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Sustainable transportation on the rise across the GTA, census finds

CityNews | posted Thursday, Nov 30th, 2017

Although the car still reigns supreme, more people across the GTA are turning to sustainable transportation for their commute into work.

According to recent data from Statistics Canada, 42.5 per cent of commuters living in the GTA commonly used a form of sustainable transportation as their main mode of commuting. That number is largely due to  the high proportion of people taking public transit to work.

The new data also shows that both biking and walking to work has increased since 2011 – when the last data was collected.

“No matter where you are in Canada, pretty much, car is the most popular. However it’s been going down in the GTA over the past 20 years,” Jason Gilmore with Statistics Canada explained.

“Fewer than 70 per cent of people who live in the GTA are commuting by car, and public transit has been increasing over time, as has walking and cycling.”

Gilmore said increase infrastructure has helped these form of sustainable transportation rise in population.

“Obviously there’s not only expansions in public transit but also, in a lot of urban areas, increased opportunities for cycling within the city … same with walking paths.”

But regardless of how you get to work in the GTA, it’s taking you longer.

“(The average commute) was 32.8 minutes in 2011 and it’s 34 minutes in 2016,” Gilmore explained.

That’s eight minutes longer than the average commute time in Canada, which is just over 26 minutes.

Gilmore said part of the reason behind that is the vast size of the GTA and immense about of people who live in the area, compared to the rest of the country.Sheet 2

“It’s a challenge getting around the region. The region has the most people in Canada and there are about a thousand people living in every square kilometre of the GTA,” he said.

The average car commute in the GTA is just over 24 minutes and for people using public transit it’s almost 45 minutes.

While that may seem like a huge difference, Gilmore pointed out that commute time was calculated from the time you leave your house to the time you walk into work — not specifically how long you’re on public transit.

“If you’re driving you just get out of your house or apartment, you get into your car and you go and usually you can park somewhere close to where you work,” he said.

“For public transit you don’t always have that luxury. You usually have to walk or drive to your starting point, get on your public transit … and then your final stop may not be exactly where your work is so you might have to walk to your place of work.”

Gilmore said the data collected can now be used by urban planners to improve their communities.

“They are our biggest users and I think they’ll be very excited to dig into this data in the coming days and months.”Sheet 1


A company’s size could determine on how it deals with sexual harassment

CityNews | posted Thursday, Nov 30th, 2017


Sexual harassment isn’t something that just happens in Hollywood or political quarters — it happens in most workplaces across Canada.

Recent data suggests that more than 50 per cent of working women have experienced unwanted sexual pressure.

New rules put in place by the Ontario government require provincially-mandated companies to have had a policy in place since September of last year to try to prevent harassment.

However, very little protections exist for individuals who may be innocent of harassment but still stand accused.

According to Muneeza Sheikh, a senior partner with Levitt LLP, there is far more pressure on large-scale employers with a public persona to deal with the incident “quickly and efficiently” because every step they take will be scrutinized by the public.

“I think the larger (employers) are facing a lot of pressure to protect their brand, their public image and to issue a termination quickly,” she explained.

Sheikh said smaller or medium-sized employers, who do not have those public relations concerns, may be more inclined to investigate the claim fully before taking action to discipline the employee, which may not mean termination.

“I think they are more inclined to take a step back and say ‘look, these allegations have been made but we haven’t done much to investigate them. We want to talk to the complainant, we want to talk to the person who the complaint is about and we want to potentially talk to other witnesses as well and get the full story,’” she said.

Sheikh added that employers have a duty to not only have concrete anti-harassment policies in place, but to ensure that their staff are well-versed and formally trained in the procedures.

Man killed in Brampton crash involving tractor-trailer

CityNews | posted Thursday, Nov 30th, 2017

Peel police investigate a crash on Mayfield Drive near The Gore Road in Brampton on Nov. 30, 2017. CITYNEWS

One man is dead after a two-vehicle crash in Brampton.

The crash happened on Mayfield Drive, in The Gore Road and Countryside Drive area, around 1:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Police said the crash involved a car and a tractor-trailer.

The driver of the car, believed to be in his late 20s or early 30s, died of his injuries at the scene. The driver of the tractor-trailer was not hurt.

The cause of the crash is not yet known.

Police continue to investigate.

Late-minute deal averts school bus strike in Durham Region

CityNews | posted Thursday, Nov 30th, 2017

File photo of a school bus. CITYNEWS.

A school bus strike that could have impacted about 10,000 students at 103 schools in parts of Durham Region and east-end Toronto was averted late Wednesday night.

