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Karla Homolka will no longer volunteer at Montreal elementary school

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jun 2nd, 2017

A private Montreal elementary school is moving to quell public fears following media reports about Karla Homolka doing some volunteer work there.

The school, which is operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, says it won’t allow anyone with a criminal record to volunteer in any capacity on school grounds.

The church issued a brief statement Thursday that didn’t mention Homolka by name, but said it has “heard and listened to the concerns of parents and members of the community uncomfortable with recent reports in the media.”

Local media captured images of Homolka using a purse to hide her face Wednesday morning as she dropped off her children outside the school in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood.

On Tuesday, City News reported that Homolka had occasionally volunteered at the school, including supervising a field trip and bringing her dog into the classroom to interact with children.

A spokesman for the church told the TV station earlier this week that Homolka was not a regular volunteer and was not allowed to be alone with the children.

Thursday’s statement said the church would have no further comment.

Homolka and ex-husband Paul Bernardo were convicted of crimes related to the rape and murder of two schoolgirls, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

Homolka struck a deal with prosecutors where she served 12 years in prison for manslaughter while Bernardo was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence.

Homolka was released in 2005 after serving her full sentence and has since settled in Quebec.

Tim Danson, a lawyer who represents the French and Mahaffy families, said Wednesday it was a “kick in the gut” for the families to hear reports of Homolka seemingly living a normal life with her husband and children. Danson also said he’s convinced Homolka was never rehabilitated and shouldn’t be allowed to work with children.

Related stories:

Toronto, Peel boards have similar policies that would let Homolka volunteer

Ex nurse Wettlaufer felt ‘urge to kill’ seniors in her care, pleads guilty

LIAM CASEY, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jun 2nd, 2017

A former Ontario nurse angry with her career and personal life believed she was an instrument of God as she used insulin to kill vulnerable seniors in her care over the course of nearly a decade.

About seven months after her arrest last fall, Elizabeth Wettlaufer pleaded guilty Thursday to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

The crimes – which took place in three Ontario long-term care facilities and at a private home – make Wettlaufer one of Canada’s most prolific serial killers.

Emotional family and friends of her victims packed a Woodstock, Ont., courtroom as the 49-year-old quietly said the word “guilty” 14 times and admitted to a judge that she used insulin in every case.

“There was always that red surging that I identified with God talking to me,” Wettlaufer told a detective calmly in a confession video played in court. “Then I’d go get the insulin.”

Prosecutors laid out the details of each incident in an agreed statement of facts that included chilling revelations Wettlaufer made to authorities. Later, the crowded courtroom watched the video of the former nurse confessing to Woodstock police last October, saying she had told others about some of her crimes more than three years earlier.

In many cases, a growing rage over her job and her life built up until Wettlaufer felt an “urge to kill,” believing she was helping God, court heard. She said the feeling would only abate after she overdosed her victims.

“Then I’d get that laughing fit, like a cackle,” she told police.

Follow our live blog below.

Related stories:

Chronology of events in former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer’s case

Who is alleged serial killer Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer?

Court heard that Wettlaufer was not intoxicated on drugs or alcohol when she killed or tried to kill. Many of her victims lived with dementia.

She told police she knew that “if your blood sugar goes low enough, you can die.” She also told police she refrained from logging her use of insulin in order to avoid detection, court heard.

In Aug. 11, 2007, Wettlaufer deliberately injected James Silcox, an 84-year-old man with diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, with insulin, “hoping he would die,” the Crown said.

“It was his time to go because of the way he acted,” she told police, according to the agreed statement of facts.

Silcox was later found without vital signs by a personal support worker, court heard. That was Wettlaufer’s first “successful” kill after two previous attempts failed.

Wettlaufer told investigators that afterwards, she felt “like a pressure had been relieved from me, like pressure had been relieved from my emotions.”

There were religious undertones to many of the killings, court heard, and in some cases, there was no motive other than “returning them to God.”

“I honestly felt that God wanted to use me,” Wettlaufer told investigators at one point.

Wettlaufer would even comfort some of her victims’ families after her crimes. In one incident, court heard that she hugged the niece of a 90-year-old woman she had murdered.

The former nurse may have gotten away with the killings if she kept quiet. But, court heard, Wettlaufer told her pastor about some of the people she had killed.

“He prayed over me,” she told police. “He said if you ever do that again, we’ll have to tell police.”

Wettlaufer also told a lawyer about everything in 2014, who advised her it was in her best interests to stay silent, court heard.

