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Ontario strengthening police oversight, redefining core police duties

CityNews | posted Thursday, Nov 2nd, 2017

Ontario is expected to announce sweeping changes to its policing laws Thursday that include strengthening oversight of the system and making it possible to suspend officers without pay, The Canadian Press has learned.

The changes would include the first update to the Police Services Act in more than 25 years.

A source says the government will be implementing all of the recommendations contained in Appeal Court Justice Michael Tulloch’s report on police oversight, released earlier this year.

An Inspector General would be established to oversee police services, with the power to investigate and audit them.

Three civilian agencies charged with police oversight already exist – the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. Unlike the SIU and OIPRD, a source says the Inspector General would not investigate individual police misconduct.

Those three current oversight bodies would also get expanded mandates, such as requiring the SIU to report publicly on all of its investigations.

As well, the SIU would have to be called when an officer fires at a person and would be able to file more charges on its own. It currently only investigates police-involved death, serious injury and sexual assault allegations.

Local police boards would also be created for the Ontario Provincial Police, similar to the structure of municipal police services boards – which will be required to undergo more training, such as on diversity. The new act would also allow First Nations police forces to establish their own police services boards.

An amended Coroners Act would require coroner’s inquests when police kill through use of force, one of Tulloch’s key recommendations.

The government’s stated approach is to share the burden of community safety with municipalities. They will be required to implement community safety plans, such as identifying a need for more addiction and mental health programs, aiming to prevent problems before police get involved.

The new act will for the first time clearly define police responsibilities as those that can only be performed by an officer, sources say, which wouldn’t include directing traffic.

Two new pieces of legislation would allow police to track a cellphone and search a home in missing persons cases – something they can only do now when a crime is suspected – as well as making accreditation and oversight of forensic labs mandatory.

Police chiefs have been calling for a decade for the power to withhold pay from suspended officers, and parameters to do so will be set out in the legislation. Ontario is the only province in which chiefs can’t revoke the pay of suspended officers, who collect millions of dollars each year.

Under the current law, suspended officers have to be paid even when convicted of an offence, unless they are sentenced to prison.

The new legislation proposes to allow suspensions without pay when an officer is in custody or when they are charged with a serious federal offence that wasn’t allegedly committed in the course of their duties.

Legislation would also update the police discipline process more broadly, including giving a tribunal the power to revoke an officer’s licence.

The new Police Services Act and the other new and updated acts are being bundled together as the Safer Ontario Act.

With files from The Canadian Press’ Colin Perkel

Father of 9 believed to be among 3 killed in fiery crash on Hwy. 400

CityNews | posted Thursday, Nov 2nd, 2017

A father of nine is believed to be among the three people killed in a multi-vehicle pileup that sent a wave of fuel and flames rushing down a highway north of Toronto, prompting motorists to run for their lives, police said Wednesday.

The Nugget reports that North Bay truck driver Benjamin Dunn’s vehicle was reportedly among those destroyed in the explosions following the collisions.

His wife Nikiyah Mulak-Dunn told The Nugget the devastating news was conveyed by an OPP representative on Wednesday. She said police said they still need to make a positive identification and have requested her husband’s dental records.

Provincial police confirmed the number of fatalities Wednesday evening after first responders combed through the burned-out wreckage of some 14 vehicles.

“The damage to those involved vehicles is absolutely catastrophic and I can’t tell you if those people got out, if they’re still inside the vehicles,” OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told reporters near the scene.

“There are cars everywhere, twisted transport trucks, destroyed vehicles, metal that is unrecognizable as to whether or not it is a vehicle at all or not. And that’s why we’re still looking to determine any other victims that may be inside the vehicles.”

The crash took place in the northbound lanes of Highway 400 south of Barrie, Ont., late Tuesday night, when police said a transport truck crashed into slowing traffic, triggering a pileup that involved at least four transport trucks and two fuel tankers that spilled thousands of litres of fuel on the road. The impact caused a fireball.

“The temperatures that were achieved in this fire are apocalyptic,” Schmidt said. “It is unbelievable to see that kind of damage and destruction from a motor vehicle collision.”

