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Celebrate the arrival of April this weekend with all kinds of fun

SAMANTHA KNIGHT AND PATRICIA D'CUNHA | posted Friday, Mar 31st, 2017

We made it to April, thank goodness. And now, we can just count down the days to patio weather.

As you celebrate the month’s arrival, below are some events to help you plan the weekend. Keep in mind that a portion of Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) will be shut down for TTC work.

Events

Pillow Fight Toronto 2017
Grab your pillows and teddy bears for the city’s annual International Pillow Fight Day celebration.

Massive pillow fights will take place around the world on Saturday, and Toronto’s edition will be held at Nathan Phillips Square from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The rules: bring a soft, feather-free pillow; swing lightly; don’t swing at people without pillows or with cameras; and remove your glasses beforehand. Pajamas are welcome – pillows can be left in donation boxes after the fight.

Water Docs Film Festival
Take a trip into the deep blue this weekend at the Water Docs Film Festival.

2017 Water Docs Film Festival Teaser Trailer from Water Docs on Vimeo.

The environmental film fest celebrates all things water. Guests can enjoy features and shorts, take part in lively discussions with filmmakers and guest speakers, and learn about water issues.

The festival runs at three locations in the city: OISE at 252 Bloor St. W., Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema at 506 Bloor St. W., and the Centre for Social Innovation-Annex at 720 Bathurst St.

One of a Kind Spring Show and Sale
Discover the best in Canadian handmade goods at the One of a Kind Spring Show and Sale.

The show is in its 39th year and runs through Sunday at Enercare Centre. One of a Kind features over 800 artisans, designers and craftspeople, selling handmade goods including food items, décor and dining, fashion, accessories, art, children’s clothing and toys.

Whimsical Wonderland 2017
Bring out your inner Alice this Saturday at Whimsical Wonderland 2017. Students of the Special Event Management program at George Brown College are running the family-friendly event.

Whimsical Wonderland features a magician, petting zoo, crafts and other entertaining activities. Guests can participate in a silent auction, supporting Kids Help Phone and the George Brown Foundation.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at George Brown College on King Street West.

Toronto Storytelling Festival
For 38 years, the festival revives the storytelling tradition that permeated communities since the dawn of time. That was when people actually spoke face-to-face with each other instead of hiding behind their smartphones.

Over 10 days, more than 80 storytellers will share their tales through words and song at more than 95 events. Click here for the schedule.

TTC closure

Partial subway shutdown
If you are trying to get to Union Station this weekend, you will get off one stop before and just walk.

Subways won’t be running on Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) between St. Andrew and King stations this weekend due to track work. Trains will be turning back at King and St. Andrew stations.

Shuttle buses won’t be used, but Wheel-Trans buses will be available upon request.

Physical activity can prevent depression in kids

Jill Buchner | posted Friday, Mar 31st, 2017

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There are plenty of reasons to make sure your kids get tons of exercise: Among others, they’ll enjoy strong muscles and a healthy weight—and you’ll avoid bedtime antics. But now, there’s another incentive: New research published in the online journal Pediatrics shows that engaging in physical activity can prevent depression in kids.

The Canadian analysis of multiple studies involving almost 90,000 healthy kids from ages eight to 19 found that those who were physically active more often—especially those who did vigorous activities, like dancing or playing tag—reported experiencing fewer signs of depression.

Though we don’t often think of mental illness affecting kids, one to two percent of children under the age of 12 and five to eight percent of adolescents will struggle with depression. But getting moving can offer a mental health boost, preventing or delaying depressive symptoms, says one of the study’s authors, Daphne Korczak, a psychiatrist at SickKids hospital and the director of the Children’s Integrated Mood and Body Depression Program.

Even just delaying the onset of depression in kids who might eventually develop it could be important because those who develop the illness earlier in life typically experience more severe problems, says Korczak. “The childhood years are formative,” she says. “Academically, they set kids up for the future, and socially, [they impact] the ability to navigate interpersonal relationships. So if you have a disabling condition that affects you in those years, the outcome of that and the effects on the developing brain may potentially be more significant.”

Interestingly, though kids who were active felt fewer symptoms of depression, getting moving didn’t necessarily prevent kids from eventually being diagnosed with major depressive disorder, something Korczak says could indicate that some children—like those at risk for more severe, syndromal-level depression—might not respond as well to exercise. “Activity is not the only factor,” she notes.

Even if your kid seems like a little ray of sunshine right now, it’s a good idea to get them moving early on, because preventing depression in kids before it begins is key. Canadian guidelines suggest that kids ages five to 17 should be getting 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, but according to the Canadian Paediatric Society, just seven percent of Canadian youth are moving for an hour six or more days a week. And participation in sports is on the decline.