Unifor and First Student Canada signed a tentative agreement for 260 drivers just ahead of strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Details will be released after a ratification vote to be held in the coming days.

Naureen Rizvi, Unifor’s Ontario regional director, said unpaid hours and low wages were keys issues at the bargaining table.

Under the previous contract, drivers are only paid from the point they pick up the first student to the moment they drop off the last child off and were unpaid for time in between for travelling from home to the first pick-up or performing vehicle maintenance.

“When you count up all the hours worked and the pay they receive, they are working for less than minimum wage,” Rizvi said in a statement.

“It’s a full time commitment for part time pay.”

Unifor Local 4268 president Debbie Montgomery said the unpaid hours makes it difficult for bus companies to recruit new drivers, which leads to shortages like one that affected Toronto school boards last year.

“The best way to recruit new drivers is to treat them fairly,” Montgomery said.

“We love driving buses, and deserve to be paid for all the hours we work. That’s only fair.”

A walkout would have impacted students within the Durham Public District School Board and at the Durham Catholic School Board in Ajax, Brock, Oshawa, Pickering, Scugog, Uxbridge and Whitby plus a number of students in east-end Toronto.

Matt Lauer fired by NBC News over inappropriate sexual workplace behaviour

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 29th, 2017

Matt Lauer on The Today Show on Nov. 21, 2017. GETTY IMAGES/Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

NBC News has fired Matt Lauer after allegations of inappropriate sexual workplace behaviour were brought forward.

The announcement was made at the start of The Today Show, which Lauer has co-hosted since 1998.

A statement by NBC News Chairman Andy Lack reads:

“On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment.”

The statement goes on to say that there is a “reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

“We are deeply saddened by this turn of events. But we will face it together as a news organization -– and do it in as transparent a manner as we can.”

Lauer is the highest paid journalist in the United States, making a salary this year of US$28 million.

He has not released a statement on the allegations or the termination.

Massachusetts police pull over driver hauling massive Christmas tree

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 29th, 2017


When it comes to Christmas trees, many adopt the Clark Griswold philosophy that ‘size matters.’

Some take things a bit too far.

That was the case last Friday when police in Sudbury, Mass., pulled over a driver who was transporting a mammoth tree.

The local police department posted a photo of the giant tree being hauled by a barely visible vehicle, along with some friendly advice.

“Sudbury PD would like to remind you to transport your holiday trees responsibly,” the department wrote on its Facebook page.

The vehicle was stopped about 40 kilometres west of Boston. It’s not clear if the driver was handed a ticket.

Couple claims Air Canada almost kicked them off a flight for complaining

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 29th, 2017


What rights do airline passengers really have?

A Canadian couple travelling on Air Canada Flight 796 from Los Angeles to Toronto last week are asking themselves that question after a seat mixup almost got them deplaned.

Eric Rothschild and his wife had booked two aisle seats across from one another. However, when they arrived at the airport, their seats had changed.

They came to an agreement on another seating arrangement at the check-in desk, only to find out at boarding their seats had been changed yet again.

Then, while waiting in line to board the plane, Rothschild said he and his wife were voicing their concerns to each other.

“My wife made the comment like, ‘This is ridiculous,’” said Rothschild. “An agent going by says, ‘I know what happened.’ And I said, ‘That’s bull____.’ And she said ‘You know, sir, we can can deplane you. We don’t like your attitude.’”

Air Canada’s International Tariff states a passenger can be removed if “the person’s conduct, or condition is or has been known to be abusive, offensive, threatening, intimidating, violent, or otherwise disorderly and in reasonable judgement of a responsible, carrier employee.”

But Rothschild said he wasn’t yelling or causing a scene.

Gabor Lukacs, an advocate with Air Passenger Rights said he’s been in a similar situation and believes airline staff resort to threatening passengers with removal too often.

“If two passengers are talking, it’s none of the airline agent’s business to interject into the conversation,” said Lukacs. “It’s offensive and it’s nothing short of harassment.”

In an email to Rothschild, Air Canada customer care said the incident is under management review.

“From what you’ve described, we can understand why you wanted to contact us,” the email said.

Air Canada did not answer CityNews’s questions about the seating mixup and how staff is trained when it comes to removing passengers from an aircraft.

Rothschild did receive 15 per cent off his next Air Canada flight.  However, he said he’s not looking for a freebie or discount.

He wants a clear explanation as to what happened — and an apology.

