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Couple claims Air Canada almost kicked them off a flight for complaining

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 29th, 2017

What rights do airline passengers really have?

A Canadian couple travelling on Air Canada Flight 796 from Los Angeles to Toronto last week are asking themselves that question after a seat mixup almost got them deplaned.

Eric Rothschild and his wife had booked two aisle seats across from one another. However, when they arrived at the airport, their seats had changed.

They came to an agreement on another seating arrangement at the check-in desk, only to find out at boarding their seats had been changed yet again.

Then, while waiting in line to board the plane, Rothschild said he and his wife were voicing their concerns to each other.

“My wife made the comment like, ‘This is ridiculous,’” said Rothschild. “An agent going by says, ‘I know what happened.’ And I said, ‘That’s bull____.’ And she said ‘You know, sir, we can can deplane you. We don’t like your attitude.’”

Air Canada’s International Tariff states a passenger can be removed if “the person’s conduct, or condition is or has been known to be abusive, offensive, threatening, intimidating, violent, or otherwise disorderly and in reasonable judgement of a responsible, carrier employee.”

But Rothschild said he wasn’t yelling or causing a scene.

Gabor Lukacs, an advocate with Air Passenger Rights said he’s been in a similar situation and believes airline staff resort to threatening passengers with removal too often.

“If two passengers are talking, it’s none of the airline agent’s business to interject into the conversation,” said Lukacs. “It’s offensive and it’s nothing short of harassment.”

In an email to Rothschild, Air Canada customer care said the incident is under management review.

“From what you’ve described, we can understand why you wanted to contact us,” the email said.

Air Canada did not answer CityNews’s questions about the seating mixup and how staff is trained when it comes to removing passengers from an aircraft.

Rothschild did receive 15 per cent off his next Air Canada flight.  However, he said he’s not looking for a freebie or discount.

He wants a clear explanation as to what happened — and an apology.

Trudeau apologizes for decades of LGBTQ discrimination by federal agencies

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 29th, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began by telling a story — one that began not that long ago and, in some ways, is still unfolding — about how the federal government spent decades ruining the careers and lives of Canadians because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This is the devastating story of people who were branded criminals by the government — people who lost their livelihoods, and in some cases, their lives,” Trudeau said Tuesday as he delivered a speech building up to his promised apology for past state-sanctioned discrimination against members of the LGBTQ2 community in Canada.

“These aren’t distant practices of governments long forgotten,” he said.

“This happened systematically, in Canada, with a timeline more recent than any of us would like to admit.”

Dozens of people — including two of Trudeau’s own children, Xavier and Ella-Grace — crammed into the various House of Commons galleries to witness the historic occasion, which the prime minister said he hopes will finally allow the healing process to begin for those affected.

The expression of regret, and the emotional reaction to its delivery, built like a crescendo as Trudeau walked through the ways the federal government caused harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited people, a term used broadly to describe Indigenous Peoples who identify as part of the community.

That included the criminalization of homosexual sexual activity, raids on bathhouses, public humiliation and efforts to rid the military and the public service of LGBTQ people, until as recently as 1992.

Then, Trudeau began to move on from the lesson in history to the abject apology for it having happened in the first place.

“It is with shame and sorrow and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say: We were wrong. We apologize,” he said.

“I am sorry. We are sorry.”

That was the point when one man in the gallery, where some had been quietly wiping tears from their eyes, began clapping his hands.

Others, many wearing name badges and rainbow ribbons, began to join in, until all the MPs on the floor of the House of Commons were on their feet for the straightforward expression of regret.

Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who sat beside Trudeau throughout the apology, said that was a key moment for him.

“There was no equivocation. There was no justification,” said Oliphant, who said he felt many of the experiences of his life as a gay man, from playground taunts to lost job opportunities, flash before his eyes as the prime minister spoke.

“There was no, ‘Well, we didn’t know things that we know now,”’ he said. “There was none of that.”

The apology was accompanied by several initiatives to make amends.

The Liberal government introduced legislation Tuesday which, if passed, will allow the expungement of criminal records for people convicted of consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners.

The government has also earmarked $110 million to compensate members of the military and other federal agencies whose careers were sidelined or ended due to their sexual orientation, the centrepiece of a class-action settlement with employees who were investigated, sanctioned and sometimes forced out of their jobs.

As part of the settlement, the government will also pay an additional $20 million for legal fees and administration and devote at least $15 million more for memorial activities, including museum exhibits, a national monument and possible archival projects.

Separately, the government is putting $250,000 toward community projects to combat homophobia and provide support for people in crisis, and in 2019 plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the federal decriminalization of homosexual acts.

After recounting the horrors of the past, and acknowledging there is still work to do, Trudeau sounded a hopeful note for the future.

“To the kids who are listening at home and who fear rejection because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity and expression, and to those who are nervous and scared, but also excited at what their future might hold: we are all worthy of love, and deserving of respect,” he said.

After Trudeau was done, he was embraced one by one by Liberal MPs who identify as gay or lesbian, including Randy Boissonnault, his special adviser on sexual orientation and gender issues.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer echoed the sentiment expressed by the prime minister.

