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Teen on Algonquin school trip said he could feel drowning student tugging at his legs

NEWS STAFF, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jul 7th, 2017

A teen who was on an ill-fated high school trip to Algonquin Park says he could feel someone tugging at his feet while swimming in Big Trout Lake where 15-year-old C.W. Jefferys CI student, Jeremiah Perry, drowned on Tuesday.

“I was swimming and something pulled me down,” recalled Boran Balci.

“Something pulled my left leg by the foot. I was trying to get oxygen because it was pulling me down. I was looking around and there’s no Jeremiah, ‘Where is Jeremiah?’ And after they couldn’t find him.”

Perry’s body was recovered from the lake on Wednesday.

More than a dozen Toronto students were on the trip and are still making their way back home after Perry’s tragic death.

Ontario Provincial Police say search and rescue divers pulled his body out of the lake just before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday after scouring the waters all day.

A spokeswoman for the Toronto District School Board, Shari Schwartz-Maltz, says the students were in a remote area of the park that is only accessible by a day-long canoe trip.

She says most of the students were evacuated by boat plane but 13 students were left behind and had to canoe back to a meeting point when it became too dark to shuttle people by air.

Schwartz-Maltz says the last group of students is expected to return to Toronto on Thursday night.

C.W. Jefferys principal, Monday Gala, spoke to reporters on Thursday.

“Our hearts are with the family,” he said. “It is a difficult moment for everybody … it’s like losing your own child, that is how I feel at this moment.”

Gala said he couldn’t comment when asked about reports that some students on the trip couldn’t swim, saying it was part of an active investigation.

Mayor Tory says Coun. Pam McConnell is ‘gravely ill’

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jul 7th, 2017

City councillor and deputy mayor Pam McConnell is in hospital and is described as being “gravely ill.”

Mayor John Tory announced her condition at city hall on Thursday.

He said he has grown to respect McConnell immensely and that she is getting the best care available.

“She’ll be fighting this as hard as she possibly can and so I hope that the people of Toronto will join me in sending their thoughts and prayers to her and to her family,” Tory said.

“(Her family) have indicated that they think it would be very uplifting for her to receive any messages that people may wish to send.”

Those messages should be sent to McConnell’s city hall email councillor_mcconnell@toronto.ca.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, whose ward is next to McConnell’s, said the news was distressing but that she has hope.

“I know that she is tough as nails. She is definitely a fighter and she’s getting the very best medical care the country can provide and that gives me a lot of hope and I know that she’s doing well,” she said.

“Because our wards are side-by-side we end up working together on a lot of issues. She is, by far, one of the hardest working, committed individuals I know. She holds a very big stick but speaks very softly but she’s also a collaborator … I know that she’s very keen to come back to work and I know that’s what she’s trying to do.”

Coun. Norm Kelly said he and McConnell are currently two of the longest serving councillors and that even though they don’t always agree on issues, she’s always been an important part of council.

“We haven’t always been on the same side but she fights fiercely and fairly and she’s willing to compromise and make deals. She’s an important link between the left and the centre,” he said.

“My wife and I always enjoyed socializing with her and her husband, they were a great team, and I really regret that she has fell ill suddenly.”

McConnell’s last public appearance was at the opening of Berczy Park, in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

Her illness has not been disclosed.

McConnell has served on council since 1994 and represents Ward 28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale.

Streetcars will have priority on King Street: city council

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jul 7th, 2017

Downtown drivers will have to prepare for some major changes that are coming to King Street this fall.

Toronto’s city council has voted overwhelmingly to support a year-long pilot project to give streetcars priority between Bathurst and Jarvis streets. The vote passed on Thursday, 35-4.

The project will force drivers to turn right at every intersection, and more than 180 parking spaces will be removed.

Taxi companies and cab drivers have criticized the plan, suggesting it cut down on their ability to pick up passengers flagging down a ride on one of the city’s busiest downtown streets.

City planners say the goal is to move people through the area as fast as possible.

On its website, the city noted that the King streetcar carries more than 65,000 riders on a typical weekday. In what is an understatement, the city writes that King “isn’t working well.”

The pilot project is expected to cost $1.5 million.


