who are contributing, and we’ve raised over $8,000 today.”

Last year, he and his enthusiastic friends raised over $7,000 at the Scarborough run site. They initially began doing it for a friend who is a cancer survivor.

“He’s still alive and he’s still working and running and doing Terry Fox,” Devonshire said. “We do it because of him.”

Martha McClew, Ontario director of the Terry Fox Foundation, reported a “slight increase” in the number of runners this year.

“Participation numbers are up, which is always a great find for us,” she said.

Last year, 75,000 participants in Ontario raised $12.5 million. As of May of this year, the foundation raised over $650 million for cancer research.

“It’s really, I think, become a great Canadian tradition,” McClew said.

Sunday marked the 34th year since Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope across the country to raise awareness and funds for research into the disease that eventually killed him before his 23rd birthday.

His father, Rolly Fox, took part in three runs in the GTA, marking his first time he took part in one outside of British Columbia.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mike Tyson berates Toronto TV host Nathan Downer

TORONTO - You mess with Mike Tyson at your peril — especially on live TV.

Call him what you like, call him a cab, call him late for dinner, but DON’T call him a convicted rapist.

For a second, by the glint in the ex-heavyweight champ’s eye, I feared for CP24 anchor Nathan Downer’s life.

Tyson was in studio at 2 p.m. Wednesday to talk about his visit to City Hall the day before, when he threw his considerable bulk behind beleaguered Mayor Rob Ford. “Best mayor in Toronto’s history,” Iron Mike opined.

“We’re cut from the same cloth,” said Ford to the media mob outside his office.

The CP24 studio Wednesday was much calmer, even soothing, until Downer asked Tyson:

“Some of your critics would say, this is a race for mayor, we know you’re a convicted rapist, this could hurt his campaign.” (Tyson did three years for rape in the 1990s.)

Tyson’s jaw clenched. His tattoo jiggled. His eyes hardened. I swear his biceps tensed.

“You’re being negative,” he said. OK, so far so good. Downer exhaled. The conversation, including promoter Alex Choko, switched to the topic of George Chuvalo.

Then Tyson boiled over.

“So interesting that you come across like a nice guy,” he purred menacingly to Downer.

“But you’re really a piece of s---.”

“C’mon,” Downer said.

“That was a piece of... F--- you. That was a piece of s---.”

“You know we’re on? We’re doing live TV.”

“I don’t care. What are you going to do about it?”

Downer tried to turn talk to Tyson’s one-man show, Undisputed Truth, at the ACC.

“Is it nerve wracking for you to do something like this (the show) or is it more nervous for you to box. How does it compare?”

“I dunno,” said Tyson. “It’s more nerve wracking for me here talking to a rat piece of s--- like you.”

“Oh, c’mon, Mike.”

“No, because you’re a piece of s---. You really shouldn’t have..... A piece of s----.”

“Alright, we’re going, we’re going to wrap up this interview. Thank you for coming in.”

“Well, f--- you!”

And people say political discourse in Toronto has gone to the dogs.

    I'm okay everybody. Unfortuantlely my question hurt Mike Tyson's feelings. That was not my intentions. My apolgies for the language.
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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in hospital with tumour

TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford remains in hospital as doctors investigate an abdominal tumour discovered Wednesday.

The health scare comes in the midst of Ford’s battle to win the Oct. 27 election and just months after he returned to the city from a stint in rehab for alcohol and drugs.

It also comes eight years after the mayor’s father, Doug Ford Sr., died of colon cancer.

A weary-looking Doug Ford — the mayor’s brother — spoke to reporters about the mayor’s health at a hastily-called news conference at Humber River Hospital on Wednesday night.

“It saddens me that I have to be here,” said Doug Ford, the mayor’s campaign manager. “Rob’s in good spirits and we just want to thank the well-wishers and all the calls that are coming in.”

Ford had breakfast with his brother on Wednesday morning at Perkins restaurant in Etobicoke.

“He had stomach pain,” Ford said. “He said his stomach was bothering him.”

The mayor saw a doctor who sent him to the hospital, he said.

According to the hospital, doctors found the tumour and the mayor was admitted “for further investigation and to obtain a definitive diagnosis.”

Doug Ford wouldn’t discuss the election on Wednesday night.

“We’ll speak about that (Thursday),” he said. “Could I just ask the press just to give our family a day or so?

“If you could just leave us alone that would be great for the next couple of days then we’ll inform you about what’s going on,” he added later.

