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White Christmas at Toronto Zoo: Polar bear cub captures our hearts

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 24th, 2015

Toronto Zoo’s baby polar bear cub is growing up so fast.

She’s now six weeks old and weighs 2.1 kilograms. Her eyes are fully open and so are her ears. And she is teething – poor thing.

But the teething hasn’t curbed her hearty appetite. She eats seven times a day, and like any child, she wants some play time after each feed.

Watch the video here or below and you can hear the “trilling sound of a very content bear,” the zoo said.

The zoo said this is still a critical time for the bear, who requires care 24 hours a day.

Two cubs were born on Nov. 11, but one of the cubs passed away within the first 24 hours.

Attention, shoppers: Ready to brave biggest shopping day of the year?

Jackie Rosen and news staff | posted Wednesday, Dec 23rd, 2015

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If you plan to head out for some last-minute shopping on Wednesday, you’re likely to brave the biggest crowds you’ve seen all year.

Today is expected to be the busiest day of the year at stores across Canada.

Statistics from Interac show that Dec. 23 – not Christmas Eve – was Canada’s busiest shopping day in 2014.

So where are Canadians most likely to spend their money? More than a third of their money will be spent stocking up on food items for our big dinners, or simply because most grocery stores will be closed on Friday and Saturday.

Canadians’ second favourite destination on Dec. 23 are discount stores, followed by purchases of liquor, beer and wine.

Meanwhile, according to Moneris reports Canadian spending over the first two weeks of this month was 4.5 per cent than the comparable period last year, and spending on international credit cards is up.

Spending in Ontario was up close to eight per cent over last year.

Canadians are also 138 per cent more likely to be using tap to pay services.

And a note to last-minute shoppers: Keep in mind that not all stores will extend their hours during crunch time, so it’s best to check the facts online before you head out.

Click here for a list of what’s open and closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Steve Harvey, Miss Universe host, mistakenly gives crown to wrong contestant

The Associated Press | posted Monday, Dec 21st, 2015

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The Miss Universe contestant from the Philippines is this year’s winner but for one brief moment, it appeared as if it might be a repeat win for Colombia.

Colombia contestant Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo was already wearing the crown as this year’s Miss Universe winner when host Steve Harvey returned to apologize.

Harvey says it was his mistake and that he would take responsibility for not reading the card correctly that named contestant Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach this year’s winner and Colombia the first runner-up.

A mystified Wurtzbach appeared stunned as she walked to the front of the stage alongside the crown-wearing Arevalo before last year’s Miss Universe from Colombia removed the crown and placed it on Wurtzbach’s head instead.

Harvey managed to make it worse by spelling both Colombia and Philippines incorrectly on Twitter, tweeting “I want to apologize emphatically to Miss Philippians and Miss Columbia. This was a terribly honest human mistake and I so regretful.”

Harvey wasn’t the only one making typos. Show executives put a picture of the official winner card up on the big screen inside the Axis Theatre to show that it was in fact an honest mistake by Harvey. Officials misspelled the word “elimination,” writing “elminination” instead.

The word "elimination" was spelled incorrectly on the Miss Universe official winner card.
The word “elimination” was spelled incorrectly on the Miss Universe official winner card.

Hallelujah! Handel, Christmas movies and Beavertails eating contest this weekend

Patricia D'Cunha & Amber LeBlanc | posted Friday, Dec 18th, 2015

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There are only a few shopping days left until Christmas Day, but don’t stress out. You still have time to get your to-do list done (if you are well-organized), while revelling in the merriment of the season. After all, what is the point of the holidays if you don’t get to enjoy them?

If you like classical and choral music, Handel’s “Messiah” is a must every season, whether you attend a performance or just listen on your iPod. And if you love watching Christmas movies, you can catch your favourite ones at home or at cinema.

Traditional Glass Christmas Bubbles Are Made By Venitian Glass Makers

Pets also want to be a part of the festivities, and they would like nothing more than to take a photo with the jolly elf in the red suit.

This is also the last weekend of the Toronto Christmas Market. If you haven’t been to it yet, put that on your must-see like this weekend.


Handel’s Messiah

The Christmas season wouldn’t be complete without George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.” Composed in 1741 with libretto by Charles Jennens, the three-part oratorio was first performed in Dublin on Good Friday the following year. The pinnacle of the piece is the “Hallelujah” chorus in Part II, which brings people to their feet.

There are at least three productions of the piece in Toronto – two orchestral and one theatrical – with each one capturing the heart and soul of the powerful choral work while taking the audience to new emotional heights.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra joins forces with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and vocal soloists for Handel's "Messiah" at Roy Thomson Hall. FACEBOOK/TSO.
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra joins forces with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and vocal soloists for Handel’s “Messiah” at Roy Thomson Hall. FACEBOOK/TSO.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s version, which is conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and features the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, is dubbed the “biggest Messiah in Toronto.” Performances are being held until Sunday. Those attending are being urged to bring non-perishable food items for the Daily Bread Food Bank’s holiday campaign.

