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Canadian wins best teacher prize for the most amazing reasons

Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Mar 23rd, 2017

Maggie MacDonnell had taught in Botswana, Tanzania and Congo, but had never seen anything like what she experienced in Salluit, Que., when she began teaching there six years ago.

“The memory that continues to haunt me is when I see these Canadian teenagers, their very own classmates of the deceased, literally digging the grave,” she said in an interview. “I didn’t know until I came to Salluit that that was a Canadian reality.”

Drug use and alcoholism rates are high in Salluit. The tiny Inuit community witnessed six suicides in 2015, all involving males between the ages of 18 and 25.

MacDonnell, a native of tiny Afton, N.S, won the $1-million Global Teacher Prize Sunday, probably the world’s most-coveted and high-profile award for teaching excellence. She was awarded the prize during a ceremony in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, beating out about 20,000 applicants from around the world.

The prize was established three years ago to recognize one exceptional teacher a year who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, employs innovative classroom practices and encourages others to join the teaching profession.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his congratulations in a video message that was broadcast at the event.

“You have done extraordinary things in exceptional circumstances and have showed enormous heart, will and imagination,” said Trudeau, a former teacher himself.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Governor General David Johnston, and astronaut Chris Hadfield all took to social media to congratulate the teacher.

Maggie MacDonnell receiving prize in Dubai at the Global Teacher Prize ceremony

Maggie MacDonnell accepted the award alongside one of her students. Photo: The Canadian Press

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was on hand to present the prize to MacDonnell. Her name was announced by French astronaut Thomas Pasquet in a video message from the International Space Station.

MacDonnell was among 10 finalists flown to Dubai to attend the ceremony. The nine others hail from Pakistan, the U.K., Jamaica, Spain, Germany, China, Kenya, Australia and Brazil.

Last week, MacDonnell told the Canadian Press she was excited three of her students could make the trip to Dubai with her. “They’re a huge part of the story and the reason I chose to get involved (in the award) was to make sure it could in some way benefit their lives,” she said.

Along with teaching, MacDonnell became the community’s fitness co-ordinator—“I’m also a coach, I’m also a mentor, I’m a bit of a motivator. For some children, I’m also somewhat of a parental figure, and older sibling, and aunt and extra mother,” she told the CBC.

Some 1,860 kilometres north of Montreal, Salluit is home to the second northernmost Inuit indigenous community in Quebec, with a population of just over 1,300, and can only be reached by air.

Her determination to stay in the remote area, where many teachers leave their post midway through the year, made her a standout for the award. Still, she was reluctant to join the contest—until a friend told her it would draw attention to the plight of children in the far north.

MacDonnell created a number of programs for boys and girls, including job mentorship and funds to assist with healthy meals. Her approach focuses on emphasizing “acts of kindness” such as running a community kitchen and attending suicide prevention training.

She said that if she won, she wanted to start an environmental stewardship program for northern youth, focused on kayaking.

“I can’t say it’s going after the root issues—physical activity isn’t the solution to the housing crisis, it isn’t a solution to the food security those kids are facing in the north,” said MacDonnell in an interview last week.

“But it is a tool to building resilience and it’s a really great coping strategy for them to have considering all that they’re dealing with.”

Last year, Palestinian teacher Hanan al-Hroub won for her efforts in encouraging students to renounce violence and embrace dialogue. The inaugural prize went to Nancie Atwell, an English teacher from Maine.

The award is presented by the Varkey Foundation. Its founder, Sunny Varkey, established the for-profit GEMS Education company, which has more than 250 schools around the world.

Toronto police looking for three suspects related to Kijiji robberies

CityNews | posted Thursday, Mar 23rd, 2017

Toronto Police are looking for three men in an investigation into robberies related to online sales through Kijiji.

Investigators say a 22 year old man who answered an ad on the website to buy a laptop was robbed at knife point on March 6. A little over an hour later, a 39 year old man who also answered an ad for a laptop was robbed at gunpoint.

Tristan Cain, 24, from Ajax has been identified as one of the suspects in both incidents and is wanted on several charges. Daniel Ofori, 24, from Binbrook is suspected in the second incident.

The third suspect has not been identified but police say all three are considered armed and dangerous.

Budget 2017: Liberals try to ease anxiety and get Canada ready for the future

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Mar 23rd, 2017

OTTAWA — The future is coming at you, fast, and the Liberal government says it knows you’re getting anxious — and potentially angry.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivered a federal budget Wednesday that aims to get Canadians ready for a changing world and potentially shield the Liberals from the forces that brought U.S. President Donald Trump to power.