Humber River broke the news of Ford’s hospitalization after 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Dr. Rueben Devlin, the hospital’s CEO, confirmed the tumour is in the mayor’s abdomen and is being investigated further. It isn’t clear if the tumour is benign or malignant.

“We need to determine exactly what type of tumour it is and then we can decide on what treatment is required,” Devlin said. “We hope to do a lot of that investigation this week.”

Devlin added it wasn’t a “small” tumour.

“But the size is not as relevant as what it is,” he said. “What we really need is a biopsy to be able to look at exactly what tumour it is and also to investigate if the tumour is anywhere else.”

The mayor was having “left, lower quadrant abdominal pain,” Devlin said.

“It has been going on for greater than three months but (Wednesday) it became unbearable for him,” he said.

In August 2012, Ford was treated at the same hospital for throat and stomach problems.

Ford was also in hospital in February 2011 for a procedure to break a kidney stone.

As a councillor, he was admitted to hospital in July 2009 for “excruciating pain” and consequently underwent emergency surgery to remove a tumour on his appendix.

Rob Ford was at Tuesday night’s mayoral debate but wasn’t seen at City Hall at all on Wednesday.

During the debate, Ford appeared in good spirits and promised the crowd he’d not only win this election but go on to win another two additional terms in the mayor’s chair.
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Part of Hwy. 410 being widened to 10 lanes

Brampton commuters can expect construction along their usual route as the province announced plans to widen part of Hwy. 410 from six to 10 lanes.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca outlined a multimillion-dollar plan on Tuesday to improve Hwy. 410.

“It will create or sustain approximately 1,567 jobs, and it’s expected to be completed by the end of 2018,” he said.

The plan involves widening a 12-kilometre portion of Hwy. 410 — stretching from just south of Hwy. 401 to Queen St. — from its current six lanes to 10 lanes.

One high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction will be added.

The Hwy. 401-403-410 interchange will see two new ramps constructed as well. The contract — worth $156.7 million — was awarded to Aecon Construction and Materials Ltd.

“This important project will help traffic flow and help keep people and goods moving safely and efficiently on our highways,” Del Duca said.

He said the ministry has observed more people using HOV lanes and saving time, “particularly during peak rush hour.”

He warned that a “major” construction project of this nature will have “some impact” on traffic.
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Monday, September 8, 2014

21 year old man shot dead in North York

TORONTO - A 21-year-old man is dead after a shooting in the Jane St.-Lawrence Ave. W. area on Monday night.

When manicurist Do Aoa, who works at a Magic Nails in the area, heard shots outside her North York business that night, she took note, but went back to watching TV shows.

The 58-year-old recalled Tuesday she was between customers when she heard “four or five” loud pops just after 6 p.m.

Police responded and cordoned off a small gravel parking lot behind Aoa’s shop.

Toronto Police found a 21-year-old victim. He died in hospital a short time later, marking Toronto’s 32nd homicide of the year.

“I heard the shots — four or five times — but I didn’t think it was out back, I thought it was down the street ... I was watching (my) iPad,” said Aoa.

The location where the brazen daytime murder occurred falls inside the border of one of Toronto’s city-designated priority investment neighbourhoods, the hardscrabble Weston-Mount Dennis area. Rustic, an area being considered as a newly designated priority area sits directly to the northeast.

Suresh Patel, who works behind the counter of Vinayaka Convenience, which is located merely steps from where Monday’s shooting took place, said he heard four shots. He didn’t, however, venture outside his small store to investigate. Instead, he just kept working.

According to Toronto Police spokesman Jennifer Sidhu, “several men were seen running from the scene” immediately after Monday’s shooting. She said it is a possibility these people could be a mix of both suspects and people running in fear.
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Cops probing suspicious vehicle fires in downtown Toronto

TORONTO - Police are investigating a series of suspicious downtown vehicle fires that occurred within hours of each other towards the end of the weekend.

Five vehicles were set ablaze in three separate incidents in The Esplanade-Church St. area, according to Toronto Police.

An older model Chrysler was discovered on fire around 11 p.m. Sunday on The Esplanade.

“It was a stolen vehicle,” Const. Jennifer Sidhu said. “Apparently this vehicle was stolen and driven to this location prior to being set on fire.”

She added witnesses reported seeing someone fleeing from the vehicle right before the fire.

A second vehicle was found ablaze between George and Frederick Sts. just before 11 p.m.

