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200 more officers head to the night-shift Friday to curb shootings

News Staff | posted Friday, Jul 20th, 2018

The city’s eight-week plan to reduce gun violence goes into effect on Friday, with 200 more officers being deployed to at-risk neighbourhoods between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m.

The move was announced last week by Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders and Mayor John Tory after an increase in gun violence.

There have been 27 fatal shootings so far this year, which is up from 17 at this time last year.

The additional staffing will be done in part through mandatory overtime — something the police union said violates the officers’ collective agreement.

Officers will be forced to work 12-hour shifts, and the union said there won’t be an appropriate rest time between shifts, which breaks their collective agreement.

“This whole notion that we’re going to have an additional 200 officers available is just not true,” said Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association.

“We’re relying on the officers that are already overworked.”

City planning to expand head-start for pedestrians at crosswalks

News Staff | posted Friday, Jul 20th, 2018

The city is stepping up its efforts to keep pedestrians safe, by expanding its change to crosswalk signals.

Toronto Mayor John Tory is set to make the announcement at Dundas Street West and Mabelle Avenue in Etobicoke on Friday morning.

According to a release from the mayor’s office, the Leading Pedestrian Interval program enables pedestrians to have an advanced walk signal so that they can cross the street before vehicles get a green signal and are able to enter the intersection.

The head-start for pedestrians is already in place at 12 intersections in the city, including at University Avenue and Adelaide Street West, and Lake Shore Boulevard East and Yonge Street.

This expansion is part of the city’s Vision Zero road safety plan.

In June, Tory said he’ll seek an additional $13 million this year to accelerate parts of his five-year road safety plan. The new money would bring the total Vision Zero investment to $100 million over five years.

Tory said the funds would be spent on speeding up road redesigns, installing zebra markings at 200 new intersections, painting green bike lanes, clearing up a backlog of speed-hump installations, and doubling the number of leading pedestrian interval signals from 40 to 80.

School boards complain there’s no word from Tory government on sex ed

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jul 20th, 2018

A controversial decision by the Ontario government to scrap the sex-education curriculum before a new one is in place has left school boards in limbo with just weeks to go before students return to classes.

The newly elected Progressive Conservative government has said students will continue to learn the “2014 curriculum,” which is in fact a document last updated in 1998, until parents across the province have had a chance to weigh in on a new version.

The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association said they have yet to receive any direction from the Tory government on the issue.

“Pretty much what you’ve seen on TV or in print, that’s what we know,” said association president Cathy Abraham. “Boards have not been advised of anything by way of official notice from the Ministry (of Education) about what’s going to happen in the fall.”

The curriculum — updated by the Liberals in 2015 — included warnings about online bullying and sexting, but what angered some parents and especially some social conservatives were portions of the document that dealt with same-sex marriage, masturbation and gender identity.

Premier Doug Ford promised during the spring election campaign to replace the sex-ed curriculum, saying parents were not consulted enough. He accused then-premier Kathleen Wynne of turning Ontario schools into “social laboratories” and students into “test subjects.”

Earlier this week, Ford said that reverting to the older version of the lesson plan would only be temporary until the completion of a provincewide consultation with parents. His comments followed conflicting messages from Education Minister Lisa Thompson, who told reporters Monday that only a portion of the curriculum would be rolled back, only to say hours later that the full document would be scrapped.

Thompson has not answered questions from the media since Monday, but a spokesman said school boards will receive instructions on the curriculum in the coming weeks.

Abraham said the government’s decision raises a number of logistical questions which need to be answered.

During a typical curriculum revision, she said, the government spends months preparing and provides teachers with training so they can adequately teach the material to their students. If the government intends to update the material in some way, even as just a temporary measure to bridge the content gap between the 1998 version and the 2015 update, that will take time as well, she said.

There will also be teachers who have simply never taught the material who will have to be brought up to speed, she added.

“If you are a brand new teacher you do not know what is in that old curriculum,” she said. “That is going to be a challenge.”

Abraham also took issue with the Tory government referring to the 1998 curriculum as a 2014 lesson plan.

“The curriculum we were using in 2014 was the 1998 curriculum,” Abraham said. “This curriculum wasn’t changed until 2015.”

Regardless of the government’s decision, Abraham said teachers will be there for their students.