Police said the northbound lanes of the highway — between Country Road 88 and Highway 89 —would remain closed on Wednesday, adding the road may need to be repaired before traffic can resume.

The names of the other victims have not been released.

On Wednesday morning, the area around the crash was littered with twisted metal, pieces of what looked like molten debris, and the shells of burned out vehicles. The highway itself was covered in soot in areas and Schmidt said molten aluminium from the wreckage was draining down the road.

OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes, who just days earlier had sounded the alarm about fatal collisions caused by distracted truck drivers, said the latest crash could have killed many more people.

“It’s a miracle that we don’t have 25 bodies down there,” Hawkes said, adding that he’s putting the trucking industry on notice.

Luba Zariczny, 25, said she felt the heat from the towering flames from the other side of the highway as she drove past the crash on her way home to Mississauga, Ont.

“I felt a lot of heat coming off it and just a lot of cars burnt up and people just off to the side. It looked like some people tried to reverse back and then there was other cars that I could see emergency lights on so they just literally left their cars and ran,” she said.

“I automatically assumed that there was definitely casualties in there, like fatalities. Just seeing how on a big scale it was, it gets you a little bit.”

Officials said the fatal accident had come less than hour after a three-vehicle collision that happened a few hundred metres further north on Highway 400.

Kevin Gallant, fire chief for the neighbouring town of Bradford-West Gwillimbury, said heavy traffic from that collision likely set the scene for the pileup.

Gallant said he was on the scene of the first collision when the second one happened just before 11:30 p.m.

“When I looked to the south from the accident I was already on, all I saw was a big ball of fire,” Gallant said.

Schmidt said the crash sent fuel “rolling down the highway.”

“People were running for their lives to not be encompassed by the moving fire that was on the highway,” he said.

Firefighters let the fuel burn itself out for two and a half hours before tackling any remaining hot spots, Schmidt said. Crews from eight fire departments responded to the crash.

The cause of the collision is still under investigation, but Hawkes appeared to be laying the blame on the transport truck’s driver.

“You can see that the highway is a straight stretch of highway, you can see that it’s downhill, there’s really no excuse for that transport truck to continue at the speeds that they did and impact the vehicles that were in the queue,” he said. “And as a result of that we have the devastation that you’re all well aware of.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne expressed her condolences to the victims’ families, calling the accident “a horrible, horrible tragedy.”

“We will in the aftermath of this collision, obviously we will look at what happened, we will be advised on whether there’s more that could have been done to prevent such a crash,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also tweeted his condolences.

“Absolutely devastating news from southern Ontario,” he wrote. “My thoughts are with those who lost a loved one in the horrific crash on Highway 400.”

Provincial police said last week that since Jan. 1, they have tracked more than 5,000 transport truck-related collisions that have left 67 people dead.

The Ontario Trucking Association has said the industry is committed to road safety, noting that there has been a 66 per cent decrease in the fatality rate from large truck collisions between 1995 and 2014 despite a 75 per cent rise in large truck vehicle registrations.

With files from Paola Loriggio and Michelle McQuigge in Toronto

Ontario to introduce legislation to sell, distribute marijuana

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 1st, 2017

Ontario is set to introduce legislation today that would regulate the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana.

The province was the first to announce detailed plans last month for cannabis once the federal government makes it legal in July 2018.

The drug will be sold in up to 150 stores run by the Ontario Liquor Control Board – separate from outlets selling alcohol – and illegal dispensaries will be shut down.

Sales will be limited to those 19 and older, and consumption of marijuana will not be allowed in public spaces or workplaces.

The government has been coy on potential pricing, saying decisions will be made after more details come from the federal government, but that the aim is stay away from overly expensive prices that fuel illegal sales.

Municipalities in Ontario will find out in the coming weeks where the government wants to locate the first batch of cannabis stores, but the finance minister says none will be near schools.

Condo renters need more protection from scammers: NDP

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 1st, 2017

Some in Queens Park are calling for more protection for prospective renters against fraud as the average cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment recently topped $2,000 a month in Toronto.