The former nurse also told other friends and acquaintances about killing patients with insulin, some took her seriously and told police, but most didn’t tell authorities, or believed she was lying, court heard. Many of those confessions came last fall.

Then, last September, Wettlaufer admitted herself to a psychiatric hospital in Toronto.

There she repeatedly confessed to the killings to doctors and staff, who told police. At the hospital she wrote a four-page confession.

“She insisted she wanted to be treated seriously,” said Crown attorney Fraser Kelly.

Wettlaufer jumped at the chance for an interview with Toronto police, where she confessed again. Then she told the story, “with great recall and in great detail,” to Woodstock police, Kelly said.

In that confession, Wettlaufer apologized to the families of her victims.

“I am sorry,” she said without emotion. “I am extremely sorry.”

“What would you say to the families?” the detective asked.

“I’m sorry isn’t enough,” Wettlaufer said. “I should have gotten help sooner. I took something from you that was precious and taken too soon. I honestly believed at the time that God wanted to do it, but now I know it’s not true. If I could take it back, I would.”

Some family members of Wettlaufer’s victims broke down in the courtroom as the proceedings unfolded.

At one point, a close friend of a man Wettlaufer killed walked by the prisoner’s box and yelled expletives at the former nurse.

Susan Horvath, whose father was killed in 2014, called Wettlaufer a monster.

“It tore me apart. Tore me apart to hear how she killed my dad,” she said outside court. “And she’s sitting there, no expression on her face.”

Horvath said she could not forgive the former nurse and called for better oversight at the province’s long-term care facilities.

“I don’t want my dad’s death, and everybody’s death, to just be wasted,” she said. “Let’s make a change.”

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario called for a public inquiry into the deaths of Wettlaufer’s victims.

“We need to get to the bottom of what happened, how it happened and what we can learn from an organizational, regulatory and system perspective to ensure nothing like this ever happens again,” Doris Grinspun, RNAO CEO, and the group’s president, Carol Timmings, said in a statement. “We want no stone unturned in this effort.”

Records from the College of Nurses of Ontario show Wettlaufer was first registered as a nurse in August 1995 but resigned Sept. 30, 2016, and is no longer a registered nurse.

Court heard Wettlaufer stopped nursing because she was transferred to a different job where she would be dealing with diabetic children. She didn’t trust herself around children and insulin, court heard. Wettlaufer still faces a disciplinary hearing with the nurses college, court heard.

Sentencing hearings for Wettlaufer will take place on June 26 and 27, with both the Crown and her defence lawyer suggesting she serve her sentences concurrently.

Laura Jackson, a friend of victim Maurice Granat, said she blames the Caressant Care Nursing Home in Woodstock for allowing Elizabeth Wettlaufer to continue working despite being “not a good employee.” Watch the video below or click here.

Letter from Caressant Care

We watched today’s developments with great sadness.

Our thoughts are with the relatives and friends of those victimized by the tragic events in our communities.

Our focus remains on providing for the physical, social and spiritual needs of our residents. We are supported by an excellent staff, which continued to perform at a high level through an extraordinarily challenging time.

We have been working with law enforcement to support their efforts to establish the facts surrounding the events at our home. And, through regular contact with
the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and the support of others, we continue to strive for the highest levels of safety and security of our residents.

Lots going on this weekend in Toronto … but good luck getting there

CHRISTINE CHUBB AND SAMANTHA KNIGHT | posted Friday, Jun 2nd, 2017

Cyclists taking part in the Becel Heart and Stroke Ride for Heart. SOURCE: facebook.com/HSFRide
June has finally arrived and this weekend there are a lot of reasons to get out and enjoy the city.

But, getting around might be a bit of a challenge with one of the city’s biggest charity cycling events closing down two major highways. Plus there is a partial subway closure on Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina). So it might be wise to plan ahead if you’re out and about or just treat yourself to a weekend in the city’s downtown core at one of the many hotels in some of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods.


Becel Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart

There’ll be a different kind of traffic on the Gardiner and DVP this Sunday. Cyclists, runners and walkers will be taking over the highways for the 30th annual Becel Ride for Heart. Fifteen thousand cyclists and 5,000 runners/walkers are expected to take part in the event, which raises funds for critical research. All participants will begin at the Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place. The ride kicks off at 6 a.m, the run begins at 10 a.m. and the walk gets underway at 10:30 a.m. The Gardiner Expressway from the Humber River to the Don Valley Parkway and the DVP from the Gardiner Expressway to York Mills Road will be closed from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the event. For more information, click here.

