Sunday, January 31, 2016

2 Dead, 3 Injured in Chinatown Toronto Shooting Near Spadina Avenue and Nassau Street

Two men are dead and three others are in hospital after a shooting in downtown Toronto.

According to a Toronto Paramedics spokesperson, emergency services were called to Spadina Avenue and Nassau Street around 3:15 a.m. Sunday.

The spokesperson said one person was pronounced dead on the scene.

Paramedics transported two men to a local trauma centre. One male was in life-threatening condition and the other was in serious condition.

The male in life-threatening condition later died from his injuries, Toronto Homicide Det. Sgt. Mike Carbone told media later Sunday morning.

A fourth person left the scene and went to a hospital by taxi, but the exact nature of their injuries is unknown.

One other person was also taken to hospital, although it’s unclear how they got there.

As of Sunday morning, Toronto police haven’t released any suspect information.

Police have closed Spadina Avenue between College Street and Dundas Street West while officers investigate.

Anyone with information is being asked to call 14 Division at 416-808-1400.
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The History of Toronto’s Island Airport

A view of the newly built Island airport at Hanlan's Point in 1939.
City of Toronto Archives
A view of the newly built Island airport at Hanlan's Point in 1939.
Eighty years later, at least one fight has finally been settled.
There’s still controversy over what kind of planes can use Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport — though jetliners appear to be a dead duck, at least for now — or even if an airport should be allowed so close to the condos along Queens Quay.
But the pedestrian tunnel is a going concern at last. It was being hotly debated even before the island airport, now rated Canada’s ninth busiest, came into being Feb. 4, 1939.
That’s when millionaire philanthropist and eccentric Harry Falconer McLean, of Montreal, landed in his private plane. The first commercial flight, an American Airlines DC-3, arrived Sept. 8 that year, carrying big-band leader Tommy Dorsey for a two-day gig at the CNE.
An island airport was first proposed in 1929 but meant tearing down 54 cottages, shown here in this 1937 photo, as well as Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park. On July 9, 1937, councilors approved both the island site and Malton site (now Pearson International).
An island airport was first proposed in 1929 but meant tearing down 54 cottages, shown here in this 1937 photo, as well as Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park. On July 9, 1937, councilors approved both the island site and Malton site (now Pearson International).
The flight, if not Dorsey, got a mention in the Toronto Daily Star four days later. Airline president C.R. Smith was also on the plane “and said no other city on the continent had such splendid airport facilities as Toronto …”
Originally known as Port George VI Island Airport and then Toronto City Centre Airport, it was renamed Nov. 10, 2009, in honour of Canadian First World War fighter ace Billy Bishop.
An airport was first proposed in 1929 but wasn’t given the go-ahead until six years later. It meant tearing down 54 cottages and Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park, noted for J.W. Gorman’s diving horses. The Star Weekly reported that they jumped from a platform 12 metres above the water “without a whip and with the horses’ own volition.”
Ottawa voted to spend $976,000 (about $17 million today) on a tunnel to the island.
An 1935 aerial view of the Toronto islands looking northeast. The area which would soon become the airport is at the upper left.
An 1935 aerial view of the Toronto islands looking northeast. The area which would soon become the airport is at the upper left.
Fiery former mayor Sam McBride was very much against this. But, after what the Star called a “long and acrimonious session,” council approved the project by 15 votes to seven. Councillor McBride told Mayor Jimmie Simpson, “You are no gentleman, you never were and you never will be. You are just an ordinary, cheap blatherskite.”
He may have lost the vote but McBride, who has an island ferry named after him, got his wish. William Lyon Mackenzie King, who won the federal election in October 1935, cancelled the tunnel two weeks after digging had begun.
But on July 9, 1937, councillors approved both the island site and Malton airport (now Pearson International, though it was originally meant only as a backup to the island).
Two days after Dorsey’s arrival, Canada joined the war that Britain had declared on Germany on Sept. 3. The airport was used for pilot training. Little Norway Park, at the foot of Bathurst St., commemorates the Royal Norwegian Air Force personnel who lived in barracks there between 1940 and 1943.
They included Sister Agnes, the “smiling blonde Lutheran nurse who has come from Norway to be their ‘Florence Nightingale,’” the Star reported.
A 48-passenger ferry was built to cross the 120-metre Western Gap channel. Hauled in each direction by cables attached to the docks, it stayed in service until 1963. The diesel boat that replaced it would institute the shortest scheduled ferry service in the world.
By 1954, air traffic to and from the U.S. was enough to justify a customs officer on duty weekdays during summer and fall. And in October 1957, a scheduled freight and passenger service began to St. Catharines, Brantford and Welland.
A runway extension and landing lights enabled night flying to begin in 1963.
The first mention of jetliners came in 1967 with a study to see if the island could accommodate big (and noisy) planes such as the DC-8. But this would have meant building a whole new airport.
Pilot trainees stride past P-36 trainers at "Little Norway" training centre flying field at the Toronto Island Airport in 1941, during the second world war.
Pilot trainees stride past P-36 trainers at "Little Norway" training centre flying field at the Toronto Island Airport in 1941, during the second world war.
In January 1975, the Star reported that Otonabee Airways (which became City Express) had begun a $38 three-times-a-day “commuter service” to Montreal. Even with a stop en route at Peterborough, the 19-seat Saunders ST-27 turboprop was only 17 minutes slower than an Air Canada Boeing 727 jet from Malton/Pearson, taking into account the travel time from downtown.
After a great deal of toing and froing, yes-ing and no-ing on whether STOL — short takeoff and landing — airliners should be allowed, a City Express Dash 7 began flying between Toronto and Ottawa in September 1984, making nine trips a day in each direction. A service to Montreal was added the following year.
The island airport also boasted Canada’s first female air traffic controller. Margaret Dunseith started in 1952, becoming, the Star reported, “the best-known voice in aviation radio in this country.”
She retired in 1980 and died two years later. In 1989, a new control tower was named in her honour.
Malton Airport’s new automatic parking lot entrance photographed on May 2, 1957. Malton Airport, now Pearson International, was originally meant to be a backup to the island airport.
Malton Airport’s new automatic parking lot entrance photographed on May 2, 1957. Malton Airport, now Pearson International, was originally meant to be a backup to the island airport.
Porter Airlines is now Billy Bishop Airport’s passenger-carrying mainstay. This reporter was on the inaugural flight to Ottawa on Oct. 23, 2006. The 70-seat Bombardier Q400 that left at 7 a.m. was only half-full but passengers applauded both the takeoff and landing.
About 30 anti-airport pickets gathered near the ferry terminal on Bathurst St. They included Adam Vaughan, now a Liberal MP but then a candidate for city council, who called the demonstration “funny … How do you protest something that no one is going to use?”
The 2.3 million passengers who currently pass through the airport every year might not agree with that statement. Fewer and fewer of those passengers also use the ferry; the pedestrian tunnel opened on July 30, 2015.
Flash back to McBride, who predicted that it would be a “stone around the taxpayer’s neck which would drag him into the grave.”
A grave case of tunnel vision.
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One Man Dead After Vehicle Strikes Tree in North York, on Derrydown Road Near Finch Avenue West and Keele Street

One man is dead and two people are in hospital after a vehicle struck a tree in the city’s west end.