If you prefer a more intimate experience, baroque orchestra Tafelmusik has performances until Saturday at Koerner Hall. It is directed by Ivars Taurins and showcases the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir.

Toronto artist collective Against the Grain (AtG) takes an alternative approach to the oratorio by staging a barefoot and choreographed version, which it says walks “the line between edgy and faithful.” AtG artistic and music directors, Joel Ivany and Topher Mokrzewski, teamed up with choreographer Jennifer Nichols. Performances are being held at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, presented by Massey Hall, until Saturday.

Bloor Holiday Classics

“Will you please tell Santa that instead of presents this year, I just want my family back. No toys.”
-Kevin McCallister (Home Alone)

Get all your favourite Christmas movies in one place at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema starting Friday and until Christmas Eve Eve (Dec. 23). Some of the movies being show include: “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “A Christmas Story,” and “Love Actually.”

And if you are either a “Home Alone” or “Die Hard” fanatic and know the movie lines by heart, take part in the quote-along screenings of the two movies. Show off your memory prowess with other fans!

Tickets are free (two per person, per film) for the films, except for the quote-alongs. Food or financial donations are also being accepted for the Stop Community Food Centre.

BeaverTails eating contest

An epic eating contest takes place along Queens Quay this weekend.

BeaverTails is holding a pastry-eating contest at Pier 6, and they are guaranteeing good fun and a good cause. Along with handing out sweet treats, BeaverTails is collecting non-perishable food donations and money for the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Fried dough pastries by Beavertails. Photo via beavertails.com.
Fried dough pastries by Beavertails. Photo via beavertails.com.

Trinity Bellwoods Holiday Flea Market

Are you still looking for that one-of-a-kind gift? You may want to check out the Trinity Bellwoods Flea Holiday Flea Market this weekend. It takes place at Studio Bar at 824 Dundas St. W. on Saturday and Sunday.

You’ll have the opportunity to check out local artisans and indulge in some holiday treats and seasonal drinks. Admission is free and if you spend over $50, you can get your gifts wrapped for free.

Last weekend for the Christmas market

As you scurry around doing your Christmas shopping, don’t forget to check out the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery Historic District – the last weekend to do so.

After the stress and mayhem of zigzagging through crowds, unwind with some hot chocolate and shortbread. Then, why not finish your shopping at the many vendors offering holiday delights. Admission is $5 per person on Saturday and Sunday.

Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District. Photo via torontochristmasmarket.com.
Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District. Photo via torontochristmasmarket.com.

Pet photo taken with Santa

Has your pet been naughty or nice? Find out at Purina PawsWay this weekend when you get your dog or cat’s picture with Santa Claus.

English bulldog lying on Santa's lap. GETTY IMAGES/LWA.
English bulldog lying on Santa’s lap. GETTY IMAGES/LWA.

Pictures are $12 and a portion of the proceeds go towards the Lions Foundation of Canada Guide Dogs.

Santa Cruise

It’s a cruise along Lake Ontario with a very special guest.

The 10th annual Santa Cruise sails this weekend. The ticket includes brunch with the first family of the North Pole, a photo with the big man, crafts for the kids, carolling and other holiday treats.

Uber launching $5, transit-like option on Tuesday

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 14th, 2015

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Uber is launching a transit-like option on Tuesday that lets users pay a flat $5 to travel with other commuters along four specific routes.

The service, called UberHOP, will use large SUVs or mini vans that can carry up to five passengers from the same spot on a fixed route.

UberHOP will travel from Liberty Village, Fort York, Cityplace and the Distillery District, all going to the financial district in the morning and back to the neighbourhoods in the afternoon/evening.

The shuttle-like service is scheduled to operate during rush hour only, between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

The service was launched last week in Seattle.

All-door boarding begins on TTC streetcars

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 14th, 2015

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Monday marks the beginning of all-door boarding on all streetcar lines in Toronto, an initiative the TTC believes will speed up service.

The new system will allow transit users to board through any door on a streetcar, provided they have a Metropass or proof-of-payment.

For a closer look on how the system will work, including the rules around proof-of-payment, watch the video below:

Syrian refugees arrive in Canada, which one family calls ‘paradise’

CityNews | posted Friday, Dec 11th, 2015

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It’s a new day, in a new country, for dozens of refugee families who fled the violence in Syria in hopes of a better life here in the GTA.

The first planeload landed at Pearson Airport around 11:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Prime Minister Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne were on hand to welcome the first two families from the plane that brought 163 Syrian refugees to Canada.

The first refugee family into the terminal was a couple with their 16-month-old girl.

“We really would like to thank you for all this hospitality and the warm welcome and all the staff — we felt ourselves at home and we felt ourselves highly respected,” Kevork Jamkossian told Trudeau.

“We felt (for the) first time (that) we are in a safe place,” Jamkossian said.

