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Missing Calgary girl likely spotted nine hours before mom found dead

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jul 11th, 2016

Police say a girl matching the description of a missing five-year-old was spotted about nine hours before her mother was found dead.

Investigators say witnesses saw a girl who looked like Taliyah Leigh Marsman on Monday around 11:30 a.m. with a stocky, black male.

They were seen in the Calgary neighbourhood where Taliyah lived with her mother, Sara Baillie, who was found dead that evening in their basement suite.

Police say the sighting was near where Baillie’s vehicle was found. The girl who witnesses saw was wearing red or pink boots with white polka dots and was carrying a reddish-coloured suitcase.

The Amber Alert for Taliyah was still in effect Wednesday. Police have ruled Baillie’s death a homicide.

Police also said footage from a closed-circuit camera shows Baillie and her daughter at a Dairy Queen around suppertime Sunday. Baillie appears to be speaking with a family. Police say they want to identify the people in the footage and have posted still photos of the exchange on the City of Calgary’s website.

Taliyah’s father is begging anyone who might have information to “do the right thing.” Colin Marsman said in a statement Wednesday that his daughter is his “light” and that he loves her with all his heart.

“I want to make a plea to anyone out there who knows anything about where my baby is,” Marsman said in the statement released to the media through his friend Gabriel Goree.

“Please, it’s never too late to do the right thing! If you even think you might have seen something that could be a clue, let your local law enforcement know immediately.”

Marsman offered his condolences to Baillie’s family.

Court documents show he was charged last year with unlawful confinement and intimidation by threats against Baillie. The charges were later withdrawn and a peace bond was issued.

“Those who know me best, know the person and kind of father I am and know more than anything I just want my baby girl back,” Marsman said.

“Once again, I plead for anyone knowing anything about where Taliyah is to please come forward with anything that will help get her home and back to her family.”

Police have said Marsman is co-operating with their investigation.

Goree described Marsman as a “great dad” who also has a son and works in construction.

Marsman’s girlfriend, Jessica Mardinger, added on Facebook: “Colin is a great father. He is in so much pain right now. We need Taliyah back.”

Wracked with sobs and struggling to walk, Tanya Kruger, who is Taliyah’s godmother, stopped by their northwest Calgary home on Wednesday.

Kruger knelt on the rain-soaked lawn, piled with flower bouquets, stuffed animals and cards.

She said she met Baillie around 10 years ago working at Boston Pizza and the two became close.

“She had met Colin and gotten pregnant with Taliyah and she graciously asked me to be Taliyah’s godmom and, of course, I accepted,” said Kruger.

“Her and I spent so many good times together, with Taliyah calling me ‘auntie.”‘

Kruger said she visited with Baillie and Taliyah last weekend.

“We played together, coloured together, and that’s the last time I spoke with them.”

She said she thinks whoever took Taliyah knew the little girl.

“We all, and her family all, have one suspect in mind, not that I want to mention it. But that’s for the police to do their work and find out and I know that justice will be served.

“If anybody knows anything about her, please, she wants to come home. She needs to come home. She has a lot of people that love her and this little precious angel does not deserve this. Just please, bring her home. Keep your eyes out and pray.”

A handwritten note left on the makeshift memorial, signed by Keisha Meas and encased in a plastic baggie to protect it from the rain, called Baillie a “beautiful, caring and strong” woman and thanked her for “giving us a home when no one else would.”

“We are trying our best to search for Taliyah and we know you are looking over us … We will get you justice no matter how long it’ll take.”

Baillie’s aunt and uncle tearfully pleaded on Tuesday to whomever took Taliyah to drop her off anywhere at all.

They said Baillie was pretty much raising Taliyah on her own and the pair were inseparable.

Police have said they aren’t ruling anything out in their search for the little girl and have faith she will be found safe.

Taliyah is described as a mixed-race child with a slim build, brown curly hair and blue eyes.

Canada Post drops lockout threat as talks continue with its workers

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jul 11th, 2016

There were signs of progress Sunday in a contract dispute between Canada Post and the union representing 50,000 of its workers as talks resumed and the post office withdrew a threat to lock out its workers.

Canada Post issued a brief statement that said it had withdrawn its lockout notice “which will allow both parties to focus their efforts on serious negotiations.”

“We are also expecting the union to honour their repeated public statements that they have no plans to issue a strike notice,” it said. “Assurance from both parties that the postal system will remain open for business while we negotiate will provide the certainty that Canadians and our employees are looking for.”