Summer and After-School Program Registration

With summer right around the corner, the city of Toronto is opening registration for swim, skate and After-school Recreation Care (ARC) programs this Saturday. Registration for Scarborough and Etobicoke York begins at 7 a.m. There are four ways to register: online at http://www.efun.toronto.ca, by phone through touch tone or operator assisted registration and in person at select locations, including Etobicoke Civic Centre and Centennial Recreation Centre. For more information, click here.

Appleseed Cider Festival

Whether you crave sweet or dry drinks, the Appleseed Cider Festival at Artscape Wychwood Barns has something for everyone. The festival celebrates Ontario Craft Cider producers and their products. It offers two sessions, the first runs from 3 to 6 p.m. and is family friendly. The second session goes from 6 to 11 p.m. is 19+ only. Admission includes 3 sampling tickets. The first 300 guests of each session will receive a souvenir Appleseed glass. To purchase tickets, click here.MacIntosh apples and cider. GETTY IMAGES/Jan Tyler


DesiFEST is taking over Yonge-Dundas Sqaure this Saturday for 12 hours of free concert performances. Over 15 artists will take the stage between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. The show is hosted by SatsB, the founder and CEO of DesiFEST. The event aims to foster and grow the South Asian Arts community in Toronto and across Canada. For more information, head to http://desifest.ca.

Mac & Cheese Festival

Celebrate the ultimate comfort food this weekend at the third annual Mac & Cheese Festival at Ontario Place. Tempt your tastebuds with over 50 creative takes on this classic dish by talented chefs and food entrepreneurs. This family-friendly event will also feature a massive Kids Village, a gaming zone and marshmallow fire pits. For more information, click here.

Thompson Diner, one of the restaurants taking part in the Mac 'n Cheese Festival in Toronto. FACEBOOK/ThompsonToronto

Toronto Festival of Clowns

Love them or hate them, a slew of clowns will be downtown this weekend for the 12th annual Toronto Festival of Clowns. The event brings together traditional clowns and physical theatre artists of all disciplines and backgrounds. The festival will also features several Cirque Du Soleil alumni. It all takes place from May 31 to June 4 at the Factory Theatre. For more information, click here.

Inside Out LGBT Film Festival

Be one of the first to see some of the best and most diverse work of interest to LGBT communities at the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival. Enjoy screenings, artist talks, panel discussions, installations, and parties during the 11 day event. More than 180 films and videos from Canada and around the world will be showcased. The festival runs from May 25 to June 4 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. For more information, click here.

Riverside Eats & Beats food and music street festival

Riverside eateries are opening their door this weekend for the fifth annual Eats & Beats Street Festival. Work off some of those delectable delicacies with the sounds of Samba, Indigenous music, New Orleans-style Jazz and Roots/Rock. The festival spans 10 blocks between the Don Valley Parkway to just past De Grassi Street on historic Queen Street East. For more information, click here.

TTC Closure

A heads up if you’re trying to navigate the city this weekend, there will be no service on the TTC’s Line 1 — the Yonge-University line — between Sheppard West and St. George stations. During the closure crews will complete signal upgrades.

Shuttle buses will be running, but only between Sheppard West and Lawrence West stations due to on-street construction. Customers are encouraged to use existing bus and/or streetcar routes to access the Yonge portion of Line 1 and Line 2.

Giant rubber duck coming to Toronto ‘counterfeit,’ Dutch artist claims

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jun 2nd, 2017

A giant rubber duck that ruffled feathers at Queen’s Park earlier this week and is due to arrive in Toronto for Canada 150 celebrations is embroiled in a new controversy.

First, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives questioned a government grant of about $120,000 going toward the cost of bringing the six-storey-tall, 13,600-kilogram duck to Lake Ontario for the Redpath Waterfront Festival.

Now, artist Florentijn Hofman is claiming his design was ripped off.

“The art studio confirms that the duck that has been retained by Canadian government sources is in fact a counterfeit of their original piece of art,” Hofman’s studio said in a statement.

The studio said Craig Samborski, who is providing the duck, has been using its design for profit and renting it at “exorbitant rates.”

“The duck was never supposed to be used for profit,” said spokesperson Kim Engbers. “It was designed to be a public art installation to bring joy and hope wherever it went.

“By renting the duck at exorbitant rates against the wishes of its creator, Mr. Samborski not only is stealing this joy from the public, he is also stealing from the legitimate artist and creator of this exhibit.”

But Samborski said the rubber duck is part of the public domain and claims when his team tried to work with Hofman in 2014, the artist tried to charge “exorbitant prices” for plans that proved to be worthless.

