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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks about Ontario's Fair Housing Plan during a press conference in Toronto on April 20, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Bernie Sanders says Canadian health care system a ‘strong example’ for U.S.

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 30th, 2017

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U.S Sen. Bernie Sanders says Canada’s healthcare system is an innovative and strong example that the U.S. can learn from.

The former presidential hopeful was speaking at an event held by the University of Toronto, which sold out within seconds of tickets being released online.

Sanders, who ran an unsuccessful campaign to become the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, has been in Canada for the past week to learn more about how Canada’s universal healthcare system works.

The socialist senator introduced a bill last month to bring Canadian-style, single-payer health care to the United States.

He says no country in the world will have a perfect system, but that it’s his job to ask hard questions to make the American system as efficient as possible.

He likened his movement to establish universal health care to the civil rights and gay rights movements of the 20th century.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called it “an honour” to have Sanders in Ontario to learn more about single payer, universal health care.

“We take pride in a publicly funded health care system that is a true expression of our values of fairness, equality and compassion,” she said in a statement while acknowledging that the system is not perfect.

“In this period of rapid social and economic change, someone like Senator Sanders encourages us to think big, and take bold steps to build the kind of world we want to live in.”

Two GTA animals killed by traps in residential areas

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 30th, 2017

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A recent tweet sent out by the Toronto Wildlife Centre is highlighting the dangers associated with animal traps, after the device claimed the lives of two of their patients from the GTA.

A skunk in a conibear trap was transported to the center from Oakville, so was a raccoon who was captured in a leg-hold trap in Toronto’s Pape-Danforth area, according to the wildlife centre.

“The raccoon basically had lost its entire leg, the leg had pretty much been removed form the body by the damage of the trap,” said Nathalie Karvonen, Executive Director at the centre. “The skunk also actually had terrible injuries, it’s back was broken, among those injuries.”

As a result of the serious injuries, the wildlife centre says both of those animals had to be humanely euthanised, as “both animals were not able to be surgically repaired.” Karvonen adds she’s sure the devices aren’t being set by licensed trappers.

“We have had a number of animals come in over the years, from right in the heart of Toronto in very residential areas,” said Karvonen. “We are quite sure that they’re not being set by licensed trappers, they are just being set by people who get a hold of these awful traps.”

Karvonen calls these traps inhumane, and dangerous to use, especially in a residential setting. It’s not known who placed the traps in the areas, or if the cases are currently being investigated.

“I would assume a licensed trapper would never set a trap in a residential area, and in an area where other animals and children can get in the trap,” she said. “The average person getting a hold of this trap should never do it.”

The city of Toronto’s wildlife trapping site advises residents to deal humanely with wildlife, saying property owners can use humane traps or hire wildlife agents to remove these animals.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, requires trappers to be licensed to trap on both public and private land in the province, adding that the industry is “highly regulated” and plays an “important role in humanely removing animals that impact communities, crops or livestock.”

The site also adds traps are considered legal if they are set by; a farmer on their own land (who doesn’t have a license), a licensed trapper on crown land under authority of the ministry, a licensed trapper on private land with the owner’s permission.

In one of the cases, a conibear trap was used, which is described as a body-gripping device with a strong hold, usually used for trapping purposes. While some online say it’s humane, others say it’s devastating.

“We would really encourage any kind of initiative to put the bylaws in place in Toronto and other municipalities, to just completely prohibit the use of these traps within city limits,” said Karvonen. “They just don’t belong in cities and residential areas, and currently right now, there is no such bylaw in place, at least in the city of Toronto.”

Karvonen also says these traps aren’t only a risk for the intended purpose of removing unwanted wildlife, but they also pose a risk to pets and people.

Natalie Rowe knows those dangers first hand. She met her cat Alex ten years ago, when he was a kitten up for adoption at the OSPCA shelter in Cornwell.

She learned his leg had to be amputated after he got trapped in a leg-hold trap within city limits. It’s not known how long he was trapped for.

“Some kind person had found him caught in this leg hold trap, his leg was already infested with maggots and so damaged that they had to amputate his leg right to the hip bone,” she tells CityNews via Skype. “He’d obviously been there long enough to get maggots in his wound. I’m sure he would’ve died, he was fortunate to get found.”

When the family initially adopted Alex, there was an adjustment period where he had to master getting around on three legs. Ten years later, Rowe says Alex is thriving, and aside from not being able to jump very high, he’s like any other cat. He’s also been in the spotlight quite a bit, making appearances in OSPCA ads.

Rowe, who rescues animals at her family farm, agrees with the Wildlife Center that animal traps shouldn’t be used in residential areas, as they can be dangerous.

“If a cat can stumble it into it, than a child could stuble into it, really anything can,” she said. “They’re just so damaging, they would damage a human as much as they would damage a raccoon.”

CityNews reached out to both Toronto Animal Services and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on the use of animal traps, but a response to our questions were not provided by Sunday night.

Whittamore’s Farm to close its doors at end of October

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 27th, 2017

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Whittamore’s Farm, a pick-your-own farm in Markham that has welcomed GTA families for more than 60 years, will close its doors to the public at the end of this month.

