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Ontario school board cancels trips to U.S. due to ‘safety and equity’ concerns

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Feb 13th, 2017

WINDSOR, Ont. – A school board in southwestern Ontario says it has cancelled a handful of school trips to the United States due to “safety and equity” concerns.

Greater Essex County District School Board trustee Clara Howitt said Sunday that the decision has affected trips to the U.S. that were scheduled for February, as well as a trip to Washington, D.C. in April.

Howitt said the April trip was cancelled because it would have coincided with a march on Washington that is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people to the U.S. capital.

She said the board, which covers Windsor, Ont., and the surrounding area, was worried about students’ safety because of the size of the rally.

The February trips, she said, were cancelled because of concerns about equity.

While an executive order put in place by U.S. President Donald Trump banning travel from citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries is not currently in effect — and it didn’t affect citizens and permanent residents of Canada when it was being enforced — Howitt said the board feels things are still too uncertain.

The board is being cautious because school trips have been affected before, Howitt said.

“There were buses detained for a significant period of time, and students turned away. That was shortly after 9/11,” she said. “So we’ve been in this circumstance before.”

She said the board is trying to prevent that from happening again.

Howitt said the cancellations are just an “interim” measure, and the board will re-evaluate going forward. She didn’t say when that would be.

Adele wins top Grammys, but pays tribute to Beyonce

David Bauder, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Feb 13th, 2017

In an extraordinary moment between the music industry’s top female artists, Adele beat Beyonce for three of the top Grammy Awards – then said her competitor deserved at least one of them.

The Grammys featured memorable performances by the likes of Bruno Mars and A Tribe Called Quest, big victories by Chance the Rapper and David Bowie, and some unusual flubs Sunday, but they were overshadowed by Adele’s triumph and how she responded. The Recording Academy did nothing to calm criticism that black artists are overshadowed in major awards by more conservative white musicians.

Adele’s “Hello” won Grammys for song and record of the year and its creator flashed pride: she called it “my favourite song I’ve ever done.”

Her win for album of the year was more of a surprise. “25” was a commercial smash but Beyonce’s “Lemonade” won wider acclaim as an artistic statement. In tears, Adele thanked the academy for the award and poignantly talked about reclaiming a bit of herself after having difficulties with motherhood. Then she addressed Beyonce, praising “Lemonade” as monumental, beautiful and soul-baring.

“The reason I felt I had to say something was my album of the year is ‘Lemonade,’” Adele said backstage later. “She is my icon of my whole life.”

She told of practicing a Spice Girls song for a school assembly growing up in Britain until her friends turned her on to Beyonce’s singing on the 1997 Destiny’s Child song “No No No.”

“It’s her time to win,” Adele said. “My view is kind of what the (expletive) does she have to do to win album of the year? I felt this album showed another side to her that we haven’t seen and I felt blessed to be brought into that situation.”

If that’s how Adele felt, many Grammy Award critics are likely to chime in. One prominent black artist, Frank Ocean, did not submit his work for Grammy consideration this year and criticized the academy for giving its top album award to Taylor Swift over Kendrick Lamar last year. Kanye West and Drake did not attend the Grammys this year.

Beyonce won two Grammys and her visually arresting performance of “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles” won acclaim Sunday. Perhaps sensing it would be her last chance, she took the time to explain her thoughts behind “Lemonade” upon winning the Grammy for best urban contemporary album.

“My intention for the film and album is to create a body of work that would give voice to our pain, our struggles, our doubts and our history, to confront issues that make us uncomfortable,” said Beyonce, who is pregnant with twins.

Earlier in the night, a pregnant Beyonce – dressed in a glittery gown, gilded crown and gold choker – took the stage in a lengthy performance of two songs from her critically acclaimed album “Lemonade.”

She was introduced by her mother and former stylist, Tina Knowles: “Ladies and gentlemen, with my mother’s pride, my daughter, Beyonce.”

Beyonce sang on top of a long table, even leaning back on a chair while singing “Love Drought.” She later sang “Sandcastles” while sitting down, hitting high notes.

Beyonce performs at the 59th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 12, 2017, in Los Angeles. Matt Sayles/Invision/AP.


