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Additional shelter beds approved amid emotional debate at City Hall

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 7th, 2017

With the colder weather moving in, Toronto City Council approved a proposal Wednesday to open 400 more shelter beds as soon as possible.

The motion, which was approved 39-3, was originally brought forward by Mayor John Tory and called for spaces to be made available in existing shelters and even hotels if necessary.

Toronto’s shelter system was filled to 95 per cent capacity on Tuesday night with less than 300 beds available.

Things got emotional at one point with several councillors putting forth a motion that would have seen the city petition the federal government to open the Fort York and Moss Park armouries.

However, that motion was ultimately defeated 25-19.

The move to open 400 beds this winter will cost about $10-million with the money coming from the city’s reserve fund.

Deadline to apply for college tuition refund passes, government to release stats

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 7th, 2017

Teachers and faculty staff of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union walk the picket line at George Brown College in Toronto on November 16, 2017. College faculty in Ontario head back to their schools today, after a five-week strike was ended over the weekend with back-to-work legislation. The 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians who had been on strike since Oct. 15 will return to work today to prepare for students' return on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The provincial government is expected to announce Thursday how many students asked for a tuition refund after a five-week-long strike cancelled classes at Ontario’s colleges.

Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews says the deadline for students to apply for a refund was Dec. 5 and the government is now compiling the numbers.

Matthews says that preliminary data suggests the “vast majority” of students chose to stick with their programs and finish the extended semester.

The government ended the strike in November after passing back-to-work legislation in a rare weekend sitting at Queen’s Park.

Matthews says students experienced hardship as a result of the strike and the ministry will monitor re-enrollment in January to ensure they can continue their education.

The province also established an assistance fund for students who experienced financial hardship due to the strike which would cover some of the costs for cancelled travel plans or rent.

Officer ‘vindicated’ after police watchdog says he was wrongfully arrested by Peel police

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 7th, 2017

Sgt. Gurdip Panaich

A York Regional police officer who was charged in 2015 with extortion and obstruction of justice says he feels “vindicated” after the province’s police watchdog concluded that he was wrongfully arrested and the victim of a biased investigation by Peel Regional police.

Sgt. Gurdip Panaich told CityNews on Tuesday that his entire family suffered as a result of his arrest and a subsequent Peel Regional police media release that connected him to extortion and gun charges, “tarnishing” his reputation.

“It was a big stress even for my kids at school,” he explained. “They were taunted, my wife suffered taunts on social media …I was suspended from my job, it affected all aspects of my life badly.”

All charges against Panaich, and a co-accused civilian, were withdrawn by the Crown a few months later.

But Panaich said his reputation was still badly damaged and he approached the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) looking to clear his name and hold Peel police responsible.

“I think the public needs to know that I did nothing wrong and I was falsely accused,” he explained.

“I requested a review from Peel police,” he added. “They dropped my charges after the review but nobody came to me and apologized or said ‘we made a mistake,’ so I had to go to the OIPRD and it’s a big relief because they have clearly stated that (I was falsely arrested), the investigation was biased, and the news that was released was fabricated.”

In a lengthy report released on November 3, 2017, the OIPRD said it found evidence of alleged misconduct by Peel Detective Robert Crane under the Police Services Act.

The OIPRD found that Crane “did not have reasonable grounds to arrest Panaich and another man, that Crane’s investigation was biased, and that he fabricated a media release.REPORT

Panaich says he still doesn’t know why he was targeted.

“I still haven’t got that answer,” he said. “Even though the OIPRD said the investigation was biased. Why was he biased? I never knew him. I had no grudges against him, no animosity, I don’t know why he picked me to hang me out to dry. I have no idea.”

Despite the OIPRD’s findings and recommendations, Crane has not been charged under the Police Services Act. Panaich says that’s because the case has dragged on too long.

“Whenever it takes longer than six months for an investigation to take place the Police Services Board has to approve the charges. I believe that’s what Peel police are reviewing.”

