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Girl Guides of Canada cancelling U.S. trips due to ‘uncertain’ entry rules

Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Mar 14th, 2017

Girl Guides of Canada will not approve any new travel to the United States, describing the decision as difficult but necessary to protect its members.

The organization released a statement Monday saying it decided to cancel future trips due to uncertainty over whether all of its members would equally be allowed to enter the U.S.

It said the organization values providing safe, inclusive and accepting experiences to its members, including when travelling.

Although the U.S. is a “frequent destination” for its members, the organization said all trips including travel that requires connecting through an American airport will not be approved.

Girl Guides spokeswoman Sarah Kiriliuk said the decision is a preventative measure.

“We just looked at our organization and realized that we do have a lot of girls travelling and this was potentially creating a situation that would either be a risk for the group or would create an uncomfortable situation in the case that somebody did get turned back at the border,” she said.

She said policies are already in place that require a group to turn back in the event anyone on a trip is blocked at the border.

The statement says provincial advisers on international travel will contact a small number of groups that were already approved for trips to the United States about how they should proceed.

Exact figures of how many trips that are already planned were not available, but Kiriliuk said in a year between 700 and 800 girls travel to the U.S. and various other international locations.

She said trips that have been paid for and cannot be refunded will be assessed individually to ensure no girl gets left behind.

A nationally sponsored trip to a camp in California that was scheduled for this summer is also being relocated to another international destination.

Kiriliuk said while some members may be disappointed by the change, the organization is still encouraging international travel.

“There’s a lot of other places to see in the world,” she says, adding the organization is part of an international network with partners in India, Switzerland, Mexico and other countries.

Kiriliuk said it was a difficult decision to reach and the organization will re-evaluate policies on U.S. travel when there is more certainty that all Canadian members can cross the border.

“This is not a political decision,” Kiriliuk said. “This is about delivering an inclusive and diverse program to our girls.”

The organization is not the first to stop children’s trips to the United States.

Several schools and school districts across Canada debated going ahead with trips south of the border following the first executive order issued by President Donald Trump that imposed travel restrictions to citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

A Winnipeg junior high school cancelled a trip by its track team to Minnesota in January because it wasn’t certain all students would be able to cross the border.

The Greater Essex County School Board in southwestern Ontario decided in February to cancel a handful of trips over concerns of safety and equity, while districts in southern Vancouver Island debated whether to ban all U.S. travel or handle each trip on a case-by-case basis.

City’s relationship with province ‘significantly impacted’ after road tolls nixed: Tory

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 14th, 2017

Mayor John Tory says it has not been “business as usual” with the province since the City of Toronto was denied road tolls by the premier.

Tory met with Finance Minister Charles Sousa on Monday, to discuss what the city would like to see in the provincial budget.

It was the first meeting between the two since Premier Kathleen Wynne turned down the city’s request to charge tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. And the sting of rejection was still very much on his mind.

Tory said the city’s relationship with the province has been “significantly impacted” since then.

“It hasn’t been business as usual, and I would say to you that the relationship won’t get back to business as usual until we can find ourselves in a position to satisfy the needs of the nearly 3 million people that call Toronto home,” Tory said after the meeting, with Sousa at his side.

Back in January, Tory lashed out after Wynne nixed the city’s road toll plans, saying it’s time to stop being treated like a “boy in short pants” when dealing with the province.

At the time, Wynne said there weren’t enough commuter options in place to justify adding tolls, where Tory has said he wanted to charge a $2 toll.

Finance minister on impact of ‘toll issue’ on relationship with Tory. Watch the video below or click here to watch it.

Despite the ongoing tension with the province, the mayor wasn’t shy about telling Sousa what the city needs. He said to get things back to “business as usual,” the province has to address the many needs of the city.

“We need a better deal with the province when it comes to transit, when it comes to housing, and when it comes to the regional highways that we fund entirely, and when it comes to the economic potential of the city’s waterfront,” Tory said.

Tory said it would be a “grave mistake” for the province not to step up and provide funding for transit and housing. He also asked the minister to provide funding for the the Port Lands waterfront protection and Gardiner rehabilitation.

For his part, Sousa said he has listened to the needs of the city.

“Just as Toronto is looking for support, Ontario is trying to ensure that the province receives a fair share as we move forward, and the priorities of Toronto is part of that,” the finance minster said.

With files from Cynthia Mulligan and Momin Qureshi

Hundreds of cancellations at Pearson as snow hits GTA

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 14th, 2017

Hundreds of flights were cancelled at Toronto Pearson International Airport as the GTA coped with a late winter snowfall.

Click here to check your flight.

As of Tuesday morning, Toronto itself remained mostly clear, compared to other areas in southern Ontario. There is about 1.8 cm of snow at Pearson, and 1 cm in downtown Toronto, 680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said.

But in Oakville, they’re dealing with 11 cm of snow, and in Hamilton, there’s 30 cm of the white stuff. Watch a video from Hamilton below:


Volunteer-run Love Box brightens children’s hospital stays

Audra Brown | posted Monday, Mar 13th, 2017

Little Emma is in Markham Stouffville Hospital because of a skin infection.