When it comes to getting kids moving, Korczak says the key is to doing activities your kids get excited about. “The most important thing is to find something that’s enjoyable so that the enjoyment becomes associated with the activity and it doesn’t become a chore.”

Wynne Liberals could lose official party status if election held today: poll

KEVIN MISENER AND NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Mar 31st, 2017

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The governing Ontario Liberals could be decimated if an election were held today, according to a new poll.

Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff said with just over a year to election day, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals face a tough task in reversing their polling numbers.

“The path to victory for the Liberals keeps narrowing each month. I’m not saying it’s impossible, it just becomes more and more difficult,” Bozinoff told 680 NEWS on Friday.

The Forum Research poll, which was published in the Toronto Sun, found not only would the Liberals suffer a crushing defeat in the election, they would also lose official party status.

The poll suggests voters would elect the Progressive Conservatives with a huge majority at 43 per cent support, while the NDP would be the Official Opposition at 28 per cent. The Liberals would be in third place at 19 per cent support.

The Tories would snag 86 seats with the NDP at 29 seats. The Liberals would only manage to snag seven seats. Right now, there are 107 seats at Queen’s Park, but that will rise to 122 seats in the 2018 election. Parties need eight seats to maintain official party status in Ontario.

Bozinoff said soaring hydro rates continue to hobble the Liberals, despite Wynne’s efforts to make bills more affordable.

“The announcement that they’re going to reduce the rates in June doesn’t seem to have helped them very much. It might be because people are waiting until June to see the actual reduction on their bills,” he said.

The governing Ontario Liberals could be decimated if an election were held today, according to a new poll.

Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff said with just over a year to election day, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals face a tough task in reversing their polling numbers.

“The path to victory for the Liberals keeps narrowing each month. I’m not saying it’s impossible, it just becomes more and more difficult,” Bozinoff told 680 NEWS on Friday.

The Forum Research poll, which was published in the Toronto Sun, found not only would the Liberals suffer a crushing defeat in the election, they would also lose official party status.

The poll suggests voters would elect the Progressive Conservatives with a huge majority at 43 per cent support, while the NDP would be the Official Opposition at 28 per cent. The Liberals would be in third place at 19 per cent support.

The Tories would snag 86 seats with the NDP at 29 seats. The Liberals would only manage to snag seven seats. Right now, there are 107 seats at Queen’s Park, but that will rise to 122 seats in the 2018 election. Parties need eight seats to maintain official party status in Ontario.

Bozinoff said soaring hydro rates continue to hobble the Liberals, despite Wynne’s efforts to make bills more affordable.

“The announcement that they’re going to reduce the rates in June doesn’t seem to have helped them very much. It might be because people are waiting until June to see the actual reduction on their bills,” he said.

Police probing fake GoodLife memberships bought on Kijiji

Tammie Sutherland | posted Friday, Mar 31st, 2017

A day after CityNews reported on hundreds of people allegedly defrauded of GoodLife memberships, another apparent fraud involving the company has come to light.

Toronto resident Tiffany Ferrer said last month, she found an ad on Kijiji offering a discount on a membership at the gym — $400 for a full year.

Ferrer said she replied to the woman, who claimed to be a GoodLife employee. The woman told her she had to pay cash to get the pass, which was really a complimentary “friends and family” membership.

Ferrer said she validated the pass at the GoodLife on Bloor Street East, west of Church, and then e-transferred the money to the woman. Everything seemed fine for a couple weeks.

“Then all of a sudden it was cancelled,” Ferrer said.

“They said they didn’t know why at the GoodLife, but then I called customer service and they told me it was a fraudulent voucher.

“I’m just wondering why they weren’t able to detect this fraudulent gift card right away.”

As a result, the company cancelled the membership.

GoodLife said it has a record of 34 people who have purchased these memberships from Kijiji, but claims no former or current GoodLife associates are involved.

The company said the former employee whose name is on the counterfeit pass does not appear to be behind the alleged fraud.

Police suspect someone is using one of her old complimentary membership vouchers to create counterfeit passes.

GoodLife also said the issue is not linked to one in York Region, in which an employee has been accused of taking cash for annual memberships, but not passing on the money to the company. The company says it’s missing $125,000.

Toronto police confirm they are investigating at least three other reports of similar Kijiji purchases.

GoodLife is reminding customers that annual memberships can’t be bought online.

For more information on your rights when joining a gym, check the Ontario government website.

4 cases of measles confirmed in Toronto and Mississauga

CityNews | posted Friday, Mar 31st, 2017

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Toronto Public Health (TPH) has confirmed three cases of measles, one of which was acquired outside the country and brought to the city.

TPH has identified an Emirates Airline flight that originated out of India, seven WestJet flights and the Caledonian Bar on College Street as places where members of the public may have been exposed to the virus.

The Emirates flight left India on March 19 and arrived in Toronto on March 20, with a stopover in Dubai.