Related stories:

‘Movement’ between Canada Post and union as lockout deadline looms

What will and won’t be delivered if there’s a labour disruption at Canada Post

Pension and other issues between Canada Post and union

The Crown corporation’s news release followed a statement earlier Sunday from Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk, who encouraged the two sides to continue discussions beyond a deadline of 12:01 a.m. ET Monday that Canada Post had set.

“I am pleased that there has been movement at the bargaining table and that progress is being made,” the minister said.

“I remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached by the parties.”

Canada Post initially served lockout notice to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers for last Friday, but later delayed the notice until Monday.

The post office and the union were saying little Sunday, leaving the federal government to confirm the two sides were back at the negotiating table.

Talks have been deadlocked on the issues of employee pension plans and wage parity.

The two sides have been negotiating over the last seven months, including 60 days of conciliation talks and more than 30 days with federal mediators.

The union wants changes in how rural and suburban mail carriers are paid. They want to be paid by the hour, like urban letter carriers, not by how many packages they deliver.

Canada Post says it wants to change its pension plan to bring it in line with the private sector. It wants new employees to be covered under a defined contribution plan instead of a defined benefit plan.

Defined contribution plans reduce costs for companies and shift the risk for future payouts to employees, who are no longer guaranteed a set payment in retirement.

The pension proposal is being closely watched by other public-sector unions, which will also be entering into future talks with the government.

Portugal stuns France to lift Euro 2016 cup despite Ronaldo injury

Rob Harris, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Jul 11th, 2016

Portugal’s players frantically tended to Cristiano Ronaldo’s left knee but their tearful captain couldn’t withstand the pain any longer.

The Portuguese had to win their first major trophy the hard way, stunning host France in the European Championship final after playing without Ronaldo from the 25th minute through extra time on Sunday.

Two hours after being carried off injured with the 1-0 victory secured by his battling teammates, the three-time world player of the year returned a champion for the first time with his country.

“I had bad luck because I had a small injury in the beginning of the game, but my colleagues did their part – they run, they fight,” said Ronaldo, who has already won every major club honour. “Nobody believed in Portugal but we won.”

An unlikely scorer secured the pre-tournament outsiders a title at last.

It could be an uncomfortable few months ahead for Eder, the unheralded striker who will return shortly to French club Lille after breaking French hearts with his 109th-minute goal.

“The ugly duckling became beautiful,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said.

A second-half substitute, Eder scored only his fourth goal in 29 appearances for Portugal with a low shot from 25 metres (yards) past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

“Cristiano told me I would be scoring the winning goal,” Eder said. “He gave me strength and positive energy.”

In doing so, Portugal denied the French a third final victory on home soil to add to Euro ’84 and the 1998 World Cup.

“Football can be very cruel,” said Lloris, France’s captain. “The overriding emotion is a lot of sadness.”

Twelve years after losing to Greece on home soil in their last appearance in the final, it was Portugal’s turn to spoil the host nation’s party. And they achieved it after winning only one of their seven games at Euro 2016 inside 90 minutes, and after losing the inspirational Ronaldo midway through the first half.

“It was tough because we lost our main man and we had all our hopes pinned on him because he’s a player who can score a goal at any minute,” Portugal defender Pepe said. “When he said he couldn’t go on, I tried to tell my teammates that we have to win it for him. That we were going to fight for him.”

It was a mostly dull and stodgy final but the record books will only show that Portugal went from third-place in its group to champion, and with little help from Ronaldo in its last match.

The championship’s first 24-team tournament became a reality over the last month, but the quality of football deteriorated. Such a sterile showpiece – the first European Championship final to be scoreless after 90 minutes – seemed a fitting climax.

“We weren’t clinical enough,” said France coach Didier Deschamps who lifted the World Cup in the stadium as a player in 1998. “We weren’t cool-headed enough.”

Even France forward Antoine Griezmann, the tournament’s leading scorer, couldn’t rise to the big occasion. There was no seventh goal of Euro 2016 from the Atletico Madrid forward, who also lost out in the Champions League final six weeks ago to Ronaldo’s Real Madrid.

Griezmann was the first player to find the target, but his header was tipped over by Rui Patricio, who was formidable in the Portugal goal. When an inviting cross from Kingsley Coman was delivered in the 66th, Griezmann missed with a free header.

