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High winds knock down power lines across the GTA

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Jan 11th, 2017

The wind warnings have been cancelled but not before they whipped up garbage cans and blew down power lines in southern Ontario, including the GTA.

Across Ontario, Hydro One crews are working to restore power to 59,000 customers across the region.

In Vaughan, PowerStream said about 1,500 customers remain without power in area bounded by Major MacKenzie Drive, Keele Street, Dufferin Street and Teston Road.

Meanwhile, in Brampton, the high winds knocked out power to more than 2,700 customers in the area. Power is also out to several customers in the Stouffville-Uxbridge area.

Wind gusts of around 100 km/h brought down tree branches in several locations including damaging a car near Markham Road and Eglinton Avenue East. The intersection of Finch and Driftwood avenues was also blocked because of downed wires.

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In downtown Toronto, construction material collapsed at King and John Streets, scattering debris on the roadway and sidewalk. And a few blocks east of Yonge and Bloor streets a swing stage got loose, breaking glass on a balcony.

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While the high winds kept cleanup crews busy, there were no reports of any injuries.

Although the wind warnings have since ended for the GTA, 680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said it will still be breezy on Wednesday with 40-50 km/h winds and higher gusts. She said the wind will diminish in the afternoon.

Marineland denies animal cruelty charges filed by Ontario’s SPCA

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 10th, 2017

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Marineland was charged Monday with six counts of animal cruelty, but the company dismissed the allegations, accusing Ontario’s animal welfare agency of acting on behalf of “a band of discredited activists.”

The latest charges, filed by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, relate to a number of land animals kept at the tourist attraction in Niagara Falls, Ont.

They include one count each of permitting elk, red deer and fallow deer to be in distress, and one count each of failing to provide the standards of care for those animals.

The agency’s deputy chief inspector, Jennifer Bluhm, said the latest charges were part of a “complex investigation” that began on Nov. 10, when the OSPCA received a complaint of alleged animal cruelty.

Later that month, the agency laid five counts of animal cruelty against Marineland that related to the treatment of peacocks, guinea hens and black bears.

The OSPCA said at the time that more charges were pending.

“It was apparent there were additional charges that were appropriate,” Bluhm said Monday. “While the investigation is still ongoing, these are all the charges we expect to be laid in this case.”

Marineland has denied all the charges, none of which have been proven in court.

On Monday, the company accused the OSPCA of engaging in “a publicity campaign at the behest of a band of discredited activists with little relevant expertise or knowledge.”

It also suggested that the move was an attempt by the agency to appease animal rights groups that have criticized the OSPCA for not doing enough to protect animals.

Two such groups — Zoocheck and Animal Alliance Canada — announced in October that they had hired a former top bureaucrat who helped write animal welfare laws in Ontario to conduct a deep dive on those laws and the agency charged with enforcing them — the OSPCA.

Marineland called the charges an effort by the agency “to avoid further embarrassment related to an ongoing investigation into the OSPCA’s perceived failure to protect animals that is being led by the same activists they are now firmly in bed with.”

The OSPCA denied those allegations and Bluhm said the organization stands behind its investigation.

“We will hold the OSPCA to the high standards of Ontario’s legal system and require them to defend their charges to the fullest extent possible,” Marineland said.

The 35-page complaint that prompted the OSPCA investigation in November was filed by a California-based animal rights group called Last Chance for Animals. It contained allegations of animal abuse along with photographs and videos from a former Marineland employee.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the group’s complaint, as well as copies of the photos and videos from the former employee with metadata indicating they were taken on Marineland property last summer.

Marineland said at the time that the complaint was part of a smear campaign by a former employee who had been fired for poor performance and inappropriate behaviour. It also argued the images and videos may be doctored.

The former employee, who requested anonymity for fear of being sued, told The Canadian Press he quit on good terms and is not an animal activist and doesn’t want the park to close.

Last Chance for Animals, meanwhile, has said its goal is not to shut down Marineland, though it does believe “wild animals should be left in the wild.”

Marineland is expected to appear in court on Jan. 26 to face 11 counts of animal cruelty charges.

A conviction on all counts could result in a fine up to $60,000, a lifetime ban on owning animals and up to two years in jail, according to the OSPCA.

Since it opened in 1963, Marineland has grown into a large amusement park with one killer whale, beluga whales, dolphins, walruses, seals, sea lions and other animals such as deer, bears, birds and fish.

One Angry Bird: Toronto cops seek man in costume who allegedly beat up other man

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 10th, 2017

The Red Bird of the Angry Birds, balloon in attendance for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2016, , New York, NY November 24, 2016. Photo By: Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection

Toronto police are searching for a man who allegedly assaulted someone while wearing an Angry Birds costume.

Police say on Oct. 30, around 2:30 a.m., a 24-year-old man was walking on a downtown street with friends when they were approached by someone wearing an Angry Birds costume.