This comes after at least two dozen people, mostly international students, came forward to CityNews, claiming they paid thousands of dollars in rent to a man to rent a suite he did not own.

“It’s an unfair situation for renters,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath. “Their recourse is lacking. We need to look at what we can do because many of these folks are very vulnerable. Let’s face it. First and last month’s rent can be quite a substantial amount of money.”

Bum Joon Kim, 39, was arrested in a parking lot on Monday and now faces 21 charges in connection to an alleged rental scam.

Last week, two international students from Japan told CityNews they separately handed over thousands of dollars in rent to the same man, for the same Front Street condo.

One of the students handed over $5,600 in rent while the other paid nearly $8,000. According to the students, the man purporting to be the landlord, Kim, gave different reasons for why he needed the cash up front.

Homebuyers who put down large down payments are protected by law by paying a real estate brokerage that in turns holds the money in trust.

There’s also Tarion, mandatory insurance that builders in Ontario must provide under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. The maximum coverage available for new homes and condominium units is $300,000 — if there’s any instance of fraud or delays in closing or occupancy.

Mark Weisleder, a real estate lawyer and author, says the only way for renters to protect themselves is by avoiding online sites like Kijiji and Padmapper and going through a real estate agent instead.

“Beware of the internet stuff,” Weisleder says. “(Renters) have to make sure that they are dealing with a licensed real estate brokerage because then the money is paid to the brokerage in trust and it’s protected.”

Tenants do have the option to go through the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board, an entity that can make legally-binding orders of repayment, but often these battles end up in small claims court, a drawn-out process that can take months.


By the numbers: real estate and rental listings on Kijiji

  • Canadian real estate listings at any given time: 466,000
  • Canadian rental ads at any given time: roughly 250,000
  • Toronto apartments and condos for rent (last 30 days): 21,733
  • Toronto houses for rent: 13,682
  • Listings for rooms for rent and roommates in Toronto: 19,148
  • Number of Toronto ads deleted (marked as “sold”): 7,039
  • Average duration of these ads: 12 days


Tips for protecting buyers and renters:

Research other properties in the area to gauge if the property is priced appropriately for the market. Does the price seem realistic for the number of bedrooms and location? Keep in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

Watch out for overly flowery descriptions and extensive lists of features as these are often signs of a realtor marketing a property, and not that of a landlord trying to rent out a house or apartment. Another warning sign is descriptions of repairs like the roof or furnace, as that is not relevant to renters, only buyers. These are often copied from other real estate sites by scammers to appear as descriptive as possible.

Be careful of ads that ask for responses that include age, occupation, income, gender and more personal information such as bank or social insurance card number; these can often be attempts by scammers to store information.

Source: Kijiji

Brain-dead Brampton woman should be taken off life support: group says

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 1st, 2017

She was declared brain dead almost six weeks ago, but Taquisha McKitty remains in a Brampton hospital while her family fights to keep her plugged into a respirator.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Critical Care Society weighed in, saying the death certificate issued to McKitty should stand. The society’s president said the determination of neurological death isn’t taken lightly and follows a regimented testing procedure.

“We assess all of those basic functions that keep you and I alive and interacting with the world,” explained Dr. Alison Fox-Robichaud.

“It’s as simple as, can you blink? Do your eyes react to light? Do you respond to pain or not respond to pain? Do you have the drive to breathe. And the final thing we always do is to see whether if we took them off the breathing machine, would they not breathe?”

McKitty was brought to Brampton Civic Hospital via ambulance on Sept. 14, after a drug overdose. Six days later, two physicians declared the 27-year-old mother to be brain dead and signed her death certificate.

Hospital staff planned to remove her ventilator, but two court injunctions have kept it in place.

The Brampton court that issued those injunctions heard repeatedly that McKitty failed most of the tests administered by doctors. Still, her body movements, well documented in amateur videos, continue to this day.

“Maybe we need to re-examine this whole concept of brain death because if someone’s brain dead… they shouldn’t still be moving around,” said Stanley Stewart, McKitty’s father.