“Everyday folks who work hard to provide for their families are worried about the future,” Morneau said in his speech to the House of Commons as he tabled the 2017 federal budget, the second since the Liberals formed a majority government in 2015.

“They’re worried that rapid technological change, the seemingly never-ending need for new skills and growing demands on our time will mean that their kids won’t have the same opportunities that they had. And who can blame them?”

After setting up the doom and gloom, Morneau knocked it down: Canadians, he said, have always been able to adapt to changing circumstances.

And the budget, with its lower-than-expected deficit projection of $25.5 billion for the coming fiscal year — it swells to $28.5 billion when a $3 billion contingency reserve is included — is designed to help them get there.

The budget includes about $5.2 billion for skills development, to help Canadians adapt their education and employment training to a diversifying economy — one in which the natural resource sector offers no guarantees of jobs or sustained federal revenues.

It aims to get out-of-work Canadians back to school or retrained without giving up their employment insurance benefits, includes a pilot project to explore making it easier for adults to access student loans and grants, and encourages young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Video: What the federal budget means for the Canadian economy. Click here to view on mobile.

But the Liberals aren’t just trying to help Canadians find jobs in the future. They’re also trying to bring that future about.

The budget commits nearly $3 billion to support innovation over the next five years and promises to develop an innovation and skills plan that will target six sectors the Liberal government see as good bets for spurring economic growth and creating well-paying jobs: advanced manufacturing, clean technology, the agri-food sector, digital industries, clean resources and health and bio-sciences.

Video: Beer, smokes & Netflix. How the federal budget may impact your Friday night. Click here to view on mobile.

As the Liberals work to ensure everyone can find a job in the new economy, they are also giving a boost to many who were left behind by the traditional one, such as women and Indigenous Peoples.

The budget commits $7 billion over the next decade to help increase access to affordable child care, allow women to begin maternity leave earlier and support those caring for an ill or aging relative — all seen as ways to help increase the participation of women in the workforce.

For the first time in Canadian history, the budget also includes a section on how many of its measures impact men and women in different ways, with a promise to do a deeper gender-based analysis for the 2018 budget.

Video: How the federal budget is trying to help women in the work force. Click here to view on mobile.

While relatively thin on net new spending, the budget’s new promises still come with a cost, especially since the federal government is still footing the bill for the gigantic, ongoing commitments from last year.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said the budget does little to ease the anxiety of those ordinary Canadians — oil rig workers, hairstylists, family farmers — unmoved by soaring Liberal rhetoric about innovation.

“If you have what’s called a ‘super cluster venture capital accelerator,’ you’re in luck,” Ambrose sneered. “Those are the kinds of people that are going to get a break, not regular working people.”

The New Democrats went after the plan to welcome more private investment in public infrastructure, which they argue will mean investors getting rich off the backs of Canadians through tolls and user fees.

Canadians can expect a five-cent increase in EI premiums in fiscal 2018-19, up to $1.68 per $100 of insurable earnings, with some of that additional cost coming from the measures that will give more people access to benefits.

The budget hits the pocketbooks of Canadians in other ways, as well. Gone is a public transit tax credit; tobacco and alcohol taxes are going up, and ride-sharing businesses, such as Uber, will be subject to the same sales taxes as traditional taxis.

The deficit still remains nearly three times the $10-billion limit the Liberals promised in their campaign platform. And although it is shrinking more quickly than expected, there is still no official word on when it will be eliminated entirely.


10 things to know about the 2017-2018 federal budget

Mike Eppel | posted Thursday, Mar 23rd, 2017

Here are ten things to know about the Liberals government’s 2017-18 budget:

No signs of getting back to balance

Updated numbers show the government has yet to come up with a plan to get back in the black. The deficit for this year will be $23-billion, slightly higher than what was expected in the Fall Economic Statement. But by 2022 Canada will still be in red to the tune of $18.8-billion.

Overall, the budgets for the next five years should be lower than what was predicted in the 2016 budget, but the numbers will appear higher since the government has brought back the $3-billion contingency fund, which the government can access to address emergency situations or unforeseen fiscal problems.

Very little new spending

Many of the spending announcements in this budget are actually being taken out of funds that were already committed in last year’s budget. All of the funding announced for child care spaces, green buildings, affordable housing and public transit will be coming from the infrastructure funds already allocated in their initial fiscal plan.

Child care

The government is investing $7-billion over 10 years to support and create new child care spaces in Canada. It’s believed this could create up to 40,000 new spaces for low-modest income families. The money will start flowing next year and builds on the $500-million which has already been committed for this year.

