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One dead after shooting at Adelaide and George streets

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jan 31st, 2017

One person is dead after a shooting near George Brown College in downtown Toronto on Monday afternoon.

Toronto police said the victim was found at Adelaide and George streets.

Two handguns were found at the scene.

Police said between 10 to 12 shots were fired. It is not known if the victim was the intended target.

A suspect fled the scene in a midsize blue car, possibly an Oldsmobile.

A description of the suspect has not been released.

George Brown College’s St. James campus was placed under a hold and secure, but it has since been lifted.

Canadians mourn victims of Quebec City mosque attack in vigils across country

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 31st, 2017

QUEBEC – Roseline Bouchard wept quietly as she stood in the front row at a Quebec City vigil Monday just down the street from a mosque that was the scene of a deadly shooting that grabbed the world’s attention.

In front of Bouchard, religious and political leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, condemned a massacre that left six men dead and wounded 19.

Behind her, a huge crowd of hundreds of people came together in the biting cold to grieve and to show their support for the Muslim community.

Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old Laval University student, is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.

At vigils across Canada on Monday, thousands of people stood in solidarity with Muslims.

Earlier in the day, Bouchard, a Muslim, said she offered her support directly to the wives of four men who were gunned down in the attack during prayers in the city’s Ste-Foy area.

The husbands of three of the women she met Monday died from their injuries. The other man, she added, was hit by five bullets and was fighting for his life.

“We hugged, we kissed, we were all sisters in humanity,” said Bouchard, who’s concerned about the future. “It’s not easy — there’s a lot of work to do to rebuild the bridge between people. … The hatred has to end.”

From the stage, Trudeau said the first names of each of the victims. He told the crowd that Muslim Canadians are valued members of every community.

“The six men who were killed and all the others who were wounded do not represent a threat — they were ordinary Canadians like us all,” said Trudeau, whose eyes welled up as religious leaders spoke.

“Unspeakable cruelty and violence perpetrated on those who came together in friendship and in faith. We stand with you, we love you and we support you.”

The Quebec City vigil, which was followed by a march, was one of many events held across Canada.

In Montreal, subway entrances and streets were swarmed as several thousand people made their way to a vigil.

Many carried candles and openly wept as local Muslim speakers went onstage to denounce Islamophobia. Others carried signs and stood atop a snowbank chanting anti-racist slogans as a crowd cheered below.

“I’m very sad but it calms me and gives me hope to see our co-citizens share our pain,” said Behnas, who held a sign that read: “I’m Muslim, I’m Canadian, I’m a Quebecer and I’m sad.”

On Parliament Hill, Gov. Gen. David Johnston addressed a gathering of hundreds of people on a frigid night. He said Canadians must come together.

The crowd stood silently as the names of the six people killed in the attack were read aloud.

In Halifax, hundreds turned out in front of city hall — a gathering spot illuminated by candles. People stood silently in tribute.

Visibly emotional, Mayor Mike Savage told the crowd that he was “heartbroken” by the senseless act of violence in Quebec City.

“It’s just a chance to light a candle and let people know we will not be defeated by these kind of acts,” Savage said of the gathering.

The crowd observed a moment of silence before a lone trumpeter softly played “Bridge Over Troubled Water” as a tribute.

Imam Syed Shah told the crowd the killings during prayer at the mosque were a “cowardly act.”

“I thank all of you for coming out with a candle in your hands to show solidarity and to show that we condemn these kind of terrorist attacks,” he said.

In Western Canada, hundreds turned out at vigils in large cities including Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary.

In Winnipeg, support and prayers were offered, along with on offer from the Manitoba Islamic Association.

“Come visit the mosque and see what it’s like if you’ve never been here,” said Tasneem Vali. “We welcome you.”

In Calgary, where the flag at city hall was lowered in honour of the shooting victims, there were also expressions of fear.

“I’m very horrified and quite concerned about the well-being of Canadian Muslims and the safety and security of our mosques and our women and our children and our men,” said Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy.

Calgary police have increased their patrols of local mosques but said they have received no specific threats.

“We stand with the community during this difficult time,” said acting deputy chief Cliff O’Brien, who said patrol members were asked to stop by mosques that morning if they had time. “For those worshippers, what it does is, I think, it lets them know that we do care and that we’re out there and that increased presence is a good thing.”

