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Diplomats file $28M suit against Canada over injuries suffered in Cuba

JIM BRONSKILL, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Feb 7th, 2019

Five Canadian diplomats and their family members who became mysteriously ill while posted to Cuba are suing Ottawa for more than $28 million.

In a statement of claim filed Wednesday in Federal Court, the diplomats say the Canadian government failed to protect them, hid crucial information and downplayed the seriousness of the risks.

Global Affairs Canada acknowledges that a total of nine diplomats posted to the Canadian Embassy in Havana, as well as several dependants, have developed unusual illnesses with symptoms including nausea, dizziness, headaches and trouble concentrating.

Global Affairs has said the government is trying to pinpoint the cause, stressing that the health and safety of diplomatic staff and their families are the priorities.

Speculation has focused on some kind of acoustic or microwave assault, unknown contaminants and even chirping crickets.

Officials have all but ruled out environmental factors, such as toxins in the air, soil or water, and no longer suspect a sonic attack is to blame.

In April, Canada announced that diplomats posted to Cuba would not be accompanied by dependants due to the ongoing uncertainty.

The statement of claim says that not only “were the diplomats prevented from considering the true risks of a Havana posting to their own health, but they were also denied the opportunity to protect their children, and must live with the knowledge that they may never fully recover.”

The allegations have not yet been tested in court.

A doctor is now working full time to provide advice and assistance to those who have continuing symptoms.

In their claim, however, the diplomats say Ottawa has “actively interfered” with their ability to seek appropriate medical care.

The RCMP is leading an investigation into the cause of the ailments, which also struck several American diplomats in Havana.

Canada has been working with the U.S. and Cuban authorities on the baffling puzzle.

Freezing drizzle advisory in the GTA ahead of a warm-up

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Feb 7th, 2019

A freezing drizzle advisory remains in effect for the GTA, including Toronto, ahead of a warm-up expected later Thursday.

On Wednesday, ice pellets and freezing rain pummelled the GTA, making the roads and sidewalks treacherous.

In the city, salters were out on the main roads since Wednesday morning and are continuing their operations Thursday morning or until temperatures rise.

Outside of the city, some areas are still sloppy and slushy, so the commute may be slow in parts.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said the freezing drizzle Thursday morning will change to rain for the afternoon, as the temperature rises to a high of 5 C.

The rain will continue into the evening with the potential for thunderstorms, along with a gusty wind.

Toronto, parts of the GTA under a freezing rain warning

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Feb 6th, 2019

Many areas of the GTA are icing up with freezing rain Wednesday, making for a dicey commute in the region.

Environment Canada has issued a freezing rain warning for Toronto and parts of the GTA, including Mississauga, Brampton, Caledon and Richmond Hill. The rest of the GTA is under a winter weather travel advisory.

The freezing rain could persist for much of the day before changing to freezing drizzle this evening, the national weather agency said.

The freezing drizzle is expected to continue overnight and into Thursday morning.

Several boards have cancelled school buses, while others have cancelled buses and closed schools. Click here for a full list.

Khadr asking for release from ‘indefinite’ sentence and bail

COLIN PERKEL, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 6th, 2019

Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr is asking Alberta youth court to order his release and declare his eight-year sentence — imposed by a widely maligned military commission in the United States — to have expired.

In a separate application before Federal Court, Khadr is attempting to force national parole authorities to grant him a hearing at which he would argue for release.

The overriding idea, Khadr’s Edmonton-based lawyer said in an interview Tuesday, is to ensure an end point to the eight-year sentence the commission imposed on him in 2010.

Had Khadr remained in custody, his sentence would have expired this past October. However, the clock stopped ticking when an Alberta judge freed him on bail in May 2015 pending his appeal of his military commission conviction for war crimes — a years-long process that still has no end in sight.

“The bail order does interrupt the ticking of the clock but practically speaking, the guy has served his sentence now,” lawyer Nate Whitling said from Edmonton. “The youth court judge does have the authority to just simply terminate the sentence and say, ‘It’s now over’.”

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the punishment handed Khadr for alleged acts committed in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old to be a youth sentence. His application, to be heard this month, asks a youth judge to release him under supervision for a single day, then declare his sentence served.

One hurdle Khadr must overcome is proving the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has jurisdiction because the international treaty under which he was transferred to Canada from Gitmo could be interpreted as precluding such a review. If that view prevails, his application asks the judge to declare that part of the treaty unconstitutional.

