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Parents ‘outraged’ after learning students may be relocated to accommodate condo construction

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 7th, 2017

The development of a 35-storey condominium project near John Fisher Public School on Erskine Avenue continues to draw the ire of nearby Yonge and Eglinton residents. Members of the school community recently learned students could potentially be relocated during the work.

“Parents are outraged,” says area councillor Jaye Robinson, who says angry emails and phone calls have been flooding into her Ward 25 office. “We actually can’t respond quickly because we can’t keep up with it. I’ve never seen in all my years of being at City Hall a response like this one. It’s unprecedented.”

The project, which will be developed right next door to the public school, is slated to begin soon. The building of the tower was approved by the Ontario Municipal Board, despite strong opposition from the City of Toronto, area residents and parents.

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In a statement, the Ontario Municipal Board wrote, “Evidence presented at hearings, provincial laws and planning policies all guide the decisions made by the OMB.”

But Robinson is critical of the very process by which this tower’s development, and others, are decided.

“The OMB is defining our neighbourhoods in Toronto,” she says. “We don’t need it. We have a sophisticated planning division that works hard to develop in a responsible way that fits with the context of the neighbourhood and maintains the streetscape.”

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Robinson says in her ward alone, 80 per cent of the last 32 development proposals have been rejected by the City of Toronto, but ultimately won approval by the OMB. Robinson notes Ontario is the only province that has an appeals body like the OMB, and suggests it be abolished altogether.

But Premier Kathleen Wynne, who admits change is needed, stops short of making the same suggestion.

“We’re bringing forward more changes to the OMB that will put more decision-making power in the hands of municipal councils,” she said Monday morning.

“But having said that there will still be official plans in place that will have density provisions in them and there will still be building that will happen in communities across the province.  There will still be situations no matter what changes we bring to the OMB where we have to make sure that we have the right protections in place for communities.”

Between 2015 and 2016, cases from Toronto accounted for 43 per cent of the 2,437 appeals the Ontario Municipal Board received.

Trump signs revised executive order on temporary travel ban

Alicia A. Caldwell and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Mar 6th, 2017

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President Donald Trump on Monday signed a new version of his controversial travel ban, aiming to withstand court challenges while still barring new visas for citizens from six Muslim-majority countries and shutting down the U.S. refugee program.

The revised travel order leaves Iraq off the list of banned countries but still affects would-be visitors from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.

Trump privately signed the new order Monday while Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally unveiled the new edict. The low-key rollout was a contrast to the first version of the order, signed in a high-profile ceremony at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as Secretary of Defense James Mattis stood by Trump’s side.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was not scheduled to hold an on-camera briefing Monday either, leading to the appearance that the president was distancing himself from the order, which was a signature issue during his campaign and the first days of his presidency. The order also risks being overshadowed by unsubstantiated accusations the president made over the weekend that former President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of his phone during the campaign.

The original travel ban caused immediate panic and chaos at airports around the country as Homeland Security officials scrambled to interpret how it was to be implemented and travelers were detained before being sent back overseas or blocked from getting on airplanes abroad. The order quickly became the subject of several legal challenges and was ultimately put on hold last month by a federal judge in Washington state. That ruling was upheld by a federal appeals court.

The revised order is narrower and specifies that a 90-day ban on people from the six countries does not apply to those who already have valid visas or people with U.S. green cards.

The White House dropped Iraq from the list of targeted countries following pressure from the Pentagon and State Department, which had urged the White House to reconsider, given Iraq’s key role in fighting the Islamic State group. Syrian nationals are also no longer subjected to an indefinite ban, despite Trump’s instance as a candidate that Syrian refugees in particular posed a serious security threat to the United States.

In a call with reporters Monday morning, senior officials from Homeland Security and Justice Department said the travel ban was necessary to allow the government to review what more can be done to properly vet would-be visitors and refugees.

The officials said 300 people who arrived in the United States as refugees were currently under investigation as part of terrorism-related cases. The officials pointed to those cases as evidence of the need for the travel order, but refused repeated requests to address how many of those people were from the six banned countries or how long they have been in the United States.

A fact sheet describing the new order circulated before the new order was announced cites negotiations that resulted in Iraq agreeing to “increase cooperation with the U.S. government on the vetting of its citizens applying for a visa to travel to the United States.”

The mere existence of a fact sheet signaled that the White House was taking steps to improve the rollout of the reworked directive. The initial measure was hastily signed at the end of Trump’s first week in office, and the White House was roundly criticized for not providing lawmakers, Cabinet officials and others with information ahead of the signing.