Blue Ivy, her five-year-old daughter with Jay Z, was a scene-stealer in her own right as she wore a Prince-inspired outfit in the audience. She slipped into a crowd of musicians when Grammys host James Corden replicated a “carpool karaoke” skit.

As usual, the Grammy show was heavy on performance. As is less usual, there were a couple of flubs that reminded the audience it was a live telecast.

Adele called a halt to her George Michael tribute, asking the band to start “Fastlove” again. “I can’t mess this up for him,” she said and apologized to the audience. She was warmly applauded at the end by fellow musicians, most of whom could relate to rough moments onstage.

During Lady Gaga’s energetic pairing with Metallica – showing a tough girl side that wasn’t on display during her Super Bowl halftime show – duet partner James Hetfield’s microphone malfunctioned and he couldn’t be heard for two verses. He kicked the mic stand over and angrily threw his guitar when the song was done.

Mars had two show-stopping numbers, his own “That’s What I Like” and a blistering Prince tribute, “Let’s Go Crazy.” On the latter, he even schooled The Time’s Morris Day, and Day’s mirror.

Impressive duets were turned in by Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood, the Weeknd and Daft Punk, and Maren Morris and Alicia Keys. Several artists joined in tribute to the Bee Gees as Barry Gibb, the band’s only surviving member, was caught on camera singing along from the audience.

A Tribe Called Quest’s performance was the most overtly political, with guest Busta Rhymes criticizing “President Agent Orange.”

After Adele’s five Grammys, Bowie won four, as did Adele’s producer, Greg Kurstin. Chance the Rapper won three awards, including the coveted best new artist trophy.

Bowie, who died of cancer in January 2016, won each time he was nominated for “Blackstar,” his critically praised final album. The awards laid bare how Bowie has been neglected by the Grammys throughout his career. He won a lifetime achievement award in 2006 but before that, his only victory was for a “Blue Jean” video in 1985.

Musician Donny McClaskin, who worked on “Blackstar,” said Bowie had gotten wind before he died that the press thought highly of the disc.

“He was very pleased with how it came out artistically,” he said backstage. “I was very surprised that he’d only won one Grammy for a video.”

Besides being honoured as the top new artist, Chance the Rapper won best rap album, beating out Drake and West. It was the first streaming-only album to win a Grammy.

Twenty One Pilots won best pop duo/group performance for the hit “Stressed Out.” They removed their pants when accepting the award – an odd reference to when they watched the Grammys at home in Ohio in their boxers during pre-fame days.

Sturgil Simpson, as album of the year nominee overshadowed in that category by Adele and Beyonce, won best country album for “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.”

Associated Press writers Mesfin Fekadu, Sandy Cohen and Beth Harris contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

Because it’s 2017: Online dating the norm as Valentine’s Day approaches

CityNews | posted Monday, Feb 13th, 2017

Welcome to Valentine’s Day! (It’s a full week this year.)

We’re kicking off five days of love and sex, starting with Monday’s theme of online dating: who’s doing it, who isn’t, and how successful they’ve been.

We also want to hear your horror stories. What’s the worst online dating experience you’ve ever had? Tweet it to us using the hashtag #CitySex, and it could be featured in Monday night’s news.

On the big day, Tuesday, we’ll take a look at the secrets to love, from a couple who’s been together for decades, another couple who made it despite the odds, and a group of Grade 1 students. The six-year-olds, despite their lack of experience, were quick to offer adorable definitions of what love is.

On Wednesday, we’ll delve deep into the sheets and reveal exactly what Toronto is up to. Generation by generation, the results may be surprising. On Thursday, we’ll take a look at love after love. Whether they’re dating after divorce or death, we’ll speak to single mothers who are back on the dating scene, with a few significant changes.

Finally, on Friday, we’ll have an expert in studio who can answer your most pressing love questions, while online, a Toronto matchmaker reveals why she doesn’t use photos — and the best questions to ask a potential partner.

Enjoy, read on, and weigh in.

Dating is hard, said Kennedy, a 24-year-old woman, and being online makes it a little bit easier.

“I work for Google so I’m working a lot and I travel a lot. Online dating is the way to go,” she said.

Approaching someone in person can be intimidating, she said.

“It’s the age of technology!” she said, laughing.

“What happens if you approach someone at a grocery store? You say ‘hello’ and they look at you like ‘oh my gosh, someone’s talking to me, what do I do?’”

