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Schools deemed safe, investigation continues following bomb threats

News Staff | posted Wednesday, Jun 19th, 2019

Toronto police responded to several bomb threats to post-secondary institutions around the city on Tuesday.

Police said they were first alerted to the situation at around 8:54 a.m.

“We’re investigating and working with schools to evacuate where necessary,” police said in a tweet.

Ryerson University said the Chang School was closed for a police investigation but has since reopened.

OCAD University evacuated all of its buildings but has been given the all-clear by police. The buildings will reopen on Wednesday morning for the regular summer schedule.

George Brown and Humber College also received threats, police said. They have since deemed both schools safe.

Humber college tweeted that “classes, services & operations are continuing as scheduled.”

Police say individual probes of each school have been completed but the investigation into the matter continues.

Autism treatment centre says over 100 people losing their jobs due to funding

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jun 19th, 2019

More than 100 people are being laid off at a treatment centre for children with disabilities — a move the centre says is a direct result of Ontario’s changes to autism funding.

The minister responsible said more “staffing changes” across the sector are likely.

ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment says in order to continue providing services to children with autism it is eliminating 291 full-time positions, which include front-line staff and management, and is bringing 178 people back on nine-month contracts, timed to when the centre’s funding will cease.

“In order for our organization to be able to continue to provide much needed services to children with autism and their families in this new environment, we have had to make some significant staffing reductions,” Erinoak said in a statement.

“These were very difficult decisions and we would like to thank all of our dedicated staff for the excellent care that they have provided to children during our time as a transfer payment agency for the delivery of autism services.”

Premier Doug Ford repeatedly promised during the election last year that not a single person would lose their job under his government.

The Progressive Conservative government is moving to give money directly to families to pay for autism therapy, instead of funding the service providers. Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said in a statement Tuesday that will give families more options in accessing services.

“We understand the challenges that occur during a transition period can be unsettling, but our intended result is a system that provides more choice to families and parents,” she wrote.

“As these changes are implemented we anticipate further staffing changes. However, we know these changes will also mean an increased demand for autism-related services as funding is increased and more children come off the waitlist. As a result, we expect service providers to become re-employed across the sector as a result of demand from these families in the immediate future.”

The program as originally announced in February would have given each family on the wait list up to $20,000 a year until their child turns six, and $5,000 a year until age 18, but families protested, saying those amounts weren’t nearly enough, particularly for kids with severe needs, whose therapy can cost up to $80,000 a year.

MacLeod eventually backtracked, promising to double the program’s budget to roughly $600 million and look at how to add needs-based supports.

NDP critic Monique Taylor slammed the reduction in front-line staff who help kids with autism.

“We support an Ontario Autism Program that’s fully-funded, needs-based and evidence-based, and we believe that taking help away from children with autism is callous, and can have devastating long-term impacts,” she said in a statement.

Deadline day for cabinet to decide future of Trans Mountain expansion

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jun 18th, 2019

The federal government is widely expected to green light the Trans Mountain expansion project a second time Tuesday but, even with a “yes” vote, construction is likely weeks, if not months away.

The federal cabinet will be reconsidering the project at its weekly meeting this morning, nine months after the Federal Court of Appeal shelved the original approval. Any decision isn’t likely to be announced until after the markets close for the day.

International Trade Minister Jim Carr said Monday, the pipeline decision is “very significant.”

“It’s all about moving our resources to export markets but doing it in a responsible and sustainable way in consultation with Indigenous communities and with an eye on environmental stewardship,” he said. “Those are the pillars we have been talking about and that we will honour and continue to honour.”

Construction halted after the court decision last summer.

Trans Mountain Canada, the federal Crown corporation now running the pipeline and which will oversee the expansion, said in a statement Monday that an updated construction schedule for the project won’t happen unless the government approves the project. Construction also won’t restart immediately.

“There are regulatory and commercial steps that need to be completed before we can get shovels in the ground, including re-mobilizing the contractors, distributing required notifications and ensuring we’ve met all our pre-construction conditions,” the statement said.