It happened around 2:30 a.m. near Finch Avenue West and Keele Street on Derrydown Road.

There is one female victim who has serious injuries and a third victim who suffered minor injuries.

The area is now closed for the investigation.

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Vehicle Crashes into Home in East York on Chisholm Avenue near O’Connor Drive and Woodbine Avenue.

A vehicle has crashed into a home in East York.

It was around 4 a.m. when the car struck the house on Chisholm Avenue near O’Connor Drive and Woodbine Avenue.

Global News cameraman Jeremy Cohn is at the scene and says the vehicle went through the living room and just missed one person who was sitting on a couch. It then entered the kitchen and went partially through the back wall.

The driver has been sent to hospital, but there’s no word on the extent of their injuries.

There were also three people inside the home at the time, including a dog. Luckily they were all unharmed, but it could possibly be torn down due to extensive damage.

Toronto Police, Toronto Fire and Enbridge Gas Services were all called in to investigate.

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90 Year Old Woman Struck and Killed by Vehicle near Dufferin and Bloor

A 90-year-old woman has died after being struck by a vehicle near Dufferin and Bloor streets.

It happened before 6 p.m. Saturday on Armstrong Avenue and the victim was sent to hospital a short time later where she succumbed to her injuries.

According to investigators the driver did remain on scene after the accident occurred.

It’s not known at this time if charges will be laid.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rocco Zito: The Life and Death of the Former Toronto Mob Boss

Rocco Zito was a diminutive “nonno” living quietly with his family on a North York street.

But the 87-year-old father of five grown daughters who lived in a non-descript bungalow on Playfair Ave. was also a powerful Toronto mobster. He was a founding member of the La Camera de Controllo, the governing board Toronto’s Calabrian underworld of ‘Ndrangheta clans.

He always kept a low profile and when he died Friday night, he was still a man of great influence and respect among the current leaders of the ‘Ndrangheta.

“For sure, absolutely,” Zito remained a man of influence among Mob bosses in the GTA, said a police source.

“In theory, in practice, it should work that way” as the old world ‘Ndrangheta ways of southern Italy operate here, the source said.

Zito was one of the elders “consulted” to arbitrate disputes among current leaders, the source said.
And Zito would have an interest in the disputes as many of the clans are linked by inter-marriage including his.

Zito was on the first board formed by Hamilton’s Giacomo Luppino in 1962. Police discovered the board’s existence in 1968.

Unlike other mobsters assassinated in the recent past, Zito appears he’s the victim of an apparent deadly domestic dispute on Friday. His son-in-law Domenico Scopelliti surrendered to police and is now charged with first-degree murder.

But because of Zito’s history and Scopelliti’s lineage, questions of motive linger.

EARLY YEARS
Zito was born into a ‘Ndrangheta crime family in Fiumara, Calabria, in 1928.

Italian authorities knew his father Domenic as a member of the Vincenzo Crupi clan, described to the Assizes Court of Reggio Calabria as a band of criminals formed in 1930, involved in smuggling, rustling and extortion.

Domenic had weapons convictions in an incident when he defended the gang’s accountant from rebels. He was also convicted in Italy of delinquent association to a criminal group, of which he served four years.

Although later declared rehabilitated, Domenic’s criminal history would be something Canadian authorities would use to later deny him entry into Canada. Rocco’s uncle, also named Rocco, was the head of a gang known as the Furci Cosca (family).

Rocco Zito, one of six sons to Domenic and wife Angela, tried twice to immigrate to North America illegally, once as a stowaway on a ship headed to New York City in 1947, and two years later trying to enter Texas at Galveston through Mexico. Both times he was caught and deported.

A murder charge against Rocco in Italy was dropped in 1952 before he entered Canada legally through Montreal three years later. In 1961, he lived on Brock Ave., in the Bloor and Dufferin Sts. area, when he got involved in a Montreal mafia-bootlegging scheme.

Police found a still in Zito’s home during a raid and it led to his first conviction with a fine of $108, including court costs. A year later, he was spotted at a meeting at Luppino’s home.

Police also spotted him at the home of the Hamilton’s don members of the Stefano Magaddino La Cosa Nostra family of Buffalo.

He’d remain under surveillance by intelligence officers since that meeting.

MANSLAUGHTER AND JAIL
Zito managed to avoid jail until he was sentenced to 4.5 years jail in 1986 for manslaughter in the vicious beating and shooting death of Toronto photo studio owner Rosario Sciarrino, 60, for not being able to pay back a business loan at crippling loan shark rates.

Sciarrino’s body was found frozen and wrapped in garbage bags in January 1986 in the trunk of his car off Airport Rd. in Brampton.

An autopsy showed Sciarrino was shot in the head and chest, and suffered a dozen facial fractures during a meeting in a Brampton meat company on Jan. 13, 1986. He had apparently also insulted Zito as well as fallen behind on his payments, which amounted to $9,000 a month in interest on a $20,000 loan.

Zito vanished after the shooting but surrendered four days later to Peel homicide detectives. He limped in from a gunshot wound to the leg, telling police that “I, Rocco Zito, was shot on Monday, Jan. 13th, by persons unknown.”

Police long suspected the wound was self-inflicted to instill legal doubt in the initial second-degree murder charge in Sciarrino’s slaying.

Affidavits filed to the Supreme Court of Ontario in the 1980’s described Zito as “a capo (leader/boss) of a Toronto ‘Ndrangheta group. He is also believed to be a member of the ‘crimini’ and has been since 1962.”

Police officers in an unrelated case involving stolen construction equipment were also targeting Zito.

That case, led by York Region’s fraud detective Chris Barratt, merged with an ongoing multi-jurisdictional investigation dubbed Project Otiz, Zito spelled backwards.

He was sentenced to 2.5 years in 1987 for possessing stolen goods and proceeds of crime.

THE FINAL YEARS
Police knew in 1985 at least two dozen men kissed his hand at an Eglinton Ave. W. party. He was, along with other crimini members, a pallbearer at Toronto mob boss Michele Racco’s 1980 funeral.
Police spotted him and a convicted heroin trafficker meeting New York mobster Paolo Gambino, who was setting up a heroin pipeline to Toronto, at a Toronto hotel on May 4, 1970.

Zito’s dealings with people within the Italian community were based on old-world traditions, offering advice as well as loans. Police didn’t try to fit Zito within boxes of boss or underboss, but as a person of influence in organized crime circles and the general community.

Police spotted Zito often rambling through Toronto’s Little Italy regularly in the 1980s, meeting with other Mafiosi like Montreal’s Frank Controni. Police also knew Zito was aware of listening devices and used a soft voice and hand motions to communicate.

A police source says Zito is believed to have been involved in five or six murders dating back to the 1970s, either by his hand or by order.

“The myth is true,” the source said. “That most Mob leaders won’t die in bed.”

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Toronto Police Looking For 2 Men in Home Invasion Near Rogers Centre

Toronto Police seeking help from the public in a home invasion at a condo near the Rogers Centre, on January 17th.

An 18 year old woman was grabbed, tied up, and locked in her washroom after two men forced their way into the residence.

Later a 43 year resident of the same unit was punched in the face when he returned home to find the assailanst in his home.

The men fled after taking a cell phone, cash and a safe.