“I know that if a student shows up in class some day with a particularly troubling story about something and it’s an opportunity for a teacher to talk about consent, that teacher is not going to say ‘I would talk to you about this but it’s not in the 1998 curriculum,”’ she said. “Teachers are going to take care of their kids while still recognizing that that’s not in the curriculum. That is a significant challenge.”

Laura Elliott, education director for the Thames Valley District School Board in London, Ont., also expressed concern about the lack of instructions from the government. At a very basic level, she said, the ministry should post the 1998 curriculum online soon so that teachers can have access to it.

“Typically, when there is a new curriculum, there are some resources…for school boards to support our teachers in the instructional matter,” she added. “I’m not sure if the runway will allow for that.”

The Toronto District School Board said the government is putting school boards in a difficult position by asking them to teach an outdated document that may not fulfil the boards’ obligations under more contemporary pieces of legislation.

“We are obligated, regardless of what the topic is, to teach the Ontario curriculum,” said board chair Robin Pilkey. But we also have an obligation to our students, she added.

“We have other things that we’re guided by like the Education Act and Human Rights Code to make sure that all of our students feel included in school and that we reflect their reality in their classrooms.”

Pilkey said once the board receives further instruction from the government, it will have to sit down with its own curriculum leaders to see how it can address the differences between the 1998 curriculum and the 2015 update.

“How they meet these other questions other people have raised about consent, cyber safety, gender roles, all of those kinds of things that were not in the previous curriculum, until we are provided with answers to that, it’s very hard to say at this point exactly how it will be taught,” she said.

Pilkey also urged parents to speak up during the consultations the government has promised to hold.

“Otherwise they’ll be hijacked by probably special interest groups,” she said.

Mayor Tory wants to ‘more than double’ security cameras in bid to stem gun violence

Peter Goffin, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jul 20th, 2018

Toronto’s police services board is calling for more security cameras and new audio technology to be installed in parts of the city to help curb gun violence.

The board approved a request by Mayor John Tory on Thursday to formally ask city council to fund the measures, which he says were discussed at a special meeting between senior city and police staff last week.

Toronto has seen a rise in gun violence this year that has led to increased calls for the city to take action.

The board is requesting to “more than double” the number of closed circuit police cameras in public places where gang activity and gun violence are known to take place, bringing the total number of police cameras to around 80.

It is also asking the city to adopt “ShotSpotter” technology, already in use in the U.S., that uses microphones to detect and locate gunfire, and automatically informs police.

“This (proposal) came from the police service and senior police officials at their initiative at a meeting called by the city to discuss what we could do to combat gun violence, and these are two pieces of technology that the police service says they could use,” Tory told the board, of which he is a member.

“I support it strongly. The police chief has certainly convinced me these two things can be useful.”

Implementing the measures will cost $4 million over two years, which will likely be covered by crime prevention funding from the federal and provincial governments, Tory said.

“The city (would put) the money to fund it with the expectation that hopefully the federal and provincial programs will cover all or some of that money,” he said.

Asking city council for their approval is an urgent matter, as its last meeting of 2018 takes place next week, Tory said.

Police Chief Mark Saunders will make a full presentation to the board in September, further explaining the security camera and ShotSpotter technologies, and what oversight police will implement for them, the board decided.

Saunders will also report back on how the Neighbourhood Officer program — which aims to build connections between police and community members — could be expanded.

The city has taken a number of steps recently to address the issue of gun violence.

On Wednesday, Tory said Toronto will be providing more social services and job opportunities to at-risk youth and last week the police chief announced that 200 frontline police officers would be added to the night shift over the summer in an effort to combat gun crime.

Police figures shows gun violence has killed 27 people and injured 82 so far in 2018, compared with 17 deaths and 80 injuries at this time last year.

Trump tops Google image search for ‘idiot’

DILSHAD BURMAN | posted Friday, Jul 20th, 2018

Saying that people have strong feelings about U.S. President Donald Trump is an understatement.

Since he began his presidential run two years ago through to his inauguration and beyond, Trump has courted controversy and divided opinions at every turn.

But a Google image search seems to suggest that people the world over agree on a single word they can associate with the U.S. president: idiot.