The government approved the expansion in 2016 but after the court decision last summer, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi ordered the National Energy Board to look at the impacts more oil tankers will have on marine life and hired former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci to oversee a new round of consultations with 117 affected Indigenous communities.

The court cited a failure on both those fronts as the reasons for overturning the original cabinet approval.

Sohi said Monday the government has been moving ever since the court decision last August, and blamed the former Conservative government for the delay.

“One of the reasons that project was stalled is that when the process of review was started in 2013 under Stephen Harper’s government, Conservatives failed to include the impact of marine shipping on the marine environment,” said Sohi.

“We are changing that. We are engaging with Indigenous communities in the right way to move forward on the project.”

The project was mostly reviewed during the tenure of the former government. After the Liberals came to power in 2016, they extended the review period for the pipeline to undertake additional Indigenous consultations and asked the NEB to also look at the impact the pipeline would have on greenhouse gas emissions. It was still not enough to satisfy the court.

If cabinet approves the expansion again, it may impose some additional conditions on the pipeline to address the concerns of Indigenous communities, including possibly changing the route in some places. The NEB added 16 more conditions in February when it recommended approval after considering the impacts of marine shipping.

Ottawa is under intense pressure from the energy sector and the Alberta government to approve the pipeline. They argue existing pipelines are at capacity and the oil sands need more ways to get product to market. There is also pressure on the government because Ottawa bought the existing pipeline almost a year ago for $4.5 billion, when Kinder Morgan Canada investors got cold feet.

The company didn’t want to proceed after multiple court challenges from environment groups, Indigenous communities and in 2018, the newly elected NDP government in British Columbia. So Ottawa stepped in to buy the pipeline and planned to expand it and then sell it back to the private sector.

The court decision upended that plan.

The existing pipeline was built more than 60 years ago and runs 1,150-km between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C. The expansion, first proposed seven years ago by Kinder Morgan Canada, seeks to build a second pipeline roughly parallel to the first. Eleven per cent of the route for the expansion requires new rights of way to be established.

Conservative House leader Candice Bergen is skeptical even with government approval that construction will get underway on the expansion.

“Over the last four years, though, the Prime Minister has done everything in his power to destroy jobs in Canada’s energy sectors,” Bergen said.

New Democrat MP Peter Julian said Monday he was expecting a “rubber stamp approval” of the project. The NDP, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and major Canadian environment lobby groups, argue that the Liberals can’t approve the project if they have any real intention of meeting Canada’s climate change commitments.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says the government not only intends to meet existing commitments on emissions but to exceed them in line with the requirements that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says are needed to keep the planet from getting too hot.

The National Energy Board in 2016 said the production of another 590,000 barrels of oil to hit the capacity of the twinned pipeline could generate 14-17 million more tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. However the board warned that production may happen with or without the pipeline.

Canada’s current commitment under the Paris climate change accord is to cut emissions to 513 million tonnes annually. In 2017, the most recent year the measurement is available, emissions were 716 million tonnes. The Alberta oil sands accounted for about 70 million tonnes of that.

To meet the United Nations’ suggested targets, Canada would have to get to closer to 385 million tonnes.

4 injured in 2 stabbings reported at Eaton Centre

News Staff | posted Tuesday, Jun 18th, 2019

Four people have been injured, including at least one seriously, after a pair of stabbings at the Eaton Centre.

Toronto police were called to the shopping centre just after 2 p.m. on Monday afternoon.

The first stabbing happened at the entrance to a store during a fight with a group of men. Three men were reportedly stabbed, but their injuries were considered non-life threatening.

The other incident occurred near Bay Street and one man was rushed to a trauma centre with life-threatening injuries.

It’s not clear yet whether the two stabbings were connected or whether they were connected to the Raptors celebrations.

There’s no word yet on whether any arrests have been made.

Hundreds of thousands of Raptors fans turn out for parade, fan rally in Nathan Phillips Square

News Staff | posted Tuesday, Jun 18th, 2019

Thousands of Raptors fans poured into Toronto Monday, overwhelming downtown streets and throwing off the planned victory parade’s schedule.