Behind a computer or a text, it’s easier to be yourself.

While Kennedy says she hasn’t met “the one” yet, she has made plenty of friends. That’s something Jacquie Brownridge, who runs an in-person matchmaking service, sees quite often.

Brownridge is the president of It’s Just Lunch Canada. She often sees clients who find that while they haven’t made a match, they have expanded their social network.

“We do match people based on certain attributes, and there’s a lot of great friendships that come out of this,” Brownridge confirmed.

Eva, meanwhile, was not looking for friends. She had plenty, and they were the ones who convinced her to try online dating. She met her boyfriend of two years on Tinder.

“We are long-distance. I travel every two months to Vancouver to see him,” the 28-year-old said.

She did not grow up online dating and there were two qualities that made her current boyfriend very attractive.

One thing that stood out, she said, is that he made the first move. Secondly, he didn’t say anything inappropriate.

The fear of saying something inappropriate, or pressuring a woman, is top-of-mind for 20-year-old Mayhar.

He says he was reluctant to start online dating, but was very happy with the results.

“Recently, I decided to explore the ocean. There’s fish everywhere!” he laughed.

His approach is direct, he said. After a brief message, he prefers to meet in person as soon as possible. That, he says, can go one of two ways. Either women like a direct approach, or they think he’s coming on strong.

“Just to say, ‘let’s go out’ can be a little awkward,” he said, acknowledging that some women feel he’s moving too quickly.

“That first message is either hit or miss. It’s so much pressure [for me],” Mayhar said.

Channa Bromley, a professional matchmaker at It’s Just Lunch, said that pressure kind of pressure is common for both men and women, no matter the age.

“The etiquette is so complicated! I had to tell my mom [who was looking at my profile] we don’t do that!”

“There’s a lot of intrigue, but there’s not a lot of follow-through. We see a lot of initial contact, perhaps a hook-up, and it never leads to full-blown relationship,” Bromley said.

And that’s not just for twenty-somethings, Bromley added: Everyone is online dating.

“The boomers are hooking up! I had a woman in her 70s telling me that men are looking for hanky-panky! And that’s the word she used.”

It’s not all candy and roses (we’ll leave that for Tuesday), but online dating is full of those who have found love, those who have found friendship, and those who are still looking.

Just as it was before Tinder came along and swept us (right) off our feet.


Anxiety running high as Trudeau holds first face-to-face meeting with Trump

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Feb 13th, 2017

Anxiety is running high as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau jets off to Washington this morning for his first face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trudeau and Trump will hold a tete-a-tet around 11 a.m. in the Oval Office, and then will be joined by other top officials for a broader meeting about Canada-U.S. relations.

Trudeau will be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Freeland, Sajjan and Morneau were all in Washington last week to prepare the groundwork for today’s meeting, while Goodale and Garneau worked the phones with their counterparts.

Trump and Trudeau will then host a round-table discussion with women business leaders and female entrepreneurs, launching a task force that aims to keep professional women in the workforce – a priority, officials say, for both leaders.

The two will lunch together at the White House, and hold a joint press conference mid-afternoon.

While the summit agenda seems fairly routine, there is no guarantee that will also be the case for the actual meeting. Unlike most summits between world leaders, no one really knows what the two men will say to each other or what direction their conversations will take; and the uncertainty swirling around the outcome of their discourse has Ottawa on edge.

The two have talked on the phone a couple of times since Trump won last year’s presidential election. But the prime minister has steered clear of directly commenting on some of Trump’s controversial statements and actions, such as the ban on travellers from seven Muslim majority countries.

Last week, Trudeau said he would be respectful in broaching areas where the two men disagree, and he pointed out there are issues where he sees eye-to-eye with Trump, such as creating jobs for the middle class.

The federal Liberals have also indicated they are willing to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, responding to a campaign promise by Trump to ditch the current accord. However, the scope and timing of the talks remain far from clear.

“I am counting on having a good working, constructive relationship with the president,” Trudeau said last week in Yellowknife.

No doubt the prime minister of Australia had the same goal, but Trump lashed out at Malcolm Turnbull over an immigration matter during their first phone conversation earlier this month. Trump cut the call short.

Relations with Mexico are also frayed, with Trump persisting with plans to build a wall between the two countries to keep out unwanted migrants.

