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Judge to decide sentencing for Toronto cop convicted in Dafonte Miller beating

NEWS STAFF, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 5th, 2020

A judge will be making a sentencing decision on Thursday in the case of an off-duty Toronto police officer convicted of assault in the beating of a young Black man.

Const. Michael Theriault and his brother Christian were charged with aggravated assault and obstruction of justice in connection with the December 2016 incident in Whitby.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the victim Dafonte Miller says he is “grateful that we are coming to the end of these proceedings.”

“Throughout this process, all I have ever wanted was for those responsible for causing me harm and altering my life be held accountable. The sentencing decision, whatever it may be, is an important step in the accountability process.”

Prosecutors alleged the Theriault brothers chased Miller, then 19, and beat him with a metal pipe, leaving him with a ruptured eye and several other injuries.

The defence argued the pair wanted to arrest Miller after catching him and his friends breaking into the Theriault family truck.

RELATED: Sentencing underway for off-duty cop who assaulted Dafonte Miller

They alleged Miller was the one armed with a pipe and the brothers were forced to defend themselves.

In a widely watched virtual hearing in June, Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca said he couldn’t rule out the possibility that self-defence played a role in the early portion of the encounter.

Michael Theriault was found guilty of assault while Christian was acquitted on all charges.

A sentencing hearing for Theriault began on Sept. 25.

Miller laid out a lingering impact of the encounter with Theriault.

In the statement, Miller said that as a Black man, he had long heard stories about police abusing their power, but had never experienced it like he did that night.

“To this day, I can’t believe that these would be the actions of a police officer. Someone that is sworn to serve and protect was viciously attacking me without any justification for doing so. No one questioned him. Only I was worthy of suspicion because of the colour of my skin, Michael Theriault could have got away with what he did to me.”

Miller described feeling isolated and on edge since the incident, grappling with headaches and failing to find meaningful employment or return to school. He said the incident will forever be a part of his story.

RELATED: Dafonte Miller says assault by off-duty cop changed his view of police

Theriault’s assault conviction was a first step in accountability, Miller said, adding he would like to see the constable serve jail time.

The Crown is seeking a jail sentence of 12 to 15 months and several other restrictions for Theriault.

Judge Di Luca is set to release his sentencing decision at 9:30 a.m. from an Oshawa courthouse.

Biden inches towards White House with crucial win in Michigan, Wisconsin


Joe Biden won the battleground prizes of Michigan and Wisconsin on Wednesday, reclaiming a key part of the “blue wall” that slipped away from Democrats four years ago and dramatically narrowing President Donald Trump’s pathway to reelection.

A full day after Election Day, neither candidate had cleared the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. But Biden’s victories in the Great Lakes states left him at 264, meaning he was one battleground state away from crossing the threshold and becoming president-elect.

Biden, who has received more than 71 million votes, the most in history, was joined by his running mate Kamala Harris at an afternoon news conference and said he now expected to win the presidency, though he stopped short of outright declaring victory.

“I will govern as an American president,” Biden said. ”There will be no red states and blue states when we win. Just the United States of America.“

It was a stark contrast to Trump, who on Wednesday falsely proclaimed that he had won the election, even though millions of votes remained uncounted and the race was far from over.

The Associated Press called Wisconsin for Biden after election officials in the state said all outstanding ballots had been counted, save for a few hundred in one township and an expected small number of provisional votes.

Trump’s campaign requested a recount, thought statewide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes. Biden led by 0.624 percentage point out of nearly 3.3 million ballots counted.

Since 2016, Democrats had been haunted by the crumbling of the blue wall, the trio of Great Lakes states _ Pennsylvania is the third _ that their candidates had been able to count on every four years. But Trump’s populist appeal struck a chord with white working-class voters and he captured all three in 2016 by a total margin of just 77,000 votes.

Both candidates this year fiercely fought for the states, with Biden’s everyman political persona resonating in blue-collar towns while his campaign also pushed to increase turnout among Black voters in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee.

