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Elementary, high school teachers start work-to-rule campaigns

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Nov 26th, 2019

Teachers in Ontario’s public elementary and high schools won’t be performing some administrative work starting today as part of work-to-rule campaigns.

They say months of contract talks with the government have produced little progress.

The tasks the teachers will stop performing include putting comments on report cards, attending certain meetings and participating in standardized testing.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation president Harvey Bischof says nothing will affect the quality of the students’ learning environment.

The union has talks scheduled with the province on Wednesday and Thursday, and Bischof says escalating the strike after that point is possible.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has been reasonable in contract talks, scaling back increases to class sizes and mandatory e-learning requirements.

The government announced in the spring that they were increasing average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 over four years and requiring four online credits to graduate. In recent weeks, it has offered a class-size increase to 25 instead, and dropped the e-learning requirement to two courses.

3rd feces-throwing incident reported outside U of T

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Nov 26th, 2019

A third incident in which feces were dumped on a person has been reported outside University of Toronto.

Toronto police say they were called to a street near University Avenue and College Street just before midnight Monday.

A bucket of feces was reportedly dumped on a girl near a University building.

The suspect, described as a man in his 30s wearing a yellow construction hat, a blue shirt and gloves, fled eastbound on College Street.

This is the third incident in which feces have been dumped on someone in or near a Toronto university since late last week.

A student studying in York University’s Scott Library had a bucket of “liquified fecal matter” dumped on them on Sunday around 5 p.m.

The suspect has been described as a man in his 20s with a medium build. He was wearing a black hat, blue top, light-coloured pants and black gloves.

A similar incident happened at U of T’s Robarts Library and police are still working to determine if the two incidents are connected.

They have also yet to provide any details on whether this third incident is related.

Man injured in stabbing outside Brampton home

News Staff | posted Monday, Nov 25th, 2019

A 46-year-old man is in hospital after a stabbing outside a Brampton residence on Sunday evening.

Emergency crews responded to a call in the area of Bear Run Road and Elbern Markell Drive at around 7:20 p.m.

Peel police said the stabbing took place on the driveway of the victim’s home on Bear Run Road.

The victim was taken to a trauma centre in critical condition. His condition had improved to stable by Monday morning.

Police are searching for three suspects who ran from the scene.

“There were three individuals who were wearing masks at the time of this incident, who then fled once they’d stabbed the victim,” Const. Akhil Mooken said.

Investigators are asking anyone with information to contact them directly or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers.

Move-in date for Gosford residents displaced by fatal fire still unknown

News Staff | posted Monday, Nov 25th, 2019

Hundreds of residents displaced by a fatal fire in a North York highrise still don’t know when they may be able to return home.

An update published by the landlord of 235 Gosford Boulevard, Ronkay Management, said since the extent of structural damage and contamination is unknown, they cannot determine when residents can return.

Full or partial re-occupancy also has to be determined by Technical Standards and Safety Authority, fire and public health department approval.

The update also provides more details on the damage caused by the five-alarm blaze. The first through sixth floors suffered significant water damage and there is extensive smoke damage throughout the building.

Cleanup and water removal is underway in the common areas and apartments. Temporary electrical power has been restored to the common areas as well.

Electricians are expected to be at the building on Monday to restore the fire system and test in-suite electrical panels and one elevator is expected to be in working order by Nov. 29.

Residents have also been told they are eligible for a refund of the portion of their rent between Nov. 15 and 30. Leaseholders will be able to voluntarily terminate their tenancy agreements early without penalty if they do so before the reopening of the building. For clients of 235 Gosford who want to end their tenancy, the landlord says they will accommodate them on a case-by-case basis.

One person was killed in the fire that is believed to have started in the bedroom of an eighth floor unit. Toronto Fire are still investigating what caused the blaze.


Massive turnout in Hong Kong vote seen as pro-democracy test

Ken Moritsugu and Eileen Ng, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Nov 25th, 2019

Vote counting was underway in Hong Kong early Monday after a massive turnout in district council elections seen as a barometer of public support for pro-democracy protests that have rocked the semi-autonomous Chinese territory for more than five months.