“In this country, we deplore and we condemn injustice towards the innocent, the oppressed and the persecuted,” said Scheer, who urged everyone to stand up for human rights both at home and abroad, where many countries still criminalize homosexual activity.

“Canada is better than that. We must do more to stand up for the LGBTQ2 community in places like Iran and Russia and other countries where they are the target of brutal violence,” said Scheer, who then praised the work of the previous Conservative government in prioritizing these refugee groups.

Scheer, who has voted against the transgender rights bill and refused to take part in gay pride parades, leads a Conservative caucus where many share those social conservative views. There were many Conservative MPs who did not attend the apology.

Guy Caron, the parliamentary leader for the NDP, said he welcomed the apology and said his party would work with the Liberals to make sure the expungements legislation is passed quickly.

Still, like Trudeau, he noted how much work there is to do to end all discrimination against the LGBTQ community, including ongoing restrictions on sexually active gay men who wish to donate blood.

“This would be a good time to stop doing things the government might have to apologize for in the future,” said Caron.

Todd Ross, a former naval officer who is involved in the class-action lawsuit, said he was filled with so much emotion listening to the apology from the gallery that he feels like he needs to go back and read the words again in order for them to sink in.

“It was something I needed to hear,” said Ross.

“I think it marks the beginning of healing for many people,” he said. “I accept the apology.”

EXCLUSIVE: SmartCentres to provide parking at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 29th, 2017

Commuters who plan on driving to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre subway station, which is set to open in less than a month, should not have any problems finding parking, despite not having access to a TTC commuter lot.

CityNews has learned in an exclusive interview that SmartCentres will be providing a total of 900 parking spots, in two different lots close to the station.

“We decided that since TTC didn’t have commuter parking here that we would provide it,” Sandra Kaiser, vice president of corporate affairs for SmartCentres, explained.

“We want people to get used to coming to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, using the parking here and enjoy the amenities here.”

The amenities include a space called Transit Square, which is just as big as Yonge-Dundas Square and is designed to host events, as well as a YMCA, a daycare, restaurants and retailers.

According to SmartCentres, commuters will have to pay the following to use the parking lots:

$5 before 8 a.m.
$12 between 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
$5 after 4:30 p.m.
$5 on weekends

As for the TTC, most of their stations with commuter lots charge an average daily rate of $5 to $7 and an average evening rate which can be anywhere from $2 to $4.

“We think it’s reasonably priced and we expect our lots to be filled by o’clock in the morning,” said Kaiser.

This is the first subway extension the city has seen in 15 years — the last time was in 2002 for the Shepard line.

The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre and the Toronto-York Spadina TTC subway extension is set to open to the public on Dec. 17. SmartCentres plans to have more parking as they continue to develop in the area.

TTC approves time-based transfers for Presto users starting next year

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 29th, 2017

Good news for Presto users: the TTC board approved time-based transfers during a meeting at city hall on Tuesday.

Starting August 2018, TTC passengers using Presto cards will be allowed to make unlimited trips during a two-hour window on a single fare.

Currently, transfers are only valid for a one-way continuous trip — or as otherwise noted on the transfer.

The TTC said the new policy will encourage off-peak ridership, adding an estimated five million trips a year.

It will cost the agency an estimated $11.1 million next year, and $20.9 million annually as of 2020.

TTC spokesman Brad Ross said the board also agreed to freeze fares for 2018.


On the GO with Ontario’s Minister of Transportation

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 28th, 2017

While most might dread the Monday morning commute, CityNews’ intrepid reporter Adrian Ghobrial took to the trains bright and early to commute into the city with Steven Del Duca, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation

Del Duca fielded questions about traveling on the rails and on the road, addressing common commuter concerns

Let’s start with the GO – Commuters say the parking lots are packed and the platforms are narrow and often overcrowded.

Daily drivers know all too well that driving into Toronto means packing plenty of patience. What is being done to alleviate congestion and make the drive in less frustrating?

Then there’s the TTC, the target of much commuter wrath. Del Duca talks political impact, future subway expansion plans and the new Line 1 extension.



Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engaged

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 28th, 2017

Prince Harry, fifth in line to the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, palace officials announced Monday, confirming months of speculation.

Markle, a humanitarian campaigner and lifestyle blogger who succeeded in show business before falling for Harry, will become a senior member of the royal family as the wife of one of the monarchy’s most popular figures.

The couple posed for photographers on the grounds of Kensington Palace hours after their engagement was announced by Harry’s father, Prince Charles.

Harry, wearing a blue suit and tie, said he was “over the moon.” Asked when he knew Markle was “the one,” he said: “Very first time we met.”

Markle said she was “so very happy.” She wore a belted white coat and held Harry’s hand as photographers focused on her engagement ring.

Palace officials said Harry designed the ring himself. It features two diamonds that belonged to his late mother Princess Diana, and a central diamond from Botswana, a country he and Markle have visited together.