Police have released security camera images of the men, described as…
A white male, late-30s-to-40s, medium build, wearing grey pants, a grey Adidas hoodie, a dark toque and carrying a dark backpack.
While a second suspect is described as white, late-30s-to-40s, medium build, wearing a dark-blue hooded jacket and a red toque.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-5200, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com

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Rocco Zito 87, Long Time Mafia Boss Shot Dead in His Home on Playfair Ave by Domenico Scopelliti, 51, of Toronto

The son-in-law of longtime underworld figure Rocco Zito has turned himself in to police after Zito was shot dead in his home early Friday evening.

Domenico Scopelliti, 51, of Toronto, reported to police late Friday to face first-degree murder charges, hours after Zito, 87, was killed in his home on Playfair Ave., near Caledonia Rd. Emergency responders had tried to save Zito’s life but he was pronounced dead on scene, paramedics said. 

Zito’s old associates included Nicolo Rizzuto, a murdered Montreal mobster, and Tomasso Buscetta, a former Sicilian Mafia leader who became a turncoat in the 1980s, according to police sources.
A police officer who specializes in organized crime said Zito was considered to be retired from the underworld.

Police were called to Zito’s brick ranch-style home shortly after 5 p.m. Friday.

Efforts to save the grandfather’s life failed and he was pronounced dead on scene.

Zito didn’t look the part of a mob boss or a powerful man, and a police officer who knew him described him as polite and respectful.

"Retired" Mafia mobster Rocco Zito, 87, was shot dead in a home on Playfair Ave. early Friday evening.
"Retired" Mafia mobster Rocco Zito, 87, was shot dead in a home on Playfair Ave. early Friday evening. 

He stood just 5-foot-2 and drove a nondescript Chevrolet Malibu.

Zito worked as a waiter shortly after coming to Canada in the 1960s and later listed his occupation as a ceramic tile saleman.

Police believed he made his real money from gambling, drug trafficking and currency counterfeiting.

Police also suspected him of providing documents to Sicilian mobsters fleeing police crackdowns during the 1980s.

He was also involved in money-lending and was sentenced to four and a half years in prison in 1986, after pleading guilty to manslaughter for clubbing a man to death with a liqueur bottle, over an unpaid debt.

His unassuming appearance belied the fact he was considered by police to have been a leader of the local Calabrian Mafia, or ’Ndrangheta, who once sat on its governing body, called La Camera di Controllo or the Crimini.

According to court documents from his birthplace of Fiumara in Reggio Calabria, Italy, his uncle was the leader of a criminal gang in Calabria.

Zito’s brother Giuseppe was murdered in 1975 in a ’Ndrangheta power struggle in Calabria.

Zito’s father, Domenico, was refused landed immigrant status and deported from Canada because he had been convicted years earlier of being a member of the ’Ndrangheta in Fiumara.

Toronto police say Domenico Scopelliti, 51, surrendered late Friday. He was being sought for first-degree murder in the Thursday shooting death of Rocco Zito, 87.
Toronto Police Service

Toronto police say Domenico Scopelliti, 51, surrendered late Friday. He was being sought for first-degree murder in the Thursday shooting death of Rocco Zito, 87.

In Canada, his roots in organized crime ran deep and stretched to New York, Montreal and Italy, police sources said.

When police arrested former Mafia leader Paolo Violi in 1960 in Toronto for running bootleg liquor, they found Zito’s phone number on him.

Violi was later murdered in Montreal after becoming head of the Cotroni crime family there.

Zito’s other associates included former Scarborough resident Alberto Agueci, who was tortured and murdered in 1961 after threatening to inform on the Magaddino crime family of Buffalo.

In 1967, Zito’s name came came up when police bugged the tomato plants of Hamilton ’Ndrangheta leader Giacomo Luppino, who was Violi’s son-in-law.

In those tapes, Luppino said he constantly heard about Zito and understood that he was in the money.
Two of the other original members of the Camera di Controllo — Salvatore Triumbari and Filippo Vendemini — were murdered in 1967 and 1969, respectively.

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Paul Godfrey of Postmedia Wants Looser Foreign-Ownership Rules of Media

Postmedia is pressing its case for an easing of newspaper foreign ownership restrictions as it faces U.S. currency debt repayment burdens CEO Paul Godfrey has likened to a “noose around your neck,” sources say.

They said Godfrey and Postmedia chair Rod Phillips were to have met with a senior political adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week to discuss possible changes to long-standing cultural protections that bar majority control of media companies by foreigners.

An industry insider who spoke off the record said the executives believe that if Toronto-based Postmedia is forced to seek creditor protection the company could be broken up, with newspaper assets sold off to U.S. hedge fund creditors in a debt for equity swap.

Under that scenario, bidding would be opened to U.S. and other foreign interests so that holders of long-term Postmedia Network Canada Corp. debt would have a better chance of recouping all or most of their investment.

An easing of the ownership restriction could also alter Tax Act provisions that prohibit advertisers from writing off spending on print advertising if the property is not majority owned by Canadians.

In an interview, Godfrey noted that he is on record supporting lowered ownership restrictions in the newspaper industry, but would not confirm that a meeting was held to advocate for the move. 

“I report to my board first and foremost,” Godfrey said Thursday. “What my goals and objectives are for this company will be revealed. . . When I’m ready to say them publicly, I’ll say them publicly.”

Postmedia, Canada’s largest English language news media company and proprietor of broadsheet dailies that include the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen, has, since 2012, retained the services of David Angus of the Ottawa lobby firm Capital Hill Group Inc. Angus is charged with pressing for changes to ownership rules. He did not respond to an interview request. 

But observers said the ownership issue takes on new urgency given the woes of the industry and the continued operating losses at Postmedia on a deep slump in print ad revenue and acquisition costs. 

Postmedia said this month that it is merging newsrooms and cutting jobs as part of an effort to save $80 million by the middle of next year, while Moody’s Investors Service has further downgraded its ratings on the company, citing a “lack of confidence that [Postmedia] will be able to refinance its 2017 and 2018 debt maturities at par.”

“What’s really hurtful to us (is the) second-lien notes are all in U.S. funds,” Godfrey told The Canadian Press in an interview. “With the Canadian dollar falling the way it’s falling, that’s almost like a noose around your neck.”

Godfrey in 2010 assembled an investment group to bid for the chain of newspapers being sold by financially stressed CanWest and secured backing from investors including U.S. private-equity firm GoldenTree Asset Management, while a dual share structure maintained majority Canadian ownership.

Postmedia in 2014 announced a deal to acquire the English language properties of the Sun Media chain. 

NDP industry critic Brian Masse said he’s not sure if newspaper industry issues are front and centre for the Liberal government, but said they should be. 

He added that easing of ownership rules designed to guard cultural industries is a “fair discussion to have” in light of the emergence of digital news alternatives, but warned that foreign control could lead to an infiltration of offshore biases into Canadian editorial content.

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Suspected Gunman Domenico Scopelliti 51 surrenders to Toronto Police

One man is in custody after an 87-year-old man was shot dead in a North York home Friday.

Just before 1 a.m. Saturday, Toronto Police announced Domenico Scopelliti, 51, surrendered.

Hours earlier, police had announced that the Toronto man was wanted for first-degree murder and considered armed and dangerous.