Only once was Patricio beaten, when Andre-Pierre Gignac’s shot hit the inside of the post but it came back out.

Luck was on Portugal’s side, and Eder was able to strike the decisive blow.

It didn’t seem to be going Portugal’s way in the ninth minute when Dimitri Payet’s right knee clattered into Ronaldo’s standing left leg.

Ronaldo went down in agony – writhing, grimacing and screaming. He was able to return, but this was one injury he could not run off.

Ronaldo fell to the turf again in the 17th. One of the moths infesting the national stadium fluttered over Ronaldo’s tearful right eye. Teammates tried to help in vain to help, with Nani tending to the knee.

Ronaldo watched the game forlornly on the touchline as strapping was attached before dragging himself back onto the field.

But Ronaldo’s mobility was restricted. Battling through the pain, regularly reaching down to check on the injury, Ronaldo realized there would be no miracle recovery.

The clock hit 23 minutes and Ronaldo ripped off his captain’s armband and tossed it on the turf. Slumping to the ground again, Ronaldo was consoled by Nani, who embraced his former Manchester United teammate as the armband was transferred.

The stretcher came on and in the 25th minute Ronaldo became a spectator. But thanks to Patricio’s array of saves and dogged defending, Ronaldo left a champion.

Unlike his great rival Lionel Messi, the Argentina and Barcelona forward, the 31-year-old Ronaldo has now filled the medal void on the major international stage. It’s a rapid turnaround for a national team that exited the 2014 World Cup in the group stage.

“It’s something unbelievable in my career,” Ronaldo said. “Something I deserve.”

Summer in the city: Food, music and art festivals highlight weekend

PATRICIA D'CUNHA AND SAMANTHA KNIGHT | posted Friday, Jul 8th, 2016

Summer is too short, so you need to savour every moment of it. There are plenty of events happening across the city, so get outside and enjoy the season’s many offerings.

With the warm weather comes TTC and road construction, as well as road closures due to events, so plan your scheduled ahead of time.

One way to explore Toronto is through its vast selection of restaurants that offer every type of cuisine to suit your palate.

And while these restaurants are available to you every day of the week, you can try them for less during Summerlicious, the city’s 14th annual culinary event.

Malted chocolate panna cotta prepared by Beaumont Kitchen, one of the restaurants participating at Summerlicious 2016. CITY OF TORONTO
Malted chocolate panna cotta prepared by Beaumont Kitchen, one of the restaurants participating at Summerlicious 2016. CITY OF TORONTO

From Friday until July 24, more than 220 restaurants will offer three-course prix fixe lunch menus (priced at $18, $23 and $28) and dinner menus (priced at $28, $38 and $48). This year, 24 new restaurants will be featured such as Kalendar Restaurant & Bistro, Windup Caribbean Restaurant, Kasa Moto, and Stratosphere.

Click here for a list of participating restaurants.

Expect music, rhythm, dance and culture at Woodbine Park this weekend as Afrofest returns for its 28th anniversary. The festival, organized by Music Africa Inc., is the largest free African music festival in North America. It showcases the best in African music, art, crafts, culture and food.

Last year, Afrofest welcomed over 120,000 visitors to over 35 live performances. With five areas, including the main stage, youth stage, drum stage, children’s village and market place, Afrofest is a fun-filled extravaganza.

People gathering at Afrofest in Toronto.
People gathering at Afrofest in Toronto.

Despite concerns earlier this year that the festival would be cut down to one day, due to noise complaints and exceeding permitted time frames, Afrofest was granted its two-day permit for this year’s event.

In a release, Afrofest said “this year we are pleased to include three unique elements, which enhance the value of the festival while catering to our ever-growing international audience.” These include having a an Afrofest pre-party on Friday, Afrofest 2016 being recorded and broadcast on AfroGlobal TV (Rogers Cable 708, Bell 2472) and new areas catering to nursing mothers and those with special needs.

The event starts Friday. On Saturday, it runs from noon to 11 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.

Beaches International Jazz Festival
Summer in the city wouldn’t be complete without the sounds of jazz, big band, blues, funk, reggae and Latin music permeating the Beach and echoing across all neighbourhoods.

StreetFest on Queen Street. COURTESY: Beaches International Jazz Festival
StreetFest on Queen Street. COURTESY: Beaches International Jazz Festival

The festival, which kicked off on July 2 and continues until July 24, takes over several outdoors venues including Woodbine Park and a portion of Queen Street East for the weekend of July 21-23.