“Police were called regarding a U-Haul (truck) which was engulfed in flames,” Sidhu said.

Three other vehicles were set ablaze inside a multi-level Green P parking lot near Church St. and The Esplanade just after 2 a.m. Monday.

A police statement noted that a green Chrysler van and a red vehicle were reported fleeing the scene,

“The area is being canvassed for video,” Sidhu said.

Cops are probing these three incidents and called them “suspicious.”

Another incident occurred 3 a.m. Monday when two vehicles were “heavily damaged” in a fire at the rear of Hazelton Ave., Sidhu said.

“The fire was put out and no one was located in the vehicles or garages,” she said.

Police can’t confirm all the incidents are linked but are investigating the possibility.

“They’re all within close proximity and they’re all arson to vehicles, all in a short period of time,” Sidhu said.

Andre de Treville, who lives above the Green P parking lot near Church and The Esplanade, whipped out his camera and started filming from his balcony when he heard a commotion outside and realized a car was on fire.

A “small explosion” occurred shortly after cops arrived on scene, he said.

“Nothing Hollywood style,” de Treville said.

No one was injured. Police are asking anyone with information to contact them at 416-808-5100.
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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Man shot in Toronto's east end

TORONTO - A man was shot in the city’s east end Saturday night.

Toronto Police say the man, who is in his 30s, was walking on Madelaine Ave. — near Pharmacy and Danforth Aves. — around 9 p.m. when he was “approached by a male and was shot” multiple times, Det. Kent Smythe, of 41 Division, said Sunday morning.

After residents on the street called 911, the victim was taken to hospital, where he was treated and released.

Smythe added it appeared to be a targeted shooting. The victim is being “somewhat” co-operative, he said.

Police have no suspect description yet.
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North York home invasion sends two to hospital

TORONTO - A male in his 30s and a female in her 20s were hospitalized after a North York home invasion early Sunday.

Toronto Police say a residence on Chalkfarm Dr. - near Jane St. and Wilson Ave. - was broken into around 1:30 a.m.

“Two occupants were inside, both were injured, both were transported to hospital,” Staff-Sgt. Susan Thorning, of 31 Division, said.

As far as police know, there were no life-threatening injuries, she added.

Asked if the home was targeted, Thorning said that has “yet to be determined.”

Police are investigating.
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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Malvern C.I. war memorial vandalized again in Toronto

TORONTO - Vandals have struck again.

The war memorial at Toronto’s Malvern Collegiate — a previous a magnet for vandalism — has been targeted one more time.

A group of so-far unidentified people took a sword off a 1920s cenotaph at Malvern C.I., located near Main St. and Kingston Rd., in the middle of the night on Aug. 23, the investigating officer said Saturday.

“A group of people got on the cenotaph and were seen removing the sword,” Toronto Police Det. Keri Fernandes said. “So it has been damaged.”

The school didn’t notice for a few days, she added. Police were notified by Sept. 3 and investigators have determined it’s a group of “at least six youth.”

“We’ve received part images of the surveillance from the school so far and there’s still more for us to receive,” Fernandes said.

She also would not rule out that the people involved may have taken pictures or videos of the act and uploaded them online.

“It’s not uncommon for people of this age to videotape themselves doing these acts,” she said, adding she’d like anyone with that information to contact police.

Fran Perkins was on a restoration committee in 2011 that raised $44,000 to refurbish the statue.

She lives across the street and recalls the last time the memorial was damaged.

In November 2011, days after the restored statue was revealed, it was met with vandals armed with sticky tape. Three lead letters spelling out the names of soldiers were also knocked down.

“It was malicious, really malicious last time. I don’t know if this time it was fun or malicious,” Perkins said.

Five cameras watch the statue at the front of the building but the additional security didn’t stop the latest incident.

“I don’t know if we have to start fundraising again, I’m not sure what we have to do,” Perkins said.

Fernandes said a preliminary estimate from the school placed the damage at $5,000 to $10,000.

It could have been students pulling a prank, she said.

Anyone with information should call 55 Division at 416-808-5500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

10 problems with Rob Ford's transit plan

TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford’s transit plan rolls over some facts.

Here’s a rundown of 10 problems with the plan Ford rolled out on Wednesday:

1) Ford: Cost to build Sheppard subway extension is $1.8 billion.

Fact: In 2012, an expert panel pegged the cost to build the extension between $3.25 to $4.73 billion.

2) Ford: “World-class cities build subways” including Tokyo, London and New York City.