Officers were called to a house on Playfair Ave. near Caledonia Rd. just after 5 p.m. Friday. They were told a man in the home had been shot with a rifle.

Const. David Hopkinson says officers closed down the neighbourhood and told people to stay indoors as they moved in.

“(Police) weren’t sure if the shooter was still inside the house or still in the neighbourhood,” he said.

“We put out a caution to advise people to stay inside their homes for a few moments while officers checked the area.”

When officers entered the home they discovered the wounded man, attempted emergency treatment, but he died. Officers searched the home and neighbourhood and were unable to find the gunman.

Police reopened Caledonia Rd. Friday evening, but still had a portion of Playfair Ave. taped off into the night and early Saturday.

A neighbour, who identified himself as Jack, said he believes he knows the victim.

“He was a very well-respected person in the community,” he said. “He was very well-known to the Italian community.”

The man said he was stunned to hear about the violence such a short distance from his home.

“I’m shocked, I’m very shocked to hear that.”

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Domenico Scopelliti, 51, of Toronto, is Wanted For First-Degree Murder Near Playfair Ave. and Caledonia Rd.

Toronto Police have identified a suspect after an elderly man was fatally shot in the city’s west end Friday evening. 

Police arrived at a home near Playfair Ave. and Caledonia Rd. shortly after 5 p.m. to find a man with a gunshot wound.

Toronto Paramedic Services confirmed the victim, a man in his 80s, was pronounced dead on scene after life-saving efforts were made. 

The identity of the victim has not been released pending notification of next of kin, police say.

Domenico Scopelliti, 51, of Toronto, is wanted for first-degree murder. 

He is described as white, six-foot-one with a heavy build. 

Police say he is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached if spotted. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-7400 or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477 (TIPS).
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City Proposes TTC Queen Street Route for Toronto’s Downtown Relief Line

Plans for downtown Toronto’s first subway in decades are taking shape, with the city’s planning department urging that it run below Queen Street.

Details of the long-awaited downtown relief line – a route that has been discussed in various permutations for a century – emerged on Friday. Staff have concluded that the best approach involves a connection from Pape Station near Danforth Avenue to the area around City Hall.

Although the plan is primarily about diverting passengers from the overcrowded Yonge subway line, a briefing for councillors made clear the value of the new line to the city centre as well. According to a draft staff presentation, the subway plan would “fill [a] rapid transit void in the core” and “recognizes that downtown is 24/7.”

The proposal pencils in stations along Queen Street around Sherbourne Street, Sumach Street and Broadview Avenue, and one near Gerrard Square. These would allow access to Regent Park and Moss Park, and offer the chance of a connection to the Stouffville GO corridor, which is expected to get much more frequent service under provincial and city plans.

Ridership projections for the proposed line are expected in the next few weeks, and the plan itself will form part of a broader package of transit proposals going to city council in June. Future extensions would push the line farther north and west. But no funding for any of it has been secured, and construction of even the first phase would likely take at least a decade.

Surging ridership on the Yonge subway line in recent years has made clear the importance of a downtown relief line. Officials including Toronto Transit Commission CEO Andy Byford and the city’s chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, have repeatedly described the relief line as the city’s top transit priority. Mayor John Tory, who ran on a more immediate plan to relieve the subway by adding service on local GO rail corridors, has said the DRL would still be needed in the longer term.
“We have to take action now,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, one of the stronger voices at city hall arguing for the DRL.

“As Toronto’s finally moving on expanding our rapid transit system … based on growth projections, the relief line addresses an existing condition that’s getting worse every year. Many of our streetcar lines, along with the Yonge [subway] line, are already overcrowded.”

The preferred alignment that emerged on Friday – which must still go through a public consultation process and be formally recommended to council – would avoid adding passengers to the increasingly crowded Union Station. By moving farther north than earlier proposed routes, it also would reduce potential conflict with plans for more service along the GO lines. And it would offer an east-west alternative through the downtown.

“We are very happy to finally see some concrete work being done on this proposal,” said Louis Mark, a founder of the Toronto Relief Line Alliance, which plans to start ramping up its advocacy. “We have to keep working to make sure as many people as possible know about this proposal, and about its benefits, to make sure it has as much support as possible.”

City planning staff looked at six possible routes. These all started from Broadview or Pape stations and made their way by various routes downtown. The alternative laid out on Friday got top marks in the most categories, including affordability, public health and environment, choice and experience.
One key advantage the route planners say, is that it would create a station by Nathan Phillips Square in “the geographic and psychological centre of the city.” This route also has what staff described as the lowest cost of the options, by providing a shorter crossing of the Don River and avoiding pricey soil stabilization required if passing under the river farther to the south.
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Strike or Lockout Possible for 26,000 Municipal Employees in Toronto

More than 26,000 Toronto municipal workers could be locked out or on strike next month after negotiations between the city and two unions failed to show progress.

The city asked for a “no board report” from the provincial Ministry of Labour on Friday after failing to reach an agreement with CUPE Local 416, a union that represents 6,000 outdoor workers, including garbage collectors and water and parks staff.

If approved by the ministry, a no-board report allows either side to initiate a labour disruption after 17 days.

A legal strike or lockout could take place as early as Feb. 20, Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong said Friday.

“We’re hopeful to get a deal,” he said. “That’s what we’re working towards and that’s why we fought for the no board. We’re not satisfied with the progress that’s been taking place to date.”

Just hours after the city’s announcement, CUPE Local 79, the inside workers’ union, also filed a no board request. This union has more than 20,000 members, including public health workers and workers in city-run daycares, recreation and community centres.

“It’s clear that the city isn’t negotiating,” said Local 79 president Tim Maguire. “We’ve been negotiating since October and the same deep cuts remain at the table.”

Bargaining between the city and unions began Oct. 16 and their contracts expired Dec. 31. The city requested a conciliator to assist in the negotiations in late December, while CUPE 79 asked for one this month. All three parties said they are at a standstill, however.

“As a result of the city’s actions, we are very far apart in our positions,” said Matt Alloway, a spokesperson for Local 416. “We need the city to engage us in meaningful dialogue so we can reach a fair deal that supports and protects the services that the city needs.”

Workers in both unions have voted for strike mandates.

A press release said the city has a contingency plan in place to “address operation of key city services in event of labour disruption,” but did not go into details.

An update on the City of Toronto website assures that the TTC, police and fire services, long-term care homes, the Toronto Public Library and Toronto community housing properties would not be affected by the strike or lockout.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Toronto Will Wait to Buy New Garbage Trucks

TORONTO - Mayor John Tory’s executive committee waded into transit, housing and garbage trucks on Thursday.
Here’s a rundown of what was approved:
  • GARBAGE TRUCKS
Councillor David Shiner happily got the committee to vote to put off buying new garbage trucks until city council figures out whether or not it wants to contract out more of Toronto’s trash collection.
Shiner questioned why the city approved two contracts worth almost $40 million to buy up to 114 trucks and wants staff to review the city’s procurement policy.
“I want the city manager to look into it and to make sure in the future, council is made fully aware of any actions on contracts that are this large that may also have impacts on other policy decisions that we’re considering,” he said.
  • SCARBOROUGH SUBWAY
The committee gave city staff the green light to explore a revised Scarborough transit plan that includes a one-stop subway extension and expanding the Eglinton Crosstown LRT into eastern Scarborough.
Before the meeting, Mayor John Tory made it clear he wants to move the transit file forward.
“If we were waiting to get any transit report that had unanimity on what should be done in Scarborough, we would be waiting for another decade and doing nothing,” Tory said.
Staff are expected to report back to the committee in March. City council would consider the plan in June.
  • HOUSING TASK FORCE
Councillors voted to have city officials review the recommendations from the Toronto Community Housing Task Force.
With 95,000 families on a waiting list for community housing, Councillor Joe Cressy said it’s about time.
“At the end of the day it comes down to money. Unless we have the funds to repair the housing we have, and build new housing, we can’t do anything,” he said.