Trump administration officials say that even with the changes, the goal of the new order is the same as the first: keeping would-be terrorists out of the United States while the government reviews the vetting system for refugees and visa applicants from certain parts of the world.

According to the fact sheet, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct a country-by-country review of the information the six targeted nations provide to the U.S. for visa and immigration decisions. Those countries will then have 50 days to comply with U.S. government requests to update or improve that information.


Related stories:

Supporters and critics of motion condemning Islamophobia clash in Toronto

Revised Trump immigration order delayed until next week

U.S. appeals court refuses to reinstate Trump’s travel ban

Hundreds rally against Islamophobia and U.S. travel ban in Toronto


Additionally, Trump’s order suspends the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days, though refugees already formally scheduled for travel by the State Department will be allowed entry. When the suspension is lifted, the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. will be capped at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.

The new version also to removes language that would give priority to religious minorities. Critics had accused the administration of adding such language to help Christians get into the U.S. while excluding Muslims.

“I think people will see six or seven major points about this executive order that do clarify who was covered,” said presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway in an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.”

She said the new order will not go into effect until March 16, despite earlier warnings from the president and his team that any delay in implementation would pose a national security risk, allowing dangerous people to flow into the country.

Legal experts say the new order addresses some of the constitutional concerns raised by a federal appeals court about the initial ban, but leaves room for more legal challenges.

“It’s much clearer about how it doesn’t apply to groups of immigrants with more clearly established constitutional rights,” said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck. “That’s a really important step.”

Removing language that would give priority to religious minorities helps address concerns that the initial ban was discriminatory, but its continued focus on Muslim-majority countries leaves the appearance that the order is a “Muslim ban,” Vladeck said.

“There’s still going to be plenty of work for the courts to do,” he said.

Associated Press writer Alicia A. Caldwell and Sadie Gurman contributed to this report.

Toronto casts a spell in new tourism ad

CityNews | posted Monday, Mar 6th, 2017

A new tourism ad for Toronto celebrates everything from Drake to the LGBT community to jellyfish, with plenty of stops along the way.

The campaign, created by Tourism Toronto and marketing firm J. Walter Thompson, bills Toronto as “Canada’s downtown.” It’s set to “I Put A Spell on You,” written by American Jay Hawkins and made famous by Nina Simone. In this case, the song is sampled by Toronto’s Mike Wise, with vocal performance by Toronto poet and singer, Bethany Lee.

Vibrant nightlight scenes – Chinatown’s neon, flames shooting up from food truck kitchens, Caribana revelers dancing in front of stopped streetcars – are interspersed with praise for Toronto’s ethnic and sexual diversity, and welcoming nature.

A still from a Toronto tourism video makes an argument that love is love is love. YOUTUBE

The stopped streetcar isn’t the only sign of the TTC: dancers are seen performing on the subway, a nod to the TTC’s own marketing campaign. That campaign was created with the National Ballet.

There’s also references to the Blue Jays and the Raptors, with one kid in a park doing the famous Jose Bautista bat flip as the crowd cheers at the Rogers Centre.

Drake seen in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it performance at the 30-second mark, and the name of the ad – “The views are different here” – echoes the Toronto rapper’s latest album. As for jellyfish, they can be seen in the ad, and at the Ripley’s Aquarium.

In this city, it’s OK to let your guard down – whether that means kissing your same-sex partner, or hanging off the CN Tower, the ad shows.

Not a source of civic pride? The Toronto Maple Leafs, who don’t make one appearance.

Watch the video, and let us know what you think in the comments section.

 

Three winning tickets for Saturday night’s $7 million Lotto 649 jackpot

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 6th, 2017

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There are three winning tickets for the $7-million jackpot in Saturday night’s Lotto 649 draw.

They were purchased in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec — and each is worth just over $2.3 million.

The draw’s guaranteed $1 million prize was claimed by a ticket sold in the Prairies.

The jackpot for the next Lotto 649 draw on Mar. 8 will be approximately $5 million.

‘Logan’ slices box office with $85.3M, ‘Moonlight’ gets bump

Jake Coyle, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Mar 6th, 2017

The R-rated “X-Men” spinoff “Logan” slashed into the weekend box office, opening with a massive $85.3 million in North American theatres, according to studio estimates Sunday, while best-picture winner “Moonlight” got a significant, if far from superhero-sized, Oscar bump.

The debut of 20th Century Fox’s “Logan,” starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, ranks among the biggest March openings ever and top R-rated debuts. Like last year’s R-rated “Deadpool” (also a Fox release), the better-than-expected opening for “Logan,” a darkly violent, grittily dramatic movie applauded by critics, further proves moviegoers’ hunger for less conventional comic book films.

