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Toronto student found dead after drowning in Algonquin Park

NEWS STAFF AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 6th, 2017

The body of a 15-year-old boy was pulled from a lake almost a day after he disappeared underwater while swimming on a school-run camping trip in Algonquin Park, Ontario Provincial Police said.

Divers with the force’s underwater rescue unit found his body just before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Big Trout Lake, Const. Catherine Yarmel told reporters.

“It’s with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of Jeremiah Perry,” said John Malloy, director of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

“Despite holding out hope that the … C.W. Jefferys CI student would be found safe, police have now confirmed that they have located his body after an extensive search in Algonquin Park — the victim of an apparent drowning.

“Our thoughts are with Jeremiah’s family and friends during this tremendously difficult time.”

Jeremiah had been on a summer school outdoor educational program trip with 32 other students to Algonquin Park since Sunday and was due to return the following Friday. He had been swimming with 22 other students when he disappeared underwater in Big Trout Lake Tuesday evening and did not resurface.

Provincial police were called and began a search and recover mission on Tuesday.

By Wednesday, this included the use of underwater search-and-recovery divers, an emergency response team and a float plane from the Ministry of Natural Resources to evacuate the remaining students from the park. But the float plane suffered an unspecified mechanical issue, police said, and was disabled.

TDSB spokeswoman Shari Schwartz-Maltz said there would have been three lifeguards watching Jeremiah and the other students who had been swimming. All students on the trip were also required to pass a swimming test.

The school board will have counsellors meet with students and staff who were on the trip.

Malloy said the program has been operating for several years with “an excellent safety record.” But he added staff would be reviewing safety procedures and the events that led to Jeremiah’s death.

Fire damages at least 4 homes in Little Portugal

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Jul 6th, 2017

Toronto firefighters are still on the scene of a four-alarm blaze in Little Portugal.

The flames erupted at a home on Argyle Street, near Ossington Avenue and Dundas Street West, around 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Four houses were affected. Smoke could be seen from blocks away.

Firefighters were still in the area on Thursday morning, working to put out stubborn hotspots and ensuring no more fires flared up.

Officials said people in the area were treated for smoke inhalation, and one firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.

The cause of the fire, and the cost of the damage, is still not known.


Foreign buyer activity in Ontario market about 5%, government says

ALLISON JONES, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 5th, 2017

A sign advertises a new home for sale in Carleton Place, Ont., on March 17, 2015. A new report says sales of homes worth $1 million or more heated up in Toronto and Vancouver last year as the low loonie fuelled demand from foreign buyers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Newly released figures show nearly five per cent of home purchases in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe region were made by non-residents since the Liberal government announced a foreign buyer tax.

The 15-per-cent-tax is imposed on buyers in that area — stretching from the Niagara Region to Peterborough — who are not citizens, permanent residents or Canadian corporations.

Despite the focus on foreign speculators, the government admitted it didn’t have good data on their role in the market, so it also required homebuyers as of April 24 to give information about their residency and citizenship status.

The government says today that data collected from April 24 to May 26 show 18,282 residential and agricultural properties were bought or acquired in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region.

Of those transactions, it says about 4.7 per cent of the properties were bought or acquired by people who aren’t citizens or permanent residents, and by foreign corporations.

The foreign buyer tax was one part of a 16-part housing plan the government introduced as the housing market in the Toronto area and beyond saw year-over-year price increases of over 30 per cent.

The Toronto Real Estate Board previously found that 4.9 per cent of transactions in the Greater Toronto Area involved foreign buyers, which it said was a minimal amount and not detrimental to the housing market.

In May, home sales in the Greater Toronto Area plunged 20.3 per cent. It may be a sign that the government’s efforts to cool the market are having an effect, though some economists and realtors say any impact could be short-lived.

The average selling price for all properties in May was $863,910, up from $752,100 the same month last year, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board, but that was down from $919,614 in April. The number of detached homes sold fell by 26.3 per cent in the GTA year-over year as their average selling price rose 15.6 per cent to $1,141,041.

After Vancouver introduced a 15 per cent tax in foreign buyers last August its market cooled, but there are signs it is rebounding.

Toronto and Vancouver are both being closely monitored in light of fears that the fallout from a possible crash in prices could have ramifications for the national economy.

The Ontario government will update its numbers again in the fall.

It is also establishing an expert forum on housing affordability, which will meet Wednesday and continue to do so quarterly.

The tax applies to purchases made on or after April 21, though there are exemptions for refugees, foreign nationals under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program, or if the property is jointly purchased with a spouse who is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, refugee or exempt under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program.

Rebates will be available to people who subsequently get citizenship or permanent resident status, as well as foreign nationals working in Ontario and international students.

Related stories:

GTA home sales plummet in May after foreign buyers’ tax

Minister can’t say if foreign buyer tax will affect housing market

GTA home sales plummet in May after foreign buyers’ tax

Businesses want Toronto Islands, closed due to flooding, reopened to public

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 5th, 2017

Crews brought in massive sandbags on May 19, 2017, to create a makeshift breakwall as water levels rise in Lake Ontario. CITYNEWS/Tammie Sutherland
Business owners on the Toronto Islands say the city’s decision to shut down the popular park due to record flooding earlier this year has had a devastating effect on the restaurants, lodges, and shops that rely on tourist traffic in the busy summer season.