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Brenda Hind Describes Brother's Deadly Shooting at Toronto McDonald's Near Coxwell and Danforth Aves. Feb. 28, 2015

TORONTO - Brenda Hind thought seeing exactly how her brother died would answer some questions.

But as her eyes were glued to a police laptop last summer watching a 90-second silent, grainy video of Ryan Hind’s final moments before a security guard shot him in an east-end McDonald’s, the images only conjured more questions.

“The Ryan I saw in that video — that was drugs and alcohol,” Hind, 48, told the Toronto Sun Thursday. “That was not Ryan. That was the demons coming through.”

Ryan Hind, 39, and his friend Donny Ouimette, 25, were shot to death in the fast-food restaurant near Coxwell and Danforth Aves. around 3 a.m. on Feb. 28, 2015, after a night of bar-hopping.

Hind says the video shows the GardaWorld security guard looking at the menu while on break. Then her brother and Ouimette come into frame and Ouimette bodychecks the guard.

Next, a man she believes is her brother grabs the guard and holds him by the throat as another man joins Ouimette in the beating, she said.

As the guard falls to the ground, she says the men continue stomping and punching him. Ouimette gets shot. After circling the guard, who’s now on all fours, her brother attacks him before his body is seen rolling off the guard.

The electrical apprentice on disability leave was pronounced dead at the scene from gunshot wounds to his chest.

And now, nearly a year later, Hind continues to second-guess herself. What could she have done to save her baby brother?

“He started having flashbacks of childhood (sexual) abuse about 15 years ago,” she explained. “He had kind of put things out of his head. He sought medical help time and time again, but it didn’t go away.”

About 10 years ago, he started self-medicating, she said, on top of the medication the doctors had prescribed. And that’s when he started trying to kill himself.

“I think after Donny was shot that was when Ryan realized he was going to (die) to end his pain,” she said.

Hind said she’s reached out to Julian Falconer, the lawyer for Sammy

“When I read that (Const. James Forcillo verdict) story in the paper the other day, that hit me in the face,” she said. “It’s almost like reading about Ryan. The only difference is one is a security guard and one is a police officer. But like Ryan, (Yatim) was dealing with mental illness.”

Yatim, armed with a knife and high on drugs, was shot dead on an empty downtown streetcar on July 27, 2013, after a standoff with police.

Hind, a support staff worker at a Toronto school, wants an inquest into her brother’s death.

In the meantime, she’s written to the security guard, who wasn’t charged.

“It wasn’t his fault,” Brenda said of the guard.

“I told him, ‘Ryan wasn’t trying to hurt you, he was trying to hurt himself.’”

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Four Toronto Police Officers Charged Other Cases to Be Probed



TORONTO - The hits just keep coming for Toronto cops.

The already low morale among police officers was dealt another blow Thursday with the news that four of their colleagues are charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.

“It’s definitely having an impact on morale, but the officers who work in this city will keep doing their job to the best of their ability,” Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said.
He said cops can’t help but be concerned about how the public perceives them in the wake of the criminal charges for allegedly planting heroin during a bust and lying under oath at Nguyen Son Tran’s trial.

But McCormack reminded citizens that Const. Jeffrey Tout, Det.-Const. Benjamin Elliott, Const. Michael Taylor and Det.-Const. Fraser Douglas are innocent until proven guilty.

Chief Mark Saunders announced the charges at police headquarters first thing in the morning — one day after Const. Tash Baiati was charged under the Police Services Act for shooting up a suspected stolen car last fall; two days after the chief launched an internal investigation because police were accused of ignoring the Crown’s advice when they charged a Brazilian soccer star with sex assault; and three days after Const. James Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder for the shooting death of Sammy Yatim in 2013.

“It’s been an anomaly week when it comes to our service,” the city’s top cop said.

Saunders said professional standards investigators will “scrutinize” other cases involving the accused officers to ensure there was no misconduct.

McCormack said the probe will likely include “a significant” number of cases.

“But unfortunately this is what has to be done when there are allegations of this nature,” he said.

The police association boss applauded the chief for maintaining his promise of transparency and said the charges show cops are capable of investigating their fellow officers.

One veteran cop, who asked not to be named, said it’s unfortunate all the negative police news came out the same week.

“That impacts public perception, making it appear these things happen all the time,” the officer said. “But in reality these incidents occurred over two years.

“It’s very frustrating.”

The officer also noted the four cops are actually accused of “moving drugs” they allegedly found in the car, “not planting drugs.”

“It’s not like they’re accused of grabbing a bag of heroin from a cruiser and dumping it on the dashboard.”

Sukanya Pillay, executive director and general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said laying charges against the officers “sends an important signal to the public that no one is above the law.”

“Accountability and ending impunity are vital to a free democracy and to Canadians.”

Const. Jeffrey Tout:
•41 years old
•17 years of service
•Assigned to 55 Division, Coxwell Ave. and Dundas St. E.
•Recognized for his role in Project Outback, a 2010 counterfeit goods bust
•Accused of providing false testimony in court
•Charged with two counts each of obstructing justice and perjury
•Suspended with pay

Det.-Const. Benjamin Elliott:
•32 years old
•Nine years of service
•Assigned to 55 Division
•Accused of providing false testimony in court
•Charged with three counts each of obstructing justice and perjury
•Suspended with pay

Const. Michael Taylor:
•34 years old
•11 years of service
•Assigned to 51 Division, Parliament and Front Sts.
•Accused of providing false testimony in court
•Faces two counts of obstructing justice and one count of perjury
•Suspended with pay

Det.-Const. Fraser Douglas:
•37 years old
•14 years of service
•Assigned to 55 Division
•Helped prevent a potential killing spree in the Beaches on June 23, 2004. A man with loaded guns and bad intentions surrendered to him, the Globe and Mail reported the next day
•City council commended him for “his quick actions in bringing to an end what could have been a fatal incident”
•Accused of providing false testimony in court
•Charged with two counts each of obstructing justice and perjury
•Suspended with pay

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TTC Fires Three More In Alleged Benefits Scam

TORONTO - The TTC has said bye-bye to three more of its employees as part of an internal and criminal investigation into alleged benefits fraud.

The trio's sacking is the latest in a string of firings over the alleged misuse of health benefits.

The TTC began its look into suspected cases of fraud in July after Toronto Police laid criminal charges against the owner and two employees of Healthy Fit, a provider of health care products and services that a handful of TTC employees used and that stands charged with fraudulently billing the TTC and its insurer, Manulife Financial.

Back in October, the TTC let go of a supervisor as part of its investigation. The next month, it fired four employees.

At the time, TTC CEO Andy Byford said they had to take a “tough line” in dealing with the matter.