Maternity and parental leave

The government is extending the period in which Canadians can claim maternity and parental benefits. On the front end, expectant women will be allowed to start claiming employment insurance maternity benefits 12 weeks before their due date rather than the current eight weeks.

After the child is born, parents will be able to claim EI benefits for a full year and a half, instead of a year under the current system.

The catch is, after 12 months the amount you will be able to claim will drop from 55 per cent of your average weekly earnings, to 33 per cent. That means you’ll be getting a lot less back if you decide to take the extra six months.

Affordable housing

The government will be investing $11.2-billion over 11 years to a range of initiatives in order to build and refurbish Canada’s affordable housing units.

Innovation economy

The budget targets the creation of new economy jobs in six key areas to grow the Canada of the future –advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences and clean resources.

Taxing your Friday night

The government will be raising taxes/levies on products and services that could impact your weekend fun. The excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco are being changed and will be increased by up to two per cent. This means you will be paying more for your beers and smokes.

At the end of the evening ride sharing programs like Uber will cost you more since they will be hit with the same GST and HST as taxi cabs. But if you decide to bus it home that could cost you too. The government is eliminating the transit tax credit, which allowed you to claim your bus/subway/LRT passes at tax time.

Crackdown on tax cheats and loopholes

The government is committing to closing tax loopholes and tax planning schemes that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. It is also committing more than $520-million over five years to prevent tax evasion. The Liberals expect to recoup $2.5-billion with these new measures.

Skills training for youth

Expansion of the Youth Employment Strategy — $400-million over three years for skills development and job training for young adults aged 15 to 30 — as well as 15,000 new jobs for youth in the Green Economy.

Defence spending going up … eventually

The budget says the Federal Defence Department can expect an increase in funding but the policy is still under review. An official announcement is due within the coming months.

8 arrested after deadly London attack outside British Parliament

Frank Griffiths and Gregory Katz, The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Mar 23rd, 2017

Britain’s Parliament observed a minute of silence Thursday to remember a police officer and two civilians killed a day earlier in an attack at the heart of London, while authorities raided homes in central England to search for evidence.

Eight people were arrested in raids, including some in the city of Birmingham. Police searched for clues as to why a man driving an SUV plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing two and injuring more than 30 others, before he fatally stabbed a police officer on Parliament’s grounds. Police shot and killed the attacker, whose identity they have not yet disclosed.

Parliament was locked down after the attack, and the return to business was seen as an important act of defiance. The silence began at 9:33 a.m. local time, to honour the shoulder number of the murdered officer, Keith Palmer.

“Those who carry out such wicked and depraved acts as we saw yesterday can never triumph in our country and we must ensure it is not violence, hatred or division but decency and tolerance that prevails in our country,” Trade Secretary Liam Fox said.

The other lawmakers responded: “Hear, hear!”

Mayor Sadiq Khan called for Londoners to attend a candlelit vigil at Trafalgar Square on Thursday evening in solidarity with the victims and their families and to show that London remains united.

London went on. Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge and several surrounding streets remain cordoned off by police. Scores of unarmed officers in bright yellow jackets were staffing the perimeter tape, guiding confused civil servants trying to get to work.

In Parliament’s New Palace Yard, a blue police tent was erected over the spot where the stabbing and shooting occurred, and two forensic officers worked at a trestle table nearby.

Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said that he believed the attacker acted alone and was “inspired by international terrorism.”

The attacker has been identified and was known to British security, according to a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about ongoing security operations. He declined to name the man and to give any other details about his identity, nationality or hometown.

Rowley revised the death toll from five to four, including the attacker, the police officer and two civilians. He said that 29 people required hospitalization and seven of them were in critical condition. He also said that authorities were still working out the number of “walking wounded.” Police had previously given the total number of injured as around 40.

One of those killed was Aysha Frade, a British national whose mother is Spanish, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said.

A doctor who treated the wounded from the bridge said some had “catastrophic” injuries. Three police officers, several French teenagers on a school trip, two Romanian tourists and five South Korean visitors were among the injured.

Before Rowley’s news conference, British media reported that armed police carried out a raid on a property in Birmingham. The Press Association on Thursday quoted an unnamed witness saying that the operation was linked to the attack. The witness said that police raided an apartment and arrested three men. Police in the West Midlands, where Birmingham is located, directed inquiries about the operation to London’s Metropolitan Police.

The threat level for international terrorism in the U.K. was already listed at severe, meaning an attack was “highly likely.”