In Regina, shouts of “We love you” and “We stand with you” were heard as speakers addressed the crowd.

Russell Mitchell-Walker, a United Church minister, was there to show his support to the Muslim community: “I have a very important belief that faith is really important, and it doesn’t matter what kind of faith.”

Back in Quebec City, Asma Nisabour, who moved from Morocco 10 years ago, was encouraged to see so many people at the vigil.

The crowd was so large that it spilled far beyond a large church parking lot and down nearby streets.

“It’s a good sign people are here,” Nisabour said. “It shows people reject any act of terrorism, any act of Islamophobia.”

— with files from CTV

Boy Scouts will allow transgender children into programs

Claudia Lauer, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Jan 31st, 2017

A New Jersey woman whose son was asked to leave his Boy Scouts troop after leaders found out he’s transgender said she has mixed emotions after the organization announced it will allow transgender children who identify as boys to enrol in its boys-only programs.

The Boy Scouts of America made the announcement Monday.

The organization said it made the decision to begin basing enrolment in its boys-only programs on the gender a child or parent lists on the application to become a scout. The Boy Scouts had previously held a policy that relied on the gender listed on a child’s birth certificate for those programs.

The organization’s leadership considered Joe Maldonado’s case in Secaucus, New Jersey. The 8-year-old had been asked to leave his Scout troop after parents and leaders found out he is transgender. But the statement issued Monday said the change was made because of the larger conversation about gender identity going on around the country.

“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the statement said. “However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”

Kristie Maldonado, Joe’s mother, said she had mixed emotions Monday night when a Boy Scouts representative called to tell her the organization would allow her son to re-enrol in his troop after he was asked to leave last fall. Maldonado said she would like her son to rejoin the Secaucus troop, but only if the scout leader who made the previous decision leaves.

She said Joe, who will turn 9 on Wednesday, has spoken publicly about the incident. She called him a “ham” and noted he had a big birthday party on Saturday with the mayor of Secaucus in attendance.

“I’m so grateful. I really am that they’re accepting and that there won’t be any issues. They (other transgender youth) won’t have to go through what my son went through,” Maldonado said when reached by phone Monday. “It’s a big change for everybody that all are accepted now … I’m so delighted that they finally called and they did say this, but I’m still angry.”

Maldonado said the earlier decision to remove her son from the troop made him feel different, and she wanted to make sure he knew the troop made a mistake.

The Boy Scouts said the enrolment decision goes into effect immediately.

“Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child,” the statement said.

Zach Wahls, co-founder of the groups Scouts for Equality, called the decision historic.

“The decision to allow transgender boys to participate in the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts is an important step forward for this American institution,” he wrote in a statement posted to social media. “We are incredibly proud of Joe Maldonado – the transgender boy from New Jersey whose expulsion last year ignited this controversy – and his mother Kristie for their courage in doing what they knew was right. We are also proud of the Boy Scouts for deciding to do the right thing.”

Boy Scouts of America leaders lifted a blanket ban on gay troop leaders and employees in July 2015 amid intense pressure. The group had, after heated internal debate, decided in 2013 to allow openly gay youth as scouts.

The national Girl Scouts organization, which is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts, has accepted transgender members for years.

Canadian permanent residents exempt from U.S. travel ban

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jan 30th, 2017

OTTAWA — Canada’s immigration minister says Canadian permanent residents from seven Muslim-majority countries targeted by a U.S. travel ban can still enter the U.S.

Ahmed Hussen says Canada has been assured by the White House that they can enter the U.S. provided they have a valid Canadian permanent resident card and a passport from one of the seven countries affected.

Dual citizens with a Canadian passport are also allowed into the U.S.

It was initially unclear Saturday whether Canadians who are also citizens of the affected countries would be allowed to cross the U.S. border, as the State Department said that dual citizens were included in the ban.

Hussen held a news conference in Ottawa on Sunday to try to clear up some of the confusion created by the American ban.

He says there are no people currently stranded at Canadian airports because of the ban.

The three month ban involves people from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya.