Peel police would only tell CityNews on Tuesday that they are reviewing the OIPRD report: “Det. Crane has not been formally charged under the Police Services Act. We have received the report provided by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and it is currently under review.  Once the review is complete, Peel Regional Police will proceed as directed.”

The initial charges against Panaich stemmed from complaints by a Brampton real estate agent who said he was the victim of an online smear campaign.

The agent, Dale Mundi, later alleged that he and his wife were asked to pay a large sum of money to have the online posts removed.

Now that Panaich has been cleared he says his life is slowly returning to normal, but he’s still part of a lawsuit seeking $1-million in damages from the Peel Regional Police Board for negligent investigation.

“It is still before the courts,” he said. “Our lawyers are looking into it.”

“They really tarnished my reputation in the community.”

Peel police said it couldn’t comment on the lawsuit as it is currently before the courts.

Time Magazine names ‘Silence Breakers’ as Person of the Year

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 6th, 2017

The 'Silence Breakers' have been named Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2017. Photo credit: @TIME/Twitter

They had the courage to speak out, bringing light to the rampant culture of sexual abuse in Hollywood.

Their words caused a movement that continues to this day.

That is why Time Magazine has named the “Silence Breakers” its Person of the Year.

Allegations against Harvey Weinstein posted online snowballed into the resurgence of the #MeToo movement.

The list of high-profile celebrities suddenly speaking out included Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Alyssa Milano, Terry Crews and Selma Blair. Politicians, activists, journalists, bloggers and everyday people from across the globe included their name to the list.

U.S. President Donald Trump was listed at the first runner up for Person of the Year.

 

Concerns raised over dating apps after 5 men go missing near Church and Wellesley this year

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 6th, 2017

As well, Project Houston, an unconnected investigation, was formed to look into three other missing men from the same area.

Police said that since the start of the investigation, members of the community have been active participants, allowing officers to move the cases forward. But they have raised concerns about the use of dating apps.

To these concerns, police are giving the following advice:

1) Please get to know the person you are connecting with as well as possible. This might include asking for additional photos or social media profiles, or speaking on the phone before meeting.

2) When you decide to meet someone, even for a casual connection, do so in a safe space and consider telling a friend or family member where you are going. If this is not possible, consider leaving a note behind with that information.

3) If, at any time, the situation has left you feeling suspicious or uncomfortable, please consider reporting this information to police or Crime Stoppers.

Police said the investigations into these disappearances are continuing. However, as with any similar case, the longer these two men are missing the more concern there is that foul play may have been involved.

Kinsman’s sister told CityNews in August that she believed her brother was dead.

“My heart tells me he’s dead,” she said, speaking exclusively with CityNews. “He went missing June 26 and I believe he was murdered that day because his phone was turned off and his cat was left for two days without food and water and he would never leave his 17-year-old cat unattended.”

She believes Andrew was either killed accidentally or deliberately murdered.

Toronto police are offering up safety tips when it comes to online dating apps after several people went missing from the Church and Wellesley area.

Project Prism was formed in August to look into the disappearance of 44-year-old Selim Esen, who was last seen April 4 near Yonge and Bloor, and Andrew Kinsman, 49, who was last seen on June 26 in area of 71 Winchester Ave. area.

As well, Project Houston, an unconnected investigation, was formed to look into three other missing men from the same area.

Police said that since the start of the investigation, members of the community have been active participants, allowing officers to move the cases forward. But they have raised concerns about the use of dating apps.

To these concerns, police are giving the following advice:

1) Please get to know the person you are connecting with as well as possible. This might include asking for additional photos or social media profiles, or speaking on the phone before meeting.

2) When you decide to meet someone, even for a casual connection, do so in a safe space and consider telling a friend or family member where you are going. If this is not possible, consider leaving a note behind with that information.

3) If, at any time, the situation has left you feeling suspicious or uncomfortable, please consider reporting this information to police or Crime Stoppers.

Police said the investigations into these disappearances are continuing. However, as with any similar case, the longer these two men are missing the more concern there is that foul play may have been involved.

Kinsman’s sister told CityNews in August that she believed her brother was dead.