In a separate application, Khadr wants Federal Court to order the Parole Board of Canada to grant him a hearing — something the board has refused to do on the basis that it only has jurisdiction over inmates in custody.

“As with everything in Omar’s case, there’s no precedent,” Whitling said. “(But) we’re confident that if he were to be given a parole hearing, he’d be an extremely strong candidate for full parole with minimal conditions. He’s been out all this time under these conditions and under close supervision.”

A Justice Department lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since his release on bail in 2015, Khadr has lived in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., without incident. While the courts have eased some of his initial bail conditions, several remain in place despite his efforts — most recently in December — to have them lifted.

Those conditions include withholding access to a Canadian passport, a ban on unsupervised communication with his sister Zaynab who lives in Georgia, and a requirement to notify his bail supervisor before leaving Alberta.

“He’s got these conditions on him and essentially right now, they’re going to be there indefinitely,” Whitling said. “We would like to get Omar’s clock ticking again. We want this sentence to actually start ticking, so it will expire.”

Kate Porter, a prominent American psychologist who has worked extensively with Khadr over the years, has written in support of his applications — pointing out that the bail restrictions and never-ending sentence are psychologically harmful and akin to the situation Khadr faced at the U.S. naval prison.

Under their rules, the Americans could have detained Khadr indefinitely — even if the commission had acquitted him. Khadr has said he pleaded guilty to the war-crimes charges only as a way out of Guantanamo.

Khadr was sent to the notorious U.S. military facility in Cuba just months after he was captured as a badly wounded 15 year old in Afghanistan in July 2002. The U.S. accused him of throwing a grenade that killed an American  soldier.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled Canada violated his rights while he was a U.S. captive, leading the government to pay him $10.5 million in compensation in July 2017.

Bruce McArthur to be sentenced Friday

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 6th, 2019

Family and friends of men murdered by Bruce McArthur will find out in two days what the future hold for the Toronto serial killer — hope that he could live to apply for parole — or none at all.

Friday is when a judge will announce whether the 67-year-old landscaper will be able to apply in 25 years — or 50.

The Crown wants the latter, but the defence wants McArthur to serve life with a chance to apply for parole in 25 years.

Court heard in a two-day sentencing hearing this week that many of McArthur’s victims were immigrants and of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent.

Some lived parts of their life in secret because of their sexual orientation.

Police arrested McArthur in January 2018.

Last week he pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder.

He had a chance to address the court yesterday, but declined.

He had no reaction to the two days of victim impact statements and graphic details of his crimes.

Leafs sign Auston Matthews to lucrative 5-year contract extension

NEIL DAVIDSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 6th, 2019

The Toronto Maple Leafs got their man and some salary cap certainty. Auston Matthews got rich.

The Leafs signed their 21-year-old star centre Tuesday to a US$58.17, five-year contract extension with an average annual value of $11.634 million.

Matthews will be 26 when the deal expires in 2023-24. Unless something untoward happens in between, an even bigger Brink’s truck will be needed then given he will be an unrestricted free agent.

“Regardless if I’m making $1 or $11 million, I’m not going to change who I am,” a relaxed Matthews told eight TV cameras and a phalanx of some three dozen media squeezed into in the Leafs dressing room.

“Nothing really changes for me,” he added. “I’m going to be myself every day. I’m going to have fun. I get to play hockey and do what I love. Now I’m fortunate to do it for a lot of money … I feel very fortunate and very lucky — especially to do it in a city of Toronto.”

Signing now gives Leafs GM Kyle Dubas a clearer picture of his salary cap ahead with the Feb. 25 trade deadline looming.

With William Nylander signing a six-year extension in December — with an average annual value of $10.2 million this season and $6.9 million in the next five — and veteran John Tavares on Year 1 of a seven-year, $77-million deal, the focus now switches to 21-year-old winger Mitch Marner.

Like Marner, Matthews was eligible to become a restricted free agent on July 1 after their three-year entry-level deals expire. Contract talks with Marner, however, have been put on hold until after the season at agent Darren Ferris’s request.

“We’re respecting the wishes of Darren,” said Dubas. “If they were to change their stance on it, then we’re open to that. But for right now, we’ll respect their wishes and we’ll carry on with the season here.”

Added Dubas: “When they’re ready to sit down, we’ll talk. He’s going to be a Toronto Maple Leaf for a long time, regardless of how we have to come to that.”

In addition to Marner, Toronto has some more loose ends. Forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson and backup goalie Garret Sparks are eligible to become restricted free agents while defenceman Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey are headed towards unrestricted free agency.