Fox-Robichaud said movements aren’t necessarily signs of life and can be explained by looking at patients with spinal cord injuries.

“Those people will have movements, often severe movements for a period of time,” she said. “There’s no connection between their brain and their spinal cord. It’s completely severed. But they’ll have movements, and those are spasms because the nerves from the muscle go to the spinal cord and back again.”

Stewart said the family will continue to fight to keep her on life support.

“There is still life there,” he told CityNews. “Until that life is extinguished from natural causes or whatnot, we’re going to believe that she’s still here.”

The family is expected back in court on Nov. 6, when they will be making their final pleas for McKitty’s life.


Toronto condo prices reach new heights

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 1st, 2017

One thousand dollars. That’s the new cost, on average, per square foot for a new build condo in the heart of Canada’s largest city. It’s a shocking 30 per cent increase, per square foot, year-over-year in Toronto. A price point which is here to stay, according to Urbanation, the company that compiled the third quarter report.

“I think we’ve evolved in the downtown market into a large world class demand city.”

Director of Market Research for Urbanation, Pauline Lierman says the spike in prices for new condos is in part because available inventory is down year-over-year nearly 40 per cent. There is roughly 12,000 new units set to hit the market before the end of the year and that could help stabilize the cost per square foot elsewhere in the GTA which has also seen massive increases for new build condos.

“If you wanted to buy in Vaughan or in Milton you’re anywhere from six to seven hundred dollars per square foot. A year, to a year and a half ago that was one hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars cheaper.”

The average price for a resale condo in Toronto is $823 per square foot. In midtown the price of a new build is also reaching new heights according to Lierman.

“10 years ago I remember sitting around talking about the numbers and saying ‘wow could Bloor Yorkville get five hundred dollars per square foot?’ We’re now seeing projects in Bloor Yorkville go for 1,400 to 1,800 per square foot. That’s you’re premier high luxury area.”

An new eight hundred square foot condo purchased at an average of $1,000 per square foot would come with a monthly mortgage payment around $3,300 on a fixed three year term. That has some real estate insiders, like Realosophy President John Pasalis, concerned about what condo rental prices could look like in 3 to 5 years when these buildings are finally built and hit the market.

“An average 800 square foot condo is going to have to rent for around $4,000 a month just for that investor to break even.”

Pasalis believes it’s possible the market cools down and these units become bad investments but as it stands today, he believes this is a troubling trend for those trying to live and work in the big smoke.

“It makes living in downtown unaffordable. To afford that you need to be making one hundred and fifty thousand dollars before taxes, which a lot of people aren’t making.”

Currently, condos in Toronto make up about one third of the city’s entire rental market.

‘Cowardly act of terror’: Truck driver kills 8 on bike path

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 1st, 2017

A man in a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center memorial on Tuesday, killing at least eight and seriously injuring 11 in what the mayor called “a particularly cowardly act of terror.”

The driver was shot in the abdomen by police after jumping out of the truck with what turned out to be a fake gun in each hand and shouting what witnesses said was “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” authorities said. The man underwent surgery and was in critical condition but was expected to survive.

Officials who were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity identified the attacker as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov and said he is from Uzbekistan and came to the U.S. legally in 2010. He has a Florida driver’s license but may have been staying in New Jersey, they said.

The driver barrelled along the bike path in a rented Home Depot truck for the equivalent of about 14 blocks, or around eight-tenths of a mile, before slamming into a small yellow school bus. The mayhem and the burst of police gunfire set off panic in the neighbourhood and left the pavement strewn with mangled bicycles and bodies that were soon covered with sheets.

“I saw a lot of blood over there. A lot of people on the ground,” said Chen Yi, an Uber driver.

Eugene Duffy, a chef at a waterfront restaurant, said, “So many police came, and they didn’t know what was happening. People were screaming. Females were screaming at the top of their lungs.”

Police closed off streets across the western edge of lower Manhattan along the Hudson River, and officers rushed into the neighbourhood just as people were preparing for Halloween festivities, including the big annual parade through Greenwich Village.