On March 22, a WestJet flight left Abbotsford, B.C., and made stops in Calgary and Ottawa before ending up in Toronto.

On March 23, a WestJet flight out of Toronto went to Montreal; while on March 24, a flight from Montreal returned to Toronto.

Also on March 24, a WestJet flight from Toronto travelled to Turks and Caicos Islands before returning to Toronto later that evening.

Patrons of the Caledonian Bar at 865 College St. may also have been exposed to the disease on March 21.

TPH says a confirmed case of the measles has also turned up at Huron Street Junior Public School, near St. George and Bloor streets. Parents have been notified and vaccine clinics are being held at the school.

Meanwhile, health officials in Mississauga are also warning about measles exposure after a child came down with the virus.

Anyone who visited Cora’s restaurant at 4559 Hurontario Street on March 25th between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., Ocean’s Grocery Store at 4557 Hurontario Street, also on March 25th, between 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. and the emergency room at Credit Valley Hospital on March 26th between 12:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. may have been exposed to the disease.

Peel Public Health says the child does not attend daycare or school.

Measles is a highly contagious disease that spreads easily to those who are not immune or are vulnerable. Anyone who has not had two doses of a measles vaccine (MMR or MMRV) or who has not had measles in the past is at risk of infection. Infants under the age of one, pregnant women and people with weak immune systems are most susceptible.

While the risk of acquiring measles is low, TPH recommends the following:

  • Check immunization records to make sure all family members are up-to-date with the measles vaccination (MMR or MMRV). Contact your health care provider if needed. (Those born before 1970 are considered protected against measles.)
  • Make sure immunizations are up-to-date before travelling.
  • Monitor for symptoms of measles, including high fever, cold-like symptoms such as cough or runny nose, sore eyes or sensitivity to light and a red rash lasting four to seven days.
  • Anyone experiencing symptoms as described above should contact a health care provider as soon as possible and not attend work or school.

Shoppers, Loblaw employees will be covered for medical marijuana

CityNews | posted Friday, Mar 31st, 2017

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Marijuana, long demonized and shackled, took another step towards becoming recognized as a legitimate medicine on Thursday when Canada’s largest pharmacy chain announced its own employees would be covered for medical marijuana prescriptions.

Shoppers Drug Mart spokesperson Tammy Smitham told CityNews that “effective immediately prescriptions for medical marijuana will be covered up to an annual maximum of $1,500.”

Loblaw employees would also be covered. Loblaw owns Shoppers.

Smitham added that claims would be subject to prior authorization by insurers and would only be considered to “treat spasticity and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis and nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy for cancer patients.”

“Reimbursement will be provided for prescriptions fulfilled with Licensed Producers, which is the current approved method of distribution by the government,” she confirmed.

Manulife spokesperson Anne-Julie Gratton noted that marijuana doesn’t currently have a drug identification number from Health Canada, but said the insurer would “consider coverage if an employer has specifically requested it for one of its employees on an exceptional basis.”

“Also, employees who have a health care spending account (HCSA) can claim medical marijuana expenses under that account because medical marijuana is an allowable medical expense under Revenue Canada’s Income Tax Act. To date, coverage of medical marijuana under group insurance plans is extraordinarily rare.”

Currently, registered medical marijuana patients are only permitted to buy cannabis directly from licensed producers via the mail system.

In October 2016, Shoppers Drug Mart submitted an application to distribute medical marijuana.

Almost 300 customers allegedly defrauded of GoodLife memberships

CityNews | posted Thursday, Mar 30th, 2017

Several hundred customers of GoodLife Fitness are learning they may have been the victims of fraud after the memberships they paid for were never legitimately registered with the company.

Francesco Campo told CityNews he first signed up with GoodLife Fitness in 2016, handing over $435 in cash to Leanna Habil, who was general manager at the Richmond Hill facility at the time. When he went to renew his membership in January, he was told the cost would be only $390 this time around. Three weeks later, Campo was denied access to the fitness centre after being told there was no record of his paid membership.

Campo was then informed that Habil was no longer with the company.

It appears Campo was not the only one affected by the alleged scam.

A GoodLife spokeswoman told CityNews approximately 275 members were duped out of almost $125,000. The issue came to light after the company identified what it calls “irregular banking activity” for one of its members.

“We are very sorry for their experience and are doing all that we can to make this situation right for them,” Tracy Matthews, executive director of membership services said in an email.

Matthews said the company is planning to honour the memberships that were sold by Habil.

She added GoodLife has launched an internal investigation and is taking “swift and appropriate action” against Habil.

In a telephone interview with CityNews, Habil denied the allegations, saying the memberships were pre-approved by other managers at GoodLife. She said she has receipts of all the pre-payments made to her.

GoodLife disputes those claims, saying it has proof that Habil received money from members which was never forwarded to the company.