Fact: Cities around the world use LRT technology. The three cities listed in the Ford platform to illustrate superior, subway transit systems — Tokyo, London and New York — all use at least one line of light-rail in their transit systems or to connect suburban communities.

3) Ford: Phase 1 of his plan will cost $9 billion for around 32 km of subways.

Fact: The Scarborough subway extension alone will cost around $3.5 billion for 7.6 km.

4) Ford: His $9-billion figure is attributed to Metrolinx and the TTC.

Fact: Metrolinx and the TTC do not stand behind that figure and both agencies deny providing it.

5) Ford: Surface rail reduces lanes of traffic and causes slower and less reliable commute times.

Fact: Metrolinx says surface rail will not cause congestion because it travels on a dedicated right-of-way separate from the flow of traffic. 

6) Ford: The Sheppard LRT should be cancelled and the Sheppard subway should be extended to the Scarborough Town Centre.

Fact: In 2012, an expert advisory panel recommended light-rail because a subway was not needed to accommodate the projected growth in the area. The panel noted an LRT could serve the area at 60-70% less than the cost of a subway.

7) Ford: The Finch and Sheppard LRTs could be cancelled, providing $2 billion for subway construction,

Fact: Planning and design work has already started on the Finch and Sheppard LRTs. Although any transit project could be stopped, money is being spent on the projects now so less funding would be available and that funding is controlled by the province not the city.

8) Ford: “I am the only candidate who is committed to expanding Toronto’s subway system.

Fact:  Olivia Chow, John Tory and David Soknacki have all come out in support of various subway lines.

9) Ford: The Eglinton Crosstown should be built underground in Scarborough.

Fact: Metrolinx has said that burying the Crosstown would be “technically difficult” given the Don Valley.

10) Ford: “There is one reason Eglinton (Crosstown) is underground, it is because of Mayor Rob Ford.”

Fact: The Crosstown included a 10-km underground stretch when it was announced in 2009 (before Rob Ford was mayor or even running for the top job).
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Monday, September 1, 2014