The TTC had stated that it anticipated “more employees will face discipline” and that it was working with Manulife Financial to enhance its fraud detection and prevention programs.

Healthy Fit is located on Wilson Ave., near Bathurst St.

“It is alleged that receipts were provided to employees by Healthy Fit for claim reimbursement where no product or service was obtained, or where receipt amounts were inflated,” the TTC stated. “It is further alleged that Healthy Fit and the person making the improper or fraudulent claim would then share the money paid out ... by Manulife Financial.”

As of Friday, no criminal charges had been laid against any of the dismissed employees.

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SIU clears Toronto cop who shot suspected gunman in Rexdale in 2015

TORONTO  - Days after a jury found a Toronto cop guilty of attempted murder for shooting a knife-wielding man, the province’s police watchdog has cleared another officer who shot a suspected gunman in Rexdale last spring.

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit says the shooting was justified because the officer feared for his life on April 16, 2015, when he came face—to—face with one of four men thought to have shot five people at a North York townhouse complex half an hour earlier.

SIU INVESTIGATORS FOUND:
•Toronto Police officers were in the area of Driftwood Ave. and Jane St., north of Finch Ave. W., when they heard gunfire and saw several men fleeing in a dark coloured car
•The suspects were tracked to Elmhurst Dr. and Cromarty Dr., near Islington Ave. and Rexdale Blvd., where cops boxed in the vehicle
•Four men exited the car and began to flee on foot
•The driver and two passengers were arrested without incident
•The subject officer confronted a fourth man on the front lawn of a home and shot him twice
•The shooting suspect survived despite suffering gunshot injuries to his right elbow, chest, and back
•One gun was found near the man who was shot, another gun was located in a nearby driveway and a third pistol was discovered near the suspect vehicle

DRIFTWOOD SHOOTING:
•Four gunmen approached a TCHC townhouse complex at 404 Driftwood on foot and opened fire on a group of people shortly before 6 p.m. on Apr. 16, 2015
•The gunshots rang out as kids played in a nearby park
•Four men and one woman were hit by the gunfire but they all survived
•It’s believed the shooting was the result of an ongoing feud between rival street gangs

FOUR SUSPECTED GUNMEN:
•Akeem Bailey, 25, of Toronto, was charged with 30 offences including five counts of attempt murder
•Clifton Vassel Youria, 29, of Toronto, was charged with 31 offences, including five counts of attempt murder
•Maurice Smith, 21, of Toronto, was charged with 25 offences including five counts of attempt murder
•Duarte- Alvarez, 20, of Mississauga, survived being shot by cop and was charged with 21 offences including five counts of attempt murder

EVIDENCE IN SIU PROBE:
•Statements from other officers on scene
•Accounts of area residents
•Police radio communications
•DNA testing results and other forensic examinations
•Video from security cameras at Elmhurst Dr. house and witness’s cell phone
•The subject officer did not provide his notes or agree to an interview as is his legal right

SIU DIRECTOR TONY LOPARCO:
“There is also very little doubt on the evidence that the subject officer did not exceed the bounds of legally justifiable force when he discharged his firearm.”
“I am satisfied he would have been fearful for his life at the time of his firearm discharges.”
“The officer would have had every reason to believe that the man had just been involved in a shooting and was armed with a firearm and prepared to use it.”
“Utterances made by the subject officer around the time of the shooting, and heard by other officers, to the effect that the man had a gun, that the officer directed him to drop it and that the officer fired his weapon fearing for his life, suggest as much.”
“The timing and circumstances surrounding the officer’s utterances, including most importantly the location of a Colt 1911 firearm in the same yard where the shooting occurred and in proximity of the injured party, lend credibility to their authenticity.”
“As the security camera recordings vividly make clear, the situation that confronted the officer was volatile, rapidly evolving and fraught with danger.”
“I am unable on this record to conclude that his decision to resort to his firearm, made in the heat of the moment with little time to react, was without objective justification.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Amount of Ontario farmland isn't shrinking: Fraser Institute report

TORONTO - The perception Ontario’s farmland is being urbanized at an alarming rate is unfounded, according to the Fraser Institute.

In a new report released Wednesday, the public policy think-tank says the area of farmland used to plant crops in Ontario has been essentially consistent since 1951.

The report, entitled Economic Analysis of Rural Land Use Policies in Ontario, says farmlands are more efficient and productive because of technological advancements and farmers becoming more efficient. Critics of developing southwestern Ontario say that rural land-use policies should reserve areas best suited for agriculture — such as the rich lands of the Golden Horseshoe — as farmland. Those on the other side of the coin say this land is best suited for residential use, infrastructure and other development.

Prof. Glen Fox, co-author of the Fraser land-use report:
“There’s a widespread public perception that Ontario is rapidly losing agricultural land to urbanization. These fears are unjustified. The false belief we’re running out of crop land has fuelled a demand for land-use regulation that keeps agricultural land from being converted into non-farm uses. While the land may be good for agriculture, we’re giving up on other potential benefits from the land — things like wildlife habitat, development or infrastructure projects and affordable housing.”

The Ontario Farmland Trust:
“Despite its obvious importance, Ontario is losing its agricultural land base at a rapid rate as many farms go out of production every year. Urban sprawl and rural non-farm development are contributing to the annual lose of thousands of acres of farmland.”

Larry Davis, with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture:
“Despite the vast and diverse area of land that makes up Canada’s second-largest province, less than 5% is suitable for food production. Once farmland is gone, it’s never coming back.”

Statistics Canada — Agriculture at a Glance report from 1999:
“On a clear day, over one third of Canada’s best agricultural land can be seen from the top of Toronto’s CN Tower.”
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Toronto School Bus Driver Frank Gavas, 61 Accused of Sexually Assaulting Students

TORONTO - Toronto Police have accused a 61-year-old former school bus driver of sexually assaulting three children.

Det. Ryan Braganza said Wednesday the man was arrested on Jan. 22 after the Children’s Aid Society contacted police and asked them to investigate allegations of abuse stemming from a six-month period, September 2015 to January 2016.

Braganza alleges the children were targeted because of “their mental capacity and physical capacity.”
The driver, who started working for Stock Transportation in 2006, ferried students to many Scarborough schools, including Georges Vanier Secondary School, Wexford Public School, George Peck Public School, and Sloane Public School.

The Toronto District School Board sent a note home with parents Wednesday, notifying them of the charges.

“We know that this situation may be upsetting for some of our students and will ensure that supports are in place for those students,” TDSB said.

The note added: “It is important to remember that laying criminal charges does not constitute guilt, and that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

Stock Transportation spokesman Molly Hart said in a statement the company is co-operating with the investigation.

“Student safety is Stock’s top priority and, as such, I can confirm that the bus driver in question is no longer employed by our company,” Hart told the Toronto Sun in an e-mail.

Frank Gavas is charged with six counts of sexual assault and six counts of sexual interference. He is in jail awaiting a bail hearing.

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Toronto Distillery District shooting lands cop Police Services Act charges

TORONTO - An officer who fired 14 bullets into the hood of a stolen Toyota Corolla in the middle of a busy intersection faces Police Services Act charges.

The charges, which haven’t been released, follow an internal investigation into the takedown of a 60-year-old suspected car thief in the Distillery District on Sept. 16.