“’Deadpool,’ was to comedy what ‘Logan’ is to drama. The only common theme is that they’re quote-unquote ‘comic-book movies’ and they’re rated R,” said Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson, who credited director and co-writer James Mangold and Jackman for executing their personal vision for the film.

Jackman has said it will be his final performance as Wolverine, whose claws he has worn for 17 years. “Logan,” made for about $100 million, also sold $152.5 million in tickets overseas.

“On a global scale, we’ve exceeded all pre-release expectations,” Aronson said.
Last week’s No. 1 film, Jordan Peele’s horror sensation “Get Out” slid just 22 per cent, a small drop for any movie but particularly in the horror genre. The acclaimed Universal Pictures release, made for $5 million by Blumhouse Productions, dropped to second place but still grossed $26.1 million. Its 10-day total is $75 million.

The Oscar best-picture winner “Moonlight” had its widest release yet, appearing on 1,564 screens. It turned in its biggest weekend, too, with an estimated $2.5 million. That accounts for roughly 10 per cent of the movie’s total domestic haul of $25.3 million.

“Moonlight,” made for just $1.5 million, is also out on DVD and on-demand. Indie distributor A24 said it will be its highest-grossing release in its five-year existence. “Moonlight” also ranks fourth on iTunes.

“That’s a true Oscar halo effect in full view,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. “Usually the biggest bounce comes from the nominations. But this film hadn’t made a ton of money. A24 smartly expanded into more theatres, and it really worked for them.”

Barry Jenkins’ drama is nevertheless one of the least widely seen best-picture winners. Only Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” ($17 million) earned less at the domestic box office.

Though it memorably did not win best picture, Lionsgate’s “La La Land,” winner of six Academy Awards, is closing in on $400 million globally after adding another $11 million internationally and $3 million domestically.

Lionsgate’s “The Shack” also opened in North American theatres over the weekend and came in third with $16.1 million. The Christian tale, starring Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer, was slammed by critics, but it attracted one of the largest faith-based audiences in recent years.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers also are included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Logan,” $85.3 million ($152.5 million international).
2. “Get Out,” $26.1 million.
3. “The Shack,” $16.1 million.
4. “The Lego Batman Movie,” $11.7 million ($10.4 million international).
5. “Before I Fall,” $4.9 million.
6. “John Wick: Chapter Two,” $4.7 million ($5.6 million international).
7. “Hidden Figures,” $3.8 million.
8. “The Great Wall,” $3.5 million ($6.5 million international).
9. “Fifty Shades Darker,” $3.5 million ($10.7 million international).
10. “La La Land,” $3 million ($11.1 million international).

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theatres (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. “Logan,” $152.5 million.
2. “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” $18.4 million.
3. “A Dog’s Purpose,” $17.4 million.
4. “Sing,” $11.4 million.
5. “La La Land,” $11.1 million.
6. “Fifty Shades Darker,” $10.7 million.
7. “The Lego Batman Movie,” $10.4 million.
8. “Split,” $8.6 million.
9. “The Great Wall,” $6.5 million.
10. “John Wick: Chapter Two,” $5.6 million.

Federal cabinet set up for dealing with illegal border-crossers

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 6th, 2017

Federal cabinet ministers are set for an in-depth discussion this week of the practical and political pressures being placed on the Liberal government by a rising number of asylum seekers in Canada.

Border security, RCMP and immigration officials have been running scenarios to prepare for the possibility that a relative winter trickle of illegal immigration into Canada could turn into a spring flood.

The results of their table-top exercises will help form options being put before cabinet Tuesday, The Canadian Press has learned.

Officials are also studying links between distinct groups of border-crossers that might belie the common notion they’re all being pushed into Canada by the volatile U.S. political climate.

Two government officials confirmed to The Canadian Press that many of the people coming into Quebec hold American visas issued at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Interviews revealed the visas were obtained to use the U.S. as a transit point get to Canada and claim asylum, plans set in motion long before the U.S. election in November, the officials said, neither of whom were authorized to publicly discuss the issue.

But it is the pictures of RCMP officers hoisting small children above snow-covered fields along the Canada-U.S. frontier that have drawn global attention and placed political pressure on the Trudeau government from all sides.

The Opposition Conservatives are demanding a crackdown, and want those crossing illegally charged with crimes, something the government notes cannot happen until asylum claims are heard.

The fact those claims are being fed into a clogged system has others urging the Liberals to put more resources into the refugee-determination process and the agencies that support newcomers.

