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4 missing persons cases from 1990s being investigated as homicides: OPP

News Staff | posted Friday, Jul 26th, 2019

Provincial police say they are now investigating the disappearance of four seniors in the 1990s as homicides.

The seniors went missing in the Muskoka area in the 1990s and foul play was suspected in each case. The only connection they all had was where they lived.

All four of them lived at properties advertised as “retirement properties” and were used mostly by elderly people who were estranged from their families or couldn’t take care of themselves.

They were called Fern Glen Manor and Cedar Pines Christian Retirement Home, along with a third property referred to as the “farm property.”

Joan Dorothy Lawrence, 77, disappeared in 1998 and police said at the time that they believe she was murdered.

She had rented an eight by 10 foot wooden shed on the “farm property” for $600 a month. Lawrence lived there for two years until she moved into a broken down van. Two months later she vanished and OPP believe she was killed near the van.

John Semple, 81, John Crofts, 72, and Ralph Grant, 73, all vanished from 1997 to 1999 and lived in the properties at the time of their disappearance. Their remains have never been found.

Police have never named suspects in the investigations. The three properties were fun by four siblings: Kathrine, David, Paul, and Walter Laan. The OPP said these individuals never cooperated with police and by the mid-2000s, the properties were sold.

Det. Insp. Rob Matthews was working for the OPP in the Muskoka region at the time of the disappearances when he began investigating a fraud case.

Matthews said he first came in contact with John Crofts in 1997 at one of the properties during a fraud investigation. He said he had significant concerns about the level of care the residents were receiving.

He had also spoken with previous residents of the retirement properties who said they only left by “escaping.”

The OPP has identified 46 past residents who lived in one or more of the properties.

During the operations of these homes, 16 people died with 12 being reported to the authorities, the four remaining deaths are the four missing individuals.

“We know the four missing people are not alive … Someone out there has information,” Matthews said.

He wouldn’t say that the Laan family are “persons of interest” in the investigation, but said they are “of interest” to the OPP.

Police are urging any former residents or employees who have not come forward to contact police and are hoping the new information about the properties will tap into additional sources of information they haven’t had access to before.

There is still a $50,000 reward for information about the disappearance and death of each of the victims.

Kawhi Gives Toronto a Long Awaited Goodbye

Riley Glenn | posted Thursday, Jul 25th, 2019

“Enjoy this moment, and have fun with it. A-HA. HA. HA. HA.

Those were seemingly the last words Kawhi Leonard had for the people of Toronto, delivered to the crowd of millions who gathered for Toronto’s first championship parade in 26 years. This was of course, a play on his now infamous laugh from his introduction press conference with the Toronto Raptors.

It’s been just over a month since the Raptors championship parade and already so much has changed. The most prominent of these changes being that Kawhi Leonard is no longer a member of the team, after signing a 3 year contract worth over $100 million dollars with the Los Angeles Clippers. Many fans didn’t hold this decision against Kawhi. From the moment he arrived in Toronto, Kawhi made it clear he wanted to play in Los Angeles to be close to his family in San Diego. He was considered by basketball fans and media members alike as a 1-year “rental”, with the sole purpose of bringing a championship to Toronto.

And that’s exactly what he did. And just like the media prophesied, he left after his lone season in the north. The final thing Toronto fans wanted from Kawhi was small in scale, especially when compared to winning an NBA championship: a thank you.

A thank you to the city, the country, the fans who lined up for 30 hours, just to stand outside the arena and watch his team play. The fans who embraced him, regardless of the fact that the cost of bringing Kawhi to Toronto was Demar Derozan, the man who was the face of the franchise for nearly a decade. The fans who offered free meals, condos, and even a Kawhactus to him, in the hope that he would learn to love Toronto like home.

After a month of silence, he finally gave his thank you.

During his introductory press conference with the Los Angeles Clippers, his new team, Kawhi took a moment to address the support he received in Toronto. He took a moment to thank the fans both in Toronto and across Canada, the Raptors organization, the doctors in Toronto who delivered his son (See you on Canada’s national team in 20 years Kawhi jr.), and finally, he thanked all the restaurants who offered him free food during the playoffs.

Now the Raptors turn a new page in their history, one without Kawhi Leonard. Luckily, we’ll always have the 2019 NBA Championship to remember him by.

So thank you, Kawhi.

And you’re welcome.

Emu has a field day running through sprinkler

Dalia Yegavian | posted Thursday, Jul 25th, 2019

An emu has gone viral on Twitter after running through a sprinkler.

Have you ever seen an animal have more fun?

…Well check these guys out!
We’ve compiled tweets of animals beating the summer heat with a cool spritz.


LCBO says distribution issues to be resolved by Civic Holiday weekend

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jul 25th, 2019

Ontario’s liquor control board says a distribution delay that has left some store shelves bare will be resolved by Civic Holiday weekend, an estimate the head of the union representing its workers calls unrealistic.

