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EXCLUSIVE: Canadians concerned Syrian refugees will strain social services

CityNews | posted Friday, Dec 11th, 2015

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.


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.


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.


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.

Toronto weekend need to know: Free turkeys, cheap coffee and other Christmas miracles

Amber LeBlanc, Diana Pereira | posted Friday, Dec 11th, 2015


It’s a Christmas miracle. There are fairly few TTC and road changes and closures to worry about this weekend. That’ll give you time to check out every event on this list, from pretending you’re a hockey player to imagining you’re a ballerina.


Toronto Maple Leafs Skate  Photo via eastersealsskate.org
Toronto Maple Leafs Skate for Easter Seals Kids
It’s a chance to pretend you’re in the NHL! You can skate with members of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday for a good cause. Join the Leafs for the annual “Skate For Easter Seals Kids” at the Mastercard Centre. Participants raise a minimum of $150 in pledges, with all money going to the charity.

The Nutcracker
A Christmas tradition returns to Toronto when the National Ballet of Canada’s performances of theNutcracker start on Saturday. The ballet features the timeless music of Tchaikovsky, and the company is celebrating its 20th year of putting on the holiday classic. The Globe and Mail has called it the “best Nutcracker on the planet.”

Hundreds wait in line for the annual turkey giveaway at Honest Ed's in Toronto on Dec. 14, 2014. CITYNEWS/Ken Hama
Honest Ed’s Turkey Giveaway
Meanwhile, a longtime Annex tradition comes to an end on Sunday. It’s the very last turkey giveaway at Honest Ed’s, as the iconic store is set to close at the end of 2016. The line-up for the free bird usually starts the night before, and this year’s event is expected to be the biggest ever with over seven tonnes of turkeys and fruitcakes to be handed out.

Variety Village Christmas 2015 Photo via varietyvillage.ca
Variety Village Christmas 2015. Photo via varietyvillage.ca.

Variety Village World’s Greatest Christmas Party
Variety Village is getting ready for a huge holiday gathering, with Santa and Mrs. Claus making a special appearance. Tickets for the “World’s Greatest Christmas Party” cost just $8 and are designed to give families an affordable way to celebrate Christmas in a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment. There will be a Christmas Bazaar, face painting, arts and crafts and a bouncy castle for kids. Guests are welcome to donate new unwrapped toys, which will be distributed to families in need through local agencies.

The Toronto Etsy Street Team’s Christmas Marketplace
If you want a truly handmade or vintage gift, the Etsy Christmas Marketplace promises to deliver. Thirty vendors will share space with musicians and cooks to keep attendees entertained and fed. A certain man in red will make a visit from 1:30 p.m. until 3 p.m.

Tickets are not required and entrance to the event is free. Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Church of Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields, 103 Bellevue Ave. in Kensington Market

All the Words: Small Press Fair Photo via facebook.com/events/177462309267590/
All the Words: Small Press Fair Photo via facebook.com/events/177462309267590/

All the Words: Small Press Fair
Have a bibliophile on your Christmas list but they’ve read all the classics already? Get them something new to read at All the Words, a pop-up shop where small press magazine and indie book publishers will gather for a huge holiday sale on Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Milk Glass Gallery, 1247 Dundas Street W. (at Ossington Avenue).

West Queen West  Holiday Fest Charity Drive Image via Facebook
West Queen West Holiday Fest Charity Drive

If you’re looking for a deal but are also looking to donate to a charity this season, this may be the thing for you.

More than 20 independent businesses on West Queen West from Bathurst to Euclid are offering a month-long promotion in exchange for a non-perishable food item or a piece of warm clothing. For example, you can get a $1 Americano at RSquared Cafe and 15% off a 10-class pass at the Downward Dog Yoga Centre, just for bringing in a donation.

The donated items will go to local women’s shelter The Florence Booth House.

If you can’t make it this weekend, the charity drive runs until Dec. 22

Click here for a full list of participants and promotions or check out the event page on Facebook.

TTC closures

TTC streetcar changes Dec 9-11, 2015. Image via TTC
As a result of inspections on Lake Shore Boulevard, the 509, 510 and 511 streetcars will be re-routed all weekend, going only as far south as King Steret. Buses will be in service within other parts of the routes. Click here for full details.