It’s tough, but a small gift called a “Love Box” is making a big difference.

“It makes me feel happy,” the seven-year-old told CityNews as she looked through the box filled with gifts bought by a complete stranger. The gift includes things like colouring activities, fancy pens, a journal and her favourite: a glow-in-the-dark rosary in a small pouch. All in a box that was hand-decorated by the family that filled it.

“It made her feel better as soon as she got it,” her father Carlo Vigliatore said.

“It’s really heartwarming. it makes us want to fill our own Love Box now to pass the kindness on.”

The Love Box Project was the idea of a mom who heard of a similar project at other hospitals. Erin Thomson-Giannopoulos had all three of her kids at Markham Stouffville Hospital. She wanted to do something to say thank you and give back.

“Our goal was to fill 50 boxes for children during the holiday season. We ended up delivering over 200 boxes in our first time doing it!” she said.

Thomson-Giannopoulos provides the cardboard boxes to families in the community who would like to participate. The families then fill the boxes with new toys and gifts they think will lift the kid’s spirits. They bring the box back to Thomson-Giannopoulos, who then brings the gifts to the children’s health unit at Markham Stouffville Hospital.

“We just want the kids to know someone is thinking of them, and let them forget about being in the hospital for a little while,” Thomson-Giannopoulos said.

And it works. Emma says she’s excited to make her own to give to another sick child. “Because they’re ill too, and sad. It will make them happy.”

Click here to find out how to get involved.

Syrian refugee says his family proves how Canadian openness pays dividends

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 13th, 2017

A Syrian refugee says his family’s thriving chocolate business should serve as an example of the value of Canadian “openness” in a world that has increasingly closed off its borders to refugees.

Tareq Hadhad spoke about his family’s journey from war-torn Syria to Nova Scotia, at a TEDx conference at Dalhousie University in Halifax Sunday.

The Hadhads say Peace by Chocolate has been struggling to keep up with orders since earning a shout out from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at an address to the United Nations last year. Trudeau even had a chance to sample some maple leaf-shaped treats upon meeting the chocolate makers during a trip to Sydney, N.S. last November.

“It’s not a chocolate business, as you all think. It’s all about a message from newcomers to their new community,” Hadhad told the crowd. “Peace is the most noble value that human beings should fight for … Chocolate is the magic product of happiness.”

Hadhad says his father ran a chocolate factory in Damascus with around 30 employees that shipped specialty treats all over the Middle East. An aspiring physician, Hadhad says he abandoned his studies and fled to Lebanon with several family members after a 2012 bombing destroyed the business his father had built over the course of more than two decades.

After three years at a refugee camp, Hadhad says he got his first taste of Canadian hospitality before even setting foot in his new home.

“This is Canada. The nation that received immigrants from all over the world to be one nation,” said Hadhad. “A Syrian newcomer would become Canadian the first time you are on the airplane.”

The family settled in Antigonish, N.S., or as Hadhad calls it, “the middle of nowhere” a little more than a year ago. After the initial “culture shock,” he says he was taken aback by how eager locals were to help him and his relatives fit into Canadian society.

Hadhad says Peace by Chocolate was founded in part as a way of “giving back” to the country that welcomed them so readily by creating jobs in their small community, donating profits to relief efforts in Fort McMurray, A.B., and of course, sharing their decadent chocolate treats with Canadians.

Hadhad told the Associated Press in January that he was denied entry to the United States where he had planned to meet with the governor of Vermont.

In an interview with The Canadian Press on Sunday, Hadhad says he hopes word of Peace by Chocolate’s success reaches the Donald Trump White House as a symbol of how “everybody wins” when a country embraces newcomers.

“Maybe we started from zero, but we brought our skills with us,” he says. “If we close our minds and close our borders … these countries will lose a lot of the experiences immigration can bring.”

CRA website back online after repairs for ‘internet vulnerability’

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 13th, 2017

Canadians can file their tax returns online again after the Canada Revenue Agency took the service down as a precautionary measure on Friday.

Services returned to normal late Sunday.

A notice was posted on the agency’s website through the weekend that officials detected “an Internet vulnerability” and took down many of its services, including electronic tax filing.

The services affected included “My Account,” “My Business Account,” “Netfile,” “EFILE” and “Auto-Fill My Return.”

The CRA says the services were taken offline as a precaution and its website was not hacked.

A spokesman for the agency said in an email Sunday night that officials worked around the clock to address the vulnerability.

“We are now confident that the solution has been rigorously and successfully tested and services returned online,” Patrick Samson said.

The CRA says during the outage, tax returns continued to be processed and anyone who filed their return before the service interruption should not expect a delay in getting their refund. The CRA says if you received a confirmation code when you filed your return, then it was successfully filed.

The CRA was not the only government website offline over the weekend.

Statistics Canada’s site was down during the weekend, but was put back online late Sunday.

The agency also cited an “internet vulnerability” but is confident its information and systems are now safe.