The LCBO is apologizing Wednesday to its customers for the lingering distribution problems that occurred after a technology update at the agency’s Durham Retail Service Centre in mid-June.

The government agency said at the height of the disruption, 240 stores were impacted by the delivery delays, but that has now been reduced to 15 outlets.

“It is our sincere hope that LCBO shoppers are experiencing expected levels of customer service as we continue to resume regular operations,” CEO George Soleas said in a statement Wednesday.

The agency said it has been in regular contact with suppliers and wholesalers as well as workers represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union about the ongoing issues.

The LCBO has stressed that there were no supply shortages but acknowledged that deliveries were moving at a slower pace than usual.

OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas said front-line workers have told him that the distribution delay isn’t likely to be solved until September.

The agency’s target date to resolve the problem is “very, very ambitious and probably not a realistic assessment,” he said.

Thomas slammed the agency for implementing the new warehouse technology during the busy summer season and said staff at the impacted stores have experienced customer blowback firsthand.

“Some people weren’t quite so understanding,” he said. “I talked to some folks who described some pretty nasty verbal abuse. … It’s something that didn’t need to happen.”

Thomas claims the agency was warned by workers about problems with new warehouse technology earlier this year when it was tested, but that advice was ignored.

“Somebody made a big mistake and ignored the advice of people who do the work on the front lines,” he said. “The workers tell you it won’t work and you go ahead and do it anyway.”

Soleas denies that the LCBO ignored worker warnings about the new technology.

“We would never knowingly make decisions that put the customer experience at risk,” he said. “Any comments that indicate other motivations, or look to politicize the situation, are irresponsible.”

Thomas also criticized the LCBO’s lack of communication with consumers regarding the delivery problems.

The Progressive Conservative government should insist that the agency give a full public accounting of the problem and how it will be solved, he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s still not fixed,” he said. “(Premier) Doug Ford keeps talking about convenience. I guess this will be the summer of inconvenience for customers.”

Feds criticize Ontario for eliminating out of country health insurance

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jul 25th, 2019

Eliminating out-of-country health insurance could jeopardize access to necessary medical care and become a hardship for some travellers, the federal health minister warned Wednesday in a letter to her Ontario counterpart.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the move announced by Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government will hurt people who travel regularly to the United States.

“If all publicly financed reimbursement of out-of-country physician and hospital services is eliminated, private health insurance premiums for travellers will inevitably rise for all Ontario residents,” Petitpas Taylor said in her letter to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott. “Even modest increases could pose a hardship for some individuals.”

The program currently covers out-of-country inpatient services up to $400 per day for a higher level of care, such as intensive care, as well up to $50 per day for emergency outpatient and doctor services.

In May, Elliott announced the decision to scrap the program following a six-day public consultation, saying it is very costly and does not provide value to taxpayers.

The change is expected to come into effect Oct. 1.

A spokesman for Elliott confirmed Wednesday that the government intends to wind down the program and strongly encourage people to purchase travel health insurance.

“The program’s coverage is very limited with only five cents of every dollar claimed,” Travis Kann said in a statement. “With this limited coverage and low reimbursement rate, OHIP-eligible Ontarians who do not purchase private travel health insurance can be left with catastrophically large bills to pay.”

Elliott has said the province spends $2.8 million to administer approximately $9 million in claim payments through the program every year.

On Wednesday, Petitpas Taylor stressed that if Ontario moves ahead with its plan it will be the first jurisdiction in the country to provide no coverage for emergency hospital and physician services received out of country.

The minister said this would be “inconsistent” with the Canada Health Act, which stipulates that all Canadians are entitled to continuing coverage of their provincial health plans when they are temporarily absent from home.

“Ontario’s approach will mean that Ontario residents will have to cover the costs of care out of pocket, should they require medical attention while travelling,” she said.

Opposition politicians have said ending the program will hurt frequent travellers. In April, NDP health critic France Gelinas wrote Petitpas Taylor and asked her to intervene and stop Ontario from eliminating the coverage.

“I am urging you to follow through on the prime minister’s commitment … where he affirmed the federal government’s responsibility to ensure provinces follow the requirements of the Canada Health Act,” she said.

The Canadian Snowbird Association has urged the government not to make the move and said it would not only impact seniors who travel south during the winter months, but also cross-border shoppers and anyone planning a family vacation.

In her 2018 report, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk said the Ministry of Health processed an average of 88,000 out-of-country claims per year over a five year period and paid an average of $127 per claim.

Lysyk also noted the high administrative costs of the program, but said they arise because staff must check varying physician services fee rates and process claims manually. She recommended that the government seek ways to reduce administrative costs by adopting a single reimbursement rate for all health services obtained out-of-country.

She also recommended the government bolster efforts to inform Ontarians of the limit on reimbursement rates under the program and on the need to purchase private health insurance before travelling.