Giovanni Paola, senior manager of search engine optimization (SEO) at Rogers says internet users are influencing Google’s algorithm to create the result.

“It’s not Google taking sides on the political spectrum. It’s actually users themselves,” he said. “To determine relevancy, Google relies heavily on relational data between words and images.”

He explains users are posting images of Donald Trump on the internet with the word “idiot” somewhere on that page, often within the metadata of the image itself — which could be as simple as the file name that image was given.

“Over the course of time, when you have a group of people en masse doing this, it sends Google information to make the algorithm think that the words ‘idiot’ and Donald Trump are connected,” Paola said. “So when people search for ‘idiot,’ Google thinks we have to show Trump.”

As of Thursday morning, eight of the top 10 results of a Google image search for “idiot” were photos of Trump, but Paola adds that it will likely be corrected and won’t last more than a few days.

Google searches do tend to present different results depending on where in the world you are, but the “Trump-idiot” connection seems to hold true in several countries.

CityNews found similar results were seen in the following cities:

  • Mumbai, India
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Dubai, UAE
  • Edinburgh, U.K.
  • London, U.K.
  • Sao Paolo, Brazil
  • Singapore

 

Similarly, Green Day’s iconic song American Idiot enjoyed a re-entry on music charts, in part thanks to a Twitter campaignthat urged people to download and stream the song across the U.K. ahead of Trump’s visit to the country.

The power of the online push got the song to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list and Google Play, 14 years after it was first released.

 

Don’t let July pass you by, here comes another fun weekend in Toronto

PATRICIA D'CUNHA AND MICHAEL GIBBONS | posted Friday, Jul 20th, 2018

This weekend is all about the arts and artisans, culture, scrumptious food, and pizza! Read on and the pizza part will all make sense.

As you plan out your weekend, take note of the road closures around the city. Also, a reminder that a portion of Line 1 will be shut down.


Events

Last weekend of Summerlicious
If you have not yet been to Toronto’s annual summer foodie festival, this is your last weekend to do so. If not, you will have to wait until the winter edition early next year. This summer, more than 200 restaurants are offering three-course lunch and dinner menus at affordable prices. If there is a restaurant you’ve always wanted to try, search here to find out. If you are not sure where to go, you can narrow down restaurants by cuisine, neighbourhood, and price.

There is always room for pizza
Who doesn’t like pizza? Toronto’s top pizza restaurants are coming together this weekend for the city’s first ever Pizza Fest at Ontario Place. This event will also feature fresh pasta, meatballs, cocktails, a wine bar, as well as live music, and pizza-making classes. It’s on from Friday to Sunday. You have to be at least 19 years old to get in.

Arts and culture on Bloor
Up to 100,000 people are expected to turn out in the Bloordale neighbourhood for the Big on Bloor Festival this weekend. The annual summer event creates a vehicle-free stretch of Bloor Street West between Dufferin Street and Landsdowne Avenue. This allows local artists to put on live musical and theatrical performances, as well as art projects. The week-long event gets started on Saturday and is open from noon to midnight.

Experience Brazil in Toronto
It is not the same thing as being in Brazil, but you can get a taste of what the country has to offer this weekend at BrazilFest. The city will come alive with Brazilian culture on Sunday, taking place at Earlscourt Park from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Enjoy live music and dance performances, food, and there will also be a family area for parents and their children.

Everything old is new again
The Ontario Vintage Market makes its debut at Evergreen Brick Works on Sunday. From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., you’ll be able to check out a curated selection of housewares, furniture, decor, and more from vintage vendors. The market takes place every other Sunday until September 30.

Partial Line 1 closure
Once again this weekend, subways won’t be running between Lawrence and St. Clair stations due to work on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and other track work at Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue. Shuttle buses will be running.

Road closures

Toronto Caribbean Carnival’s Junior Carnival: Road closures will be in effect in the area of Sewells Road, McLevin Avenue, and Neilson Road from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Big on Bloor: Bloor Street between Dufferin Street and Lansdowne Avenue will be closed from 8 p.m. on Saturday to 7 a.m. on Sunday.

