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TTC vehicles bypassing Broadview Station due to suspicious package

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Mar 19th, 2019

Toronto police said special constables located a suspicious item on Tuesday morning.

The TTC said buses and streetcars are also not entering the station while police investigate.

Shuttle buses are running between Pape and Castle Frank stations.

On Monday, TTC vehicles bypassed the station for more than four hours as police investigated a suspicious package.

Police said the package was found in the station’s bus bay around 6:30 a.m.

Although nothing harmful was found in the package, police believe it was left there intentionally.

“It was left discarded, it was in a visible area, so more of a likelihood that whoever put that package there intended for someone to react to it,” Insp. Anthony Paoletta said.

Kamal Badri, 53, of Toronto was identified as a suspect in Monday’s incident and is now wanted by police.

Tractor-trailer crashes close sections of 2 major Toronto highways

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Mar 19th, 2019

Two separate crashes involving tractor-trailers shut down major routes on Tuesday morning

The eastbound lanes of Highway 401 were shut down approaching Eglinton Avenue around 4 a.m.

OPP said the lanes began to reopen around 6 a.m.

Paramedics said three people suffered minor injuries.

As well, southbound Highway 427 was closed at Highway 409 after two tractor-trailers crashed and then jackknifed.

No serious injuries were reported.

There has been no word if weather was a factor in either crash.

The OPP have not said how long both sections of the highway will be closed.

Canada extends Iraq and Ukraine military missions to 2021 and 2022

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Mar 19th, 2019

Canada is extending its military missions in Iraq and Ukraine, both of which were due to expire at the end of the month.

The extensions shore up Canada’s contributions to the global effort to curb Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and to the fight against Islamic militants in the Middle East.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland say the mission of about 200 Canadian Forces personnel in Ukraine will be extended to the end of March 2022.

The Forces have been involved in Ukraine since September 2015, helping train the country’s military, which is battling Russian-backed separatist forces.

Canada will extend the Canadian Forces’ contribution to the Global Coalition Against Daesh and the NATO mission in Iraq, until the end of March 2021.

Canada has about 500 military members in Iraq, including 200 who are part of a NATO training mission and 120 special forces who have been helping Iraqi forces root out Islamic State insurgents around the northern city of Mosul.

Those are parts of Canada’s larger Middle East strategy, which also includes humanitarian assistance and diplomatic engagement in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding region.

The decision to extend Canada’s commitment in Ukraine will be welcome news to that country as it continues to cope with Russia’s annexation of its Crimea region in 2014, and the continuing unrest in its eastern Donbass region, which is plagued by separatist rebels backed by Moscow.

“The people of Ukraine know they can count on Canada,” Freeland said in a statement. “We are steadfast in our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as it works toward a stable, democratic and prosperous future.”

Ukraine is bracing for Russian interference in its upcoming presidential election on March 31.

Former foreign-affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy is leading a delegation of Canadian election monitors to Ukraine.

Freeland said Canada will host an international conference on Ukraine’s economy and political reforms in July that will include foreign ministers from the European Union, the G7 and NATO countries.

Watch the full announcement below.

Dutch prosecutors seek motive for deadly tram shooting

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Mar 19th, 2019

UTRECHT, Netherlands — Dutch police and prosecutors pressed on Tuesday with their investigation into the motive of a suspect who they believe shot and killed three people and injured five more in an attack on a tram in the central city of Utrecht.

The main suspect is Gokmen Tanis, a 37-year-old man of Turkish descent who was being held on suspicion of “manslaughter with terrorist intent,” though authorities have not ruled out other possible motives.

Police spokesman Martin de Wit said that a total of three people were in custody following Monday’s attack, the alleged shooter and two others, whose involvement was being investigated.

Tanis was arrested Monday evening after an hours-long manhunt that nearly paralyzed the Netherlands’ fourth-largest city and sent shockwaves through this nation just days after 50 people were killed when an immigrant-hating white supremacist opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers. There was no indication of any link between the two events.

Public prosecution office spokesman Ties Kortmann declined to give further details of the investigation and said it was not yet clear if Tanis would be brought before an investigating judge on Tuesday.

Such hearings are generally held to request suspects are detained for longer pending further investigations.

Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said Monday that Tanis had a long criminal record.

From early Tuesday, members of the public began placing bunches of flowers near the busy traffic intersection where the gunfire erupted Monday on a tram.

One bunch carried a message in Dutch saying: “We are sad and deeply shaken. Utrecht has been hit hard; straight through the heart. Strength!! Peace and Love.”

Authorities say they have not ruled out other possible motives and Dutch and Turkish media citing his neighbours in Utrecht have speculated that the shooting may have been linked to a relationship. It was not clear if any of the victims were known to the suspect.

