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PM’s ethical conduct in spotlight as Commons sits but Trudeau won’t be there

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Aug 12th, 2020

Justin Trudeau’s ethical conduct will be put under an opposition microscope Wednesday during a rare summer sitting of the House of Commons — but the prime minister won’t be there.

Trudeau is on vacation with his family and his office says he won’t be cutting it short to attend the special parliamentary sitting.

It’s not clear that Finance Minister Bill Morneau will be there either.

Trudeau and Morneau are under investigation by the federal ethics watchdog for possible conflicts of interest arising from the government’s decision to hand the administration of a student grant program to WE Charity.

Both have close family connections to the charity and have apologized for not recusing themselves from the decision.

Trudeau’s office points out that the prime minister has already testified at length about the controversy before the Commons finance committee, as have Morneau, other ministers and senior bureaucrats.

But today’s sitting of the Commons offers a larger stage and more time for opposition parties to mount their attacks on the government’s alleged ethical lapses.

The chamber normally does not sit at all during the summer. Under special procedural rules adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government agreed to have the Commons sit twice in July and twice in August.

Today’s sitting is to last almost four hours, with most MPs participating virtually along with a handful physically present in the chamber. The session includes 95 minutes for opposition MPs to grill the government in a sort of extended question period, and more than two hours for a “take-note” debate on the government’s response to the pandemic.

There is no opportunity for opposition parties to try to defeat Trudeau’s minority government with a motion of non-confidence — which Conservative and Bloc Quebecois MPs have suggested they might otherwise be tempted to do given the ethical cloud hanging over the Liberals.

Opposition MPs may yet have another chance to grill Trudeau directly about the WE Charity affair. In two weeks, the Commons is to hold its second special sitting this month before resuming its normal schedule on Sept. 21.

They may try to call the prime minister as a witness before the multiple committees now probing the controversy.

The ethics committee has already invited Trudeau to appear; he has not yet responded.

The government operations committee is also to launch an inquiry into the affair once the finance committee wraps up its study. And the official languages committee is to meet today to consider a Conservative request that it too launch a study into why an anglophone charity was chosen to deliver the student grant program.

Many of the same witnesses have already appeared before multiple committees. Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough is to testify today at the finance committee, one day after testifying at the ethics committee.

On Tuesday, the ethics committee also heard from Youth Minister Bardish Chagger, the minister responsible for the grant program, and the top federal public servant, Ian Shugart — both of whom testified before the finance committee late last month.

Trudeau and his ministers, backed up by bureaucrats, have insisted that it was public servants who recommended WE Charity as the only organization capable of managing the student grant program, which has since been abandoned due to the controversy.

The government had budgeted $912 million for the program, which was supposed to encourage students to sign up for volunteer work related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the agreement to have WE Charity administer the program put the cost at $543 million.

WE Charity was to be paid up to $43.5 million under the agreement, which stipulated that the organization could not make money on the deal.

Trudeau has been a featured speaker at six WE Day events and his wife hosts a podcast for the group, for which they have not been paid. However, the charity has covered hundreds of thousands in expenses for Sophie Gregoire Trudeau as well as fees and expenses paid to Trudeau’s mother and brother for speaking at numerous WE events over the years.

One of Morneau’s daughters works for the organization, another has spoken at its events and his wife has donated $100,000. Morneau also revealed last month that he had repaid some $41,000 in expenses that WE had paid for him and his family in 2017 for trips to view two of its humanitarian projects in Ecuador and Kenya.

Opposition parties are also attempting to expand the ethical cloud to include the delivery of another emergency program — this one to provide rent relief for small businesses during the pandemic.

The government handed responsibility for the program to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. but the Crown corporation decided to contract it out to MCAP, a mortgage lender that employs the husband of Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford. The contract was initially worth $56 million when the rent-relief program was launched in May and later expanded to $84 million in July.

The Prime Minister’s Office says CMHC independently chose to outsource the program.

The PMO says Telford alerted the ethics commissioner in January, when her husband became a senior executive at MCAP, and was advised she didn’t need to set up an ethics screen. She nevertheless voluntarily set up a screen to ensure she would not be involved in anything that might benefit the company.