A police bomb squad scoured the truck but found no explosives.

“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

New York and other cities around the globe have been on high alert against attacks by extremists in vehicles. The Islamic State group has been exhorting its followers to mow down people, and England, France and Germany have seen deadly vehicle attacks in the past year or so.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.

The city’s police commissioner, James O’Neill, said a statement the driver made as he got out of the truck and the method of attack led police to conclude it was a terrorist act.

On Twitter, President Donald Trump called it “another attack by a very sick and deranged person” and declared, “NOT IN THE U.S.A.!”

While police did not specifically blame the Islamic State group for the New York bloodshed, Trump railed against the extremist group, tweeting, “We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!”

Records show Saipov was a commercial truck driver who formed a pair of businesses in Ohio after moving to the U.S. The first business, Sayf Motors Inc., used the address of a family friend near Cincinnati with whom Saipov had stayed for a couple of weeks after his arrival in the country. The second, Bright Auto LLC, used an address near Cleveland.

A trucking industry website listed Saipov at a Paterson, New Jersey, address that authorities were searching Tuesday night. Court records related to trucking-related infractions list Saipov with addresses in Paterson and the Cleveland suburbs.

The family friend with whom Saipov stayed in Ohio, Dilnoza Abdusamatova, told The Cincinnati Enquirer Saipov was “really calm” and worked hard.

“He always used to work,” Abdusamatova said. “He wouldn’t go to parties or anything. He only used to come home and rest and leave and go back to work.”

Police said Saipov rented the truck at about 2 p.m. in New Jersey, entering the bike path about an hour later on West Street a few blocks from the new World Trade Center, the site of the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history. The truck then turned at Chambers Street, hitting the school bus and injuring two adults and two children.

A paintball gun and a pellet gun were found at the scene, police said. At least two covered-over bodies could be seen lying on the bike path, and the front end of the truck was smashed in, as was the side of the school bus.

Two law enforcement officials said a note was recovered inside the truck. One official said the note was handwritten in a foreign language, possibly Arabic.

The contents were being investigated, but the officials said the document supported the belief the act was terrorism. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

Tom Gay, a school photographer, heard people saying there was an accident and went down to West Street, where a woman came around the corner shouting, “He has a gun! He has a gun!”

Gay said he stuck his head around the corner and saw a slender man in a blue track suit running on West Street holding a gun. He said a heavyset man was chasing him.

He said he heard five or six shots, and the man in the tracksuit fell to the ground, gun still raised in the air. He said a man came over and kicked the gun out of his hand.

Argentina’s foreign ministry said five of the dead hailed from that country. Belgian officials said one of the dead was from there.

The city’s Halloween parade went on as scheduled after the attack, but security was increased, with extra officers, heavy-weapons teams and sand trucks parked as protective barriers along the route.

A Home Depot Inc. spokesman said the company, based in Atlanta, was “fully co-operating” with law enforcement in the truck attack investigation.

Associated Press writers Sadie Gurman in Washington, Tom Hays and Adam Geller in New York and Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles contributed to this story.


Multiple fatalities reported in fiery Hwy. 400 crash

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 1st, 2017

Ontario provincial police say there are multiple fatalities after a fiery crash involving several vehicles on Highway 400 near Barrie on Tuesday night.

The crash occurred just before 11:30 p.m., causing a massive fire and several explosions. At least 14 vehicles were involved in the crash, including two fuel tankers.

A least two people are confirmed dead, but many of the vehicles have yet to be searched by authorities.

Several people were rushed to hospital but their injuries are not life-threatening.

Several vehicles that caught fire were reduced to metal shells. Emergency crews had to let the fire burn itself out, and water had to be trucked in because there were no fire hydrants in the area.

“It is unbelievably large, I’ve never seen something like this,” OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the cause of the crash is not yet known. However, he said it appears traffic was slowing due to another crash earlier in the night.

“About 40 minutes before this collision occurred, there was another three-vehicle collision that occurred just a short distance further north,” Schmidt said on Breakfast Television.

Highway 400 between highways 88 and 89 is expected to be closed for several hours.



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