Evicted tenant challenges ‘draconian’ pot law as unconstitutional

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jul 25th, 2019

A man evicted from his home and whose possessions were seized has launched a legal challenge to new Ontario legislation that aims to weed out illegal cannabis sales.

In an unproven application before Superior Court, Jeffrey Brodie argues the provisions enacted by the government of Premier Doug Ford this month are unconstitutional on several levels.

Key among the problems, Brodie argues, is that the law allows eviction of law-abiding tenants and the seizure of their belongings without due process. It also forces evicted tenants to prove their innocence.

“They came, they didn’t give me a chance to get my stuff, and they threw me out onto the streets,”

“Notwithstanding that (Brodie’s) indication to the officers that his residential unit is a separate and distinct part of the building, the officers refused to allow (him) to re-enter the building,” the application states. “The applicant has been left without the basic human necessities, including housing.”

Brodie, 42, had lived for more than a year in an upstairs rental unit in a building police said was being used as an illegal marijuana dispensary. On July 9, officers and city officials raided the building. They entered his apartment without warning and ordered him out. Officers seized most everything in the unit. He has just a duffel bag with some clothes.

“They came, they didn’t give me a chance to get my stuff, and they threw me out onto the streets,” Brodie said in an interview on Wednesday.

They charged the landlord for operating an illegal dispensary and barred re-entry to the building, with the law calling for a potential fine or jail time for trying to get back in. Brodie was not charged.

“The seizure of the applicant’s property is unreasonable given that the applicant is not involved in the operation of the cannabis store and is not named as a party to the information or search warrant,” asserts his application filed by lawyer Selwyn Pieters.

“I’m just lost … I don’t know what to do any more.”

The impugned legislation – part of the More Homes, More Choice Act – amended the Cannabis Control Act of 2017, which allows police to close a building used for illicit pot sales and remove the occupants. The amendment closed a loophole that barred officers from evicting residential tenants. It also precludes Superior Court judges from awarding costs to a person trying to get back their seized property.

“The amendment allows officers to remove tenants from a premises without any, or inadequate, legislatively mandated restraints, oversight, accountability and/or transparency,” the application states. “No consideration is given to the lawful nature of the tenant’s occupation of the premises.”

The “draconian” legislation is too sweeping and arbitrary, the notice asserts, and its application has caused Brodie serious physical, mental and emotional harm.

During legislative debate on the amendment, New Democrat Jeff Burch warned about the potential consequences of the law.

“Giving the ability for a family to be expelled from their home because a family member – or worse, a visitor – engages in an illegal activity is unthinkable,” Burch said in May.

Brodie, a painter, said he’s been sleeping on a park bench and has not been able to access his tools. The situation has left him in despair, he said.

“I’m just lost,” Brodie said. “I don’t know what to do any more.”

Neither Attorney General Doug Downey nor Solicitor General Sylvia Jones responded to a request to comment. A spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney General said it would be inappropriate to discuss the case given the litigation.

Amber Alert cancelled, 2-year-old girl found safe

News Staff | posted Thursday, Jul 25th, 2019

Ontario provincial police have cancelled an Amber Alert for a two-year-old girl, found safe after being allegedly abducted by her father in Brantford.

Before the girl was found safe, police said she and her 37-year-old father left Brantford in a station wagon with two females just after midnight.

The girl was found in Hamilton around 4 a.m. and the father is in custody.

There is no word on charges.

The most obscure Airbnbs you need to see to believe

Dalia Yegavian | posted Wednesday, Jul 24th, 2019

Summer is the time for traveling and experiencing some of the world’s most epic offers. If you’re looking for an odd stay, check out these crazy Airbnbs!

The World Famous ‘Seashell House’

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

This seaside home features 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a private pool, and ample parking for golf carts and scooters. From showerheads to sink spouts to mirror frames, everything in this house in shell-themed.

A Magically Secluded Treehouse

Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Live a pixie fairytale in this 1-bed 1-bath treehouse hideaway. This hidden gem features twinkly lights and a private bridge for extra seclusion. The “Secluded Intown Treehouse” has been named Airbnb’s #1 “most wished for” listing worldwide for 2016 and 2017. Perfect for an intimate, simple and restful retreat for 2!

The Hobbit Hole

Orondo, Washington, United States

Nestled right into the mountainside of the Columbia River Gorge, this humble abode resembles the home of Bilbo Baggins from Lord of the Rings. The “Underground Hygge” includes a circular wooden door, stone fireplace, and a breathtaking view.

The Mushroom House

Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

This unique Canadian cottage is hand sculpted of natural and local materials. Accessible by ferry, the “Unique Cob Cottage” is located on a beautiful property with gardens, orchards, and sheep.

The Igloo Apartment

Pelkosenniemi, Finland

For just $161CAD a night, you can stay in an igloo! Catch the northern lights and explore the winter wilderness in this frosty dwelling.


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