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Canada to host Venezuela summit to support anti-Maduro forces: Freeland

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 29th, 2019

Canada will host a meeting of Western Hemisphere countries next Monday to see what can be done to ease the crisis in Venezuela.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed on Parliament Hill today that the meeting of the Lima Group will be in Ottawa.

She says Canada needs to play a leading role in the Lima Group, which includes more than a dozen countries in the Americas, minus the United States, because the crisis in Venezuela is unfolding in Canada’s global backyard.

The group has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, saying President Nicolas Maduro’s continuing dictatorial rule is creating an economic and humanitarian crisis that has swelled beyond his country’s borders.

Freeland praised the role of Canadian diplomats in Caracas, who helped get the country’s opposition parties to coalesce behind 35-year-old Guaido.

The Canadian Press interviewed senior Canadian government officials who have described Canada’s role in aiding democratic forces to help rescue the once oil-rich country from the economic and political spiral that has forced three million Venezuelans from their homes.

Student union execs suspended over alleged fiscal mismanagement: campus paper

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jan 29th, 2019

The Ryerson University newspaper that reported allegations of fiscal mismanagement involving the school’s student union says two of the group’s executives have now been suspended over the matter.

The Eyeopener says the president and vice-president operations were removed from their posts after the student paper reported on Ryerson Students’ Union credit card statements that apparently show expenditures of more than $250,000 over the course of eight months.

The paper reports that the spending includes thousands of dollars at nightclubs and bars.

Ryerson University spokeswoman Johanna VanderMaas says the school takes the allegations seriously but is a separate corporate entity from the student union and cannot conduct an investigation into the matter.

In a statement addressed to members of the Ryerson community, 21 student union representatives say the information reported and photos shared by the Eyeopener were accurate.

The statement says it’s not clear who used the credit cards to make the purchases, but notes that they are under the name of RSU President Ram Ganesh and Savreen Gosal, the vice-president operations.

The Canadian Press has not seen the credit card statements, and the union’s financial controller declined to comment on the matter.

Reporters with the Eyeopener broke the story a week after Premier Doug Ford announced a series of changes involving post-secondary education in Ontario. Tuition was cut by 10 per cent, while grants for low- to mid-income students, which made post-secondary education free for some, were reduced.

The government also announced that some once-mandatory student levies – which fund student unions and student newspapers, among other things – would become optional.

“I’ve heard from so many students who are tired of paying excessive fees, only to see them wasted and abused,” Ford tweeted, along with an article about the alleged fiscal mismanagement at the Ryerson Student Union. “That’s why we’re giving students the power to choose to pay for the campus services they actually use.”

Raneem Alozzi, a third-year journalism student and news editor at the Eyeopener, said without those student levies, the Eyeopener itself would lose a chunk of its funding.

Toronto blanketed with record-breaking snowfall

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Jan 29th, 2019

A record-breaking snowfall in Toronto has left cars buried, side streets impassable, and has led to transit issues.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said around 26.4 centimetres of snow was recorded at Pearson International Airport on Monday, breaking the record of 13.4 centimetres set on that date in 2009.

But the last time Toronto had more than 20 centimetres of snow was 51 years ago — 20.8 centimetres on Jan. 14, 1968.

The GTA, including Toronto, was under a snowfall warning on Monday evening, but that has since been lifted.

The massive snowstorm caused major issues on the TTC on Tuesday morning.

The TTC said there is no service on Line 3 due to the weather. Shuttle buses are running. As well, subways are not running between Woodbine and Kennedy stations due to weather-related rail issues. Shuttle buses are running between Woodbine and Warden

The northbound lanes of the DVP were shut down for several hours overnight due to poor weather conditions. It has since reopened.

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said there were 300 crashes in the past 24 hours in the GTA and surrounding area.

During the height of the storm, Pearson tweeted that some airlines had cancelled or postponed flights due to the weather.

Taylor said it will continue to be windy on Tuesday with blowing and drifting snow. There will be some sunny breaks, but the GTA could get some more flurries late in the afternoon or early evening.

Although the temperature was relatively mild this morning, temperatures will fall to -9 C this afternoon. The windchill will be hear -30 overnight.

The frigid weather will continue into Wednesday and it will feel like -30 C with the wind.

Toronto and the GTA under a snowfall warning

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Jan 28th, 2019

A snowfall warning remains in effect for the GTA, including Toronto, on Monday.

Environment Canada said the snow is expected to start later this morning or early afternoon and continue into tonight.

“Total snowfall accumulations of 15 to 20 cm are likely, with the highest amounts expected closer to Lake Ontario where extra moisture from the lake may boost snowfall amounts,” the national weather said in its warning, which was issued on Sunday night.

The snowfall is expected to have a “significant impact” on the Monday evening and Tuesday morning commutes.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said around 5-10 centimetres will fall in the afternoon, with another 10 centimetres in the evening. There is also the likelihood for blowing snow with the wind gusting to 50 km/h.

The temperature will be near -7 C by this evening but the winds will not ease up. The temperature will rise overnight to near -1 C by Tuesday morning.


Partisan elbows sharper as Parliament resumes for last sitting before election

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jan 28th, 2019

OTTAWA — Federal politicians will be on election footing as they get back to parliamentary business today.

They’ll gather in a new, temporary House of Commons — located in the newly refurbished West Block — while the iconic Centre Block undergoes massive renovations expected to take at least 10 years.

But their novel surroundings are unlikely to produce more decorous proceedings — indeed, with an election scheduled for Oct. 21, partisan elbows will be sharper than ever.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can expect to be on the hot seat over Canada’s deteriorating relations with China, which resulted in his weekend firing of Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum.

McCallum twice last week undermined the government’s message that there has been no political interference in the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the United States, which wants her extradited on fraud allegations.