“Well, you are,” Trudeau responded, handing out winter jackets. “You’re safe at home now.”
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Refugees arrive in Toronto, Dec. 11, 2015 CITYNEWS

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, looks over winter clothing which will be handed out to arriving Syrian refugees before arrival at Pearson International airport, in Toronto, on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Jamkossian’s wife held their daughter Madeleine, clutching a teddy bear the little girl took with a shy smile from Wynne as the politicians helped find suitable winter clothing for them.

The family — the father is a blacksmith and the mother a sales clerk — was the first through processing in the wee hours of Friday morning after the government aircraft landed following a long flight from Beirut.

The family fled Syria, spent eight months in Lebanon and now they came to Canada because here, Madeleine will have many opportunities, the family said.

“We suffered a lot,” Jamkossian said. “Now, we feel as if we got out of hell and we came to paradise.”

They were joined by the ministers of immigration, health and defence, as well as local mayors and opposition immigration critics.

While there would be less fanfare for the arrival of the rest of the families, all were welcomed by a large contingent of staff at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and given winter coats, boots, hats and gloves before resting a few hours in a hotel.

Shadr Mardelli struggled to put the day’s experience into words.

“I can’t imagine my feelings here, I’m so happy,” he said, weary but smiling, minutes after arriving at the hotel with his wife and son. The family fled Syria for Lebanon last year.

In Canada, he said, “I’m looking for safety and beautiful future and new future.”

Starting Friday, 116 of the new arrivals will head to homes in the Toronto area. Another four will go to Windsor. Sponsors in Kelowna, B.C. will welcome four, three will go to Coquitlam, B.C. and one to New Westminster, B.C. Twenty are bound for Calgary, Alta., and the final 15 to Edmonton, according to statistics released Thursday by the Immigration department.

A second flight is set to arrive in Montreal on Saturday.

Trudeau told the assembled staff moments before the plane arrived Thursday night that those arriving would step off the plane as refugees but would walk out of the terminal as permanent residents with social insurance numbers, health cards and the opportunity to become full Canadians.

“This is something that we are able to do in this country because we define a Canadian not by a skin colour or a language or a religion or a background, but by a shared set of values, aspirations, hopes and dreams that not just Canadians but people around the world share,” he said.

“So I thank you deeply for being a part of this because this matters. Tonight matters, not just for Canada but for the world.”

All of the Syrians on board are sponsored by private groups, many of whom had filed the necessary paperwork months ago in order to bring in some of the estimated 4.3 million Syrians displaced by the ongoing civil war in that country.

More than 400 refugees have already arrived on commercial flights since the Liberals took office on Nov. 4.

Canadians eager to show their support for the newcomers weren’t deterred by the fact that they couldn’t do so face to face.

A handful of people gathered at the international arrivals gate at Pearson bearing signs and gifts.

Stefania Dunlop and Lubna Altaher dropped off dozens of bags brimming with snacks and plush toys for the children, as well as hats and mittens for the adults. The pair said they had made arrangements with airport security to have the items — and several hundreds more bags — brought to the designated terminal where the government flight landed.

Andrew Harris, 51, said he wanted to counter the fearful messaging about Muslims that has circulated since the Paris attacks.

He held up a large yellow sign that read “Welcome to Canada,” saying that even if the arriving refugees don’t see it, the positive words won’t go unnoticed.

Before the plane landed, Trudeau spoke to the team of paramedics, government staff, and volunteers, eagerly waiting to greet the new arrivals.

“This matters. Tonight matters. Not just for Canada but for the world,” Trudeau said.

On Friday, the refugees begin the process of moving into their new homes.

EXCLUSIVE: Canadians concerned Syrian refugees will strain social services

CityNews | posted Friday, Dec 11th, 2015

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Canadians are concerned that Syrian refugees will create a strain on their health care systems and social services, according to an exclusive poll conducted for CityNews by Forum Research.

“These are not encouraging indicator,” said Lorne Bozinoff, the president and founder of Forum Research. “Canadians think these new citizens will prove a burden on our already overtaxed public services and that they will do nothing to enhance the economy.”

In a random sampling of 1,369 Canadian votes, 63 per cent of respondents said they are concerned Syrian refugees settling in Canada will create a strain on health care and social services, with 42 per cent stating they are “very concerned.”

People between the ages 35 to 44 have the highest level of concern, at 47 per cent.

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But when it comes to job loss, only 40 per cent of respondents said they are concerned that refugees will take jobs from Canadians, while 56 per cent say they are not concerned.

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Only a small number (32 per cent) of Canadians actually think that Syrian refugees will have a positive effect on Canada’s economy. A total of 41 per cent of people think they will not have a positive impact and 27 per cent don’t know if they will.

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On Wednesday, it was revealed that Canadians are concerned that Syrian refugees are getting preferential treatment in the immigration process. A total of 54 per cent of Canadians in the sample were concerned and 34 per cent were very concerned.

Results are based on the total sample of 1,369 and are considered accurate plus-or-minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Two Syrian refugee families arrived in Toronto on Wednesday night and 164 more are expected to arrive Thursday at Toronto Pearson International Airport. They’ll be arriving in a Royal Canadian Air Force jet, from a flight out of an airfield in Jordan.

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