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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.”

Two-legged puppy found in dumpster gets new prosthetic limbs

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Feb 10th, 2017

A two-legged puppy found in a Toronto dumpster late last month took its first steps with new prosthetic limbs on Thursday.

The Great Pyrenees cross, which was born without front legs, was found in a garbage bag in a dumpster behind a building.

The Oakville-based Dog Rescuers Inc. took the puppy in and named it Cupid.

The eight-week-old pup has to use “training skis” — which the Dog Rescuers calls the Canadian version of training wheels — to develop its back legs and core muscles and to learn how to move its legs forward.

The prosthetics were made by the Toronto-based company PawsAbility.

Python on the loose at University of Guelph

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Feb 10th, 2017

Campus police at an Ontario university say they’re searching for a snake believed to be loose in a building that houses the school’s administration offices, cafeteria and food court.

They say the small ball python was reported missing Thursday at the University of Guelph.

Officials say a student brought the reptile to campus in a backpack.

Campus police and pest control specialists are searching the building for the four-year-old brown and black snake that is about 60 centimetres long.

Ball pythons may bite, so people are being warned not to pick it up.

But Hugues Beaufrere, chief of the Avian and Exotic Medicine Service at the Ontario Veterinary College, says the python isn’t dangerous or venomous.

“People have nothing to fear from a small ball python,” Beaufrere said.

“It is likely scared and trying to hide, looking for some place warm,” he said.

U.S. appeals court refuses to reinstate Trump’s travel ban

Sudhin Thanawala, The Associated Press | posted Friday, Feb 10th, 2017

A federal appeals court refused Thursday to reinstate President Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from seven predominantly Muslim nations, dealing another legal setback to the new administration’s immigration policy.

In a unanimous decision, the panel of three judges from the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to block a lower-court ruling that suspended the ban and allowed previously barred travellers to enter the U.S. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.

The court rejected the administration’s claim that it did not have the authority to review the president’s executive order.

“There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy,” the court said.

The judges noted that the states had raised serious allegations about religious discrimination.


U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban last week after Washington state and Minnesota sued. The ban temporarily suspended the nation’s refugee program and immigration from countries that have raised terrorism concerns.

Justice Department lawyers appealed to the 9th Circuit, arguing that the president has the constitutional power to restrict entry to the United States and that the courts cannot second-guess his determination that such a step was needed to prevent terrorism.

The states said Trump’s travel ban harmed individuals, businesses and universities. Citing Trump’s campaign promise to stop Muslims from entering the U.S., they said the ban unconstitutionally blocked entry to people based on religion.

Both sides faced tough questioning during an hour of arguments Tuesday conducted by phone — an unusual step — and broadcast live on cable networks, newspaper websites and social media. It attracted a huge audience.

The judges hammered away at the administration’s claim that the ban was motivated by terrorism fears, but they also challenged the states’ argument that it targeted Muslims.

“I have trouble understanding why we’re supposed to infer religious animus when, in fact, the vast majority of Muslims would not be affected,” Judge Richard Clifton, a George W. Bush nominee, asked an attorney representing Washington state and Minnesota.

Only 15 per cent of the world’s Muslims are affected by the executive order, the judge said, citing his own calculations.

“Has the government pointed to any evidence connecting these countries to terrorism?” Judge Michelle T. Friedland, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, asked the Justice Department attorney.

The lower-court judge temporarily halted the ban after determining that the states were likely to win the case and had shown that the ban would restrict travel by their residents, damage their public universities and reduce their tax base. Robart put the executive order on hold while the lawsuit works its way through the courts.

After that ruling, the State Department quickly said people from the seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — with valid visas could travel to the U.S. The decision led to tearful reunions at airports round the country.

The Supreme Court has a vacancy, and there’s no chance Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, will be confirmed in time to take part in any consideration of the ban.

The ban was set to expire in 90 days, meaning it could run its course before the court would take up the issue. The administration also could change the order, including changing its scope or duration.