They say the 24-year-old man had commented on the costume when the person in the Angry Birds suit allegedly turned around and began to assault him.

Police say the man was knocked to the ground but the person in the costume allegedly continued to punch and kick him.

They say the 24-year-old man sustained serious injuries.

Police want to speak to anyone with information on the incident.

Ontario agrees to fund Toronto supervised injection sites amid opioid crisis

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 10th, 2017

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Ontario is committing to fund three supervised injection sites in Toronto and one in Ottawa, as the province tries to combat rising numbers of overdose deaths amid a broader opioid crisis.

Toronto city council approved the supervised injection sites at existing downtown health-care facilities during the summer, and six months later the province has confirmed its support for the plan, with an estimated annual cost of $1.6 million and about $400,000 to create the spaces, though Ontario has not committed a specific dollar amount.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins spoke to Mayor John Tory ahead of a meeting Monday with politicians, public health officials and other stakeholders discussing how the city can tackle the growing and fentanyl-fuelled opioid problem.

“I believe that community-supported and community-run supervised injection services will not only save lives, but also must be part of a larger strategy for harm reduction and supports for people struggling with addiction,” Hoskins said in a statement.

Toronto Safe Injection Sites Letter by CityNewsToronto on Scribd

Hoskins also wrote to his federal counterpart Jane Philpott in support of the sites in Toronto as well as one at Sandy Hill Community Health Centre in Ottawa, as both projects await word from Health Canada on their requests for federal exemptions from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Philpott said in a statement Monday that she was pleased to see the progress made in the applications for the supervised injection sites in Toronto.

“We remain committed to working with all of our partners to address this national public health crisis and to working with applicants to provide approvals as quickly as possible,” she said.

Safe injection sites fit in with Ontario’s opioid strategy, which looks to expand harm-reduction services, make changes to prescribing and dispensing and improve data collection, Hoskins said. The province is also developing a framework to respond to similar proposals from other municipalities, he said.


Related stories:

Officials meet in Toronto to tackle fentanyl issues

Mayor Tory wants all hands on deck to tackle the opioid crisis

Board of health votes in favour of safe injection sites in Toronto

Mayor supports plan to establish safe injection sites in Toronto


One in eight deaths of Ontarians between the ages of 25 and 34 is related to opioid use and Toronto has seen a 77-per-cent increase in overdose deaths in the past decade, rising to 258 in 2014.

“These numbers show the need for urgent action and commitment,” Hoskins wrote to Philpott. “As minister and as a physician, I support evidence-based policy-making and any initiative around making our communities safer.”

There are about 90 supervised injection sites worldwide, and Vancouver is the only city in Canada currently offering the service.

The Coroners Service of British Columbia reported 374 illicit drug overdose deaths linked to fentanyl between January and Oct. 31 last year. Alberta reported 193 fentanyl-related deaths between January and September of last year.

Ontario, which has a population about three that of either of those provinces, reported 166 deaths linked to fentanyl in 2015, according to preliminary data for 2015 from the chief coroner’s office.

Toronto police identify first murder victim of 2017

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jan 10th, 2017

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Toronto police have identified the first homicide victim of 2017.

Anthony Earl Smith, 41, of Toronto was shot in the chest early Sunday morning near Queen Street East and Sherbourne Street.

Police say it happened behind an apartment building at about 7:45 a.m. Smith was alive when paramedics arrived but later succumbed to his injuries at hospital.

Police are looking for as many as two suspects but do not yet have concrete descriptions. They say one is about five-foot-eight or five-foot-nine and was seen fleeing north from the crime scene.

No weapon has been recovered.

The scene of the homicide was not far from that of the last murder of 2016 when a man was stabbed to death on Sherbourne north of Shuter back on Christmas Day.

16 arrested over Kardashian West jewelry heist: Paris police

Samuel Petrequin and Lori Hinnant, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Jan 9th, 2017

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 30:  Kim Kardashian West attends Buro 24/7 Fashion Forward Initiative as part  of Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2016 at Hotel Ritz on September 30, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Jacopo Raule/Getty Images)

French police arrested 16 people Monday in connection with the October theft of more than $10 million worth of jewelry from Kim Kardashian West.

Paris police officials said the arrests took place starting around 6 a.m. in different locations in the Paris region. The suspects can be held for up to 96 hours before police must either charge them or let them go.

On Oct. 3, robbers forced their way into the private Paris residence where Kardashian West was staying, tied her up, locked her in a bathroom and held her at gunpoint before making off with her jewelry. The reality TV star was in Paris attending fashion week shows.

Media reports said police tracked down the suspects through DNA evidence found at the residence. An official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t allowed to speak publicly about the investigation said many were already well known for robbery and other crimes.