Oct. 31 is the last day the farm, a 330-acre property near the Rouge River Valley, will be open for families to visit.

In a statement earlier this year, the Whittamore family said it has no plans to close the farm itself, which has been in the family since 1804.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling… We’ve been anticipating this time for the last six months when we announced this would be our last season,” said owner Frank Whittamore.

Whittamore said he can remember directing traffic and working in the strawberry patch as a child when his parents owned the farm.

“All season long we have had great comments from our loyal customers, some who have been coming for generations, all the way back to the ’50s when my parents ran it.”

It will be business as usual right up until they close their doors. The public can still enjoy the pumpkin patch, wagon rides and a corn maze.

This weekend will be a bittersweet farewell, but as Whittamore said, “the time is right for us to make a change in our life and just to pursue some other things.”

Ontario hydro bills to rise to average of $181 over next decade

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 27th, 2017

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Ontario’s long-term energy plan projects that electricity ratepayers will see their hydro bills rise to an average of $181 a month in 10 years.

That’s lower than the $200 a month the last long-term energy plan expected bills to increase to by 2027, but significantly up from the current average of $127 a month.

The Liberal government says it plans to avoid sharp increases during that time through initiatives including only securing new power when it’s needed and allowing more people to produce their own green energy to power their homes.

The plan projects a shortfall in electricity supply starting a little after 2020, when one nuclear generating station reaches the end of its life, others are removed from service for refurbishment and some supply contracts expire.

Government officials say their plan is to close that gap largely through moving away from long-term, 20-year contracts and diversifying the supply mix.

The demand for electricity is expected to rise toward the end of the 16-year plan, partly due to an increase in electric vehicles – which the government assumes there will be 2.4 million of by 2035.

There are currently fewer than 15,000 registered electric vehicles in the province.

Marineland sues OSPCA, alleging agency wanted to ‘destroy’ theme park

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 27th, 2017

A sign for Marineland is shown in Niagara Falls, Ont., on Aug. 14, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tara Walton

Marineland has filed a lawsuit against the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, alleging the organization maliciously targeted the theme park in order to curry favour with animal rights activists and boost fundraising.

The lawsuit alleges the OSPCA launched a criminal investigation against Marineland last year for “improper purposes” and with the intention of harming the Niagara Falls, Ont., amusement park’s reputation.

Marineland has filed a lawsuit against the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, alleging the organization maliciously targeted the theme park in order to curry favour with animal rights activists and boost fundraising.

The lawsuit alleges the OSPCA launched a criminal investigation against Marineland last year for “improper purposes” and with the intention of harming the Niagara Falls, Ont., amusement park’s reputation.

The investigation culminated with the laying of 11 animal cruelty charges against Marineland, which were then withdrawn this summer.

In a statement of claim filed Tuesday, Marineland says the OSPCA laid the charges as part of a broader push to ban commercial zoos and aquariums and promote other policy goals.

The allegations have not been proven in court and the OSPCA has not yet filed a statement of defence.

But the organization, a private charity tasked with enforcing the province’s animal welfare laws, says it “vehemently denies all of the allegations and will defend itself.”

Marineland is seeking $21 million in damages on grounds of malicious prosecution, negligent investigation, injurious falsehood, and abuse of power and process.

“The OSPCA’s purpose in initiating the prosecution was not the enforcement of the law,” the statement of claim reads.

“It was motivated by a series of improper objectives, including a desire to accomplish its own policy agenda, to mollify the animal activist community, to please its donors, and to effectively destroy Marineland.”

The investigation was launched last November after the animal welfare agency received a complaint from an animal rights group.

The Canadian Press also obtained a copy of the complaint and some of the stories it reported are cited in the lawsuit.

Marineland was initially charged with five counts of animal cruelty late last year in connection with the treatment of peacocks, guinea hens and black bears. In January, the OSPCA laid six more animal cruelty charges against Marineland relating to elk, red deer and fallow deer.

The charges were withdrawn in August after prosecutors found they had no chance of conviction on most counts.

“The unfounded charges and public press announcements by the OSPCA had a direct and seriously negative impact on Marineland’s business and operations, causing Marineland damage,” the company alleges in the document.

The lawsuit alleges that OSPCA investigators failed to make necessary inquiries of staff and veterinarians, conduct necessary medical examinations of animals noted as being of concern, or spend sufficient time with each animal.

It further alleges the organization has publicly declared that it considers commercial zoos an antiquated business model that should be retired.

The investigation culminated with the laying of 11 animal cruelty charges against Marineland, which were then withdrawn this summer.

In a statement of claim filed Tuesday, Marineland says the OSPCA laid the charges as part of a broader push to ban commercial zoos and aquariums and promote other policy goals.

The allegations have not been proven in court and the OSPCA has not yet filed a statement of defence.

But the organization, a private charity tasked with enforcing the province’s animal welfare laws, says it “vehemently denies all of the allegations and will defend itself.”

Marineland is seeking $21 million in damages on grounds of malicious prosecution, negligent investigation, injurious falsehood, and abuse of power and process.