More than 800,000 people descend on the Beach for the annual music feast for the soul, which is now in its 28th year.

Click here for the complete concert schedule.

Shakespeare in High Park
The annual summer tradition continues under the stars in High Park. The two-month-long live theatre program, which is presented by Canadian Stage, started on June 30 and continues until Sept. 4.

Enjoy the words of Shakespeare told through various characters in “Hamlet” and “All’s Well That Ends Well.” While one play dwells on justice and revenge, the other is a complicated story about unrequited love and the lengths someone will go to get it.

The show starts at 8 p.m, with “Hamlet” running on Tuesday and Thursday and “All’s Well That Ends Well” on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Admission is pay what you can, with a suggested minimum donation of $20 per person. Children 14 and under can attend for free. You can pay in advance and reserve a premium spot. If you are not reserving a ticket, make sure to arrive early to secure a good seat.

Taste of Lawrence Festival
Take your taste buds on an international journey, without even leaving the city.

The annual Taste of Lawrence Festival is on this weekend in Scarborough, offering a wide array of flavours from every cultural community in the GTA.

A packed Taste of Lawrence street festival in Toronto. Photo via Facebook/WexfordBIA
A packed Taste of Lawrence street festival in Toronto. Photo via Facebook/WexfordBIA

The event features over 130 street vendors, with food from India to Italy to Jamaica, as well as an Asia Expo.There are also tons of attractions for festival-goers to enjoy, including midway rides, live entertainment on two stages and games for the whole family.

Taste of Lawrence is Scarborough’s largest street festival, taking over the Wexford Heights community. It kicks off on Friday at 6 p.m. and runs through Sunday at 7 p.m.

More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the weekend two-day festival.

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition
Unleash your inner art fan this weekend as the heart of Toronto is transformed for the 55th annualToronto Outdoor Art Exhibition.

The three-day exhibit takes over Nathan Phillips square from Friday to Sunday. It is Toronto’s first and Canada’s largest, longest running juried outdoor contemporary art fair since 1961, attracting over 100,000 people each year.

Toronto's Outdoor Art Exhibition at Nathan Phillips Square. Photo via facebook.com/toaeart
Toronto’s Outdoor Art Exhibition at Nathan Phillips Square. Photo via facebook.com/toaeart

This year there will be over 314 visual artists, along with colossal sculptures by Max Streicher, performances by Jenn Goodwin and collaborators, as well as a first-ever Beer Garden on the stage by award-winning Hendersen Brewing.

Outdoor Art Exhibition prides itself on creating an environment that gives artists the chance to interact directly with the public in an informal and accessible setting. It runs rain or shine.

DOGA: Dog & Me Yoga
If you’re in need of some quality time with your four-legged friend this weekend … why not head over to Purina Pawsway on Queens Quay for some dog-friendly yoga?

Get Leashed Magazine is hosting its first ever DOGA session on Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. The program is designed to deepen your connection with your canine companion.

You will experience asanas (postures), healing sounds, connection through massage and a savasana with live music.

Throughout the hour-and-a-half session you will also learn how to feel your pet’s energy and communicate with them through touch and frequency.

All fitness and flexibility levels are welcome, as well as all sizes of dog.

Road closures due to events

Taste of Lawrence: Lawrence Avenue from Warden Avenue to Birchmount Road from 10 a.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Monday, the 54 and 354 Lawrence East buses will be on diversion

Lovin’ Local Food Fest: Yonge Street from Dundas Avenue to Queen Street from 6 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Saturday

Thrill of the Grill: Danforth Avenue from Broadview to Jackman avenues and Hampton Avenue from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, buses on the 8 Broadview, 62 Mortimer, 87 Cosburn and 100 Flemington Park routes will divert around the closure

Salsa on St. Clair: St. Clair Avenue from Winona Drive to Christie Street from 8 a.m. Saturday to 11 p.m. Sunday, the 512 St. Clair bus will be on diversion

Toronto Triathlon Festival: Eastbound lanes of the Gardiner Expressway from the Humber River to Carlaw Avenue 2 a.m. to noon on Sunday, northbound lanes of the Don Valley Parkway, from the Gardiner Expressway to Eglinton Avenue, from 2 a.m. to noon, and one eastbound lane of Lake Shore Boulevard from Windermere Avenue to New Brunswick Way and Remembrance Drive from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday

Road work

Richmond Street West is reduced to one lane of traffic between Church and York streets until Nov. 30 for TTC track work, watermain replacement, and road and sidewalk repairs.