The Electoral Affairs Commission said 71% of the city’s 4.1 million registered voters had cast ballots when polls closed at 10:30 p.m. Sunday. That sharply exceeded the 47% turnout in the same election four years ago.

Early results showed at least a dozen pro-democracy candidates winning, including former student leaders. Among them was a candidate who replaced prominent activist Joshua Wong, the only person barred from running in the election.

Rally organizer Jimmy Sham, one of the public faces of the protest movement who was bloodied in an attack by assailants with hammers last month, also triumphed. Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho, who was stabbed by a knife-wielding man while campaigning this month, was among those who lost.

Voting was peaceful, with hardly anyone seen wearing protesters’ trademark black clothing or face masks as they went to the polls.

The normally low-key race for 452 seats in Hong Kong’s 18 district councils took on new importance in a city polarized by the protests. The councils are dominated by pro-establishment parties but a strong showing by the opposition would show that the public still supports the protesters, even as they resort to increasing violence.

“Symbolically, the message is clear. If the pan-democrats win, then it will be tantamount to a rejection of the hard-line policy of Beijing and the Hong Kong government,” said Dixon Sing, a political science lecturer with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The record turnout showed “a great groundswell in Hong Kong who believes in democracy,” said David Alton, a member of the British House of Lords who is among the international election observers invited by Hong Kong’s civil society groups.

During the months of demonstrations, protesters have smashed storefronts of businesses seen as sympathetic to China, torched toll booths, shut down a major tunnel and engaged in pitched battles with police, countering tear gas volleys and water cannons with torrents of gasoline bombs. More than 5,000 people have been arrested.

One voter, Christina Li, said it was important for older people like herself to support the youth who are at the forefront of the protests.

“Younger generations might not be able to enjoy the rights that we are enjoying now,” she said as she waited in line outside a polling station. “We cannot take it for granted.”

Many people in Hong Kong share the concern of protesters about growing Chinese influence over the former British colony, which was returned to China in 1997.

The protests started in June over a now-abandoned extradition bill that would send criminal suspects for trials in mainland China. But the movement has expanded to include demands for democratic elections for the city’s leader and legislature, and an independent probe into alleged police brutality in suppressing the protests.

Many voters turned up early to cast their ballots, leading to long lines that extended for blocks.

The vote is the only fully democratic one in Hong Kong. Members of the legislature are chosen partly by popular vote and partly by interest groups representing different sectors of society, and the city’s leader is picked by a 1,200-member body that is dominated by supporters of the central government in Beijing.

Both the ruling camp in Hong Kong and the Chinese central government were hoping that the unrest, which has disrupted daily life and contributed to the city’s first recession in a decade, would turn voters against the protesters.

Political analyst Sing said public opinion polls showed that many citizens blamed the violence on the government and police handling of the conflict.

A win would bolster the democrats’ influence and give them 117 seats in the panel that elects the city’s leader, but Beijing isn’t likely to soften its stance or make any concessions to the protesters, he said.

The district councils advocate for community interests and are given a small budget for local projects. Winning candidates will serve a four-year term beginning Jan. 1.

There has been a rare break in the violence in recent days as protesters, eager to validate their cause at the ballot box, hit the pause button to ensure the polls wouldn’t be postponed. Police were out in force near polling stations, but no major incidents were reported.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, who is reviled by the protesters, said after voting Sunday morning that the unrest made organizing the election extremely challenging.

“I hope that this stability and calm is not only for today’s election, and that the election will show that everyone doesn’t want Hong Kong to return to chaos again, that we want a way out of this crisis so that we can have a fresh start,” Lam said.


Is it time to overhaul the credit reporting system?

Faiza Amin | posted Monday, Nov 25th, 2019

Time and again, millions of Canadians’ personal information has been stolen or leaked in data breaches, and the credit reporting agencies that profit by amassing this sensitive data are no exception. With consumers wondering how much of their information is in the wrong hands — or is simply inaccurate — there are calls to review a system that some say is flawed.