McCallum first suggested she has strong legal arguments to avoid extradition and, after apologizing for those remarks, said it would be “great for Canada” if the U.S. dropped its extradition request.

His remarks were at odds with the government’s insistence that it is simply honouring Canada’s extradition treaty with the U.S. and respecting the rule of law.

Since Meng’s detention last month, two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — have been detained in China. A third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, who was previously convicted of drug smuggling, has abruptly been handed a death sentence.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has signalled his intention to use the diplomatic dispute with China to paint Trudeau as a laughingstock on the world stage.

However, in a speech to his caucus on Sunday, Scheer made it clear his party’s primary focus heading into the election will be on what he deems the Liberal government’s out-of-control spending and runaway deficits, which he predicted would mean increased taxes if the party wins re-election.

TTC to start recording external incidents on its surface vehicles

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Jan 28th, 2019

Starting Monday, the Toronto Transit Commission will activate external-facing cameras on its surface vehicles.

The TTC says the cameras will be used to record vehicle-vehicle and vehicle-pedestrian incidents.

The transit agency says any footage recorded will not be released to police unless it involves a criminal act against the TTC. Any other police request for TTC video footage will require a proper warrant unless the video is part of an immediate investigation, acts of terrorism or child abduction.

Decals will be posted on TTC vehicles notifying the public that they are being recorded.

The TTC says it will collect and keep data for 72 hours on buses and streetcars and seven days on most Wheel-Trans vehicles. Video footage that is not downloaded will be overwritten on a rolling basis.

7 St. Mikes students to appear in court Monday

NEWS STAFF | posted Monday, Jan 28th, 2019

Seven students from St. Michael’s College School are due in court Monday morning to face numerous sex assault charges.

The charges stem from a number of alleged incidents police say involved the school’s football team and took place at the prestigious Toronto private school last fall.

The students face a total of 37 charges in the case.

Police began investigating the alleged incidents after CityNews received a tip and a video of an alleged assault back in November and reached out to authorities for details.

The video, which has been viewed by CityNews, shows a teen in his underwear in a sink being splashed with water and slapped on bare skin by several other boys.

Police investigated another video of an alleged group sexual assault in a school locker room involving a broomstick. Police said that video met the definition of child porn.

Police investigated a total of eight different incidents and three of those occurrences resulted in criminal charges being laid against the seven students.

All students who are facing charges are currently out on bail.

Inquiry finds Sunwing violated regulations during April ice storm

NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jan 25th, 2019

A preliminary Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) inquiry into lengthy flight delays, cancellations and baggage problems that affected hundreds of Sunwing passengers last April has found the airline violated numerous regulations.

The CTA inquiry initially looked into incidents between April 14 and 18, 2018, at Toronto Pearson International Airport during a spring ice storm. It was later expanded to include disruptions on Sunwing flights at Montréal-Trudeau Airport during the same time frame.

The CTA found 77 Sunwing flights were delayed by more than four hours, and 43 flights were delayed by more than eight hours. Not all passengers were compensated for the delays.

“For a delay that exceeds four hours, Sunwing’s tariff states that the carrier will provide the passengers with a meal voucher,” the CTA wrote. “The Inquiry Officer’s report indicates that some, but not all, passengers received meal vouchers.

“For a delay of more than eight hours that includes an overnight stay, Sunwing’s Scheduled International Tariff states that the carrier will pay for an overnight hotel stay and airport transfers for passengers who did not start their travel at that airport … the Inquiry Officer’s report indicates that some individuals were offered hotels … but that hotels were not consistently offered to all passengers.”

The CTA also found Sunwing failed to properly communicate with passengers about delays, schedule changes and the status of lost luggage. It also said Sunwing didn’t inform all passengers of the option of disembarking from an aircraft if a delay exceeds 90 minutes and it is safe and practical to do so.

“The Agency finds that in 14 of the 15 flights, passengers were not provided the opportunity to disembark,” the report said.

Sunwing has until Feb. 5 to respond to the report.

“We can confirm that the CTA has released their report to us and provided us time to review and produce documentation to refute any of their findings before the document is considered finalized,” a Sunwing spokesperson told CityNews Thursday. “Once finalized we will provide our official response on the matter to the CTA and our media partners.”

WATCH: Frustration mounts over Sunwing delays at Pearson

Air travel was affected by a severe ice storm that hit Ontario and Quebec during the four days the inquiry covers, but the CTA said the inclement weather doesn’t fully absolve Sunwing.

“Sunwing correctly argues that it cannot be held accountable for such extraordinary weather events,” the CTA wrote. “It is, however, accountable for the way it deals with those events and, specifically, for whether it respects the provisions set out in its own tariffs regarding passengers’ entitlements in relation to flight delays; tarmac delays; and lost, damaged or delayed baggage.”

The CTA said Sunwing’s decision to attempt to maintain its normal schedule rather than cancel or reschedule some flights due to the weather exacerbated the problems.

“Whatever its motivation, this operational decision clearly contributed to domino effects across Sunwing’s flights and, in any event, in no way relieves Sunwing of its responsibility to fulfill its tariff obligations,” it said.

Passengers reported being stuck in planes on the tarmac and not being served drinks or snacks. Other flights were delayed by as long as 29 hours.

Some said they had to wait days for their luggage and complained that communication from the airline was limited.

Sunwing apologized at the time and placed some of the blame on Swissport, its baggage handling contractor.

The CTA acknowledged Swissport’s service “was inadequate, in part due to labour issues,” but added Sunwing is ultimately responsible.

“The carrier’s own tariff holds the carrier responsible for the actions of its agents,” it said. “Non-performance by a carrier’s agent does not excuse a carrier from its failure to satisfy the obligations established in its tariff.”

WATCH: Canadian Transportation Agency to investigate Sunwing

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