“My heart tells me he’s dead,” she said, speaking exclusively with CityNews. “He went missing June 26 and I believe he was murdered that day because his phone was turned off and his cat was left for two days without food and water and he would never leave his 17-year-old cat unattended.”

She believes Andrew was either killed accidentally or deliberately murdered.

Ontario changing auto insurance system; aiming to tackle fraud, lower rates

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 6th, 2017

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Ontario is making changes to the auto insurance industry to try to combat fraud and reduce rates for drivers.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the cost of auto insurance fraud is estimated to be as high as $1.6 billion a year and it’s time to stop it.

He says the government will develop standard treatment plans for common collision injuries such as sprains and whiplash, create independent and neutral examination centres to provide medical assessments for more serious injuries, and establish a Serious Fraud Office to tackle fraud in the system.

A government-commissioned report earlier this year found that Ontario has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada despite also having one of the lowest levels of accidents and fatalities.

“A Serious Fraud Office is being established with prosecution, with the enablement of enforcement so that we can act on these things and go after criminality,” Sousa told CityNews. “These are illegal activities and it’s being done by many.”

Gordon Rasbach of Aviva Insurance says there’s plenty of blame to go around, with lawyers, health care providers, tow truck drivers and repair shops all trying to profit off insurance claims. But Rasbach admits some of the blame also falls on insurance providers.

“There’s been abuse for a long time. The system’s broken,” said Rasbach.

“Part of the government’s actions should be to make the insurance companies — the way they do in other countries — do something about the fraud.”

Ontario’s announcement today comes as the Liberal government is still trying to fulfill a promise to reduce rates by 15 per cent on average from 2013 levels. Rates have now decreased on average by about eight per cent since then.

The government missed its self-imposed deadline of August 2015 to hit that target and Premier Kathleen Wynne has admitted that was a “stretch goal.”

IOC suspends Russian Olympic Committee for 2018 Games

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 6th, 2017

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The International Olympic Committee has suspended the Russian National Olympic Committee for the 2018 Games as a result of a doping scandal, but clean Russian athletes can compete under a neutral flag.

Russia’s doping scandal began coming to light in December 2014, when an ARD documentary on German TV alleged that Russian officials systemically accepted payments from athletes to supply banned substances and cover up positive tests. In it, former discus thrower Yevgeniya Pecherina claimed that “most, the majority, 99 per cent” of top international level Russian athletes cheated.

That prompted both the International Association of Athletics Federations and WADA to begin investigations, with former WADA president Dick Pound leading an independent commission that confirmed the ARD report in December 2015.

“It’s worse than we thought,” Pound said at the time.

Richard McLaren, another Canadian who was part of Pound’s team on the initial probe, was tasked the following May with leading an independent investigation into Russia’s actions after whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping lab who defected to the U.S. in 2015, detailed how the Sochi Games had been fixed to the New York Times.

McLaren released an interim report in mid-July before the 2016 Rio Olympics corroborating Rodchenkov’s claims, but while the IAAF decided to ban Russian track and field athletes from those Games, the IOC did not.

“Justice has to be independent of politics,” Bach said then.

The full report in December included data from computer hard drives, databases and emails that supported witness testimony on how post-competition urine samples of Russian athletes were systemically swapped out of the Sochi lab through a hole in the wall, and replaced with clean samples stored in a nearby building occupied by the FSB.

“It is impossible to know how deep and how far back this conspiracy goes,” McLaren said during the announcement.

Russian government and sports officials have consistently denied the claims, but 25 Russians that competed in Sochi have since been punished retroactively for doping, costing the country 11 medals.

A rare look at how the TTC tries to nab fare evaders

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Dec 6th, 2017

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Trying to fix a $20 million problem.

That’s how much the TTC claims is lost annually from fare evaders shortchanging the subway, bus and streetcar systems.

In the last three years alone TTC Fare inspectors have handed out nearly 18,000 tickets.

CityNews reporter Adrian Ghobrial was invited for a rare ride-along as the TTC tries to crack down on those stiffing the transit commission.

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