One of the loudest is coming from south of the border, where Democratic leadership candidate Bernie Sanders is proposing an end to privately run credit bureaus, and the launch of a public agency that would prioritize the accuracy of individual consumers’ reports.

Saunders pointed to a report by progressive think-tank Demos, which advocates for an overhaul of the current system, saying the U.S. could build on a model already being used in some European countries.

“It would remake a sector of our economy and it would enhance opportunity, and economic stability for millions of people,” says Amy Traub, associate director of policy and research at Demos. “People are ready for a fairer system of credit reporting.”

 “It would be set up to serve consumers and also to be giving lenders accurate information,” she says. “The credit reports, the credit scores and the algorithms that are used to determine whether you would get a loan or not, would be free to all of us.”


Mistaken mortgage

In 2018, Kyley Aubin took up an offer from her bank to access her credit history for free, and what she found on her report was baffling.

The biggest surprise: a home mortgage linked to her account, though she’s a lifelong renter. After a closer inspection, she realized that the mortgage and other personal data belonged to another person — her twin sister. Somehow their credit histories had been mixed.

“I’ve been with this bank for my whole life,” Aubin says. “I was shocked that this kind of breach of confidentiality could happen with something so important as your credit score, and with your different credit history being combined with someone else’s.”

Aubin, who lives in Ottawa, is unsure how long her credit history had been compromised, but says it took a few months to resolve the issue with her home branch back in New Brunswick.

When she filed a complaint with the credit agency, she tells CityNews that the company told her they couldn’t provide her with any information and she was instead advised to write a letter asking for an inquiry into the incorrect credit report she received.

“I don’t think they had any idea of what was going on, it was extremely difficult to deal with,” she says. “Just the idea that there had been a breach of confidentiality, and no one wanted to take responsibility and no one wanted to help us.”

While Aubin was able to access her credit history during this time, her twin sister couldn’t, leaving them both concerned over the security of their personal information. It’s a concern that other experts have also expressed, and in this case, Aubin isn’t even sure how her data was mismanaged and what impact it will have in the future.

“It could have a lasting impact on my credit score, because it shows a lot of inquiries into my credit score which negatively impacts my credit score,” Aubin says.

Canada’s credit agencies

Millions of Canadians use Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada when getting mortgages, buying vehicles or applying for credit cards and loans.

On file is sensitive personal information, including social insurance numbers, details on loans, bills and repayments and a log of who has accessed your file.

Your credit report can be accessed by a wide variety of parties, including lenders, creditors, insurance companies, landlords and even employers.

In many cases, these parties don’t have to ask your permission to access your information. So when there are inaccuracies in someone’s credit history, lenders can get the wrong impression of a person’s creditworthiness, without the person being aware or having the opportunity to correct misconceptions.

Earlier this year, TransUnion said it launched an investigation after the personal data of 37,000 Canadians may have been compromised. A hack on Equifax back in 2017 left 147 million people exposed, including 19,000 Canadians.

CityNews reached out to both credit agencies last week to ask about concerns over data security and the credit reporting system, and neither provided a response.

There has been criticism that the current system not only leaves users vulnerable to hacks, but isn’t responsive to people who report errors, as Aubin did.

“It’s a big deal because the information that’s in a credit report is information that’s also used in credit scores,” says Josh Lauer, a professor at the University of New Hampshire. Lauer has written a book on the history of the credit system.

He cites a recent U.S. government study that found one in five credit reports had errors. The U.S. has three major private credit reporting companies, including Equifax and TransUnion.

Demos says its proposed public registry would prioritize security and accuracy by empowering consumers to dispute false information and introducing more stringent fines on credit reporting agencies. The consumer would also have the power to decide who gets to check their credit history.

Credit Counselling Canada, a not-for-profit organization that helps Canadians navigate their financial options, has had relationships with both Equifax and TransUnion. The company’s CEO, Scott Hannah says both companies have been responsive in resolving matters in a timely basis and have acted responsibly.

“They want to make sure they’re providing accurate information to their customers, who are creditors, banks and credit card companies,” he says.