“We are the endpoint,” said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services for the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia.

The Immigration and Refugee Board reported in its last quarterly financial document that in the first nine months of 2016-17, there was a 40-per-cent increase in new claims compared to the same period the previous year.

Statistics provided to The Canadian Press show claim levels generally began rising in Canada before U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

In fact, the increase seems to have begun just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took power.

In October 2015, the month of the last federal election, 1,519 claims were lodged in Canada. The next month, when the Trudeau Liberals took office, there were 1,647 and – with the exception of two months in 2016 – they have been rising since.

Trump is pushing people into Canada, but the Trudeau government’s repeated messaging on welcoming diversity and immigration is a pretty strong pull factor, Friesen said.

“We are now the beacon of hope for desperate refugees.”

In B.C., there has been a 60-per-cent increase in the number of refugee claimants in the last 12 months compared to the previous one-year period. Most are Iraqi Kurds and Afghans, and there were also 18 undocumented Latin Americans from Guatemala, Honduras and Venezuela who recently crossed the Canada-U.S. border, immigration agencies said.

The number of Mexican claimants is also starting to rise in B.C., following the end of a requirement for Mexican citizens to have a visa to enter Canada. During the last three months, there were 29 refugee claimants from Mexico, the agencies reported, compared to 30 who arrived between December 2015 and November 2016.

The Immigration and Refugee board is already adjusting to deal with the bigger numbers, but cabinet will consider giving it more resources.

Ministers will also consider whether there is room to alter the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S. The agreement says a refugee claimant must apply for asylum in whichever of the two countries they arrive first, unless they qualify for an exception.

It is being singled out as the reason people are avoiding official border stations and crossing into Canada illegally, and there are calls for Ottawa to suspend the agreement.

Cabinet’s decision could depend on the next iteration of Trump’s executive order laying out a temporary ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The current order has been challenged by the courts and Trump is expected to release a revised version soon.

Not much can be done to stop the border-crossers, said Ward Elcock, who advised the former Conservative government on illegal migration after years running Canada’s spy agency.

Canada must keep talking to the Americans to find the source of the problem, but the reality is the numbers crossing into Canada remain a fraction of what countries in Europe are seeing, he said.

Still, no matter how many enter illegally, some voices will try to make it a political issue.

“It is seen as, you didn’t control the flow of people into the country,” Elcock said.

Taxi flips over on Roncesvalles streetcar tracks

CityNews | posted Monday, Mar 6th, 2017

A taxi ended up on its roof on the streetcar tracks on Roncesvalles Avenue early on Monday morning.

It happened between Wright Avenue and High Park Boulevard just before 5 a.m.

It’s not yet known how the taxi rolled over, or if any other vehicles were involved.

The TTC was holding in both directions as crews worked to clear the tracks.

 taxi ended up on its roof on Roncesvalles Avenue on March 6, 2017. CITYNEWS/Bertram Dandy

Trump expected to sign new travel ban order

Julie Pace and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Mar 6th, 2017

A White House official says plans to roll out the order are on track for Monday. The official insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the order ahead of the official announcement.

The administration has repeatedly pushed back the signing as it has worked to better co-ordinate with the agencies that it will need to implement the ban. The new order has been in the works since shortly after a federal court blocked Trump’s initial effort.

Trump administration officials have said the new order aims to overcome the legal challenges to the first. Its goal will be the same: keep would-be terrorists out of the United States while the government reviews the vetting system for refugees and visa applicants from certain parts of the world.

Trump’s original orders temporarily blocked citizens of Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya from coming to the United States and put on hold the U.S. refugee program.

The revised order is expected to remove Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens face a 90-day U.S. travel ban. That follows pressure from the Pentagon and State Department, which had urged the White House to reconsider, given Iraq’s key role in fighting the Islamic State group.

According to a draft version of the new order outlined to lawmakers late last week, citizens of the other six countries will face the 90-day suspension of visa processing as the administration continues to analyze how to enhance vetting procedures.

Other changes are also expected, including making clear that all existing visas will be honoured and no longer singling out Syrian refugees for an indefinite ban. Syrian refugees will now be treated like other refugees and be subjected to a 120-day suspension of the refugee program.

The new version is also expected to remove language that would give priority to religious minorities. Critics had accused the administration of adding such language to help Christians get into the United States while excluding Muslims.

Trump signed his original executive order in late January, sparking confusion and anger as travellers were detained at U.S. airports and barred from boarding flights at foreign airports.

The signing is expected to spark a new round of lawsuits and controversy.

Associated Press writer Alicia A. Caldwell contributed to this report.

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