Trudeau apologizes for decades of LGBTQ discrimination by federal agencies

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 29th, 2017


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began by telling a story — one that began not that long ago and, in some ways, is still unfolding — about how the federal government spent decades ruining the careers and lives of Canadians because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This is the devastating story of people who were branded criminals by the government — people who lost their livelihoods, and in some cases, their lives,” Trudeau said Tuesday as he delivered a speech building up to his promised apology for past state-sanctioned discrimination against members of the LGBTQ2 community in Canada.

“These aren’t distant practices of governments long forgotten,” he said.

“This happened systematically, in Canada, with a timeline more recent than any of us would like to admit.”

Dozens of people — including two of Trudeau’s own children, Xavier and Ella-Grace — crammed into the various House of Commons galleries to witness the historic occasion, which the prime minister said he hopes will finally allow the healing process to begin for those affected.

The expression of regret, and the emotional reaction to its delivery, built like a crescendo as Trudeau walked through the ways the federal government caused harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited people, a term used broadly to describe Indigenous Peoples who identify as part of the community.

That included the criminalization of homosexual sexual activity, raids on bathhouses, public humiliation and efforts to rid the military and the public service of LGBTQ people, until as recently as 1992.

Then, Trudeau began to move on from the lesson in history to the abject apology for it having happened in the first place.

“It is with shame and sorrow and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say: We were wrong. We apologize,” he said.

“I am sorry. We are sorry.”

That was the point when one man in the gallery, where some had been quietly wiping tears from their eyes, began clapping his hands.

Others, many wearing name badges and rainbow ribbons, began to join in, until all the MPs on the floor of the House of Commons were on their feet for the straightforward expression of regret.

Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who sat beside Trudeau throughout the apology, said that was a key moment for him.

“There was no equivocation. There was no justification,” said Oliphant, who said he felt many of the experiences of his life as a gay man, from playground taunts to lost job opportunities, flash before his eyes as the prime minister spoke.

“There was no, ‘Well, we didn’t know things that we know now,”’ he said. “There was none of that.”

The apology was accompanied by several initiatives to make amends.

The Liberal government introduced legislation Tuesday which, if passed, will allow the expungement of criminal records for people convicted of consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners.

The government has also earmarked $110 million to compensate members of the military and other federal agencies whose careers were sidelined or ended due to their sexual orientation, the centrepiece of a class-action settlement with employees who were investigated, sanctioned and sometimes forced out of their jobs.

As part of the settlement, the government will also pay an additional $20 million for legal fees and administration and devote at least $15 million more for memorial activities, including museum exhibits, a national monument and possible archival projects.

Separately, the government is putting $250,000 toward community projects to combat homophobia and provide support for people in crisis, and in 2019 plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the federal decriminalization of homosexual acts.

After recounting the horrors of the past, and acknowledging there is still work to do, Trudeau sounded a hopeful note for the future.

“To the kids who are listening at home and who fear rejection because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity and expression, and to those who are nervous and scared, but also excited at what their future might hold: we are all worthy of love, and deserving of respect,” he said.

After Trudeau was done, he was embraced one by one by Liberal MPs who identify as gay or lesbian, including Randy Boissonnault, his special adviser on sexual orientation and gender issues.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer echoed the sentiment expressed by the prime minister.

“In this country, we deplore and we condemn injustice towards the innocent, the oppressed and the persecuted,” said Scheer, who urged everyone to stand up for human rights both at home and abroad, where many countries still criminalize homosexual activity.

“Canada is better than that. We must do more to stand up for the LGBTQ2 community in places like Iran and Russia and other countries where they are the target of brutal violence,” said Scheer, who then praised the work of the previous Conservative government in prioritizing these refugee groups.

Scheer, who has voted against the transgender rights bill and refused to take part in gay pride parades, leads a Conservative caucus where many share those social conservative views. There were many Conservative MPs who did not attend the apology.

Guy Caron, the parliamentary leader for the NDP, said he welcomed the apology and said his party would work with the Liberals to make sure the expungements legislation is passed quickly.

Still, like Trudeau, he noted how much work there is to do to end all discrimination against the LGBTQ community, including ongoing restrictions on sexually active gay men who wish to donate blood.

“This would be a good time to stop doing things the government might have to apologize for in the future,” said Caron.

Todd Ross, a former naval officer who is involved in the class-action lawsuit, said he was filled with so much emotion listening to the apology from the gallery that he feels like he needs to go back and read the words again in order for them to sink in.

“It was something I needed to hear,” said Ross.

“I think it marks the beginning of healing for many people,” he said. “I accept the apology.”

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