They say water levels are currently much lower than they were at their worst in May, and visitors should be allowed to return to the island, where currently only visitors who have a reservation made with a restaurant or hotel are allowed to catch a ferry.

“If you were to come over here and I told you avoid standing water… but go ahead to the beach and stay away in the dry areas, you’d be fine,” said David Smiley, owner of the Smiley’s Bed and Breakfast located on Ward’s Island, the eastern part of the Toronto Islands.

Smiley says he can now walk from Ward’s Island to Gibraltar Point — a route spanning about two-thirds of the entire islands — without getting his feet wet.

His rooms are almost entirely empty on the weekdays, when last year they would have been fully booked, Smiley says. Nonetheless, he says the few people who do come out are enjoying the unique experience.

“If you use your head, you can have a great time, and you own the island,” says Smiley, noting that the emptiness has brought in a different experience for visitors.

Zorah Freeman-McIntyre, co-owner of the nearby Island Cafe shares the view that part of the islands should be open, and said that most of the paths are clear from water.

“The city seems to be really dragging their feet,” said Freeman-McIntyre, whose business has also stayed open throughout the season.

Wynna Brown, a city spokeswoman, said they are considering a partial opening of the islands, but wouldn’t say which areas. The city expects to have an update later in the week, she said.

“We’re certainly focused on getting the islands up as quickly as possible, but there are some operational considerations,” said Brown.

“Right now water levels are beginning to recede, which is good news, but they’re still about 30 centimetres or so above pre-flood conditions in April, so we have a way to go.”

The biggest issue for the city is that water levels are too high for the ferry to use the Centre Island dock, which is the park’s busiest entry point.

Freeman-McIntyre said he was concerned that water levels won’t recede to what the city expects until well into August.

“It makes me feel bad that people aren’t able to come across and enjoy it,” he said. “People need a green space to go to.”

Toronto apologizes for rapper’s language during Canada 150 performance

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 5th, 2017

The City of Toronto is apologizing for the “inappropriate content” during a rapper’s closing performance to the city’s Canada Day festivities at Nathan Phillips Square.

“As per contracts, the city expects all artists to deliver G-rated, family-friendly shows suitable for all ages,” the city said in an emailed statement Tuesday afternoon.

The city’s apology comes after complaints from revellers, who also expressed their displeasure on social media, about what they said was repeated use of profanities by Belly.

The city said it is “disappointed with what happened” during performance and has followed up with the rapper.

Belly, who was born in the Palestinian city of Jenin and raised in Ottawa, was the final performer of the four-day celebrations, which ended with fireworks Monday night.

The musician has been defending himself on social media, saying organizers were aware his performance would contain profanities.

Since the show, he has also posted various tweets denouncing censorship and promoting freedom of expression.

“A young immigrant came to the greatest country on Earth with nothing and made my dreams come true. That’s the real story here,” he tweeted Tuesday.


Canadians the Weeknd, Belly cancel Kimmel performance because of Trump

Omar Khadr to get $10.5M, apology from Canadian government

COLIN PERKEL, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 5th, 2017

Word that the federal government has agreed to pay former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr more than $10 million and apologize to him to settle a long-running lawsuit sparked a furious and at times virulent reaction on Tuesday among those who see him as a terrorist killer and those who believe he deserves compensation.

The settlement, confirmed by sources familiar with the deal, exposed the deep chasm that has divided Canadians over Khadr almost since 2002 when he was dragged horrifically wounded as a 15-year-old from the battlefield in Afghanistan.

“When a Canadian soldier is injured in battle, the government provides a disability award up to a maximum of $360,000,” Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said in a tweet. “Despite this, the current government is willing to provide $10 million to a convicted terrorist.”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation started an online petition aimed at Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Ireland, deploring the deal one source said was signed last week.

“This is offensive to many Canadians,” the petition states. “Canadians should not be forced to pay millions of dollars to a killer.”

Social media exploded with denunciation of the agreement, which sources said would see the government pay Khadr $10.5 million — part of which would go to his lawyers — and the justice and public safety ministers formally apologize to him.

Posters used words such as “disgraceful,” some called for the Canadian citizen to be kicked out of the country, while others argued the money should go to the family of Chris Speer, the U.S. special forces soldier Khadr is alleged to have killed in 2002.

“Most Canadians’ thoughts would be with Christopher Speer’s widow and family, who are reliving their terrible ordeal once again because of the actions of the Canadian government this time,” said Tony Clement, another Conservative MP.

The Toronto-born Khadr, 30, pleaded guilty to five war crimes before a much maligned military commission in 2010. He has claimed — with some evidence — his American captors tortured him.

Khadr’s $20-million lawsuit — initially launched in 2004 — alleges the federal government breached his rights by, among other things, colluding with the Americans in his mistreatment.

Those who see him as a terribly abused “child soldier” called the apparent settlement long overdue.