Six dead and eight injured in mosque attack: Quebec police

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jan 30th, 2017

A shooting at a Quebec City mosque left six people dead and eight others injured Sunday in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “terrorist attack.”

Quebec provincial police spokeswoman Christine Coulombe said 39 other people survived and that two people were in custody after the shooting.

Coulombe said a joint terrorism task force that includes provincial police, the RCMP and Montreal police has been deployed.

The victims are believed to be between 35 and about 70, she said.

One of the suspects was arrested not far from the mosque, while the other was arrested near Ile-d’Orleans, just east of Quebec City’s downtown core.

“For the moment, nothing leads us to believe there are other suspects linked to the event, but you’ll understand we’re not taking any chances and we’re making the necessary verifications to make sure there aren’t any,” Coulombe said.

Police would not talk about the type of weapon used in the slayings.

People come to show their support after a shooting occurred in a mosque at the Québec City Islamic cultural center on Sainte-Foy Street in Quebec city on January 29, 2017. GETTY IMAGES/AFP/ Alice Chiche


Trudeau issued a statement to denounce the incident.

“We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge,” he said.

“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of all those who have died, and we wish a speedy recovery to those who have been injured.”

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard also called the incident a terrorist attack and said the national assembly will lower flags to half-mast.

“All our solidarity is with those who are close to the victims, the injured and their families,” he said.

A live video feed on a Facebook page of the mosque showed images of multiple police vehicles and yellow police tape.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tweeted Sunday he is deeply saddened by the loss of life, his office says no motive has been confirmed.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard reacted on Twitter by calling it “barbaric violence.”

“All our solidarity is with those who are close to the victims, the injured and their families,” he said.

Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume said his thoughts went out to the victims of Sunday’s shooting and their families.

“Quebec is an open-minded city where all can live together peacefully and respectfully,” said Labeaume. “I urge the people to unite and stand together. Quebec is a strong city. Quebec is a proud city. Quebec is a city that is open to the world.”

The mosque issued a Facebook statement early Monday after confirmation of the six dead.

“All our thoughts are with the children who have to be told their father has died,” said the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec

“May Allah give them patience and strength.”

Neighbourhood resident Carol-Ann Andrews said such an attack was “pretty surprising” for Quebec City.

“My thoughts went immediately to what was happening in the United States with all the laws and all the immigrants that are not allowed to come back,” she said.

“Unfortunately there are people in the world whose minds are not totally OK so it could have given them an idea to get rid of other people. It’s pathetic.”

Asked whether she feels safe, she replied, “We’re not safe anywhere any more.”

Police blocked the area off, while a coffee shop stayed open beyond normal hours and served free coffee. The mosque is across the street from a big stone church

In Montreal, a vigil is planned for 6 p.m. on Monday night outside the Parc subway station

The mosque in question had a pig’s head left outside the building last June.

The head was wrapped in paper and accompanied by a note that read “Bonne (sic) appetit.”


White House: Nothing to apologize for on Muslim countries travel ban

The Associated Press | posted Monday, Jan 30th, 2017

A White House official says there’s nothing to apologize for after Friday’s executive order imposing a travel ban on refugees to the United States.

Chief of staff Reince Priebus says President Donald Trump acted early on in his term to block “people who want to do bad things to America.”

Trump is temporarily barring refugees and citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

Scores were detained Saturday upon arrival at U.S. airports, drawing widespread protests and a court order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting certain people.

Priebus tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the action “doesn’t affect green card holders moving forward” adding officials were using “discretionary authority” to ask “a few more questions” at U.S. airports.

Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to the President, says the emergency order “really doesn’t affect the executive order at all.”

Conway says Trump’s order is about “preventing, not detaining” and says that only a very small percentage of travers have been impacted.

Conway says that it’s a “small price to pay” to keep the American public safe.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief lashed out at Trump on Sunday, insisting that instead of building walls, the continent will “celebrate” every wall which is torn down and “every new bridge that is built up.”

Building on criticism from several national EU capitals on Trump’s decision to impose a travel ban on refugees, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said that “all men are first and foremost human beings, with their inalienable rights.”

She says in a blog post that “everyone deserves respect, beyond their faith, gender, and nationality.”

And she added between brackets “it feels so strange that we need to restate this, just days after Holocaust Remembrance Day.”