They left with their arms around each other. The couple plan to give their first joint interview later Monday.

Harry, a bad-boy-made-good by his tireless devotion to wounded veterans and his embrace of a variety of charitable causes, has said for several years that he wants to start a family, and the rumours of his engagement to Markle have been flying for months.

The marriage represents a first-ever blending of Hollywood glamor with the once-stuffy royal family, which has of late seemed less fixed in its ways, and brings a mixed-race American divorcee into a highly visible role.

Harry’s brother, Prince William, and his pregnant wife Kate welcomed Markle to the royal family.

“We are very excited for Harry and Meghan,” they said in a statement. “It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.”

Prince Charles told reporters he was “thrilled” with the engagement.

“They’ll be very happy indeed,” he said.

Monday’s announcement said the couple became engaged in London earlier this month and that Harry has informed his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, whose consent is needed for him to marry.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the couple would have a church wedding. No date has been announced.

The couple plan to live in Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace, where they will be neighbours to William and Kate and other members of the royal family. Markle, who has lived in Toronto since 2011 while filming U.S. legal drama “Suits,” is reported to have started the sometimes time-consuming process of moving her dogs from Canada to Britain. She reportedly recently left the television show, a development that helped fueled engagement speculation.

Congratulations also came in from the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, and from Prime Minister Theresa May.

Markle’s parents also welcomed the news. Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland said their daughter “has always been a kind and loving person. To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents.”

Markle was raised in the Los Angeles area. Her father is a Hollywood lighting director, her mother a yoga instructor and psychotherapist.

In some ways, Markle — a mixed-race American raised in California, an outspoken full-time actress, and a divorcee — makes a surprising addition to Britain’s monarchy.

But the institution has moved on with the times, and the romance between Markle and Harry — who has repeatedly stressed his wish to lead as “normal” a life as he could — has a decidedly unstuffy, modern feel to it.

The announcement means another grand royal wedding may be in the offing — the first since William and Kate married in 2011 — though it is possible the couple may choose to have a private ceremony, perhaps in a remote location far from the paparazzi who bedeviled Harry’s mother, Princess Diana.

Markle, best known for her role as an ambitious paralegal in “Suits,” surprised many when she shared her feelings for Harry in a September cover story for Vanity Fair.

Asked about the media frenzy surrounding their courtship, the 36-year-old said: “At the end of the day I think it’s really simple … we’re two people who are really happy and in love.”

Harry, once known for his dicey antics, including being photographed playing strip billiards in Las Vegas, has largely charmed the British public with his winning smile, his military career and his devotion to charities aimed at helping disabled veterans and other causes.

The 33-year-old prince recently won praise with his work campaigning for more openness about mental health issues. Speaking candidly about his personal struggle to cope with the loss of his mother when he was only 12, he encouraged others to talk about their own problems rather than keeping them bottled up inside.

Markle’s Vanity Fair interview broke new ground. It is unusual for a royal love interest to speak so publicly, and candidly, before becoming engaged.

Harry’s past reported girlfriends all shied away from the media limelight, and his sister-in-law, formerly known as Kate Middleton, stayed silent until she and Prince William gave a formal televised interview at Buckingham Palace after their engagement became public.

It won’t be the first time that a British royal has married an American, or a divorced person. In 1936, Edward VIII famously abdicated after he was forced to choose between the monarchy and his relationship with twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.

Associated Press writers Sylvia Hui and Jill Lawless contributed to this report.

Toronto gears up for Argos rally celebrating Grey Cup win

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 28th, 2017

A rally for the 105th Grey Cup champion Argonauts is set for Tuesday in front of Toronto City Hall.

Fans are encouraged to arrive at Nathan Phillips Square at least 15 minutes before the noon rally so they can greet the Argos when they arrive with the Grey Cup.

The Argonauts completed a remarkable worst-to-first turnaround with a 27-24 comeback victory over the Calgary Stampeders in Ottawa on Sunday night, capturing the franchise’s CFL-leading 17th Grey Cup championship.

After a celebration that lasted into the wee hours in the nation’s capital, a group of bleary-eyed Argonauts arrived home Monday morning with the championship trophy in tow.

After missing the playoffs last year with a 5-13 record, Toronto finished the regular season with a pedestrian 9-9 mark, but it was still good enough for first place in the weak East Division.

The Argonauts had a first-round bye before dispatching the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the division final and then topping the favoured Stampeders to win the Grey Cup.

It was Toronto’s first Grey Cup win since taking the 2012 title with a 35-22 win over Calgary at Rogers Centre.


10-year-old child dies in two-vehicle crash in Ajax

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Nov 28th, 2017

A 10-year-old child has died after being rushed to hospital with serious injuries after a two-vehicle crash in Ajax on Monday night.

Durham regional police say a white SUV crossed the centre median near Taunton Road and Church Street North and struck another SUV head-on.

Police say the child’s mother was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the second SUV sustained non-life-threatening injuries and is expected to make a full recovery.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Taunton Road was closed for several hours between Church Street North and Westney Road. The area has since reopened.

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