Asked about Kapanen and Johnsson, Dubas said talks would probably start after the trade deadline.

The goal is to keep the Toronto talent together for as long as possible. Going into league play Tuesday, the Leafs ranked fourth in the league with a 32-17-3 record.

Dubas said talks over a new deal for Matthews started last July with Matthews adding they talked contracts with a range in terms from three years to eight. The Matthews camp initially wanted longer term, which carries a higher average annual value, but agreed on the five-year deal giving the Leafs more flexibility, Dubas suggested.

“We’re trying to build a team that can have sustained success, not just contend once,” Dubas said. “You look, there’s a litany of teams all across every professional sport, they’re very good teams for a long time but they can’t ever push it across the finish line. I think a lot of that is luck-related and luck-based.

“I think we want to give ourselves the maximum number of chances we can to make a real good go at it. In saying that, keeping the young core of our team together and then building out a program where they want to stay here on their subsequent contracts, I think that falls on us. It doesn’t fall on the players.”

Matthews is on board.

“(The fans) want a championship team and we want to give it to them,” he said. “This city deserves it.”

The 21-year-old Marner leads the Leafs in scoring this season with 63 points (20 goals and 43 assists). Tavares is second with 56 points (31 goals and 25 assists) with defenceman Morgan Rielly third with 52 (13 goals and 39 assists) and Matthews fourth with 46 (23 goals and 23 assists).

Matthews has only played 38 of Toronto’s 52 games due to injury, however.

“He’s a centre and he scores at an elite elite rate that few have matches in their first three years of hockey,” said Dubas.

The first overall draft pick in 2016, Matthews has 97 goals and 81 assists in 182 regular-season games with the Leafs.

His three-year entry-level deal called for him to make the maximum $925,000 a year.

The bulk of Matthews’s deal is in signing bonuses. He will make just $700,000 in salary each of the two years and then $750,000 for the next three while getting bonuses of $15.2 million, $15.2 million, $9.72 million, 7.2 million and $7.2 million.

The bonus route has been a growing trend in the league. Such contracts make it more difficult to buy out a player’s contract because the reduced salary numbers mean there is little salary cap relief in doing so.

The 34 at the end of the annual value of his new deal appears to be a nod to Matthews’ uniform number.

Tavares also went the bonus route with a salary listed at a mere $650,000 this season. Reportedly almost $71 million of his Toronto deal comes in the form of signing bonuses.

The former NHL rookie of the year from Scottsdale, Ariz., has represented Toronto at the NHL all-star game in each of his three seasons.

“I don’t think there’s anything like playing in this city,” Matthews said of his NHL home. “From our fans, the support we get day in and day out, walking around the street getting recognized, I mean that’s not something I imagined when I was a kid growing up in Arizona.”

Matthews was headed for a family dinner Tuesday to celebrate his new-found fortune. Toronto hosts the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

21 impaired drivers charged in York Region, including 1 in drive-thru

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Feb 5th, 2019

York police charged 21 impaired drivers this week, including one man caught in a restaurant drive-thru.

Dashcam footage captured police arresting the driver who had fallen asleep in the drive-thru.

Officers were called to the scene at 5 p.m. on Sunday to 304 Wellington Street East in Aurora.

The vehicle was pulled up the window, running with the driver asleep.

After knocking on the window several times, officers smashed the passenger window to enter the car.

The driver was woken up, reportedly smelled of alcohol and arrested. Police say he blew more than four times the legal limit.

This adds to the more than 100 impaired-related charges laid this year already.

Portion of daycare ceiling falls on 3 children in Roncesvalles

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Feb 5th, 2019

Three children suffered minor injuries after a portion of a ceiling fell on them at a Roncesvalles daycare centre.

Police were called to the Dundas Street West and Boustead Avenue around 12 p.m. Monday afternoon.

Ceiling tiles and plaster fell on the children while they were napping.

Crews evacuated 21 children and nine staff members from the building and the parents of the injured children were contacted.

One child was taken to hospital with minor injuries, while the other two were treated on the scene.

The building inspector was notified as Toronto Fire was concerned about the structure of building.

Toronto Fire Capt. Adrian Ratushniak told CityNews the engineer that assessed the scene suggested that the roof collapse was likely due to aging construction.

“They’ve determined that the ceiling had collapsed probably due to the age and construction — the old lath and plaster construction along with acoustic tiles on top,” he said

He added that the building itself was determined to be structurally sound.



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