Federal government has already paid Omar Khadr $10.5M: Source

COLIN PERKEL, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Jul 7th, 2017

Omar Khadr watches as his lawyer Dennis Edney speaks to media after his bail conditions hearing in Edmonton on Friday, September 11, 2015. An attempt by Canada’s Omar Khadr to have a judge thrown off his appeal panel has raised important legal questions that U.S. President Barack Obama and Congress should deal with quickly, a court in Washington has ruled. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
The federal government has paid former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr $10.5 million as part of a deal to settle his long-standing lawsuit over violations of his rights, The Canadian Press has learned.

Speaking strictly on condition of anonymity, a source familiar with the situation said the Liberal government wanted to get ahead of an attempt by two Americans to enforce a massive U.S. court award against Khadr in Canadian court.

“The money has been paid,” the source said.

Word of the quiet money transfer came on the eve of a hearing in which a lawyer planned to ask Ontario Superior Court to block the payout to Khadr, who lives in Edmonton on bail.

The Toronto lawyer, David Winer, is acting for the widow of an American special forces soldier, Chris Speer, who Khadr is alleged to have killed after a fierce firefight and bombardment by U.S. troops at a compound in Afghanistan in July 2002, and another U.S. soldier, Layne Morris, who was blinded in one eye in the same battle.

Tabitha Speer and Morris two years ago won a default US$134.1-million default judgment against Khadr in court in Utah. Khadr was in prison in Canada at the time, after being transferred in 2012 from Guantanamo Bay, where he had spent 10 years.

Legal experts have said the application, aimed at getting any money Khadr might be awarded to satisfy the Utah judgment, would be extremely unlikely to succeed, in part because Khadr’s conviction in Guantanamo Bay runs counter to Canadian public policy.

The American judgment was based almost entirely on the fact that Khadr pleaded guilty to five war crimes — including killing Speer — before a military commission, which has widely been condemned.

It was not immediately clear Thursday whether the hearing, scheduled for Friday morning, would go ahead given the payout.

Khadr, now 30, has long claimed to have been tortured after American forces captured him, badly wounded, in the rubble of the bombarded compound. He said he confessed only to be allowed to leave Guantanamo and return to Canada, because even an acquittal would not have guaranteed him his freedom.

Supporters have also long pointed to the fact that he was just 15 years old when he committed the acts he confessed to — and therefore he should have been treated as a child soldier in need of protection, not prosecution.

One of Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, John Phillips, said late Tuesday that he could not comment on any payout. A government spokesman did not immediately respond to a query.

A source familiar with the settlement deal said the terms are strictly confidential and that neither Khadr nor anyone involved in negotiating the agreement could discuss it, including whether any compensation was involved.

Word earlier in the week that the government was planning to pay Khadr and apologize to him — yet to be publicly unconfirmed by the government — sparked anger among many Canadians who consider him a terrorist now profiting from his crimes.

Home sales in Greater Toronto Area plunge 37.3% last month: TREB

ALEXANDRA POSADZKI, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 6th, 2017

A for sale sign displays a sold home in a development in Ottawa on July 6, 2015. Nearly one in five first-time homebuyers received help with a down payment from a family member, according to a survey conducted by the federal housing agency released Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Toronto Real Estate Board says the number of homes sold last month plunged 37.3 per cent compared with a year ago, even as the number of listings rose.

The board says 7,974 homes in the Greater Toronto Area changed hands in June while the number of new properties on the market climbed 15.9 per cent year-over-year to 19,614.

The average price for all properties was $793,915, up 6.3 per cent from the same month last year.

The data comes after the Ontario government introduced rules aimed at cooling Toronto’s housing market, where escalating prices have concerned policy-makers at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

Ontario’s measures, which were retroactive to April 21, include a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, expanded rent controls and legislation allowing Toronto and other cities to tax vacant homes.

Experts have said that buyers have been waiting to see what the impact of the changes will be – similar to what happened in Vancouver after the B.C. government introduced a 15 per cent foreign buyers’ tax last August.

There have been growing worries that overheated prices in Vancouver and Toronto could be a problem for the broader economy, especially if there is a sudden decline in housing prices sparked by higher interest rates.