Road closures

The following closures will be in effect at the dates and times listed:

Lake Shore Boulevard

  • The westbound left lane of Lake Shore Boulevard West at York Street will be occupied until Dec. 28 at 7 p.m.
  • The east and westbound south lanes of Lake Shore at York Street will be closed due to work happening between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, until Dec. 28, ending at 3:30 p.m.

For smaller closures, consult the city’s website.

‘Room’ among the Golden Globe Award nominees

The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2015


Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue was among the nominees as the 73rd annual Golden Globes nominations were announced Thursday in Beverly Hills, California.

Actors Angela Bassett, America Ferrera, Chloe Grace Moretz and Dennis Quaid announced the awards, which are handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

A Globes nomination can give a show, film or actor not only a bump in audience, but an edge in Hollywood’s crowded awards season.

Overshadowing the announcements was the fact that the live stream kept cutting out with many people tweeting about the technical glitch.

Donoghue adapted her novel Room into a screenplay. The movie starred Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, and won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Room is nominated for best screenplay, best big-screen drama and best film actress in a drama for Larson.

On Wednesday, Tremblay, a nine-year-old Vancouver native, picked up a Screen Actors Guild Awards best supporting actor nomination

Click here for a full list of Golden Globe nominations.

Ricky Gervais will return as host for the Globes when it airs on NBC on Jan. 10.

More like FourDollarama: Dollarama raising top prices to $4

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2015


Dollarama is taking the first steps towards accepting credit cards as it prepares to introduce higher priced items next year, with the discount retailer saying it will accept the cards at more than 80 stores in British Columbia starting in early 2016.

“What we’re looking for is to improve the shopping experience of our customers while stimulating more sales to offset the costs,” said chief financial officer Michael Ross.

He said the pilot project will help the company determine customer use of credit cards and whether it has a meaningful impact on sales.

Sales tend to be higher when payment methods other than cash are used, but that also increases the cost to the merchant, who usually must rebate a percentage to the bank or other card issuer.

Dollarama did not say which cards would be accepted at its outlets or specify the length of the pilot project.

The last credit card trial in 2010 ended after 12 months without any action. Payment with debit cards has steadily grown since Dollarama began to accept them in 2008. Nearly 47 per cent of sales were paid with debit cards in the third quarter, up from 43.8 per cent a year ago.

Ross said a lot has changed since that first credit card trial.

“Customers are increasingly using non-cash payment options, especially younger customers who almost exclusively use plastic as a payment method.”

British Columbia was selected for the pilot because it was far from its core markets in Central Canada and would be easier to deal with if the pilot project fails, CEO Larry Rossy said.

“I think we have better metrics to measure success today than we did in 2010 and I’m a little bit more confident today that it may work,” he told analysts. The move towards credit cards comes as Dollarama announced plans to introduce $3.50 and $4 items across its network of 1,005 stores in the second half of 2016.

The higher priced items are intended to help the company adjust to the impact of the weakening Canadian dollar. Rossy said the introduction of these items will be slow and won’t affect food products, which will remained capped at $2.

“As the buyers continue to get used to the price points (and still) find great values, there will be a positive impact both to our customer shopping experience and to the overall basket (size of purchases),” said Neil Rossy, chief merchandising officer.

With a reduced share of items priced at $1 or less, Dollarama has started using $1.25 as its new reference price.

During the third quarter, 59.7 per cent of sales came from prices above $1.25, compared with 54.1 per cent a year ago.

The company beat analyst expectations as profits surged 37 per cent to $100.1 million from $73 million a year earlier. That translated into 78 cents per diluted share compared to 55 cents per share in the same quarter in 2014.

Sales grew 13 per cent to $664.5 million, in part because of a 6.4 per cent growth at established locations plus the addition of 77 stores, including 16 in the third quarter.

Analysts had expected Dollarama to earn 70 cents per share on $663.9 million of sales, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Beagle pug euthanized after eating poisoned kibble during Vaughan walk

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2015


A six-and-a-half-year-old beagle pug named Coca had to be euthanized after eating poisoned kibble when it was out for a walk with its owner in Vaughan, according to police.