Dutch media published details of two of the victims killed Monday — a 19-year-old woman who worked in a cafe in the nearby town of Vianen, and a father-of-three who volunteered as a soccer coach in Vleuten, a town west of Utrecht.

A phone call from The Associated Press to the cafe Tuesday morning went unanswered.

The soccer club posted a message saying: “With great dismay and astonishment, we received the terrible news that our trainer of the teams JO19-1 and MO11-2 died in yesterday’s shooting incident in Utrecht.”

Montreal group pressing authorities to block concert by former Haitian president

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Mar 19th, 2019

A group of Haitian Montrealers is appealing to federal and municipal authorities to block an upcoming concert by former Haitian president Michel Martelly, citing what they say are his misogynistic comments and his alleged complicity in corruption scandals.

As part of the campaign, women’s groups sent a letter Monday asking Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante to use  “all your political power” to block a concert this Friday by the former leader, a popular singer who performs as Sweet Micky.

“Michel Martelly, alias Sweet Micky, a notorious misogynist who is an apologist for rape, is scheduled to come perform on stage in Montreal on March 22,” reads the letter, which is signed by seven groups, including the community organization Maison d’Haiti.

“This situation is even more worrying due to the fact that the regime currently in power in Port-au-Prince, accused of corruption and repression, is the heir of the party of Martelly, an ex-president of Haiti whose administration is also implicated in the corruption scandal and misappropriation of funds that is currently rocking the country,” it continues.

Marie Dimanche, a member of Montreal’s Haitian community, says the singer has no place performing in Montreal.

Dimanche recently founded the support group Solidarite Quebec-Haiti in response to anti-government protests in Haiti over the rising cost of living and the alleged disappearance of billions of dollars from PetroCaribe, an oil subsidy program intended to help the impoverished Haitian people.

While nobody has been charged, a Haitian Senate investigation has alleged embezzlement by at least 14 former officials in Martelly’s administration.

In a phone interview, Dimanche said Martelly is well-known for his sexist and degrading comments directed at women, some of which have promoted sexual assault. “The things he says are degrading, violent towards women,” she said in a phone interview.

“I’m not particularly in favour of censorship, but hateful speech that calls for violence towards a group of people — half the population —  I feel it’s not acceptable.”

Dimanche and her group are hoping Plante will declare that Martelly is not welcome in Montreal, as former mayor Denis Coderre did in 2016 with the French comedian who performs as Dieudonne. Dieudonne, who has been charged multiple times in Europe with hate-speech violations, flew to Canada but returned to France shortly after without performing, leading to speculation that he was turned back by immigration authorities.

“We think there’s a good chance that (our plan) works, because Valerie Plante is sensitive to questions of women’s rights, and I think she will be sensitive to the question,” Dimanche said. An official in Plante’s office said Monday he needed time to look into the matter.

If Martelly is allowed to enter, Dimanche says her group will protest outside the downtown venue in an attempt to stop the show.

The possibility of protests doesn’t faze the show’s promoter, Carl-Edward Osias, who knows Martelly personally.

In an interview last week, Osias, president of Bass-Mint Management Group, said Sweet Micky’s Montreal shows were well-attended in the past, both before and after his stint as Haiti’s president from 2011-16.

He said the Montreal protest is begin fuelled by Martelly’s political opponents and those who don’t understand that Sweet Micky is a persona known for outrageous antics. “He’s a provocateur,” Osias said. “He’ll wear a skirt. He’ll say stupid things. He’ll make jokes. He’s an artist who provokes, who creates controversy.”

He says he has no problem with people protesting but doesn’t think it’s right for them to try to block the show, which he has no intention of cancelling.

Martelly was accused more than once of using coarse and sexist language during his tenure. A sexually charged comment he made to a female critic at a campaign rally in 2015 prompted a politically allied party to announce the resignation of three officials from Martelly’s administration, including the minister for women’s affairs.

And just before leaving office, he released a pop song jeering at his critics and aiming sexually suggestive lyrics at award-winning female journalist and human rights advocate Liliane Pierre-Paul. The song, titled Bal Bannann Nan — Haitian Creole for “Give Them the Banana” — featured Martelly and backing vocalists repeatedly singing suggestive lyrics while referring to bananas and Pierre-Paul.

Dimanche and Osias disagree about whether there are more Sweet Micky fans or critics in Montreal’s Haitian community of 132,000, including over 75,000 who were born in the Caribbean country. Osias believes the fans outweigh the critics; Dimanche hopes the opposite is true.

“I think if people knew who he was, we would be very numerous in having this opinion,” she said.