Windsor-Essex joins rest of Ontario in Stage 3 of reopening plan

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Aug 12th, 2020

The Windsor-Essex region will join the rest of Ontario in Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan on Wednesday.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Monday, saying COVID-19 case counts have dropped enough to warrant the move.

The decision means most businesses and public spaces to will be allowed to reopen, but public health guidance on physical distancing and social “bubbles” of 10 people remain in place.

Outbreaks among migrant workers on farms in the region had previously held Windsor-Essex back from Stage 3, which other parts of the province entered throughout last month.

Windsor’s mayor said Tuesday that the city will move forward “cautiously” and ask for additional resources if case counts spike.

Drew Dilkens praised the province for dispatching additional resources to the region to help co-ordinate the local response to the farm outbreaks.

Two fires break out at abandoned buildings near St. Clair and Bathurst

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Aug 12th, 2020

Fire crews have knocked down two separate fires reported in abandoned buildings near St. Clair Avenue and Bathurst Streets within moments of each other.

The first fire occurred at an abandoned church at Whychwood and St. Clair Avenues just after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Crews arrived to find smoke coming from multiple exits, but were able to extinguish the blaze.

The second happened nearby on Vaughan Road near St. Clair Avenue just before 7 p.m. The abandoned home was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived, but a large bulk of fire was knocked down quickly.

There have been no injuries reported.

There is no word yet whether the two fires are related or the cause of the blazes.

The Fire Marshall’s office is investigating.

Boy, 3, struck and killed by vehicle in Etobicoke, sister rushed to hospital

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Aug 12th, 2020

A three-year-old boy is dead after being struck by a vehicle at The East Mall and Burnhamthorpe Road in Etobicoke late Tuesday morning, police said.

The boy’s seven-year-old sister was also struck and was taken to hospital. She suffered relatively minor injuries in the collision, police said in a news release.

The two children were crossing the street with their 36-year-old father when they were struck. The father suffered minor injuries, police said.

The alleged driver of the vehicle, an 81-year-old woman, remained on scene and was also taken to hospital.

Sgt. Brett Moore says police are looking for help from anyone who saw what happened or has dashboard camera video of the incident.

“We do have accounts of folks that were here (and) even spoke to police in the initial minutes … and then left,” Moore said in a video posted to Twitter.

“We’re looking for those folks to come back and connect with us.”

Hockey makes progress in midst of awakening about racism

STEPHEN WHYNO THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Aug 11th, 2020

Anson Carter filled his time in pandemic isolation walking 11 miles a day, sometimes with his dogs, around his Atlanta neighbourhood.

When video surfaced of another Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, being shot and killed in nearby Glynn County, Georgia, Carter found himself looking over his shoulder. To use a hockey term from his playing days, he kept his head on a swivel.

“It crosses your mind,” Carter said. “I’m always aware of my surroundings at all times. I don’t take it for granted.”

It’s the sort of experience the 46-year-old TV analyst wants to explain to viewers. He’ll get that chance beginning Tuesday, when NBC Sports launches a new “Hockey Culture” show spearheaded by Carter — a 10-year NHL player — to “try to change the culture of hockey, one interview at a time.”

The initiative comes amid an awakening in hockey about systemic racism and its role in the majority white sport. Minnesota’s Matt Dumba recently became the first NHL player to kneel during the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Vegas teammates Ryan Reaves and Robin Lehner were joined by Dallas players Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson kneeling for the U.S. and Canadian anthems the next night, and teams are taking tangible steps to address the issue in their communities, led by the Washington Capitals.

“Hockey is a great game,” Dumba said in a powerful speech before one of the first games of the NHL restart, “but it could be a whole lot greater, and it starts with all of us.”

Each step has brought the question of what’s enough.

When Dumba took a knee, fellow Black players Darnell Nurse and Malcolm Subban each stood with a hand on his shoulders, and some questioned why they didn’t also kneel. When Dumba raised his fist during the anthems the next day, some questioned why he did it alone.

“It’s natural, it’s healthy to always want to do more,” Carter said. “You always question what more. I’ve been questioning that since I’ve been involved in the game. It’s never enough, as far as I’m concerned.”

Unprecedented efforts are underway. The NHL has formed player, executive, fan and youth inclusion committees and partnered with the Hockey Diversity Alliance formed this summer by several current and former Black players.