Winter storm set to bring up to 20 cm of snow to GTA by Tuesday

CityNews | posted Monday, Mar 13th, 2017

Old Man Winter is going to get one final swing before spring officially arrives in a little over a week’s time.

Flurries and light snow should begin early Monday afternoon, CityNews weather specialist Frank Ferragine said, with the heaviest snowfall coming on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday will continue with strong winds and blowing snow, and the snow ending Tuesday night.

There’s a high of -6 C in the forecast for Monday, 680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said, with a wind chill near -14. There will be similar temperatures on Tuesday, with a high of -6 C and a low near -11 C.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for Toronto, the GTA and southern Ontario on Sunday, warning that a major winter storm will hit the region starting Monday night.

“Snow is forecast to spread into southwestern Ontario during the day Monday then envelop much of southern Ontario Monday night through Tuesday,” said the environmental agency. “Cold artctic air already in place over the Great Lakes will ensure it will be a dry, fluffier snow, creating some blowing snow issues as winds pick up during the storm.”

Between 10 and 20 centimetres of snow are likely as a result of the storm with Hamilton and Niagara receiving as much as 30 centimetres.

The snowfall is expected to taper off Tuesday night.

Spring forward this weekend to March Break next week

Patricia D'Cunha and Samantha Knight | posted Friday, Mar 10th, 2017

Spring is less than two weeks away so it is only fitting that clocks spring forward an hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday.

The time change means it will be brighter in the evenings, but the downside is that you lose an hour of sleep from Saturday night into Sunday morning.

The extra daylight comes at a perfect time with March Break around the corner. With that extra daylight, children and their families will be able to spend more time outdoors and at the various events being held across the city.

Not everyone is heading out of town for March Break, and if you are staying in town, there is no shortage of things to do. The City of Toronto also has tons on tap such as various camps, drop-in programs, outdoor skating, swimming and activities at historic sites.

ROM’s Big Blue March Break
Take an underwater adventure this March Break at the ROM. The museum’s Big Blue March Break gets underway on Saturday and runs until March 19.

A woman walks behind a blue whale skeleton on display at the unveiling of "Out of the Depths: The Blue Whale Story" at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on March 8, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

It features a new exhibition, Out of the Depths: The Blue Whale Story, where guests can come face-to-face with an 80-foot skeleton of a blue whale. There are also lots of marine-themed activities, including big-blue-sea-inspired balloon sculpting and a look at the historical mystery, The Franklin Exploration.

NHL Centennial Exhibit
Celebrate 100 years of NHL hockey with a new exhibit that opens at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Friday.

Several items will be on display, including the gloves, stick, and helmet worn by the “Great One” when he scored his 802nd career goal, and the gloves worn by Sidney Crosby to win the Stanley Cup in 2009.

The gloves worn by Sidney Crosby when the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009. HOCKEY HALL OF FAME


The gloves, stick and helmet worn by Wayne Gretzy when he scored his 802nd career goal. HOCKEY HALL OF FAME

Click here for other things you can do at the Hockey Hall of Fame over March Break.

Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic
More than 160 shadow puppets will be used to tell the story of star-crossed lovers Zaul and Rudabeh, based on the 10th-century Persian epic Shahnameh (The Book of Kings).

A scene from the shadow puppet play "Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic." TIRGAN

The family-friendly play is the creation of filmmaker and visual artist Hamid Rahmanian, in collaboration with shadow master Larry Reed. Performers with ornate handmade masks and costumes are projected on a cinema-size screen to capture live animation.

Four performances will be held March 10-12 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Tickets start at $25.

Toronto Zoo
March Break festivities kick off this weekend at the Toronto Zoo. Guests can enjoy daily character meet-and-greets, featuring PAW Patrol’s Marshall and Chase, Bob the Builder, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Michelangelo and Raphael, Dora the Explorer and Boots, and Hatchimals.

Families can also check out the new Connecting With Wildlife Conservation Giant Panda Cub Interpretive Station.

Sugar Shack
Sugar Beach is getting a whole lot sweeter this weekend with the return of Sugar Shack TO.

The event kicks off the first weekend of March Break with two sugar shacks serving up authentic Ontario maple taffy, a winter marketplace, specialty bar and live entertainment. There are also ice activities for kids, including painting on an ice canvas, giant ice tic-tac-toe and battle of the chainsaws.

Sugar Shack runs Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance is free.

Fun at the AGO
Don’t know what to do with your child’s abundance of creative energy? Let them unleash it at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

For nine whole days, starting Saturday, your child can explore a life-sized cardboard maze, build a city out of cardboard, create a mini art gallery, colour all day long, and more. If your kid wants to strike a pose, family yoga is the way to go.

March Break activities at the AGO are free with the price of admission, which is free for children aged five and under.

‘Discover your inner hero’ at Casa Loma
If you are planning to stay in town for March Break, you can still travel to a castle right here in the city. Live interactive shows will take you back to the Middle Ages when knights in shining armour really did exist.

Children can try their hands at arts and crafts, as well as cookie decorating. They can also indulge in s’mores and hot chocolate.

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