Samborski claims his team had its duck redesigned and built “using none of Hofman’s plans.”

“Hofman has since harassed anyone who has displayed an oversized toy duck, apparently in an attempt to extort money and gain notoriety,” Samborski said.

Samborski’s lawyer said there are no intellectual property rights associated with the duck’s size.

Trump says US will abandon global climate accord


President Donald Trump declared Thursday he was withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark Paris climate agreement, striking a major blow to worldwide efforts to combat climate change and distancing the country from many allies abroad. He said the U.S. would try to re-enter but only if it can get more favourable terms.

Framing his decision as “a reassertion of America’s sovereignty,” he said, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Ending weeks of speculation, some of it fueled by Trump himself and his Cabinet members, he said, “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord.”

Watch the video here.

Under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. had agreed under the accord to reduce polluting emissions by about 1.6 billion tons by 2025. But the targets were voluntary, meaning the U.S. and the nearly 200 other nations in the agreement could alter their commitments.

Trump said that he would begin negotiations to re-enter the agreement or establish “an entirely new transaction” to get a better deal for the U.S. But he suggested re-entry was hardly a priority. “If we can, great. If we can’t, that’s fine,” he said.

The leaders of France, Germany and Italy say the Paris climate accord cannot be renegotiated.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni said in a joint statement Thursday that they take note “with regret” the U.S. decision.

The three leaders say they regard the accord as “a cornerstone in the co-operation between our countries, for effectively and timely tackling climate change.”

They added that the course charted by the accord is “irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated.”

Macron, Merkel and Gentiloni say they remain committed to the deal and will “step up efforts” to support the poorest and most threatened nations.

By abandoning the world’s chief effort to slow the tide of planetary warming, Trump was fulfilling a top campaign pledge. But he was also breaking from many of America’s staunchest allies, who have expressed alarm about the decision. Several of his top aides have opposed the action, too, as has his daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump.

Scientists say Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming sooner as a result of the president’s decision because America contributes so much to rising temperatures. Calculations suggest withdrawal could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year – enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.

Trump’s decision marked “a sad day for the global community,” said Miguel Arias Canete, climate action commissioner for the European Union.

At home in America, the U.S. Conference of Mayors said it strongly opposed the decision and said mayors will continue efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. The group’s vice-president, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the action “is shortsighted and will be devastating to Americans in the long run.” In fact, he said, sea level rise caused by unchecked climate change could mean that cities like his “will cease to exist.”

Trump, however, argued the agreement had disadvantaged the U.S. “to the exclusive benefit of other countries,” leaving American businesses and taxpayers to absorb the cost.

“This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States,” he said, claiming that other countries have laughed at the U.S. for agreeing to the terms.”

As Trump announced his plans, it was 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28 Celsius) in Washington, a bit higher than the 80-degree average high for the day but well below the 2011 record of 98. Business investors seemed pleased, with stock prices, already up for the day, bumping higher as he spoke. The Dow Jones industrial average rising 135 points for the day

As for the mechanics of withdrawal, international treaties have a four-year cooling off period from the time they go into effect. That means it could take another three-and-half years for the U.S. to formally withdraw, though Trump promised to stop implementation immediately.

Major U.S. allies, business leaders and even the Pope had urged the U.S. to remain in the deal. The decision drew immediately backlash from climate activists and many business leaders.

The U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon, following only China. Beijing, however, has reaffirmed its commitment to meeting its targets under the Paris accord, recently cancelling construction of about 100 coal-fired power plants and investing billions in massive wind and solar projects.

White House aides have been divided on the question of staying or leaving the accord and had been deliberating on “caveats in the language” as late as Wednesday, one official said. But Trump’s statement was clear and direct.

So was opposition from environmental groups, as expected.

“Generations from now, Americans will look back at Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement as one of the most ignorant and dangerous actions ever taken by any President,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement.


Two more TTC employees fail drug tests, bringing total to four

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jun 2nd, 2017

A pedestrian walking in front of a streetcar in downtown Toronto on Aug. 3, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS. Darren Calabrese.

It’s been just three and a half weeks since the TTC implemented its random drug testing policy and four employees have already tested positive while on the job.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross says two more employees have failed testing in the weeks following the May 8 launch of the program, when two workers failed on the first day.

The transit agency has not disclosed the type of substances used, although three were for drugs and one was for alcohol. They also will not comment on the discipline handed down or the positions of the employees, except to say no drivers were among those who failed the tests.