The Capitals are setting an example for the league’s other 30 _ soon to be 31 _ teams by establishing a fund to eliminate cost barriers for minority youth players, expanding their relationship with the oldest minority youth hockey program in North America and its home rink, and educating current players and staff on diversity and matters of race.

In all comes in the U.S. capital, which is the NHL market with the highest percentage of African-American residents. Capitals president Dick Patrick said the team consulted with players and alumnus Joel Ward and reached out to “Soul on Ice” filmmaker Kwame Damon Mason about what more could be done in the Washington area.

“He basically said: `It’s not up to you to solve the big issues. Work on things that you can impact right away and go from there,’ and I thought that was good advice,” Patrick said. “The players can make statements about more global issues, but as far as actually having an impact, we have to see what we can get done really on a local basis.”

Goaltender Braden Holtby, who backstopped the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup title two years ago and was at the forefront of speaking out as a white hockey player, said now is the time to affect real chance.

“The organization right from ownership down I think has the right mindset and the right beliefs behind it to really use our platform for positive change, not only in the D.C. area but everywhere,” Holtby said.

Carter, who had two brief stints in Washington, is on board because he believes other teams will follow the Capitals’ blueprint. The former right wing from Toronto considers his role an opportunity to put a voice to concerns about racism in hockey and the world.

In the first “Hockey Culture” episode that was filmed before the playoffs began, he and Reaves trade stories about being pulled over by police and the fear that accompanied them in those situations. Reaves spoke about being the son of a Manitoba Sheriff Service Sergeant and how he could still see problems within law enforcement while not believing all cops are bad.

Four years after NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt to protest police brutality against minorities, Reaves made a point of saying he wasn’t trying to disrespect the flag or those who have fought for freedom in the U.S. Seguin and Dickinson were even asked what cause they were supporting by kneeling _ the one Reaves explained clearly.

“Those people go across seas and they go to war and families are torn apart in these wars for the freedom of this country, only to come back and find out this country isn’t free for everybody,” he said. “I think that’s where I’m coming from. Not everybody is truly free in this country, and I think it’s starting to come to light a lot more right now.”

Frightening video shows 2 blood-splattered men revving chainsaws at Cherry Beach

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 11th, 2020

One of Toronto’s more idyllic locations looked more like the set of a slasher film on Sunday when two blood-splattered men wielding chainsaws appeared to threaten a group of people at Cherry Beach.

A brief video making the rounds on social media shows one of the men asking “Who hit me?” as the duo rev their chainsaws and walk towards a group of backpedalling beachgoers.

WARNING: The video below contains swearing and images that may be disturbing to some viewers

Police confirmed that they were called to Unwin Avenue and Cherry Beach Street area on Sunday morning just before 10 a.m. for reports of a large fight.

“It is alleged that two men involved in the original altercation suffered injuries. They then left and returned with weapons,” police told CityNews in a statement.

A second video shows the two being arrested by police and being told they will get medical attention. Both are facing charges.

Police only confirmed that “weapons” were seized but did not specify the kind of weapons.

Police also have not released their names or what charges may have been laid at this point, citing the need to protect the ongoing investigation

WARNING: The video below contains swearing and images that may be disturbing to some viewers

2 seriously injured in shooting near Mississauga highway

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 11th, 2020

Two men have been seriously injured after a car riddled with bullet holes was discovered just off a Mississauga highway Monday night.

Police say the incident took place on the QEW before the vehicle made its way onto Dixie Road near Sherway Drive around 7:40 p.m.

One person was sent to a local hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries while a second person suffered serious injuries.

Peel Regional Police would not release any further information about the incident, saying they are assisting the Ontario Provincial Police in the investigation.

OPP have not released any information regarding the incident or if any suspects are being sought at this time.

Suspect in custody after violent assault and abduction of woman in Malvern

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 11th, 2020

Police say a suspect is in custody after a violent assault and abduction in Malvern Monday afternoon.

Investigators said a woman was forced into a car in the area of Empringham Drive and Sewells Road, west of Morningside Avenue just after 5:30 p.m.

She was located just before 10 p.m. and was treated for unspecified injuries.

Police tell 680 NEWS that the suspect, 34-year-old Santhoskumar Selvarajah, was apprehended and is now in custody.

There’s no word yet on charges.

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