Toronto Triathlon Festival: The eastbound lanes of the Gardiner Expressway from the Humber River to Carlaw Avenue, and the northbound lanes of the Don Valley Parkway from the Gardiner to Eglinton Avenue, will be closed from 2 a.m. to noon on Sunday. One eastbound lane of Lake Shore Boulevard from Windermere Avenue to New Brunswick Way/Remembrance Drive will also be closed from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Youth Day: Yonge Street from Dundas to Queen street will be closed from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.

Honda Indy roadblock removal: The westbound left and middle lanes of Lakeshore Boulevard West from Strachan Avenue to Ontario Drive, and the eastbound left lane of Lake Shore from Strachan to Ontario will be closed from 9 p.m. on Sunday to 5 a.m. on Monday, and from 9 p.m. on Monday to Tuesday at 5 a.m. The westbound curb and middle lanes of Lakeshore from Strachan to Ontario Drive will be closed from 9 p.m. on Tuesday to 5 a.m. on Wednesday and from 9 p.m. on Wednesday to 5 a.m. on Thursday.

Radiohead makes first Toronto appearance since fatal 2012 stage collapse

TINA YAZDANI | posted Friday, Jul 20th, 2018

Radiohead performed in Toronto Thursday night, for the first time since a fatal stage collapse at Downsview Park in 2012. The incident took the life of 33-year-old drum technician Scott Johnson, and injured multiple others on the crew.

Anticipation for the band’s return to the city has been growing for the six years since the tragedy. Dozens of fans camped out overnight outside the Scotiabank Arena for a chance to get to the front of the stage for the big performance.

“It’s just super important to me,” said fan Gary Winthorpe. “They’re my favourite band so I felt like I had to be here.”

The band is still looking for answers, and accountability.

The subsequent trial was derailed when the presiding judge declared he had lost jurisdiction over the case given his appointment to a higher court. That decision led to a senior justice declaring a mistrial and a new hearing was planned.

Last September, those charges were stayed after a judge ruled the matter took too long to get to trial.

“The court case broke down on a technicality,” Radiohead’s Philip Selway told the BBC. “There were 13 charges dropped against Live Nation, Optex Staging and the engineer, Domenic Cugliar. So with that court case breaking down, there will be no real answers. And without the answers we can’t ensure that an accident like this doesn’t happen again. So yes there’s real frustration.”

Music industry analysts say the incident had lasting impacts on Canada’s music scene.

“We got a lot tougher when it came to the standards of building these temporary stages,” said Alan Cross, host of The Ongoing History of New Music.

“Not only from a regulatory level, but from an industry level, nobody wants to be caught in one of these things, because the lawsuits are terrible and the loss of life is terrible, and the potential to have your business ruined is terrible. No one wants to see this happen.”

Johnson’s father says he expects a coroner’s inquest into the incident to begin early next year.

Ken Johnson said he spoke with Ontario’s chief coroner on Wednesday and was told the tentative window for the inquest has been set for February or March. A representative for the office declined to confirm the timeline.

Starting the proceedings would be a step towards what Johnson hopes will acknowledge the series of events that led to his son’s death, and ensure safety precautions are in place to prevent a similar accident from happening again.

“They can’t bring Scott back – that’s obviously painful,” Johnson said in an interview from Birmingham on Thursday.

“But it needs to be clear. I think people need to see what’s happened.”

In the meantime, fans are looking forward to the music, and thankful that despite everything, Radiohead decided to come back to the city.

“I thought Toronto’s definitely never gonna happen and when they finally announced it I kinda went crazy,” said fan Cody Stein. “It was definitely big news, a lot of excitement and for the past five months for me it’s been every day looking forward to the show.”

The shows both Thursday and Friday are sold out. The last time the band performed in the city was in 2008, at the Molson Amphitheatre.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

Missing 5-year-old Brampton boy found, has life-threatening head injury

News Staff | posted Thursday, Jul 19th, 2018

A missing five-year-old boy from Brampton has been found and has a life-threatening head injury, Peel paramedics say.

The boy found just before 7 a.m. Thursday close to the train tracks. He was reported missing in the McHardy Court and McMurchy Avenue area, near Queen Street and McLaughlin Road.

The boy has been rushed to hospital but the extent of his injuries is not yet known.

According to police, the boy’s mother last saw her son at 2 a.m. But when she woke up, her son was gone and the front door was open. Police were called just after 6 a.m.

More to come

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