Police had boxed in the car with their cruisers at the intersection of Parliament and Mill Sts.

Video footage of the takedown shows officers getting out of their cruisers and ordering the man out of the Corolla. But as one cruiser moves forward slightly, another officer fires his Glock 9-mm pistol into the engine, causing two of his colleagues to cover up.

“The investigation has now led to charges that will take (Const. Tash Baiaiti) in front of the tribunal,” police spokesman Meaghan Gray said Wednesday.

Baiaiti will make his first appearance on March 8.

“To my knowledge, he is still on duty at 51 Division,” Gray said.

Back in September, Chief Mark Saunders said he had questions about what happened in the intersection.

“I’m responsible for the conduct of all the men and women (police officers) in Toronto, and if they do something, I need to know whether or not they are doing it for the right reasons,” he said.

Mayor John Tory, who sits on the police board, called it an “unusual situation.”

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Clinton Russell, 42, a Weston Collegiate Toronto Safety Monitor, is Charged with Sexual Assault.

TORONTO - A school safety monitor is accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.

Toronto Police say the alleged sex assault occurred at Weston Collegiate Institute on Pine St., near Weston Rd. and Lawrence Ave. W., on Jan. 8.

“It is alleged that the man led the girl to a remote area of the school and sexually assaulted her,” Const. Caroline de Kloet said Tuesday, adding the man was arrested last Friday.

Clinton Russell, 42, a school-based safety monitor at Weston Collegiate, is charged with sexual assault and sexual exploitation.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird said a letter was sent home to parents of the school’s students last Friday.

Signed by principal Ian Botnick, the letter states the hall monitor has not been at the school “since the allegation first came to our attention.”

The letter also explains Russell will remain “on home assignment” pending the outcome of his charges.

“While it is important to remember that laying a criminal charge does not constitute guilt, and that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, we also cannot and do not take these allegations lightly,” the letter states.

A meeting will be held in the school’s auditorium Wednesday at 6 p.m. to address parents’ questions.
De Kloet said police are concerned about the possibility of other victims.

Anyone with information should call police at 416-808-2922 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.
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Toronto Mayor John "Liberal" Tory Has High Approval Poll Rating in "Liberal" Toronto

TORONTO - Mayor John Tory’s popularity is still riding high — even with Olivia Chow voters.

Tory has a 73% approval rating more than a year into his term, according to the latest Forum Research poll.

The poll, conducted Monday, found Tory is even popular with people who cast their ballot for Chow — one of his two main rivals in the last election. Around 78% of Chow voters said they approve of the job Tory has done since taking office on Dec. 1, 2014.

Those who voted for Tory definitely don’t seem to have buyer’s remorse. Around 93% of respondents who said they voted for Tory in the last election approve of the job he’s doing.

According to Forum, Tory is especially popular among older voters (79%) and the wealthiest voters (79%).

“Mayor Tory keeps going from strength to strength and none of the controversial issues he’s handled appear to have damaged his high approval ratings,” Forum president Lorne Bozinoff said in a statement. “Meanwhile, although Rob Ford has increased his popularity recently, it is notable that he can only achieve an approval rating of one half on his own home turf.”

The poll of 549 Toronto residents has a margin of error of 4%, 19 times out of 20.

Here are some other results from the poll:
Chief Mark Saunders
  • 45% approve of the job Saunders is doing as chief (48% on Dec. 30)
  • 29% disapprove
  • 25% don’t know
Councillor Rob Ford
  • 39% approval rating (up from 34% on Dec. 30)
  • 93% of Doug Ford voters approve of the job Ford is doing
  • 50% of Etobicoke residents approve of the job Ford is doing Please share this

Gunfire in Toronto 4 dead in 6 Days: Young Black Males Mostly Responsible

TORONTO - With four people killed and at least five wounded in shootings over the last six days, the significant spike in gun violence the city endured in 2015 is showing no signs of letting up.

It may actually be getting worse.

Last year, when 26 of 56 murder victims in Toronto were gunned down, shooting occurrences rose nearly 45% and gun-related injuries jumped 75% over 2014.

So far in 2016, five of six homicide victims were shot and there have already been 32 shooting occurrences — double the 16 during the same period in 2015.

Here’s a look at the gun violence in Toronto over the last six days:
•Jan. 19: Tevin James, 22, was shot around 4:30 a.m. in a southern Etobicoke apartment and died days later. Frederick Leon, 20, is charged with second-degree murder.

•Jan. 20: Alfredo Patriarca, 42, was found shot to death in the garage of a home at The Kingsway and Princess Margaret Blvd., in central Etobicoke, around 8:30 p.m..

•Jan. 20: A gunman killed Alva Dixon, 70, and wounded a man in his 40s as they sat in a parked van at Birchmount Rd. and Morecambe Gate, north of Finch Ave. E., around 11:30 p.m.

•Jan. 21: Two men fired several shots into a home on Glendower Circuit, near Birchmount Rd. and Finch Ave. E., around 3:25 p.m., but nobody was hit.

•Jan. 24: Gunfire erupted around 2:30 a.m., near Bathurst and Niagara Sts., striking a woman in the leg and grazing a man’s head.

•Jan. 24: A man suffered a gunshot wound to his belly, near O’Connor Dr. and Victoria Park Ave., around 3:30 a.m.

•Jan. 24: A man now identified as Adedotun Agunbiade, 28, was killed when gunshots rang out during a private party at a hair salon in a strip mall on Ellesmere Rd., near McCowan Rd., around 4:20 a.m.

•Jan. 24: A man, 22, was wounded in a shooting near Jane St. and Shoreham Dr., north of Finch Ave. W., at 8:20 p.m. Anthony St. Louis, 24, faces attempted murder and other charges. 

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Toronto City Hall eyes a tax on a tax on a tax

TORONTO - The Roman Empire fell because of ridiculous taxes, not rampaging barbarians.

In fact, regular Romans welcomed invasion by Goths, Huns, Franks and Visigoths as relief from hordes of absurd taxes.

I wonder if Attila the Hun is still available. We could use him here in Hogtown.

The gladiatorial circus we call City Hall is howling for more and more blood, our blood, and dreaming up novel ways to suck it from us.

On Tuesday, councillors on the budget committee approved a gobsmacking new fee. It was moved by Scarborough’s Gary Crawford, the budget chief, who usually has more sense.

The bright idea: Charge us $75 to cover administration and processing costs on the windfall that City Hall rakes in when you buy your home.

By windfall, I mean $15,775 on the average Toronto detached house, which is worth a whopping $1 million these days.

From this Municipal Land Transfer Tax (MLTT), our civic leaders rake in a whopping $500 million, yes, half a BILLION, each year, close to 5% of their total take.

Nutty old Emperor Nero would be proud. It’s easy booty — especially in a housing boom.

The riches have tripled since then-emperor David Miller foisted it on us in 2006.

Yet it’s still not enough for these guys.

So, councillors figure, what the hell? Another 75 bucks. Pffft! No one’ll notice and they’ll add another $5 million to their yearly pile.

What utter Gaul, as the Romans used to say.

A $75 processing fee on the easiest, sleaziest theft ever perpetrated on your pocket?!

It’s like billing a condemned man for shipping and handling the noose.