Earlier this month, the starlet broke her silence on the robbery in a new teaser for the family’s reality show, telling two of her sisters her thoughts at the time: “They’re going to shoot me in the back. There’s no way out.”

Police said the thieves stole a jewelry box containing valuables worth 6 million euros ($6.7 million) as well as a ring worth 4 million euros ($4.5 million).

At the time, a spokeswoman for Kardashian West said she was badly shaken but physically unharmed. The robbery raised new concerns about security in the French capital after a string of deadly extremist attacks.

Mayor Tory wants all hands on deck to tackle the opioid crisis

Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press, News staff | posted Monday, Jan 9th, 2017

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The fentanyl-fuelled opioid crisis that has wreaked havoc in British Columbia is moving east, and the mayor of Toronto hopes a united and rapid response will help save lives in Canada’s most populous city.

Part of that effort begins Monday, with the first meeting of the Toronto Overdose Early Warning and Alert Partnership, which will bring together politicians, public health officials, first-responders, the coroner’s office, community groups and other stakeholders.

“I don’t think that we can sit back and be complacent for one moment,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said in an interview. “The first thing you have to do is to form a partnership that sort of says everybody is going to be at the table, exchanging information, exchanging knowledge.”

While the full scope of fentanyl-related problems in the city isn’t known at this point, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto’s acting medical officer of health, said there are already troubling figures indicating an uptick.

In 2015, there were 45 fentanyl-related overdose deaths recorded, up from 23 deaths in 2014, Yaffe said. Figures for 2016 are not yet available.

“It’s pretty much doubled,” Yaffe said. “It’s obviously a growing issue, it’s preventable and we need to act now to make sure it doesn’t get worse.”

Fentanyl – a drug prescribed for chronic pain management – is roughly 100 times more potent than morphine and about 40 times stronger than heroin. It produces a drug high but also depresses the body’s rate of respiration, which can cause breathing to stop.

A dose of just two milligrams of pure fentanyl – the weight of seven poppy seeds – can be lethal. Police have said many people are ingesting it unknowingly as the drug, which cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, is difficult to detect when laced into other drugs.

Tory said he decided to take action after a brief correspondence last fall with Vancouver, a city that’s dealing with a spike in fentanyl-related overdoses. Tory had reached out to his counterpart, Mayor Gregor Robertson, to see if there was any way Toronto could help.

“He wrote back and said there wasn’t anything necessarily of that kind that I could do, but he did say ‘my advice to you would be to get ready,’” Tory recounted.

“The second request from Mayor Robertson was to simply be an advocate – get attention of other governments and the public so that everybody gets behind saving lives.”

On that note, Tory said he will also be raising the issue of fentanyl at an upcoming meeting of big-city mayors later this year.

“If this was some other kind of illness that was entering Canada and killing hundreds of people … I think you’d have more focused attention being paid to it by everybody,” he said. “I just think I have to join together in common cause with people like Mayor Robertson and say this is a national crisis.”


Related stories:

Prescription opioid use grew in B.C. ahead of overdose crisis: study

Liberal MP Fry says feds would speed up action on fentanyl if Ontario impacted

OPP say they believe fentanyl being abused in 2 remote northern communities


Yaffe said Monday’s meeting will hopefully be the first in a series of monthly gatherings that aim to provide a better understanding of drug overdoses and related trends in Toronto.

“We need to know the bigger picture and what’s happening in the community with overdose, where it’s happening and who it’s happening to,” she said. “We’ll look at a different way of communicating the data, sharing the data and deciding, based on the data, what different strategies could be taken.”

Such a meeting could indicate, for instance, a particular part of the city where more overdoses were taking place, allowing for a targeted distribution for naloxone, an emergency medication that reverses the effect of an opioid overdose.

Yaffe noted that an overdose prevention action plan is also being developed for the city – with a final report due in March – and public consultations about preventing overdoses are set to be held in the coming weeks.

The federal government has also been paying attention to the increasing number of deaths linked to fentanyl, and the health minister has promised to look at legislative changes to address the growing opioid crisis.

Health experts and ministers gathered for a two-day event in November to examine a national approach to addiction, overdose and deaths related to opioid use. A report on Health Canada’s Opioid Action Plan is due in February.

South of the border, public health officials have called the current opioid epidemic the worst drug crisis in American history. More than 33,000 people died in the U.S. from opioid-related overdoses in 2015.

Golden Globes goes gaga for ‘La La Land’

Jake Coyle, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Jan 9th, 2017

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“La La Land” steamrolled, “Moonlight” swooped in at the last minute and Meryl Streep offered a stirring rebuke to president-elect Donald Trump at a schizophrenic Golden Globes that pivoted between heartfelt moments of protest and a desire to sing and dance.