Coca and its owner were out for a walk on Nov. 25 on Shawbridge Boulevard in the area of Gidleigh Park Crescent when the dog stopped and began eating something by a mailbox.

Later the same day, Coca became violently ill. By the next morning the dog was too weak to walk and had to be taken to a veterinarian.

The veterinarian said the symptoms the dog suffered were consistent with glycol poisoning.

On Nov. 27 the owner decided to euthanize the dog.

Police said glycol was in the kibble that they seized from the scene.

Police are asking for any witnesses or anyone with information in the Shawbridge Boulevard area to contact them.

Start recalculating your budget: Toronto garbage, water fees going up in 2016

CityNews | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2015


Get ready to pay more for garbage collection and water if you live in Toronto. Fees for both are going up next year.

The average homeowner will pay an extra $72 for water and an additional $244 in garbage fees. That’s just for the use of a small bin. A medium bin will go up to $297, $403 for a large bin, and $468 for extra-large.

City council approved the 2016 increases on Wednesday, the first day of their final meeting of 2015.

They also approved a plan to partner with a third party to raise the money necessary to save a 350-year-old red oak. Saving the tree would require buying the property from the homeowner and turning the area into a parkette.

Day two of council starts Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

Councillors are still debating the fate of the Davenport Bridge, eliminating parking pads, and changes to travel expenses.

A full budget meeting is set for next Tuesday and the city’s financial plan set to be approved in February.

Mayor John Tory said he is considering scrapping the extra-large bin altogether in a bid to encourage recycling. However, he said, that plan is a year or two away.

Should kids write thank-you cards for holiday gifts?

Sasha Emmons and Chad Sapieha | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2015


Sasha Emmons, Mom of two

Ah, the holidays. A time of peace on Earth, good will toward men…and total, unmitigated greed. I love hanging with family and having an excuse to eat cookies, but I could do without the raging case of the gimmes my kids, Chloe, 10, and Julian, 6, come down with every single year, as toy catalogues and TV ads convince them the big guy in red’s there to shower them with whatever their hearts desire. And that’s just the Santa gifts. As the only little kids on my husband’s side of the family, by Christmas morning they’re drowning in packages from relatives.

The antidote to all this stuff-itis is to make them write thank-you notes. Shopping for, wrapping and delivering a present requires effort, and I think it should be acknowledged with a little effort in return. My family is spread across the US, and in some cases this gift and note exchange is the kids’ only tangible touch point with far-flung relatives. I know it’s a bit schoolmarmish of me to cling to this old-fashioned custom, but in this screen-centric world, where it’s hard to get kids to look up long enough to even have a conversation, I worry about my kids losing old-school manners. And recognizing thoughtfulness never goes out of style.

Now before you let years of unwritten thank-you notes haunt you, know that I’m right there with you. We start strong, ticking names off the list and signing adorably scrawly signatures. But a few notes in, the kids and I start to butt heads. They hate sitting and thinking of what to say, and I hate sitting and making them do it. Before long, we’ve lost the list of who gave what, and too much time has passed for my feeble mom brain to piece it back together. (To anyone reading this who’s owed a thank-you note, I want you to know we loved the gift and appreciate you thinking of us.)

So should kids write thank-you notes? Yes. Do mine? A few make it into the post and hopefully make someone’s day. And this year I’ll be asking Santa to give me and them the perseverance to finish them all.

Chad Sapieha, Dad of one

My wife, Kristy, is a wonderful woman with boundless social grace and the best of intentions. So it came as no surprise when she decided a few years ago that our daughter, then around four or five, ought to send a thank-you card for every Christmas gift she received. Kristy purchased multiple packages of cute cards upon which our little girl was to scrawl her name and whatever semblance of gratefulness she might manage.

This proved challenging. We have a ton of friends and family, so our daughter receives a lot of gifts. Writing notes of thanks for all of them is time-consuming. Getting our daughter to do it required multiple sessions over several days, each one an exercise in frustration.

It hasn’t gotten any easier. Turns out fourth graders have as little interest in sitting down for an hour to write polite missives as kindergartners do. Go figure.