Remembering how the Beatles hit T.O. 50 years ago

In the summer of 1964, there was no doubt who the kings of Carlton St were.
The Maple Leafs had won three straight Stanley Cups and were working on a fourth. Names such as Keon, Mahovlich, Armstrong, Pulford, Kelly and Horton had created a well-worn parade route through downtown Toronto.
Right behind were the junior tenant, the Toronto Marlboroughs, the ’64 Memorial Cup champions, an unrestricted pipeline of future Leafs talent. It remains the only instance where the Stanley and Memorial Cups were won in the same arena in the same year.
Players on both teams were clean-cut, expected to show decorum off ice and be army-strong on skates.
If you attended a Saturday game, men and boys in the best seats were obligated to don suit and ties, while women dressed for a night at the opera. It was a reflection of staid, Tory Toronto, which almost boarded up on Sundays.
But it was fast becoming a decade of dramatic change. Money-infused youth culture raised its voice to unhinge the norm in politics, religion, sex and of course, music. And when four skinny kids from England invaded the Gardens 50 years ago — Sept. 7, 1964 — a few guitar chords, “yeah-yeah-yeahs” and a shake of their mop tops was all it took to bust eardrums and break hockey’s hold on the city.
“Who can ever forget all that noise from the young girls that night,” laughed NHL executive Jim Gregory, then a manager/coach of the Marlies. That Monday evening, he made sure to stay late in his office up in the East blues and then work his way to floor level to watch Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr.
“The Beatles blew everybody out of the water that night (four acts, including Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, and Jackie DeShannon were also on the bill). You had to be impressed with their talent. It was certainly an exciting time around the building with all our championships. And then the Beatles arrived.”
Everyone from Hall of Famer Charlie Conacher to star goaltender Johnny Bower were trying to get tickets to that first show.
“My kids wanted to go, but there were just no seats,” recalled Bower. “The funny thing is that I would be bucking against the Beatles in the charts with my record later on.”
A year later, Bower’s children’s holiday novelty single, Honky The Christmas Goose, was indeed a hot seller in Canada, getting up to No. 29 on the local CHUM radio chart, while the Fab Four hit machine continued.
“I enjoyed the Beatles, but my wife (Nancy) liked them even more,” Bower said. “When we were doing the dishes, we’d both sing along and it made the drying go faster.”
The hype for the first concert started in April when the precious tickets for the two Sept. 7 concerts went on sale, stealing the thunder from the NHL playoffs.
When the Beatles’ charter Lockheed Electra landed at Malton on Sept. 6 from their show in Detroit, one long scream preceded them from the airport to their closley guarded suite at the King Edward Hotel. Mayor Phil Givens was turned away when he came to welcome them, though a 14-year-old girl was able to briefly sneak on their floor, hiding in a linen closet.
In a carefully planned motorcade to the Gardens next day, the Beatles were kept in a police paddywagon for protection, while 1,000 officers worked crowd control.
Defenceman Jim McKenny, something of a rebel himself as he transitioned from the Marlies to Leafs, recalled their frenzied arrival that afternoon. He and a few other juniors were just leaving their menial day jobs at the Gardens.
“You could tell right away they were big shooters because they came in the Carlton St. doors when everyone else had to use the back door on Wood St.,” McKenny laughed. “As a young person, of course, you’d heard about the Beatles, but I think the guys were headed to the old Carraige House to go drinking. At the time, that seemed more important than hanging around to see the Beatles. I was more into the Rolling Stones, anyway.”
McKenny welcomed the changes that the Beatles helped usher in as the 1960s unfolded, but said no thought was given to emulating their long hair. Attracting such attention wasn’t worth the hassle of breaking the team dress code rules or spending what money they had to look cool.
“In ’64, I worked the Gardens mailroom for $10 a week, and wasn’t very good at it,” McKenny said. “When you subtracted $4.20 for a 24 case of beer, you weren’t going to spend the other $5.80 on a fancy hairdo.”
Their first concert that night was supposed to start at 4 p.m. But the delerium was allowed to build another 90 minutes before the lads bounded on stage. They were introduced by local DJs Jay Nelson and Al Boliska, launching into Twist and Shout. Right away, their puny speakers lost the battle with the infamous Gardens sound system and its cavernous roof. But with optimum acoustics, hits such as All My Lovin’ and Can’t Buy Me Love would’ve been almost drowned out by 18,000 teen shreikers.
“Imagine the loudest thunderclap you have ever heard,” wrote the Toronto Telegram’s Frank Tumpane. “Imagine it emanates inside a building and then imagine it’s pitched as high as a siren.”
The rollicking media session in the Gardens exclusive parlour was much like the free-for-all at Kennedy Airport earlier that year when the arriving Beatles first charmed the skeptical North American press. Toronto was the group’s Canadian fan club headquarters so they were very co-operative in posing for pictures with its young reps, as well as Miss Canada, and in fine form to trade quips with the army of reporters jammed into the room.
Beatles’ press officer Derek Taylor opened the proceedings by reading a letter from a fan in Saskatchewan who wanted to collect the group’s excess bath water and market it. There was also an offer to buy each Beatle’s tonsils.
Lennon, who had been asked to endorse the re-naming of Hamilton Mountain after the group, was quizzed on what time he usually got up each morning.
“Two in the afternoon,” he replied with his Scouse cheekiness.
He was less amused by a blunt query on how long he thought the Beatles could last.
“Longer than you,” he fired back at a reporter.
The concerts sold 35,522 tickets (they played again at 10 p.m.) at an average price around $5. The group netted about $93,000 for their efforts, according to the Beatles Bible website.
The group rarely crossed in the sports realm during their arena tours, though they did drop by boxer Sonny Liston’s camp in Miami Beach earlier that year as a publicity stunt. Busy preparing for his heavyweight title fight with Cassius Clay, Liston refused to pose with “those sissies” so the Fabs were taken to Clay’s gym. The future Muhammaed Ali famously mugged with them for the cameras, feeding the hype of their respective careers. But Liston not Ali would later be included among celebrities on the cover of Sgt. Pepper.
While rising Gardens mogul Harold Ballard didn’t have a large profile in the ’64 concert, he almost came to blows with Beatles manager Brian Epstein upon their return to Toronto in August of 1965. Though the Beatles were booked for just one performance, Ballard sold tickets for two and didn’t tell Epstein until almost the last minute.
Epstein raged about the deceit, but Ballard shrugged and dared him to go on stage and tell the second crowd the show was cancelled. He had someone hustle Epstein to the Hot Stove for a cocktail to calm him down and as Ballard hoped, the Beatles didn’t make much fuss about playing again. Ballard, legend has it, further increased profit by turning off the water in the building on the hot day so fans had to pay for larger drinks.
After one more Gardens’ appearance in 1966, the road-weary Beatles quit touring and worked their magic in the studio.
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