Damien Chazelle’s bright-hued Los Angeles musical “La La Land” dominated the Beverly Hills, California, ceremony with seven awards – a Golden Globes’ record – including best motion picture, comedy or musical, further cementing its Oscar favourite status. But perhaps its stiffest Academy Awards competition, Barry Jenkins’ tender coming of age drama “Moonlight” – which competed largely in separate dramatic categories – took the night’s final award, best motion picture, drama. It was its only hardware despite six nominations.

Yet the night belonged to Meryl Streep, this year’s Cecil B. DeMille Award honoree, who most articulated an argument for the inclusivity of the movies – an ongoing theme of the night – over the platform of the president elect.

Streep, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention, called the president-elect’s mocking of a disabled reporter on the campaign trail the year’s performance that most “stunned her.” Arguing for the international makeup of Hollywood, Streep listed off the far-flung homes of stars from Dev Patel to Ryan Gosling.

“Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners and if you kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts,” Streep said to loud applause.

“La La Land” came in with a leading seven nominations, and won everything it was nominated for, including best film, musical or comedy. Chazelle won both best director and best screenplay. Gosling won best actor in a comedy or musical, as did Emma Stone for best actress. It also took best score (Justin Hurwitz) and best song for “City of Stars.”

“I’m in in daze now, officially,” said the fresh-faced, 31-year-old Chazelle accepting his award for directing.

In one of the evening’s more emotional acceptance speeches, Gosling dedicated his award to the late brother of his partner, Eva Mendes.

“While I was singing and dancing and playing piano and having one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on a film, my lady was raising our daughter, pregnant with our second and trying to help her brother fight his battle with cancer,” said Gosling, referring to Juan Carlos Mendes.

The Beverly Hills, California, ceremony got off to a rocky start, with a broken teleprompter initially froze Fallon. “Cut to Justin Timberlake, please,” implored a desperately improvising Fallon. It was the second fiasco for Globes producer Dick Clark Productions, which presented the infamous Mariah Carey flub on New Year’s Eve.

The “Tonight Show” host started the show with a cold open ode to “La La Land” in a lavish sketch more typical of the Academy Awards than the Globes. Fallon did a version of the film’s opening dance scene, with starry cameos from Timberlake, previous Globes host Tina Fey, Amy Adams and the white Ford Bronco of “The People v. O.J. Simpson.”

In a more truncated monologue, Fallon’s sharpest barbs weren’t directed at the stars in the room (as was the style of frequent host Ricky Gervais) but president-elect Trump. He compared Trump to the belligerent teenage king Joffrey of “Games of Thrones.” His first line (at least once the teleprompter was up) was introducing the Globes as “one of the few places left where America still honours the popular vote.”

That, though, isn’t quite true. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a collection of 85 members, has its own methods of selecting winners. Best supporting actress winner Viola Davis, the co-star of Denzel Washington’s August Wilson adaptation “Fences,” alluded to the group’s reputation for being wined and dined.

“I took all the pictures, went to luncheon,” said Davis, to knowing chuckles through the ballroom, as she clutched her award. “But it’s right on time.”

Davis continued what appears to be a certain path to the Oscar. Another favourite, Casey Affleck, also padded his favourite status. The “Manchester by the Sea” star took best actor.

Coming a year after a second-straight of OscarsSoWhite protests, the night was notable for the widespread diversity of its winners, in film and TV. Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” won best comedy series over heavyweights like “Veep” and “Transparent,” and Glover later added best actor in a comedy. Glover looked visibly surprised.

“I really want to thank Atlanta and all the black folks in Atlanta,” said Glover. “I couldn’t be here without Atlanta.”

Tracee Ellis Ross, accepting the award for best actress in a TV comedy for “Black-ish,” dedicated her award to “all of the women of colour and colorful people whose stories, ideas, thoughts are not always considered worthy and valid and important.”

“I want you to know that I see you, we see you,” said Ross.

The British actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson took best supporting actor for his performance in Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals.” It was a surprise that Taylor-Johnson was even nominated, so his win over favourites Mahershala Ali from “Moonlight” and Jeff Bridges from “Hell or High Water” was a shock.

“The People v. O.J. Simpson” taking best miniseries, as well as an award for Sarah Paulson. But other winners were less prepared.

Hugh Laurie, star of “The Night Manager,” looked even more surprised when he won best supporting actor in a limited series or TV film over the likes of John Travolta (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”) and John Lithgow (“The Crown”).

Laurie was one of the few early winners to pepper his acceptance speech with comments about Trump. “I accept this award on behalf of psychopathic billionaires everywhere,” he said. “The Night Manager” won two more awards, including best actor for Tom Hiddleston.

Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” won best foreign language film and its star Isabelle Huppert was crowned best actress in a drama. Disney’s “Zootopia” took best animated feature. Other winners included Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”) and Billy Bob Thornton (“Goliath”).

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