But Kristy refuses to give up. Each year she buys more cards. And each spring, I reach to the bottom of our overflowing stationary basket, grab the oldest cards and dump them into the recycling bin. It’s like tossing last week’s produce to make room for the new: expensive and wasteful.

Look, thank-you cards are wonderful in principle. They teach kids to express gratitude and they help improve their penmanship. But they’re just not practical. Why not just text the gift giver a picture of your kid opening the present? Better still, Skype or FaceTime the moment. These alternatives are quicker, cheaper and more memorable.

The simple truth is that you can’t dictate gratitude. When you receive a thank-you card from a kid, you have no idea if he was actually grateful. Reading the note, you probably don’t think, What a thoughtful and considerate child! You think, What thoughtful and considerate parents.

I’m not into these social shenanigans. I’d rather spend the time wasted on thank-you cards building a Boxing Day snowman with my daughter.

A version of this article appeared in our December 2015 issue with the headline “Should kids write thank-you cards for holiday gifts?” p. 104.

Read more:
How to raise an appreciative child>
Teach your kids to appear grateful (even if they aren’t)>
How to avoid spoiling kids at Christmas>

First flight of Syrian refugees to arrive in Toronto Thursday

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2015


They escaped a civil war that has left millions displaced and hundreds of thousands dead, their homes in some cases bombed to pieces, along with their livelihoods and future hopes.

They fled to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon — living in refugee camps, shantytowns and private apartments, trying to figure out their next steps, watching as what they thought would just be a temporary move away from their home country began to look more permanent.

This week, hundreds of Syrians will be on the move again, this time to Canada with the first mass arrival of refugees as part of the Liberal government’s commitment to Syrian refugee resettlement.

The first flight is set to arrive Thursday night in Toronto, to be followed by one Saturday in Montreal, together bringing an estimated 300 people with a chance to make a home in Canada thanks to private sponsors who’ve been working for months to prepare for them.

But those sponsors will still have to wait a little while longer to meet them.

Border agents, health officials and immigration officers will be on hand when the plane touches down to run the new arrivals through a battery of tests. They will spend the night in hotels before moving on to their new homes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning to be on hand, and he has invited opposition leaders to be there too.

“It will be a great day,” Trudeau said Wednesday in the House of Commons.

Montreal and Toronto will be home to dozens of such flights in the coming weeks as the government seeks to bring 10,000 Syrians to Canada by year’s end, and then a further 15,000 by the end of February.

While Syrian refugees have been arriving with some regularity since the Liberals were sworn into office on Nov. 4, they’ve arrived on commercial flights. Today sees the first government aircraft return from a deployment specific to a program that began as a Liberal campaign promise.

Even when in opposition, the Liberals had called for Canada to increase its commitment to Syrian resettlement; the prior Conservative government had initially pledged to take in 11,300 people by the end of 2018.

But during the campaign, the Liberals revealed a plan of their own, promising that the government would take in 25,000 people itself and work with private sponsors to bring in even more.

They later went further, saying they’d bring in that many people by the end of this year.

Work on that started the very day the Liberals won power, with companies like Air Canada reaching out immediately to see if their planes could be helpful as part of the program. Once the first two military flights arrive, private chartered flights will shuttle the vast majority of the remaining Syrians to Canada.

It wasn’t until the Liberals struck a cabinet sub-committee specifically designed to roll out the program that plans began to coalesce — and one of the first things they heard from their international partners was a plea to reconsider their original year-end deadline.

Together, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon are hosting close to 3 million of the 4.28 million UN-registered refugees who have fled Syria since the war began there in 2011.

The Liberals also broke their plan down into stages.

To meet the 25,000 goal, about 10,000 would be those who have private sponsors at the ready and in many cases, those files were already in the immigration system because of the previous Conservative commitments. Those would be the cases targeted for settlement by the end of the year; private cases are easier because the support structure is already in place.

Then, a further 15,000 spaces would be reserved for government-assisted refugees with the goal of bringing them in by the end of February 2016.

In recent months, thousands of Syrian refugees have been arriving in Canada but the Liberals are only counting those who’ve landed since they officially took office on Nov. 4 as part of their commitment.

As of Dec. 7, that number was 416. The government says they have 11,932 applications currently in the system.

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