The Bank of Canada has recently signalled that time is running out for the rock bottom interest rates it put in place in 2015 to cushion the blow of a sudden decline in global oil prices.

Volvo set to go all-electric starting in 2019

MATTI HUUHTANEN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 6th, 2017

Volvo will begin producing electric motors on all its cars from 2019, becoming the first major automaker to forgo traditional engines that rely exclusively on internal combustion.

The Swedish company, which has been making cars since 1927 and in recent decades became famous for its station wagons and safety features, said Wednesday that the decision was prompted by the wishes of customers, describing it as “one of the most significant moves by any car maker.”

CEO Hakan Samuelsson said the shift to electric motors would “strengthen our brand image, which is a lot about protecting what is important for you (customers).”

Volvo Cars said it aims to reach its target of selling 1 million electrified cars by 2025, with a range of models, including fully electric vehicles and hybrid cars.

“This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” Samuelsson said. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs.”

Volvo said its long range models could travel 500 kilometres (310 miles) on a single charge using current technology, but it is looking for suppliers for new and better batteries.

“We are looking at more suppliers in the market today and that will be a key part of being competitive going forward _ to always stick with the most successful and innovative supplier” at the time, said Henrik Green, senior vice-president in research and development.

Samuelsson, who acknowledged that the company had been skeptical about electrification only two years ago, said things had changed. “Things have moved faster; customer demand is increasing. This is an attractive car people want to have,” he said.

He also saw Volvo’s announcement as “an invitation to anybody that’s interested in investing in battery manufacturing … and of course also to anybody interested in investing in charging infrastructure.”

“I think that’s good, they can now count on Volvo as customers,” Samuelsson said. “We need new players, we need more competition.”

Volvo, which since 2010 has been owned by Chinese firm Geely, will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021. Three of them will be Volvo models and two will be electrified cars from Polestar, Volvo Cars’ performance car arm. It also plans to supplement them with a range of gasoline and diesel plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid, or 48-volt, options on all models, which the company said would be one of the “broadest electrified car offerings of any car maker.”

Volvo Cars has said it is committed to help improve the environment and make cities cleaner by reducing carbon emissions, aiming to have climate neutral manufacturing operations by 2025.

Last year, the company sold 534,332 cars in 100 countries, up more than 6 per cent from 2015.

Speed-dating event helps people find their match in Toronto real estate heaven

JENNIFER CHENG, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 6th, 2017

About 30 people gaze into each other’s eyes in the basement of a Toronto pub. But none of them are here in the hopes of falling in love.

At a recent speed-dating event for potential co-homeowners, guests who range from millennials to seniors have come to find The One — a match made in real estate heaven.

They’re given a list of questions to ask each other. They take a seat at the long table, where they have a few minutes to chat before the bell rings and it’s time to move on to their next “date.”

“I’m an investor,” one man with multiple properties in Canada and Asia declares to the young woman sitting across from him. He doesn’t want to live here full-time. It’s too cold.

“I haven’t seen many co-ownership deals,” she responds, adding that she would like to find a home in the Beaches area. Her other criteria: “Close to transit,” which she writes on her name tag.

Some are cheekier. “Walls,” reads someone else’s badge.

The housing matchmaker behind this event is Lesli Gaynor, a social worker-turned-Royal LePage realtor who launched a company called GoCo Solutions to help people get into Toronto’s red-hot real estate market through co-ownership. The average selling price in the Greater Toronto Area in May was $863,910, up from $752,100 the same month last year. The average detached selling price was more than $1.1 million.

Gaynor said she’s had the idea for a long time because she herself co-owned a home with a friend in the early 90s. “I couldn’t afford it on my own. I was a single mom,” she said.

When they sold their duplex for more than double the price nearly a decade later, they used the profit to go their separate ways and buy their own properties.

More recently, the speed-dating element came to Gaynor when she was joking with her three sons about how they can now use apps like Tinder to find a date, then it hit her: “Why couldn’t we use something similar to hook people up — to buy a property together?”

“It helps people increase their net worth, and it’s not just about a landlord making money off of your rent,” she said.

Karen Turner and Kelly Wilk just co-purchased a home in the upper Beaches area of Toronto. Both in their late 30s, they have been friends since they were roommates during first year university. It is split into three separate apartments, one for Turner, one for Wilk and her six-year-old son and one for a live-in child caregiver Wilk hopes to move into the basement.