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC that authorities assume the attack was linked to “Islamic terrorism in some form.” Investigators worked around the clock.

“They have been working right through the night, looking into his background, how he got hold of the vehicle, where the vehicle has been in the last day or two, and who may or may not have helped him,” he said.

Speaking outside 10 Downing St. after chairing a meeting of government’s emergency committee, COBRA, Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday that level wouldn’t change. She said attempts to defeat British values of democracy and freedom through terrorism would fail.

Londoners and visitors “will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart,” May said.

President Donald Trump was among world leaders offering condolences.

London has been a target for terrorism many times over past decades. Just this weekend, hundreds of armed police took part in an exercise simulating a “marauding” terrorist attack on the River Thames.

The Associated Press’ Paisley Dodds, Danica Kirka and Frank Griffiths contributed to the story.

EI premiums, sin taxes, tax cheat crackdown to finance Liberal vision

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Mar 22nd, 2017

OTTAWA — The federal government is increasing employment insurance premiums and going after drinkers, smokers and tax cheats to help finance a 2017 budget long on vision — high-tech growth, job retraining, lowering barriers for working mothers — but lean on actual spending.

The budget details how $11.2 billion will be meted out to cities and provinces for affordable housing over 10 years, and an “innovation and skills plan” for six sectors: advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences and clean resources.

It also details $7 billion in spending over 10 years for Canadian families, including 40,000 new subsidized daycare spaces across Canada by 2019, extended parental leave and allowing expectant mothers to claim maternity benefits 12 weeks before their due date.

The federal deficit, meanwhile, is projected to be smaller than expected: $25.5 billion for 2017-18, not including a $3 billion contingency fund, before declining to $15.8 billion in 2021-22.

EI premiums will climb five cents to $1.68 for every $100 of insurable earnings, as will taxes on alcohol and tobacco products, with annual increases tied to the rate of inflation. A crackdown on tax evaders and avoiders is also planned.

The 71-year-old Canada Savings Bonds program, long synonymous with painless, low-interest savings for risk-averse adults and gift-giving grandparents, is also being phased out.

Doug Ford wants Etobicoke stadium named after Rob Ford

News staff | posted Wednesday, Mar 22nd, 2017

A year to the day after his beloved and berated brother died from a rare form of cancer, Doug Ford is questioning why the city hasn’t taken steps to honour the legacy of long-time councillor and former mayor Rob Ford.

“There’s never been a politician like Rob, good or bad,” Ford told Breakfast Television on Wednesday morning. “There’s never been a mayor that answers his phone at 11 p.m. at night and shows up to people’s doors.”

“Rob had the most diverse group of people supporting him that I’ve ever seen in my life. He was passionate about the people.”

Doug pointed out that when NDP leader and former Toronto councillor Jack Layton passed away, it was Rob, despite his political differences with Layton, who urged city council to quickly honour him.

A bronze statue was subsequently erected near the Harbourfront, and the ferry docks were renamed after Layton.

Ford says he doesn’t expect anything over the top for Rob, but suggested what he considers an appropriate commemoration.

“There’s a stadium in Etobicoke — a small one that doesn’t have a name — in Centennial Park,” he said.  “We’d like it to possibly be named the Rob Ford stadium. He coached there … he played himself there and it’s local. It’s a pretty modest ask.”

He also expressed disappointment that Mayor John Tory hasn’t acted on behalf of his predecessor. “Tory has known our family for 25 years,” he said. “We haven’t heard a word from John Tory and that’s not a slag against John, it’s just we haven’t heard anything from him.”

Mayor Tory, speaking with CityNews via Skype from India, said he only recently became aware of the family’s wish to have the stadium named after Rob Ford.

“The first I heard of the desire they have to have a football stadium named after him, I heard it through a Toronto radio station,” Tory said. “The family hadn’t communicated to me a wish they had to have a proposal considering (his name) for this football stadium, but now I know about it …”

Tory also noted that the family rejected a previous proposal to rename a Toronto park after Rob.

But now that the family’s desires are clear, Tory said the process of honouring the late mayor can begin.

“What we are going to do is find a way … to have a suitable memorial to Mr. Ford’s life and his public work, and we will do that in orderly fashion as quickly as it allows us to get in done properly.”

“I think something that does relate to football and his passionate love for sports might be quite appropriate,” he added.

A celebration of Rob Ford’s life will take place on Wednesday night at Woodbine Banquet Hall near Highway 27 and Rexdale Boulevard.