The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services said anyone with any questions can call Consumer Protection Ontario at 1-800-889-9768 or email consumer@ontario.ca.

Under Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act, gym members who have to pay in advance and the total payment obligation exceeds $50, have the right to:

o   A 10-day cooling-off period

  • Right to cancel a gym membership within 10 days of receiving a written copy of your contract, without providing a reason.

o   Pay monthly

  • Right to choose to pay in instalments instead of paying up-front for the whole time period agreed upon.

o   All contracts for maximum one year

  • Contracts cannot be made for a term longer than one year and consumers have the right to receive a renewal notice between 30 and 90 days before contract expires.
  • Before signing a contract, consumers should make sure that the gym or facility they choose is the right fit for them. Consumers should ensure that:

o   Gym hours and class times fit their schedule;

o   Trainers and instructors are qualified;

o   Facilities are clean and equipment is well maintained; and

o   They take the time to review the contract and ask questions.

  • Please note that the 10 day cooling off period does not apply to renewals.
  • Contracts may be renewed only if the gym follows certain rules, including:

o   sending you a renewal notice at least 30 days, but not more than 90 days before the contract expires

o   giving you a copy of the contract that clearly notes all changes the gym has made to the contract

o   If you received a renewal notice and did not respond to it, the club has the right to renew and bill you.

Reporter’s Notebook: Why I wanted to see the border runners’ journey first-hand

Avery Haines | posted Thursday, Mar 30th, 2017

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The first thing that struck me about the young woman I randomly met outside work last month is that she was wearing no socks in the bitter cold. We struck up a conversation, and she told me a harrowing story. Just 21 years old, the Eritrean national left her mother in Saudi Arabia, buying a one way ticket to Washington DC with money scraped together from friends and family. Her solo journey took her to New York, where she says she heard from others about the so called Underground Refugee Railroad. “Get yourself to Plattsburgh, New York,” they told her, “and you can walk across the border into Canada.”

21. The same age as my son. Listening to her, my mind raced,”could I send my son off like that? Could he make such a journey?” I can’t imagine the desperation this young woman’s mother must have felt, packing her off alone to an unknown future; one that must have, in her eyes, been better than life in Saudi Arabia. (Google what happens to those who don’t have Saudi citizenship, and then Google Eritrea to get a sense of the dilemma.)

I came to Plattsburgh, New York, because I wanted to see it for myself. I needed to try to wrap my head around why so many are so desperate they would pack their lives into small suitcases, and seek out arrest by stepping over a tiny wooden crossing at the bottom of a dead-end road.

I understand the political discourse sparked by this illegal way of gaining entry to Canada: the concerns about queue jumping and the unfairness of some getting to the front of the line by essentially breaking the law. 50 percent of Canadians, in a recent IPSOS poll, said the people who make crossings like these should be deported.

What I don’t understand is the many comments on our Facebook page. The “shoot ’em dead” narrative that seems to play out again and again, where comments of compassion are shot down with the overused insult du jour: “libtard, snowflake.” Surely, as Canadians we can elevate the conversation beyond killing and wall building as the solutions to complex political, humanitarian and moral issues.

Standing at this rural crossing that has become a magnet for the desperate, I watched a shell-shocked young man, and what appeared to be his elderly parents, saying one word again and again “Canada, Canada, Canada” as they crossed over. An RCMP officer kept repeating “You are safe, you are safe.”

Later, I watched a taxi drop off six people, including a young girl, hoisted on a woman’s hips. They had just a few pieces of luggage — their entire lives packed in bags that most of us would need for a weekend vacation. One man tried to run back to get a suitcase that he’d accidentally left on the U.S. side. The RCMP yelled at him not to cross back. The bag sat there long after the family had been taken for security and health checks. It’s now gone. An RCMP officer later told me it had been picked up by U.S. agents and has been returned to the man now being processed in Canada.

These are people. Human beings. International humanitarian law obliges nations to welcome refugees. These border runners, if deemed legitimate refugees by Immigration Canada, will be given a chance to do what refugees have done in this country for centuries, make this Canada stronger and better. Those who are found not to be at risk of persecution in their homeland will be deported and could be criminally charged with entering Canada illegally.

I have no idea whether those crossing here are legitimate refugees. That is for Immigration Canada to investigate. I don’t know how I feel about a loophole being used to gain easy access to this country. Nor do I know the impact it is having on legal refugee claims. What I do know is a mother’s love for a child, and how that love propels you to do just about anything for even a glimmer of a better life.

The 21-year-old sockless woman I met in downtown Toronto came over to my house recently for a family dinner. We gather around my computer and skyped her mom in Saudi Arabia. Crackling reception, two mothers, two different languages, she cried knowing her daughter was safe, having dinner in another mother’s home.

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