The Raptors have made their way along the Parade route, taking over four hours to arrive at Nathan Phillips Square. A fan rally took place in the square for the hundred thousand fans who have been camped out since sunrise.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mayor John Tory both spoke during the rally as Tory presented the key to the city to the Raptors and Kawhi Leonard and announced Bremner Boulevard from York Street to Lake Shore Boulevard would be renamed “Raptors Way.”

The festivities were interrupted when gunshots rang out near Nathan Phillips Square. Two people were seriously injured and another two were arrested on the scene. Several people were also treated after being caught in a stampede following the shots.

Raptors play-by-play announcer Matt Devlin spoke to the crowd, saying there had been an emergency and urged fans to remain calm.

As more and more people crowded into the city to see the parade, the TTC closed Queen, Osgoode, Dundas subway stations because of overcrowding, but they have all since reopened.

Nathan Phillips Square was at capacity long before the parade arrived so The City of Toronto opened Yonge-Dundas Square as an alternative viewing site.

MLSE had estimated that as many as two million people would be at the parade.

Raptors global ambassador Drake had his own float at the parade and Superfan Nav Bhatia served as the Honorary Parade Marshall.

City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross said the parade moved slower than anticipated because of the sheer volume of fans who came to celebrate with the Raptors.

“There are so many people that are so eager to celebrate with this team … Everything otherwise is going well,” said Ross. He urges people who are trying to take the TTC to walk north of the downtown.

Once players arrive, the rally lasted just under an hour.

“That’s what’s going to take some time, getting all of these people out of the downtown corridor where they need to go. So as I say, pack lots of patience. Once the team arrives in the square and things get going, we are about an hour from there.”

Mayor John Tory walked into the growing crowd outside city hall early in the morning and spoke with several fans and they were all in the mood to celebrate.

“I went down and talked to them, some of them, of course, were here all night, some have come first thing this morning, but they’re all in a great mood,” he said.

“They are happy, in some cases, that their employer actually said, as I hoped would be the case, that they could take some of the day off to go to the parade.”


Nearly 400 Ontarians died of opioid overdose last summer: province

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jun 18th, 2019

Nearly 400 Ontarians died from opioid overdoses last summer, according to new provincial data.

Public Health Ontario has released updated statistics that indicate 388 people died from opioid-related causes from July to September 2018, down from 414 deaths during the same period in 2017.

In all, the statistics show 1,022 people died in Ontario over the first nine months of 2018. In 2017, a total of 1,261 people died from an opioid overdose – an increase from 2016, when 867 people died.

Bhutila Karpoche, NDP critic for Mental Health and Addictions, said the new data backs up what front-line workers have been saying, that the overdose problem isn’t improving.

“Almost every day now we’re hearing new statistics about opioid overdose deaths and it’s really heartbreaking,” she said. “We know that the crisis is escalating.”

The latest figures are the most recent statistics available from Public Health Ontario.

They also show that there were 2,544 emergency department visits due to overdoses across the province last summer, down from 2,664 visits during that time frame a year before.

Karpoche said the statistics underscore the need for increased funding to the province’s overdose prevention sites and to lift a cap on the number of sites put in place by Premier Doug Ford’s government.

“We need to make sure that every community that is desperately in need of the sites gets one,” she said.

Travis Kann, a spokesman for Health Minister Christine Elliott, said the government’s new Consumption and Treatment Services model is saving lives by helping to prevent and reverse overdoses.

The government is providing funding for 15 sites and continues to accept and review additional applications for others, he said in a statement.

“Based on extensive consultation with experts, we are confident the model we have brought forward is the right approach to connect people struggling with addiction with the care they need and deserve,” Kann said.

Meanwhile, a new report from the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network looked at 1,337 opioid-related deaths in the province from July 2017 to June 2018.

The study found that fentanyl directly contributed to the just over 71 percent of the deaths and nearly three quarters of the people who overdosed were men.

Tara Gomes, a scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital and principal investigator for the research network, said the study provides more in-depth findings than other previous work done on overdose deaths in Ontario.

“I think that gives us a better picture of some of the circumstances around the deaths and why intervention might not happen,” she said.