Hey, parents! Take your baby off social media

Colin Horgan | posted Thursday, Feb 9th, 2017

The way they tell it, Yasser Korany and Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier were asked to sign a photo waiver at their son’s school in Kleinburg, Ontario, which would allow for photographs and videos of their child to be posted to social media. Yasser and Genevieve refused to sign it. Now their kid, Karim, won’t appear in the class photo and, they say, has been excluded from some class projects.

When they complained, the school board responded by noting how impossible it would be to prevent photos of their son ending up online somehow. That’s likely very true; people take pictures of groups of children at school events and post them online constantly. How could the school do anything about that?

But Korany and Maheux-Pelletier aren’t crazy to ask for some leeway on the school’s policy—in fact, just the opposite. Their request is reasonable. Whether they realize it or not, they’re asking the school to grant their child a simple, but valuable thing: freedom.

As a new father, I think it’s a reasonable request. Before our son was born, my fiancée and I decided we would do all we can to keep his face off social media for as long as possible. In coming to that conclusion, we talked about the contrived social expectation that we post photos of him online.

Why would it actually be necessary, we asked? Wouldn’t we email or text pictures with our family members and close friends, anyway? What was it about the idea of posting photos to Facebook in particular that made it so alluring? I personally felt it just come down to the “likes”—that same fleeting feeling of outside validation obtained by posting photos of holidays or our cat. And if that were the case, then what benefit would our son receive in that scenario, as someone unable to reasonably consent to anything, let alone understand what we were doing?

Ultimately, the deal largely seemed to break down like this: We would get to post photos of our child and get to feel good about ourselves for a few minutes, and he would get his photo on the internet forever. That seemed unfair.

Because that profile created for him (even without an actual profile page, and small though it may be) would hardly be limited, even to whatever circle we chose in our account settings. Photos are still, for example, mined for data—particularly for information about who is in them. Whether we posted our child’s name along with the photo, or whether we tagged him in it or not, Facebook’s facial recognition software would likely still know he exists (as would Google’s or Snapchat’s). And though we, as adults, have notionally signed a consent for that to occur, our child had obviously not.

The information about us online, however much there is, is meaningful—perhaps more so than we consider day to day.

In Dave Eggers’s The Circle, Mae—an employee of a fictional mega-social media company—at one point finds, to her surprise, that her social media history is being displayed for a large group in an auditorium as part of a company presentation. Despite being a convert to the company’s ethos of openness and personal transparency, the incident irks her. What was it that mortified her?

“She couldn’t put her finger on it. Was it only the surprise of it? Was it the pinpoint accuracy of the algorithms? Maybe,” Eggers writes. “But then again, it wasn’t entirely accurate, so was that the problem? Having a matrix of preferences presented as your essence, as the whole you? Maybe that was it. It was some kind of mirror, but it was incomplete, distorted.”

Whether we like it or not, the information online that is attached to our face will—and already has—come to define who we are, in some fashion. It might not contribute a lot, but it’s something. As adults, we are aware of this. And if we find, for instance—maybe after installing ProPublica’s browser extension that reveals what Facebook thinks we like—that some of that information is incorrect, we can take steps to fix it, and to rein in the assumed parameters of our personality.

Children can’t do that on their own. So, every time their face goes online without their consent, there is the implied assumption they don’t have a personality worth protecting. Instead, the thinking seems to go, they’re just babies, doing baby stuff.

But one day they won’t be, and they will find themselves, even if in just a small part, defined for a large group of people and for companies—complete strangers, in other words—by images of their life someone else gave away. Where they have been, who they were with, what they did on a particular day—none of it will belong to them alone. It will all be proprietary data. They will not own those memories. They won’t even own the ability to forget.

They will be just like their parents. Except they had no choice.

Does this mean that we have shared nothing online with friends and family about our son? No. There is a picture of his legs. Another of his back. One of his arm. He has been the subject of status updates. We have not been perfect; nobody is. We’re also not Luddites. Photo printing is expensive or non-existent; it’s convenient to email or text a picture.