“For 15 years, Omar Khadr’s case has been a stark reminder of the many ways that an overreaching and unchecked approach to national security readily runs roughshod over universally protected human rights,” Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty in Canada, said in a statement. “In Afghanistan, at Guantanamo Bay and in Canadian prisons, Omar Khadr’s rights were consistently violated and ignored.”

His supporters accused the Canadian government — particularly the previous Conservative government under then prime minister Stephen Harper — for failing to protect him.

“Good news re: Omar Khadr, who was a child caught up in war and abandoned by Canadian government at Gitmo torture-detention centre,” one tweet read.

Khadr’s lawyers and a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale refused to comment publicly on the agreement citing confidentiality. Trudeau, however, alluded to a pending deal.

“We are anticipating, like I think a number of people are, that that judicial process is coming to its conclusion,” the prime minister said in Dublin, Ireland.

One source with knowledge of the agreement insisted the settlement money should not be seen as a windfall, noting Khadr is blind in one eye from injuries sustained when he was captured while his other eye remains damaged.

Related stories:

A chronological look at Canadian-born Omar Khadr’s legal saga

Omar Khadr’s criminal record in Canada shows ‘absolute ignorance’: lawyer

Widow, ex-soldier move for final judgment on $134M suit against Omar Khadr

American troops captured the badly wounded Khadr after a fierce firefight at a suspected al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan in July 2002. Khadr was accused of throwing a grenade that killed Speer. Although the evidence was flimsy and lacked eye-witnesses, he pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included Speer’s murder and was sentenced to a further eight years in custody. He later said he confessed to get out of Guantanamo Bay.

The youngest and last Western detainee held at the infamous American prison in Cuba was finally returned to Canada in 2012 and sent to a maximum-security prison. He won bail in Edmonton in May 2015 pending an appeal in the U.S. of his military commission conviction. The appeal remains stalled.

On his release, Khadr apologized to the families of the victims — as he had done at his plea hearing. He said he rejected violent jihad and wanted a fresh start. Lately, he has said he wanted to work as a nurse.

Speer’s widow Tabitha Speer and retired American sergeant Layne Morris, who was blinded by a grenade at the Afghan compound, won a default US$134.2 million in damages against Khadr in Utah in 2015. Canadian experts called it unlikely the judgment could be enforced.

Neither Speer nor Morris returned calls seeking comment, but Morris’s wife had only one word when told of the deal: “Wow.”

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadian intelligence officials had obtained evidence from Khadr under “oppressive circumstances,” such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003, and shared the evidence with U.S agents and prosecutors.

The Conservatives, however, steadfastly branded him an unrepentant terrorist.

Khadr’s father, who took his family to Afghanistan, was a known associate of the late terrorist mastermind, Osama bin Laden. Former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien once interceded with Pakistani authorities to free the elder Khadr, who was killed in October 2003 in a shootout with Pakistani security forces near the Afghanistan border.

Health Canada testing Banana Boat sunscreen products as complaints mount

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 5th, 2017

Rebecca Cannon says her daughter, Kyla, received second-degree burns after Banana Boat sunscreen was applied on her skin. FACEBOOK/Rebecca Canon
A British Columbia mother says her 12-year-old son suffered burn injuries after using a Banana Boat sunscreen product.

Patrizia Fitch, of Victoria, said Tuesday that her son Daniel was left with severe blisters after wearing a Banana Boat sunscreen on a school trip to a beach in the city.

She says he applied the sunscreen four times and the blisters kept getting worse.

Fitch says she’s reported her son’s injuries to Health Canada.

A Health Canada spokeswoman says the number of complaints about the company’s products has shot up to 139 in the past two months.

Renelle Briand says the agency has reviewed test results provided by the company and has not identified any problems.

She says the government is now conducting its own testing of the sunscreens.

The issue received public attention in May when three mothers complained that their babies suffered burn injuries after using Banana Boat sunscreen.

Banana Boat Canada has previously said that its products are safe and have been approved by Health Canada.


Health Canada investigating reports of babies burned by Banana Boat sunscreen

Stolen service dog Princess found, returned to owner

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Jul 4th, 2017

A stolen service dog has been found and returned to its owner.

Princess, the six-year-old Teacup Chihuahua, was brought into 14 Division after being found wandering by someone late Sunday afternoon in the King Street and Strachan Avenue area.

“I’m so thankful to the people who found her,” an emotional Ashley-Victoria Martineau told CityNews after picking up Princess from the police station. “I would be heartbroken if something happened to her.

Martineau says police told her charges could eventually be laid against a couple of people in connection with the theft.

Martineau says she went into a McDonald’s in the Bloor Street West and Ossington Avenue area around 2 a.m. Sunday morning to get a coffee after watching the Canada Day fireworks. While inside, Martineau said someone unclipped her dog from its harness and stole her.

“(I) hollered outside. Didn’t hear her. Went inside to check with people. They didn’t really see anything,” she explained. “I called Toronto police. I explained that she was a service animal for my mental health.”

Martineau said she suffers from PTSD and depression and Princess helps her emotionally and physically deal with stress, as well as tremors in her hands.

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