Japan, on the other hand, is likely breathing a sigh of relief after a meeting between Shinzo Abe and Trump — followed by a weekend of golf at Trump’s palatial home in Florida — went off without any major incident.

In Canada, the Opposition leader has offered to lend Trudeau a hand in dealing with the Trump administration.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose sent the prime minister a letter over the weekend proposing they work together on a bipartisan basis to build a relationship.

She noted that members of her caucus have forged strong contacts with American lawmakers and some also have experience in trade issues, a crucial area given Trump’s plan to renegotiate NAFTA.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, however, has criticized Trudeau for not being more strident.

Toronto police won’t participate in Pride Parade

CityNews | posted Friday, Feb 10th, 2017

Toronto police won’t participate in the Pride Parade, Chief Mark Saunders said in a statement Friday morning.

Saunders said the decision was made in order to try to let the current rift within the LGBTQ community to heal.

Saunders said the police will continue to work to ensure a continuing respectful relationship with that community, which includes continuing to host a Pride reception.

There have been calls from Pride Parade officials to not allow police to take part in Pride activities. Earlier this week, Halifax police said they would not be participating in that city’s parade.

Do you think Chief Saunders made the right decision, that police will not march in this year’s Pride Parade? Click HERE to vote.

Toronto’s Pride parade last summer was interrupted by a protest from Black Lives Matter and only resumed when Pride Toronto’s then-executive director Matthieu Chantelois signed a list of demands put forth by the group that included a ban on police floats in future parades.

Chantelois later said he only agreed to the demands in order to get the parade moving again.

With files from The Canadian Press

Will you be my Valentine? Love blooms this weekend in Toronto

Patricia D'Cunha and Samantha Knight | posted Friday, Feb 10th, 2017

“I will spend my whole life through loving you, loving you,” the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll sings in “Loving You.” The song, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, was released on Elvis Presley’s third studio album – you guessed it, “Loving You” – in 1957. The songs on the album served as the soundtrack for the movie of the same name, which starred Presley.

Love will be in the air this weekend in Toronto and the GTA, ahead of Valentine’s Day on Tuesday. And let’s be clear – love is not just the romantic type, no matter what Cupid may have us believe.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend that is Valentine-related, we have you covered. If you are ‘bah humbug’ about the day, don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten you.

Love at the Zoo
Humans could learn a thing or two about courtship and love from animals. But there is one thing both can agree on: finding romance is a challenging prospect.

An English bulldog puppy with lipstick kisses. GETTY IMAGES/Carol Yepes

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, head over to the Toronto Zoo on Saturday to learn about the “elaborate, awkward, and sometimes hilarious lengths to which animals will go to attract a mate.”

The special, ticketed, program also takes place on the big day (Tuesday). It includes a romantic dinner for you and your date, as well as a meet-and-greet with some of the animals, an interactive group presentation, and more.

Toronto Maple Leafs Centennial Gala
In honour of the Toronto Maple Leafs 100th season, the MLSE Foundation is hosting the team’s Centennial Gala on Sunday night.

The event is expected to attract over 750 guests, with tables running $10,000 for eight people. The gala will celebrate what the Toronto Maple Leafs do for the community over a cocktail reception and seated gourmet dinner at Fairmont Royal York. Leafs of past and present will be in attendance.

All net proceeds from the event will support MLSE Foundation’s Sport for Development Centre – MLSE LaunchPad.

National Day of Action on Electoral Reform
If you are not happy with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to postpone electoral reform, you can voice your concerns at a rally on Saturday.

Trudeau campaigned on the issue during the 2015 federal election campaign to end the first-past-the-post voting system before the next election.

“He then repeated that promise a total of 1,813 times since becoming Prime Minister, including in the speech from the throne. Now, suddenly, the government has decided to abandon this crucial promise to strengthen our democracy,” organizers said on Facebook.

Demonstrators will meet at 2 p.m. at Nathan Philips Square and then march to Yonge-Dundas Square.

Come Let Us Sing!
In celebration of Black History Month, Canada’s cutting-edge gospel group Toronto Mass Choir is holding a special performance at Toronto Public Library’s Deer Park branch.

Come Let Us Sing! runs Saturday from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The award-winning choir, which was founded in 1988, will perform their distinct and soulful music, which incorporates contemporary gospel, traditional gospel and Caribbean music influences.