The study found that nearly 60 percent of the incidents occurred at a deceased person’s home. The figures show the danger people face when using drugs alone without someone nearby with overdose reversing naloxone, she said.

“There is a big push right now, especially with the toxic drug supply that we have, people are being asked to not use drugs alone,” she said. “That way, if an overdose happens someone can intervene.”

Ontario’s chief coroner Dirk Huyer said the data continues to show the severity of the overdose problem.

“The majority are younger people, 50 per cent between 24 and 44 years old, so there are many life years lost and preventable deaths,” he said.

Huyer said the data also illustrates that this is not just a problem that affects the most marginalized in society.

“This is a widespread problem that occurs across many areas of the province and many different walks of life,” he said.

4 injured, 3 arrested in shooting at Nathan Phillips Square during Raptors fan rally

News Staff and The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Jun 18th, 2019

Police say four people have been injured and three others are in custody following a shooting in Nathan Phillips Square during the Raptors NBA Championship fan rally.

Shots were heard near Bay and Albert Streets at the south east corner of the square shortly before 4 p.m.

The injuries of all victims are serious, but non-life threatening.

Three suspects were arrested soon after the shooting.

One suspect was arrested on the south side of Queen Street by Albert Street. Several officers reportedly immobilized the suspect and seized a pistol.

Two other suspects were also arrested and a second firearm was recovered.

Police Chief Mark Saunders says the arrests were made moments after the shooting.

“With all the resources that were here, the apprehensions were done incredibly quickly after the incident itself,” he said, adding that the investigation is in very early stages. “It’s really early and we are trying to see what roles, if any, the people we apprehended have in this case. We do have people arrested with firearms and that’s the start of the investigation.”

Saunders added that the incident did not happen in a” vacuum” and appealed to witnesses to come forward, saying there were over a million people present.

Mayor John Tory released a statement thanking Toronto Police for their quick response to “today’s most unfortunate shooting after an otherwise spectacularly successful day.”

“It is disappointing and I’m sure a source of anger for more than just me that anyone would carry a gun and discharge at what was otherwise a joyous celebration,” said Tory.

As the incident unfolded, Raptors play-by-play announcer Matt Devlin, speaking from the stage, confirmed there was an emergency taking place and urged fans to stay calm as the festivities were briefly suspended.

The events quickly resumed even as dozens of fans ran in several directions at one end of the square

Eye witnesses said word of the shooting sent a section of the crowd into a stampede, with people screaming and hiding in nearby bushes. They say children in strollers were bowled over as frantic parents tried to shield them.

Some in the crowd said they hadn’t heard any shots but rushed from the area as others panicked.

Mike Mudidi, a fan attending the event, said he was enjoying the celebrations when he heard screams behind him that someone had pulled out a gun. He says he grabbed his buddies’ hands and ran.

Some who stayed behind huddled near pillars in Nathan Phillips Square even as the team and several dignitaries — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — remained on stage. The ceremony wrapped up a short time later.

Several people were reportedly transported to hospital including a police officer who was caught in the stampede.

Saunders said there was no word on how many suffered injuries in the aftermath of the shooting.

Panic spread to the Eaton Centre as the shots were heard through the Albert Street entrance and frightened people were seen running in the mall and outside, at Yonge-Dundas Square.


More Raptors return to Canada with Drake after days of celebrating NBA title

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jun 17th, 2019

More Toronto Raptors players returned to Canada today, along with rapper Drake, after days of celebrating the team’s historic NBA championship win south of the border.

The John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport tweeted Sunday afternoon that some players had touched down aboard Drake’s private Cargojet plane.

Most of the team arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport the previous night after Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns the franchise, said the players would be extending their stay in the U.S.

Players including Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam returned home, along with head coach Nick Nurse, who was greeted by dozens of fans at Pearson.

A Raptors spokeswoman could not confirm Sunday if the entire team is now back in Canada, but said all the players are expected to attend a victory parade and rally in Toronto on Monday.

The Raptors became the first franchise outside the U.S. to win the NBA title by beating the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday.

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