City Hall is screwing us — and charging for the wine and roses.

Worse, as any Toronto home buyer knows, it’s only half the horror story. The province also charges a land transfer tax, about $16,000 on that same house. The grand total: Nearly $32,000.

Imagine. For the privilege of buying a $1-million shack you get to throw $32,000 at two of the most wasteful governments since Emperor Caligula.

Toronto is the only city in Ontario that double dips on land transfers. Queen’s Park considered letting other burgs do it, but backed off in fear the peasants would revolt.

Don’t bet against the Wynne Liberals trying again.

Our keen Kathleen vows to babysit us from birth to retirement. Meanwhile, our city fathers never met a special interest group they didn’t fund. Guess who pays.

Our illustrious leaders should heed history.

Same thing happened in Rome. The middle class got so pissed off at the tax burden, they turned to the black market. Or they offered themselves up as slaves, since slaves don’t pay taxes, though if we had any in Toronto you can bet there’d be a Municipal Slave Transfer Tax.

Meanwhile, Rome grew fat with bureaucracies, just like ours, and her desperate rulers, just like ours, cast about for revenue tools. You could even pay in chickens or wheat. Sales tax jumped to 4%. (Wait, isn’t ours 13%?)

It didn’t work. There were only so many pigs and cows to levy, only so many vomatoriums to tax.

Rome fell.

C’mon down, Attila.

The new Municipal Land Transfer Tax Transaction Administration Fee now goes to full city council for approval. Crawford’s office tells me the province also adds a $62.85 admin charge to its transfer tax.

Do two wrongs equal a right? No, they equal $137.85 of your sweat-stained money.

Did I mention, the $75 does not include HST?

Lovely. They fiddle while we pay ...

... a tax on a tax on a tax.
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Toronto Taxpayers on Hook for Outcome of Sammy Yatim Civil Lawsuits

TORONTO - Const. James Forcillo was found guilty of a heinous crime, but he isn’t the only one who will now have to pay. We are on the hook as well.

Bad enough that we continue to shell out Forcillo’s salary while he’s suspended and sits at home awaiting sentencing — a process that will only begin in mid-May and could stretch out for weeks. But as taxpayers, we will also be dinged for whatever Toronto Police agree to pay to settle the lawsuits filed on behalf of Sammy Yatim’s family.

There’s little doubt that finding the officer guilty of attempted murder will help the $8-million civil lawsuit filed by Yatim’s mother, Sahar Bahadi, and his sister Sara Yatim and the $7-million suit launched by his father, Nabil. But even though we are footing the bill, such settlements are typically covered by confidentiality agreements.

“These civil suits just disappear from sight unless it goes to trial,” says lawyer Peter Rosenthal, who has represented many families of police shooting victims. “We never hear about them again.”

How much responsibility is admitted in these cases? How much is paid on the public dime? How many will it take for changes to be enforced? It’s not for us to know.

Bahadi and her daughter are suing Forcillo, former police chief Bill Blair and the Toronto Police Services Board for $8 million in damages, alleging negligence, assault, battery and misfeasance in public office. Originally filed in October 2013, their statement of claim says the 18-year-old was suffering “an acute emotional disturbance” when he was fatally shot by Forcillo. Their lawsuit claims police conduct was “high-handed, shocking and contemptuous” and the force applied against Yatim was “excessive and unreasonable” and “not justifiable in law.”

Their statement of claim also alleges the officers dealing with the teen weren’t properly trained in conflict resolution or de-escalation and suffered from psychological problems that made them unfit to be police officers.

A particularly interesting contention is that Toronto Police didn’t properly supervise their officers. We’ve learned since the trial that Forcillo had been automatically flagged at least twice for drawing his firearm more than an acceptable number of times but never received any caution or retraining.
The women are seeking damages for “anxiety, depression, as well as physical and psychological conditions.”

Yatim’s father, who is divorced from his mother, filed a separate lawsuit in the summer, naming Forcillo, Sgt. Dan Pravica — who administered the Taser — as well as the former police chief and police board. He alleges officers “intentionally and recklessly applied deadly force.”

None of the allegations in either lawsuit have been proven in court.

In his statement of defence to the women’s lawsuit, Forcillo said he acted in a competent and professional manner that was in accordance with his police training. In their own statement of defence, the police board agreed, saying officers that night used “no more force than was reasonably necessary” to deal with the knife-wielding 18-year-old.

A jury obviously disagreed.

This is hardly the first lawsuit launched by relatives of police shooting victims; Rosenthal acted for Jackie Christopher, whose son O’Brien Christopher-Reid, 26, was shot and killed by three Toronto Police officers while he was suffering delusions in Edwards Gardens in 2004 and is also representing Michael Eligon’s family after the mentally ill man was shot in 2012 near Coxwell Ave. after escaping Toronto East General Hospital and arming himself with scissors.

According to three-year-old figures, Toronto Police have paid more than $27 million to settle civil lawsuits since 2000, including dozens for false arrest and use of force.

As former Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin has said, “It seems to be like Groundhog Day. Inquest after inquest, police shooting after police shooting.” And lawsuit after lawsuit.

Considering the jury’s damning finding on Forcillo, the public purse may be ordered to ante up more damages thanks to a Toronto Police service that too often doesn’t know how to deal with the emotionally disturbed.

“Nothing in this world will compensate me for the loss of my son, nor will anything bring him back to me,” Yatim’s mother told reporters after the verdict.

But we owe her just the same.

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Toronto Plaza Hotel, Located on Wilson Ave. West of Jane St., is Turfing Long-term Guests to Make Room for Syrian Refugees

TORONTO - A North York hotel is defending a decision to squeeze out some local long-term occupants to make room for Syrian refugees.

About 15 rooms at the Toronto Plaza Hotel are being rented out on a weekly or monthly basis to people “in transition,” assistant general manager Ahmed Ibrahim says. But with the large influx of refugees in recent weeks, COSTI — the agency charged with resettling them — has booked the entire 200-room hotel.

Ibrahim defended the move to ask long-term guests to leave.

“For us, you know, it’s a business,” he said Tuesday. “(COSTI) guaranteed they were going to take the rooms.”

Ibrahim said the hotel, located on Wilson Ave. near Jane St., has faced challenging times in recent years. A two- to three-star accommodation, the Plaza has had to drop its rates from $109 a night in 2001 to $79 in 2016 to increase business. And with a $30,000 monthly property tax bill and around $45,000 in hydro a month, the hotel has to go with clients that offer guaranteed business, he said.
“Three months sold-out is a great help to the hotel,” he added. “We lay off so many people in the winter. Now, we’ve hired more people. This has never happened before in the winter time.”

Ibrahim said they have been notifying guests as their 30-day terms expire. They are offering them extra days to find another hotel, but they can’t accommodate them for an additional 30 days.

He said the hotel isn’t a suitable home for refugees or anyone else. And the hotel doesn’t work like an apartment rental with long-term leases.

“You don’t have a kitchen, you don’t have anything,” he said. “How are you going to stay here longer term? ... It’s not meant to be long-term.”

COSTI could not comment Tuesday, but in an interview with the Toronto Sun in early January, executive director Mario Calla was asked if any Plaza guests were being displaced in favour of refugees.

At the time, COSTI had only booked 100 rooms and he didn’t believe that to be the case.

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