Welcome Weekend at Aga Khan Museum
If you haven’t been to the Aga Khan Museum yet, this weekend is your chance to check it out.

The museum is offering free admission on Saturday and Sunday. There are several exhibitions including Syria: A Living History and Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians. There will also be musical performances by local artists and a screening of the 2011 TIFF People’s Choice award-winner “Where Do We Go Now?” by filmmaker Nadine Labaki.

Snow in the forecast for Toronto, GTA

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Feb 10th, 2017

A snowplow clearing a Toronto street on April 4, 2016. CITYNEWS/Bertram Dandy.

The drive home will be a slippery one, with snow in the forecast for Toronto and the GTA on Friday.

While some forecast models are calling for up to 10 centimetres of snow, most areas of the city will see between four and six centimetres of snow, CityNews weather specialist Frank Ferragine said.

680 NEWS meteorologist Harold Hosein agreed, saying Toronto will see about five centimetres of snow — and it’s coming this afternoon.

That’s due to an Alberta clipper that is headed for southern Ontario. Drivers can expect some blowing snow and slippery roads.

It will warm up over the weekend, with a mix of rain and snow on Sunday night.

Low-risk, high-reward cargo theft major problem in Canada: Insurance Bureau

FAIZA AMIN | posted Friday, Feb 10th, 2017

On two separate occasions this week, cargo trucks containing milk and fruit have been robbed in the GTA and the incidents are raising questions as to how often these crimes occur.

Peel Police say $50,000 worth of milk was stolen from the back of a large transport truck in Mississauga on Wednesday, a little before 6 a.m. Days earlier, on Sunday, Hamilton Police asked for the public’s help to locate $100,000 worth of blueberries and other fruit, after suspects gained access to a commercial truck that was eventually driven into Toronto.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, there was $42.3 million worth of stolen property in 2016 that was reported to their offices. These are described as low-risk, high-reward crimes that the Bureau says is a major problem in Canada, and these thefts cost the Canadian economy $5 billion each year.

With food thefts, the Bureau says no one has ever determined where exactly the stolen goods go.

“It might land on the shelf of a wholesaler two days before its expiry date, and may be starting to turn,” said Dan Beacock, Director of Auto Theft with the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

But just how do the stolen food items get on the shelves?

“Usually that’s probably going to be word of mouth, underground network, somebody knows somebody who knows somebody,” Beacock explains. “They might get sold through the black market to variety stores and convenience stores.”

Value of the stolen foods often depreciates over time and there’s a major public safety concern over the resale of the items.

“Sometimes the people buying it have no idea,” said Beacock. “It’s not like a car and it has a serial number on it, that’s part of the problem.”

To address these cargo thefts, the Bureau launched a national reporting program in 2014, and over the years saw a steady climb in this types of crime.

In 2015, there were 836 cargo thefts in Canada. The number more than doubled the following year, with 1,670 reports in 2016. Most of those were in Ontario.

The value of the recovered stolen goods has increased from $2.7 million in 2014, to just over $25 million in 2016.

“The more we get in the data base, the better the items will be found,” Beacock said.

That data isn’t completely reflective of all cargo thefts in the country. In some cases, Beacock says police are inaccurately investigating the reports as vehicle thefts, rather than cargo thefts.

Trucking companies aren’t always reporting the incident to the IBM, either because they’re not familiar with the cargo theft reporting system, or Beacock says they may fear the incident could affect their insurance. The IBM says reporting these crimes will not increase your insurance premiums in any way.

“The trucking industry is starting to see that there’s value in starting to report,” said Beacock. “We’re helping police to recover and on a number of cases make some arrests.”

Last year, the IBC says it made 34 arrests and laid 203 charges under the cargo theft reporting system. The Bureau doesn’t know how trucks are getting targeted, but Beacock speculates it could be a mixture of convenience, opportunity, or a planned theft.

“Other times they could be conducting surveillance, watching the place, having an inside man in the warehouse, who knows.”

The province’s main trucking core, Highway 401, is a hotbed for this type of criminal activity.

“That’s where we find the majority of our thieves,” Beacock explains. “I’m not saying that’s the only place, we’re also seeing them in rural areas and Trans Canada as well.”

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