Meanwhile, Trump could find himself the subject of a travel ban. A petition set up on a British government website calling for the U.S. President to be barred from visiting the country has attracted hundreds of thousands of signatures, qualifying it for a parliamentary debate.

Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to make a state visit to Britain this year during her trip to Washington last week.

The petition on the British parliament’s website is titled: “Prevent Donald Trump from making a State Visit to the United Kingdom.” It says his “well documented misogyny and vulgarity disqualifies him from being received” by either Queen Elizabeth or Prince Charles.

The website says parliament considers all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for debate.

Province says no to Toronto road tolls, boosts gas tax fund for municipalities

The Canadian Press and News staff | posted Friday, Jan 27th, 2017

Premier Kathleen Wynne is denying Toronto’s request to charge tolls on two major commuter highways, but says Ontario municipalities will get a bigger share of gas tax money for transit.

Wynne said there weren’t enough commuter options in place to justify adding tolls to the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, where Toronto Mayor John Tory has said he wanted to charge a $2 toll.

“The province is not supporting plans for municipal road tolls at this time,” the Liberal government said in a statement.

While not coming right out and saying “no” to tolls at a news conference on Friday morning, Wynne said commuters need to have reliable transit options in place before revenue generating measures like road tolls are implemented.

The premier said that starting in 2019, the share of the gas tax that goes to municipalities will increase from two cents per litre to four cents per litre by 2021. However, it won’t increase the tax that drivers pay at the pumps.

“We’re doubling the amount of money the province gives to local transit agencies through the provincial share of the existing gas tax,” Wynne said at the Richmond Hill Transit Facility on Friday.

“This is not an increase in gas tax; this is existing gas tax and we are doubling that share.”

Ontario currently commits $335 million of gas tax funding to about 100 municipalities for transit, which the province estimates would increase to $642 million in 2021-22.

As Wynne made the announcement, she and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca stressed that their toll decision is about affordability, which, along with a promise to trim electricity bills, could signal a focus on pocketbook issues leading into the election.

Tory expressed displeasure with the decision in a statement issued Thursday night.

“If the Ontario government has decided to deny a regulatory change requested by the overwhelming majority of city council, the mayor would expect the provincial government to take serious and immediate action to address the city’s transit, transportation, childcare and housing needs,” the statement said.

Tory has previously said a $2 toll would raise about $200 million a year to help transit funding. The cost would be split between Toronto taxpayers and the 40 per cent of commuters from outside the city who use the DVP and Gardiner.

Related stories:

Wynne to deny Mayor Tory’s plan to toll DVP, Gardiner: report

Toronto city council endorses highway tolls, still needs provincial approval

Opposition parties warn Liberals against supporting tolls on Gardiner, DVP

TTC driver refuses passenger over broken Presto card readers

CityNews | posted Friday, Jan 27th, 2017

A Mississauga man says he feels humiliated after he was kicked off a TTC bus when he was unable to pay his fare due to malfunctioning Presto card readers.

John Malek says when he boarded the 74A Mt Pleasant bus on Sunday, he found both readers were out of service.

When he complained to the driver about the machines being broken for the second day in a row, the conversation grew heated.

A cellphone video capturing the last minute of a five-minute conversation shows an angry and confrontational Malek being kicked off the bus.

“It made me feel guilty,” Malek said. “(The driver) humiliated me in front of the other passengers, made it look like I’m trying to get a free ride, and that’s not the case at all.”

The TTC confirmed on Wednesday the driver was not following protocol when he kicked Malek off the bus.

As of Jan. 1, the TTC dropped its policy requiring users to have an alternative fare on hand in case its Presto machines aren’t working.

“If both card readers are down on the buses, it’s not the customer’s fault,” said TTC spokeswoman Heather Brown.

“They absolutely should be allowed to board and told to either tap at their transfer point or at the station destination.”

Brown said the TTC is currently experiencing a five-per-cent failure rate with Presto card readers.

The Presto rollout is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

On Thursday morning, the card reader was down on at least two streetcars: a 510 Spadina car and a 509 Queen’s Quay car (photo below)

A Presto card reader is out of service on Jan. 26, 2017. 680 NEWS/Diana Pereira
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