“We just need to understand that data breaches are going to happen, it’s a matter of being on guard and taking steps to protect ourselves. We’ve got a personal responsibility, because it’s our credit and our name.”

Hannah believes Canadian rules are strong enough to protect consumers from the effects of breaches and hold credit reporting agencies accountable for the information they store. He says while his offices receive upwards of 100,000 complaints from Canadians annually, much of that would be resolved with consumer education.

“Where both of these credit agencies can do a better job, is through consumer education,” he says. “Get behind initiatives to really help Canadians improve their level of financial literacy, and having the confidence to make good decisions.”

Racial bias in credit scores

Demos’s report details how historical and structural racism contributes to higher interest rates and insurance costs for Black and Latinx people, compared to white Americans.

The higher cost of borrowing, in turn, results in higher rates of debt collections in these communities, the report finds.

“As a result of generations of discrimination, black households and other households of color have access to dramatically fewer resources than their white counterparts to fall back on in a time of need,” of the report reads. “As a result, black families are more likely to face financial stress, resorting to unsustainable levels of debt or leaving certain bills unpaid.”

A public registry, Traub argues, could reduce racial biases by changing the way credit scores are calculated. The model would detail what data is included in an individual’s reporting history and could exclude items that disproportionally effect communities of colour, such as predatory loans.

Find out more about how to check your credit information here.


Harris does heavy lifting to help Bombers end Grey Cup drought

Eric Francis, Sportsnet | posted Monday, Nov 25th, 2019

Having just unleashed his fury on the CFL’s regular season heavyweights, Andrew Harris still had a couple more swings to take Sunday night.

Shortly after friends and family members lifted him from the turf at McMahon Stadium to hoist him on their shoulders chanting “M-V-P,” Winnipeg’s star of the 107th Grey Cup addressed the topic that chased him all the way here.

“To everyone who kicked me while I was down, you know where to stick it,” said the 32-year-old Blue Bombers running back, whose two-game suspension for a positive drug test was one of this season’s biggest talking points.

“There’s been a lot of negative attention about what has gone on. And for me to accomplish that — that’s for everyone who wrote an article, said something on Twitter or said anything to anyone. I wanted to come out here and play my best game. I was able to do that today.”

His two touchdowns and almost 100 yards of offence in the first half was essentially all the Bombers would need to end a 29-year Grey Cup drought. By night’s end, the product of a troubled upbringing in Winnipeg was almost chiefly responsible for running out the clock against a 15-3 Hamilton Tiger-Cats club that was outclassed in every way.

Harris, the league’s top rusher, denied knowingly taking a performance-enhancing steroid in August called metandienone, but was subsequently snubbed by voters as CFL MOP and top Canadian.

On this day they couldn’t deny Harris again, as his 134 yards on the ground, 35 yards receiving and two majors made him the story of the night. As the first player ever to win the game’s top Canadian and most outstanding player awards, he felt a wave of redemption he wasn’t shy about addressing following the 33-12 win.

“It’s been the hardest thing I ever had to deal with in my life – to have your integrity questioned,” when asked about the chip on his shoulder he carried like a “giant boulder” into the game.

“Obviously I care a lot about being a professional athlete. I’ve been through a lot of adversity to get to where I’m at. It was a tough moment in my life. It showed me a lot about myself, my surroundings, who really cares and who is really there for you. As negative as it was — I’m not happy it happened — but I took a lot from it. I definitely want to drop it and get it behind me, but it’s never going to go away. It’s my reality. Everyone is going to take their shot when they want to take their shot. I’ve taken lots of shots.

“It’s like 50 Cent — shoot me nine times and I’m still going to get up.”

Harris and his 11-7 Bombers completed their improbable run as underdogs in all three post-season games, piecing together a game plan executed largely by late-season addition Zach Collaros.

Embodying the ferocity that marked the career of their coach, Mike O’Shea, the Bombers caused the Ticats to turn the ball over seven times, including an interception that set the tone three plays into the game.