Yonge Street will be reduced to one lane at the Richmond Street intersection from July 11 to July 24 for watermain work on Richmond.

The intersection of College and Bathurst streets is closed for TTC work until July 12.

Queen Street West between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street is reduced to one lane in either direction for watermain replacement and and reconstruction work. The construction is expected to last until Oct. 8.

Gerrard Street, from Yonge to Church streets, is closed until the end of July for watermain replacement, road resurfacing and bike lane and sidewalk upgrades.

Westbound Lake Shore Boulevard, from York Street to Rees Street, will be reduced to one lane except from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays when two lanes will be open. The closure, which is for Toronto Hydro work, is expected to be completed on July 27.


America ‘horrified’ over Dallas attack: Obama


President Barack Obama says America is “horrified” over the shootings of police officers in Dallas and there’s no possible justification for the attacks.

Obama is speaking from Warsaw, Poland, where he’s meeting with leaders of the European Union and attending a NATO summit.

Obama says justice will be done and he’s asking all Americans to pray for the fallen officers and their families. He also says the nation should express its gratitude to those serving in law enforcement.

Related stories:

Five officers killed, six injured in Dallas protest shooting

Snipers opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas Thursday evening, killing five officers and injuring six others during protests over two recent fatal police shootings of black men.

Obama said earlier there was no contradiction between supporting law enforcement and making certain biases in the justice system are rooted out.

Etobicoke councillor calling for bicycle licensing

CityNews | posted Friday, Jul 8th, 2016

An Etobicoke councillor will once again put forth a controversial motion calling for bicycle’s to be licensed in the city of Toronto.

Stephen Holyday wants Transportation Services to study his proposal as a means to generate revenue to fund and support Toronto’s expanding cycling network.

City council will be asked to consider the motion at its next meeting on July 12.

Related stories:

Cyclist killed in Dupont and Christie crash had right of way: police
Toronto cyclists frustrated by problems with bike sharing upgrade
Nearly 300 drivers ticketed for parking in bike lanes during week-long blitz

Holyday cites a recent Forum Research poll which shows 56 per cent of Torontonians agree bicyclists should be licensed.

Holyday adds that while similar initiatives in the past were based on enforcement, his motion seeks to focus on registering the equipment – not the cyclist.

The city of Toronto first implemented a cycling license in 1935. The cost of a yearly license was 50 cents and the fine for not having one was $5. That by-law was repealed in 1957 with council citing ” poor public relations between police officers and children” as one of the reasons.

Council considered licensing cyclists on three other occasions – in 1984, 1992 and 1996 – but each time the motion was defeated.

Five officers killed, six injured in Dallas protest shooting

Terry Wallace, The Associated Press | posted Friday, Jul 8th, 2016

Snipers opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas, killing five officers and injuring six others during protests over two recent fatal police shootings of black men, police said, in a week that bore dark echoes of the tumultuous civil rights era.

Three people are in custody and a fourth suspect was exchanging gunfire with authorities in a parking garage downtown, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said early Friday morning.

The suspect is not cooperating and has told negotiators he intends to hurt more law enforcement officials, the chief said.

The gunfire broke out around 8:45 p.m. Thursday while hundreds of people were gathered to protest fatal police shootings this week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and suburban St. Paul, Minnesota. Brown told reporters the snipers fired “ambush style” upon the officers. Mayor Mike Rawlings said one member of the public was wounded in the gunfire.

Protests were also held in several other cities across the country Thursday night after a Minnesota officer on Wednesday fatally shot Philando Castile while he was in a car with a woman and a child. The aftermath of the shooting was livestreamed in a widely shared Facebook video. A day earlier, Alton Sterling was shot in Louisiana after being pinned to the pavement by two white officers. That, too, was captured on a cellphone video.

Video footage from the Dallas scene showed protesters were marching along a street in downtown, about half a mile from City Hall, when the shots erupted and the crowd scattered, seeking cover.

Brown said that it appeared the shooters “planned to injure and kill as many officers as they could.”

The search for the shooters stretched throughout downtown, an area of hotels, restaurants, businesses and some residential apartments. The area is only a few blocks away from Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Some of the injured officers were taken to Parkland Hospital.

The scene was chaotic, with helicopters hovering overhead and officers with automatic rifles on the street corners.