“The OSPCA’s purpose in initiating the prosecution was not the enforcement of the law,” the statement of claim reads.

“It was motivated by a series of improper objectives, including a desire to accomplish its own policy agenda, to mollify the animal activist community, to please its donors, and to effectively destroy Marineland.”

The investigation was launched last November after the animal welfare agency received a complaint from an animal rights group.

The Canadian Press also obtained a copy of the complaint and some of the stories it reported are cited in the lawsuit.

Marineland was initially charged with five counts of animal cruelty late last year in connection with the treatment of peacocks, guinea hens and black bears. In January, the OSPCA laid six more animal cruelty charges against Marineland relating to elk, red deer and fallow deer.

The charges were withdrawn in August after prosecutors found they had no chance of conviction on most counts.

“The unfounded charges and public press announcements by the OSPCA had a direct and seriously negative impact on Marineland’s business and operations, causing Marineland damage,” the company alleges in the document.

The lawsuit alleges that OSPCA investigators failed to make necessary inquiries of staff and veterinarians, conduct necessary medical examinations of animals noted as being of concern, or spend sufficient time with each animal.

It further alleges the organization has publicly declared that it considers commercial zoos an antiquated business model that should be retired.

Flu vaccination clinic starts Friday at Toronto Reference Library

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 27th, 2017

A flu shot is administered in Barre, Vt., Nov.18, 2004. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Toby Talbot

With two-dozen cases of the flu already confirmed in the city this fall, Toronto Public Health is inviting people to roll up their sleeves and protect themselves.

Flu vaccination clinics start on Friday at the Toronto Reference Library.

The clinic runs from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Four other flu clinics will be held over the next three weeks.

Health officials encourage parents to get their young children vaccinated, along with elderly residents who may be at risk of other health problems.

For more information on where to get the free flu vaccine click here.

A quarter of spas selling erotic massages aren’t licensed to do so: report

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 27th, 2017

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One in four licensed holistic centres in Toronto are offering unauthorized sexual services, according to a recent auditor general’s report.

As of December 2016 there were 410 licensed holistic centres in the city and the new report reviewing the Municipal Licensing and Services Standard’s (MLS) Division’s management of these business licenses says 107 had the “appearance of offering unauthorized services such as erotic massages and other services.”

The report says these services “could potentially pose an array of health, safety and community issues, including the risk of human trafficking.” The report also highlights the fact that the existing by-law provisions aren’t meeting expectations.

CityNews made these classifications by:

  • Cross referencing licence addresses (as listed on the City of Toronto’s licence database) and names with online advertisements that promote these activities
  • Searching their own websites
  • At times, using forum reviews of establishments and attendants to confirm the nature of the work being performed on site
  • Their organization’s social media accounts

 

In a December 2013 meeting, city council asked for a report to be completed, addressing “the human trafficking on a strategy to more vigorously prosecute charges related to municipal by-law infractions by the adult entertainment, body-rub, and holistic license classes.” A report was never provided.

Coun. Justin Di Ciano for Ward 5 (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), where many of the addresses for these shops are located, admits more needs to be done when it comes to regulating these shops.

“The by-laws don’t work,” he told Citynews.

He said he plans to propose a motion that would expand body-rub parlour licenses in an effort to drive out illegal erotic spas.

The City of Toronto does allow licensed body-rub parlours to operate in the city and currently, there are 25 of those locations.

Body-rub parlours must meet strict health and safety requirements in order to be licensed.

“For example, body-rubbers must undergo a medical examination, and a licensed body-rub parlour can only be located in a certain zone away from residential zones, schools or places of worship,” says the report.

Holistic centres and practitioners on the other hand are not required to meet the same requirements.

Holistic services are defined as “any modality used as a tool for therapeutic and wellness purposes.”

In a 2014 presentation about holistic centres, the (MLS) indicated that “the majority of the individuals who were issued a holistic centre and, or a holistic practitioner’s licence by the city, are offering body rub services.”

CityNews reached out to police to ask if they’ve cracked down on any of the illegal establishments and to ask about whether or not they’re aware about the possibility of human trafficking happening in these storefronts.

“In our experience, human trafficking can happen anywhere, at any time,” police said in a written statement.

“Our priority is the identification and intervention of anyone who is being forced to provide sexual services through violence and intimidation, regardless of where it takes place. We are aware of the concerns that are raised when it comes to the potential for human trafficking through holistic centres, bawdy houses, massage parlours, adult entertainment establishments, etc. We have, and will continue, to target locations of concern through enforcement initiatives.”

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 25: the number of body-rub parlour licences
  • 410: licensed holistic centres
  • 107: holistic centres potentially offering unauthorized services
  • $13,102: body-rub parlour licence fee
  • $12,660: yearly licence renewal cost
  • $270: holistic centre licence fee
  • $148: yearly holistic licence renewal fee
  • 2,294: licensed holistic practitioners
  • 37: City-approved Professional Holistic Associations
  • 1: holistic practitioner/centre licence revoked in past 5 1/2 years
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