But the social media algorithms have yet to see his face. And for as long as possible, as much as we can, we will try to give him something many of his peers have already lost: freedom from the machine.

Is it too much to hope that other people help in that regard? I don’t think it’s crazy to ask.

Are You Being Discriminated Against Because of Your Name?

Andrea Chiu | posted Thursday, Feb 9th, 2017

Expectant parents know the importance of their baby’s name. They spend hours combing through books and consulting friends, trying to find the perfect name that incorporates their families’ roots and reflects their hopes for their child’s future.

However, if you’re an immigrant or a person of ethnic origin, you know that living in Canada with a “funny” name can result in discrimination. When we were kids, it meant getting teased on the playground. As adults, it means a more subtle kind of prejudice, often occurring in the workforce.

A recent joint University of Toronto and Ryerson University study found that when it comes to jobs requiring a university degree, Asian-named applicants have a 32.6 percent lower rate of interview selection when compared to Anglo-named applicants with equivalent Canadian qualifications. This trend was observed independently of the skill level required for the position and the size of the hiring company.

 When I posted this news story on Facebook, my friend Hsiu-Yan Chan, a Calgary-based engineer, was the first to comment. “This hits pretty close to home,” she wrote. Unlike my parents, Chan’s parents gave her a distinctly Chinese first name.
“I always knew it was my turn on roll call when the substitute teacher would awkwardly pause,” she remembers.

While she is proud to have a Chinese name, Chan knows that it has also presented her with more challenges. “I know that I have had to work harder to get the same opportunities compared to others who have more common ‘Canadian’ names. I know when somebody sees my name, they instantly see somebody ‘different.’”

To fit in and to make it easier for English speakers, people have long anglicized ethnic-sounding names to make them more palatable. Sometimes it’s a small change like changing the suffix of a last name like “Steinweg” to “Steinway.” Other times people adopt a given name completely different from their original name, like “Joe” or “Mike.”

Either way, their names are white-washed.

For decades, aspiring actors and musicians have been editing their names to be more “marketable.” They know anything that’s not anglicized, or at least edited to be easier to read or say, will be discriminated against by producers, agents or potential fans.

Peter Gene Hernandez didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a Latin singer, so he became Bruno Mars. Actor and writer Vera Mindy Chokalingam shortened her name to be Mindy Kaling, and years earlier, Chan Kong-sang became action star Jackie Chan.

Some might criticize these performers for diluting their names to appease the masses. However, some may not realize the masses—whether they’re conscious of it or not—are prejudiced.

If we can’t trust hiring managers to interview a qualified candidate just because their name looks Asian, it’s not a stretch to assume that “‘Uptown Funk’ by Peter Gene Hernandez” would have never been a number-one hit.

For me, the fear of discrimination based on my name takes place not at work, but at the border. When it was time for me to update my Canadian passport a few years ago, I was given the option to include my middle name, Rashida. It’s an Arabic name that means righteous and wise.

I considered the political climate, how Muslims can be received at borders and decided to remove the name from my passport. Now in Trump’s America, I’m very glad I made that choice.

I have complicated feelings about Islam and haven’t set foot in a mosque since my grandmother’s death 10 years ago, but I still resent the fact that fear of discrimination fueled this decision. My name, its heritage and meaning ties me to the generations of Muslim Malaysians from my mother’s family around the world. I chose to delete this part of me from an official document due to fear of discrimination.

I asked Chan whether she ever considered changing her name. “Personally, it doesn’t feel authentic,” she says. “My name reflects my Chinese background.”

Her experience with her name is something she has considered when naming her daughter.

“When we named our daughter, we gave her an anglicized first name and a Chinese middle name—it seemed like the right balance between recognizing our roots and helping her navigate in the future.”

I’d like to think that by the time my future daughter applies for her first job, she will live in a world where she doesn’t need to worry about this kind of prejudice. Maybe I’ll name her Jamila, after my grandmother.

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