Ross say while the positive results are disappointing, it does vindicate their decision to go ahead with the tests.

“This is about safety. This is about ensuring that the public, our customers, motorists and the workplace itself is safe from anybody who may be impaired in the workplace.”

For the past five years the union has fought hard to stop the random tests, calling the policy a fear tactic that provides a false sense of security. They continue to lobby against the plan, however, they have stopped short of telling their members to refuse the tests.

Switching off: Parents urged to keep infants away from digital screens

DAVID FRIEND, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jun 1st, 2017

File photo of children playing on a tablet.
Vanessa Lewis couldn’t imagine watching her kids grow up bombarded by digital screens — so she effectively banned the technology from their sight.

Making a pact with her husband, the couple decided even talking on a smartphone in the vicinity of their infant twins was unacceptable.

“If we needed to use our phones we would leave the room,” the Toronto mother says.

“We’ve made a real effort not to have our phones available to them.”

While it wasn’t always easy, Lewis says banishing TV, tablets and phones was rewarding for her family. Now almost four years old, her boys spend more time playing outside and reading books instead of staring blankly at screens.

New guidelines released Thursday by the Canadian Paediatric Society suggest Lewis is on the right track. The organization issued its first-ever standalone recommendations for how much time children aged five and under should spend in front of a screen.

Among the Canadian guidelines is a reaffirmation of their past statement that kids younger than two years old should completely avoid screen time.

Putting a stronger focus on digital-screen time management is a new position for the CPS, which for years buried its recommendations within its healthy active living guidelines. But a recent survey of its membership — which consists partly of pediatricians and family physicians — found that parents are increasingly seeking professional advice on shifts in the digital culture.

The overall sentiment leans towards not only limiting screen time, but in some cases eliminating it all together.

Its advice is more restrictive than guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recently loosened its view on screen time, saying that infants younger than 18 months could participate in video-chatting with relatives and friends.

Dr. Michelle Ponti of the Canadian Paediatric Society found that introducing screens at such an early age is unnecessary.

“We could not find any good evidence to suggest benefits in introducing technology early,” she says.

“There are so many risks of harm that we felt the risks outweighed any potential benefit.”

Ponti suggests parents start making a “family media plan” even before their child is born, outlining when, where and how screens may be used.

Canadian and U.S. guidelines both recommend toddlers aged two to five should watch no more than an hour of screen time per day — and turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime. Programs should be chosen with specific educational goals to encourage language and literacy development.

Parents are also encouraged to actively engage with their children while using digital screens.

“Sometimes we find that all of the bells and whistles from some of these programs or ebooks really distracts from learning and parent-child interaction,” Ponti says.

“Parents ask fewer questions to their child when they’re on an ebook.”

Other guidelines in the new outline suggest parents model good screen use for their children, such as limiting consumption of TV programs and switching off screens if they’re not being watched.

The recommendations say research shows that high exposure to background TV can negatively affect language development and attention spans in children under five years old.

But the suggestions emphasize that digital screens aren’t always bad. In some cases, screens can be used as a tool rather than a toy.

Video chatting with relatives is considered a positive example of how kids can help translate what they see on screen to real-life experiences.

Lewis says in her household, video chats are one of the rare instances in which her kids are allowed to use screens; occasionally they’ll Facetime with their grandparents.

The mom says limiting her boys’ digital habits has proven successful so she kept the household rules in place when her daughter was born last year.

Her boys still encounter smartphones on occasion, especially when family and friends visit, and Lewis has taken note of how quickly they’re drawn towards the colourful and interactive devices.

But she’s confident her kids will instinctively pick up technology when they’re introduced to the devices at school.

“For them what’s more important are all the skills they develop when they’re younger by not having the screens in front of them,” Lewis says.

“All the free play and problem-solving skills they developed, to me, trumps any sort of technological savvy they may have missed out on.”

City extends permit cancellations at Toronto Island Park

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Jun 1st, 2017

Officials said more than 300 permits for about 90 groups or individuals have been affected by the flooding, including summer camps.

The cancellations will affect approximately 350 summer camp registrants. Officials said city staff will work with parents on a case-by-case basis to find accommodations in other programs or issue refunds if needed.

Recent rainfall has caused water levels on Toronto Island Park to remain still high and more than 40 per cent of the park is under water.

The flooding also means that ferry service is restricted to island residents until further notice.

Related Links
More than half of buildings on Toronto Islands threatened by rising water levels
Island Public School relocated due to Toronto Island flooding
Centreville, Toronto Islands closed due to high water levels

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