Quebec sociologist Frederic Boisrond wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several cabinet ministers in January, asking them to block the entry of the singer, whom he described as “misogynist, violent, and dangerous.” Martelly’s rhetoric “openly apologizes for rape, normalizes and glorifies violence against women,” he said in his letter.

Boisrond said representatives from Trudeau’s office, as well as those of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, wrote back to say they were studying the issue, but the final decision lies with Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Hussen’s office said it could not comment on specific cases without the consent of the individual.

With files from The Associated Press

Brampton family unable to identify family member during trip to Ethiopia

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 18th, 2019

The Brampton family that lost six members in the Ethiopia Airlines crash says authorities in that country have told them it could take up to six months to identify their relatives’ remains.

The family said Sunday that during their trip to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, they were unable to identify their family members as they’d hoped.

Manant Vaidya lost his parents Pannagesh Vaidya and Hansini Vaidya, his sister Kosha Vaidya, his brother-in-law Prerit Dixit, and nieces Ashka and Anushka Dixit in the plane crash last week.

Officials say 157 people from 35 different countries were killed when the Nairobi-bound plane crashed shortly after takeoff.

Vaidya travelled with his wife and two daughters to Ethiopia and had hoped to transport his family members’ remains to India for a burial ritual before returning to Canada.

The family was on the flight as they travelled to Kenya on a vacation.

Facebook announces changes to political advertising to meet new federal rules

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Mar 18th, 2019

Facebook is launching a new advertisement library that will capture detailed information about political ads targeted at voters in Canada, including who pays for them and whom they target.

The move is part of the social-media giant’s response to changes the Trudeau government has made to Canada’s election laws aimed at stopping bad actors — foreign or domestic — from interfering with Canada’s upcoming federal election through advertising.

Bill C-76, which received royal assent in December, bans the use of money from foreign entities to conduct partisan campaigns.

It also requires online platforms, such as Facebook and Google, to create a registry of all digital advertisements placed by political parties or third parties during the pre-writ and writ periods and to ensure they remain visible to the public for two years.

Google recently said the demands of the new law are too onerous for its advertising system, which auctions ad space on the fly. It’s simply refusing to take political advertisements in Canada around the upcoming election.

Kevin Chan, head of public policy in Canada for Facebook, says the company is trying to exceed the standards the Canadian law sets.

“C-76 is, in fact, very important and consequential legislation. It actually regulates online platforms, including Facebook,” Chan said. “In order to comply we actually need to build new systems and new products to be able to do this, so right now we have our product-engineering teams working very, very hard between now and the end of June to ensure that we will be in compliance with what C-76 requires.”

Advertisements that refer to political figures, political parties, elections, legislation or issues of national importance will have to go through an authorization process. This will capture the information of the entity or group buying the ad and ensure the buyer is based in Canada.

Political ads that appear on Facebook during the pre-writ and writ periods will be labelled with a “paid for by” disclosure. People will be able to click the disclosure and see the ad library. This library will include information on the ad’s reach — who saw it, their gender and location, as well as a range of its impressions.

Information in the library will be viewable and searchable online for up to seven years, which exceeds the period required in the new election laws.

Another effort to exceed the legislative rules will see Facebook using its artificial-intelligence technologies and algorithms to detect ads or content that tries to circumvent the rules.

“We recognize that there’s going to probably be the potential for bad actors to try to work around the system — in other words, they may want to run a political ad and not seek to self-declare and not seek to be authorized,” Chan said. “That is obviously problematic for us because we recognize that the spirit of what Parliament intended and what we intend, in terms of what we’re trying to do, is provide the most transparency for political ads as possible.”

To help Facebook predict what issues might become key points of debate in the federal election, the company has amassed an group of policy advisers from a wide range of political backgrounds and expertise.

The group includes: former NDP MP Megan Leslie; former Stephen Harper aide Ray Novak, who is the managing director of Harper and Associates; Antonia Maioni, McGill University’s dean of arts; Ry Moran, executive director of the truth and reconciliation centre at the University of Manitoba; and David Zussman, a professor at the University of Victoria’s school of public administration.

Trudeau to shuffle cabinet for the 3rd time this year

The Canadian Press and News Staff | posted Monday, Mar 18th, 2019

A shake up is expected in Ottawa on Monday, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to shuffle his cabinet for the third time this year.

Trudeau has made multiple changes to his roster amid the fallout from the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

In January, Jody Wilson-Raybould was moved to veterans affairs and replaced by David Lametti in the justice portfolio.

The prime minister made a few more changes earlier this month to fill the void left by Wilson-Raybould after she resigned from cabinet amid the ongoing controversy.

A few days after the mini-shuffle, Treasury Board president Jane Philpott also resigned, saying she had lost confidence in the government over its handling of the SNC-Lavalin issue.

The series of shuffles have been unfolding with a fall election on the horizon.

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