Winnipeg’s offence kept the Ticats’ top-ranked defence off-balance in front of a pro-Bombers crowd of 35,439 with a playbook that included throws, runs and even a catch from co-quarterback Chris Streveler. It was Streveler who found Harris in the endzone with a 21-yard strike late in the first half to help put their club up 21-6 midway through.

Meanwhile, Collaros managed the game well, going 17-of-23 for 170 yards and no turnovers.

Harris did the heavy lifting.

“It’s crazy,” said Harris, who jumped from junior football to the CFL at age 20 as part of a career that saw him go from the B.C. Lions to his hometown to set his sights squarely on ending Winnipeg’s Cup drought.

“The city is very passionate about our team and they’ve been hungry and thirsty for this win and this trophy. I just did a radio interview and they said Portage and Main is shut down — I hope they can keep it closed until we get home.”

Played in temperatures hovering around zero degrees most of the night, the win allowed Chris Matthew to finally put his pants back on and share a moment with the coach.

Eighteen years after the recent media darling vowed he’d only wear shorts until the Bombers won a Grey Cup, the retired school teacher finally got to warm up.

“I got a picture with him wearing pants —  he put them on,” laughed O’Shea, before turning his attention to his MVP.

“It’s a really neat story isn’t it. I’m sure it’s going to be told over and over. I’m very proud of him. He faced his own personal adversity this year and he’s held it together extremely well. He’s done a fantastic job at staying focused and honouring his teammates with what’s important.”

When told the last Canadian to win the Grey Cup MVP was Hall of Fame quarterback Russ Jackson, O’Shea beamed.

“Russ was pretty good, wasn’t he?” he said.

“So is Andrew. He’s a stud. He’s the best for a reason.”

So are his Bombers.

Christmas time is here: Weekend fun in Toronto

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Nov 22nd, 2019

It is the most wonderful time of the year, and the holiday fun kicks into high gear this weekend. Below are some events taking place to get you into the Christmas spirit.


Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
The official start of winter is still around a month away and people are already hating it. But there are nice things to enjoy about winter; it is not all doom and gloom. The magic of the winter and holiday season will be celebrated starting this weekend at the Aurora Winter Festival, which is taking place at Ontario Place. The festival, which is presented by the CNE, includes holiday light displays, a Christmas market, live music and theatrical performances, a skating rink and a tube park, storytime with Santa at the North Pole, and other fun moments. The fun event runs until Jan. 5.

Walking in a winter wonderland
The holiday magic and merriment will also extend to Canada’s Wonderland this weekend for WinterFest. Starting Friday and until New Year’s Eve, the theme park will become a winter and festive wonderland with twinkly lights and decorations, and Christmas fun such as candy cane lane, a Christmas market, live holiday music, sweet and savour treats, a chance to meet Santa, and making cookies with Mrs. Claus.

O Christmas Tree
Christmas tree lighting ceremonies are being held across the city and one of them is taking place at Bloor-Yorkville on Saturday. The Holiday Magic festival starts at 5 p.m. at the Village of Yorkville Park. Listen to a live performance by Canadian pop-star Ruth B. and stick around for the tree lighting ceremony.

Me and my drum
Does your kid love to pretend play the drums or use your pots and pans to create a drum kit? If so, they can get drumming lessons at the Hudson’s Bay on Queen Street this Saturday, part of the FAO Schwarz Holiday Pop-Up. Kids and the kids at heart can marvel at the larger-than-life toys and other treasures. Maybe you will also get the chance to play a tune on the dance-on piano mat. The pop-up starts at 9:30 a.m.

Bring us some ‘vegan’ figgy pudding
The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without yummy food and delicious drinks, and you can vegan them up at the Veg Holiday Market on Sunday. The market at the Artscape Wychwood Barns will showcase the best in vegan treats and recipe books, as well as cruelty-free products and handmade gifts. If this is your first Christmas as a vegan, of if you are the only vegan at your family holiday gathering, check out some of the workshops and presentations that will offer tips on plant-based living.


Partial Line 1 closure
Subways won’t be running on Line 1 between York Mills and St. Clair stations due to track work. Shuttle buses and Wheel-Trans service will be running.

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