Turner, a first-time homeowner with student loans to pay off, has a full-time job, so she would be able to get a mortgage on her own, and Wilk already owned a home.

But the two women are looking forward to the mutual benefits of their co-purchase. Wilk’s son will be able to play with Turner’s dog. When she needs a break from child rearing, she can send him to spend time with Turner, who also wants to have kids eventually. Wilk likes knowing that there will be someone around to help.

Pooling financial resources is not the only reason strangers flocked to Gaynor’s speed-dating night. For both the young and the old, it’s about community and feeling more connected.

Michael Weirich, 25, won’t be in a financial position to co-purchase a home for another few years, but he’s considering it. He said he likes co-ownership because it gives him more buying power and access to larger spaces, as well as better amenities and locations that he otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford on his own.

A sustainability consultant in the building industry, Weirich is a renter who shares a semi-detached house with three 20-something roommates, one of whom is the landlord. He would like to buy a downtown home in a neighbourhood with a lot of trees and nature. He doesn’t mind sharing the kitchen as long as the other co-owners are tidy, but he wants his own living room, in addition to a communal living room.

Weirich said he’s “big” on community.

“Co-owning a (home) with somebody or a few other people is a good way to have a community around you that you trust and you know will support you,” he said.

Actor Sherry McLaughlin, whose family is not in Toronto, has similar motivations.

“It would be nice to have someone nearby that I can trust and lean on,” McLaughlin said. Apart from friendship, the 54-year-old could see herself needing a hand with any heavy lifting and gardening.

Young families might want to share childcare and dog walking responsibilities, Gaynor said. Older potential buyers might need help shovelling the driveway.

Toronto as a whole would benefit from co-ownership, Gaynor said, making one last argument for it.

“We can reduce our carbon footprint,” she said. “I think we are over-housed.”

Trump warns North Korea he’s weighing a ‘severe’ response


This image made from video of a news bulletin aired by North Korea’s KRT on July 4, 2017, shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, ICBM, in North Korea’s northwest. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this photo. (KRT via AP video)
President Donald Trump warned North Korea on Thursday that he’s considering “some pretty severe things” in response to the isolated nation’s unprecedented launch of a missile capable of reaching the U.S. He called on all nations to confront the North’s “very, very bad behaviour.”

Trump, in his first public comments since North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time, declined to offer specifics about what a U.S. response might entail, though called it a “threat” and said the U.S. would “confront it very strongly.” Trump said it wasn’t certain he’d follow through on the severe steps he was weighing, adding that he does “not draw red lines.”

“It’s a shame that they’re behaving this way,” Trump said of North Korea’s leaders. “But they are behaving in a very, very dangerous manner, and something will have to be done about it.”

Related stories:

Kim vows North Korea will ‘demonstrate its mettle’ to the U.S.
North Korea claims it tested first intercontinental missile
Trump criticized by media organizations over tweeted video

The U.S. has been considering a range of possible sanctions, economic measures and other steps in response to Pyongyang. The test of an ICBM marked a major technological advancement for North Korea that U.S. officials have described as intensifying the threat against the U.S. by bringing the North closer to being able to mount a nuclear warhead atop a missile that could hit American soil.

Trump’s comments in Poland came as he opened his second visit to Europe, a trip that will include meetings with several European leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Later on Thursday, Trump planned to deliver a speech from Krasinski Square, the site of a monument commemorating the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Nazi occupation. Polish media reports said the government, as part of its invitation to Trump, promised the White House a reception of cheering crowds. Plans call for ruling party lawmakers and pro-government activists to bus in groups of people from outlying provinces for the speech.

In his speech, Trump planned to call on Poland and all of America’s European allies to stand united against extremism and other “shared enemies” that pose a threat to freedom and sovereignty – whether “from the South or the East,” according to excerpts of his speech released by the White House in advance.

Trump started his first day in Europe at the Royal Castle, welcomed by President Andrzej Duda and a vigorous handshake in front of a white marble bust of Stanislaw August Poniatowski, the last king of Poland. The leaders then retreated to a room decorated with red walls for their private talks.

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