Doug says “everyone is welcome” to join the celebration, which will include free food and drinks, as well as dancing. The event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

At least 2 dead in car rampage, knife attack in London

Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Mar 22nd, 2017

A vehicle mowed down pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing at least one woman and leaving others with injuries described as catastrophic. Around the same time Wednesday, a knife-wielding attacker stabbed a police officer and was shot on the grounds outside Britain’s Parliament, sending the compound into lockdown.

Authorities said they were treating the attacks as a terrorist incident. Some of those injured were French high school students, France’s prime minister said.

The threat level for international terrorism in the U.K. was already listed at severe. Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people, and the latest events echoed recent vehicle attacks in Berlin and Nice, France. There was no immediate claim of responsibility and it was not clear if there was more than one attacker.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who was rushed from the building within minutes, will chair a meeting of the government emergency committee. London Police Commander B.J. Harrington said a full counterterrorism investigation was underway.

The incident in London unfolded within sight of some of the city’s most famous tourist sites, including the London Eye, a large Ferris wheel with pods that overlook the capital. It stopped rotating and footage showed the pods full as viewers watched police and medical crews on the bridge, which has at its north end Big Ben and Parliament, two iconic symbols.

“The whole length of the bridge there were people on the ground,” Richard Tice, a witness, told Sky News. The London Ambulance Service said it had treated at least 10 people on the bridge, and British port officials said a woman was pulled from the River Thames, injured but alive.

Colleen Anderson of St. Thomas’ Hospital said a female pedestrian died and around a dozen people were hurt.

“There were some with minor injuries, some catastrophic. Some had injuries they could walk away from or who have life-changing injuries,” she said.

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve offered support to the British and to “the French students wounded, their families and their schoolmates.” London is a common destination for French school trips.

The French Foreign Ministry said that three students on a school trip from Saint-Joseph in the Brittany town of Concarneau were among the injured. The ministry said it was in contact with British authorities.

Witness Rick Longley told the Press Association that he heard a bang and saw a car plow into pedestrians and come to a crashing stop. Images from the scene showed pedestrians sprawled on the ground, with blood streaming from a woman surrounded by a scattering of postcards.

“They were just laying there and then the whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben,” he said. “A guy came past my right shoulder with a big knife and just started plunging it into the policeman. I have never seen anything like that. I just can’t believe what I just saw.”

At Parliament, a body was seen lying in the yard. It wasn’t clear if it was the attacker.

Dennis Burns, who was just entering Parliament for a meeting, told the Press Association he heard a radio message saying an officer had been stabbed. Police and security rushed outside as he was going in.

“When I got inside I was wondering what the hell was going on and I saw dozens of panicked people running down the street,” he said. “The first stream was around 30 people and the second stream was 70 people. It looked like they were running for their lives.”

Daily Mail journalist Quentin Letts said he saw a man in black attack a police officer outside Parliament before being shot two or three times as he tried to storm into the House of Commons.

“He had something in his hand, it looked like a stick of some sort, and he was challenged by a couple of policemen in yellow jackets,” Letts told the BBC. “And one of the yellow-jacketed policemen fell down and we could see the man in black moving his arm in a way that suggested he was stabbing or striking the yellow-jacketed policeman.”

Lett said the other officer ran to get help and the man in black ran toward the entrance.

“As this attacker was running towards the entrance two plain-clothed guys with guns shouted at him what sounded like a warning, he ignored it and they shot two or three times and he fell,” he said.

As lawmakers were voting inside Parliament, they reported hearing the sound of gunshots.

Parliament was locked down for two hours, and the subway station outside was shuttered.

British security has thwarted some 13 terror plots over the past four years, but the UK has largely been spared major international terror attacks such as the ones seen in Belgium and France.

Last year, a far-right supporter shot and killed British lawmaker Jo Cox, who had campaigned for the U.K. to remain in the European Union. Prior to that, an attacker stabbed three people at a train station in east London in response to the Royal Air Force’s bombing of the Islamic State group in Syria.

The most gruesome recent attack occurred in 2013 when two Muslim converts of Nigerian descent attacked Lee Rigby, a British Army soldier who was walking down the street. The men ran Rigby down with their vehicle and then used a cleaver to hack him to death as bystanders watched in horror.

The worst peace time attack on Britain this century was on July 7, 2005, when four Al-Qaida-inspired bombers blew themselves up on three subway trains and a bus in London, killing 52. Three of the bombers were British-born, all of Pakistani descent; the other emigrated from Jamaica.

Paisley Dodds, Sophie Berman and Rob Harris in London, and Lori Hinnant in Paris, contributed to this report.

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