“Everyone just started running,” Devante Odom, 21, told The Dallas Morning News. “We lost touch with two of our friends just trying to get out of there.”

Carlos Harris, who lives downtown, told the newspaper that the shooters “were strategic. It was tap, tap pause. Tap, tap pause,” he said.

One woman was taken into custody in the same parking garage where the standoff was ongoing, Brown said. Two others were taken into custody during a traffic stop.

Brown said police don’t have a motivation for the attacks or any information on the suspects. He said they “triangulated” in the downtown area where the protesters were marching and had “some knowledge of the route” they would take.

Video posted on social media appeared to show a gunman at ground level exchanging fire with a police officer who was then felled.

Authorities have not determined whether any protesters were involved with or were complicit in the attack and were not certain early Friday that all suspects have been located, Brown said.

Rawlings said at the news conference that authorities will likely ask some people to stay away from downtown Dallas on Friday.

“This is still an active crime scene. We’re determining how big that crime scene is,” the mayor said.

A map will be posted online showing an area where people should avoid on Friday, he said.

Early Friday morning, there were dozens of officers of the corridor of the ER at Baylor Medical Center, where other injured officers were taken. The mayor and police chief were seen arriving there.

Four of the officers who were killed were with the Dallas Police Department, a spokesman said. One was a Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer. The agency said in a statement that 43-year-old officer Brent Thompson was the first officer killed in the line of duty since the agency formed a police department in 1989.

“Our hearts are broken,” the statement said.

Theresa Williams told The Associated Press that the injured civilian was her sister, 37-year-old Shetamia Taylor.

Williams said her sister was at the protests Thursday night with her four sons, ages 12 to 17.

When the shooting began, Taylor threw herself over her sons, Williams said. She was undergoing surgery early Friday after being shot in the right calf.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement saying he has directed the Texas Department of Public Safety director to offer “whatever assistance the City of Dallas needs at this time.”

“In times like this we must remember – and emphasize – the importance of uniting as Americans,” Abbott said.

Other protests across the U.S. on Thursday were peaceful. In midtown Manhattan, protesters first gathered in Union Square Park where they chanted “The people united, never be divided!” and “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!” In Minnesota, where Castile was shot, hundreds of protesters marched in the rain from a vigil to the governor’s official residence. Protesters also marched in Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia.

CNE reverses decision to end free admission for people with disabilities

CityNews | posted Friday, Jul 8th, 2016

The CNE has reversed its decision to end free admission for people with disabilities.

After CityNews brought the new policy to light, and following strong criticism by a prominent disabilities advocate, organizers of the annual Toronto fair say it will continue with the current fee structure for 2016.

“The admissions policy will remain the same as it has in previous years. Those with disabilities, along with their attendants, will be granted free admission,” the organization said in a release.

Based on the opinion of a single consultant, the CNE had planned to do away with the long-standing policy of allowing people with disabilities free access to the grounds, although it would have still waive the $18 entrance fee for caregivers.

But after harsh criticism from those in the disability community, including former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, the CNE backtracked on its decision.

“Over the last couple of days, CNE customers and members of the broader community have shown considerable interest in, and provided valuable feedback regarding the proposed changes to the admissions policy.”

Related stories:

CNE under fire for ending free admission for people with disabilities

CNE ending free admission for disabled, saying all should be treated the same

The CNE had argued it simply wanted to treat people with disabilities the same as everyone else. But Onley said the decision was purely economic and if the CNE was truly concerned with equality, it should look at the number of people with disabilities it employs — a figure general manager Virginia Ludy didn’t know when asked on Wednesday.

Onley also said some 1.8 million Ontarians have some kind of disability and, of those, more than 400,000 live on Ontario Disability Support Program payments. That amounts to about $14,000 a year plus medical benefits, “meaning that you live in a state of virtual poverty … it’s not a good state,” Onley said.

William Thom, who has a disability and told CityNews about the story, said the policy reversal means he’ll now be able to take part in the annual tradition.

“Being on a fixed income, it’s hard to get that $18,” he said.

“I’ll go for sure now. I’ll be the first one there when the gates open. Now everybody can enjoy the CNE.”

Thom also said he’d be part of the public consultation the CNE is holding about its admissions policy in the fall.

“The CNE welcomes this discussion,” Ludy said.

“For 18 days a year, our fair brings together more than 1.6 million people, celebrating everything that is Toronto — diversity and inclusivity. We look forward to engaging with the community.”

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