Pennsylvania remained too early to call Wednesday night.

It was unclear when or how quickly a national winner could be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy. But Biden’s possible pathways to the White House were expanding rapidly.

After the victories in Wisconsin and Michigan, he was just six Electoral College votes away from the presidency. A win in any undecided state except for Alaska – but including Nevada, with its six votes – would be enough to end Trump’s tenure in the White House.

Trump spent much of Wednesday in the White House residence, huddling with advisers and fuming at media coverage showing his Democratic rival picking up key battlegrounds. Trump falsely claimed victory in several key states and amplified unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democratic gains as absentee and early votes were tabulated.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said the president would formally request a Wisconsin recount, citing “irregularities” in several counties. And the campaign said it was filing suit in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia to demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted, and to raise absentee ballot concerns.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands of votes were still to be counted in Pennsylvania, and Trump’s campaign said it was moving to intervene in the existing Supreme Court litigation over counting mail-in ballots there. Yet, the campaign also argued that it was the outstanding votes in Arizona that could reverse the outcome there, showcasing an inherent inconsistency with their arguments.

In other closely watched races, Trump picked up Florida, the largest of the swing states, and held onto Texas and Ohio while Biden kept New Hampshire and Minnesota and flipped Arizona, a state that had reliably voted Republican in recent elections.

The unsettled nature of the presidential race was reflective of a somewhat disappointing night for Democrats, who had hoped to deliver a thorough repudiation of Trump’s four years in office while also reclaiming the Senate to have a firm grasp on all of Washington. But the GOP held onto several Senate seats that had been considered vulnerable, including in Iowa, Texas, Maine and Kansas. Democrats lost House seats but were expected to retain control there.

The high-stakes election was held against the backdrop of a historic pandemic that has killed more than 232,000 Americans and wiped away millions of jobs. The U.S. on Wednesday set another record for daily confirmed coronavirus cases as several states posted all-time highs.

The candidates spent months pressing dramatically different visions for the nation’s future, including on racial justice, and voters responded in huge numbers, with more than 100 million people casting votes ahead of Election Day.

Trump, in an extraordinary move from the White House, issued premature claims of victory – which he continued on Twitter Wednesday – and said he would take the election to the Supreme Court to stop the counting. It was unclear exactly what legal action he could try to pursue.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discounted the president’s quick claim of victory, saying it would take a while for states to conduct their vote counts. The Kentucky Republican said Wednesday that “claiming you’ve won the election is different from finishing the counting.”

Vote tabulations routinely continue beyond Election Day, and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end. In presidential elections, a key point is the date in December when presidential electors met. That’s set by federal law.

Dozens of Trump supporters chanting “Stop the count!” descended on a ballot-tallying centre in Detroit, while thousands of anti-Trump protesters demanding a complete vote count took to the streets in cities across the U.S.

Protests – sometimes about the election, sometimes about racial inequality – took place Wednesday in at least a half-dozen cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and San Diego.

Several states allow mailed-in votes to be accepted as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. That includes Pennsylvania, where ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 can be accepted if they arrive up to three days later.

Trump appeared to suggest those ballots should not be counted, and that he would fight for that outcome at the high court. But legal experts were dubious of Trump’s declaration. Trump has appointed three of the high court’s nine justices – including, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett.

The Trump campaign on Wednesday pushed Republican donors to dig deeper into their pockets to help finance legal challenges. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, during a donor call, spoke plainly: “The fight’s not over. We’re in it.”

The momentum from early voting carried into Election Day, as an energized electorate produced long lines at polling sites throughout the country. Turnout was higher than in 2016 in numerous counties, including all of Florida, nearly every county in North Carolina and more than 100 counties in both Georgia and Texas. That tally seemed sure to increase as more counties reported their turnout figures.

Voters braved worries of the coronavirus, threats of polling place intimidation and expectations of long lines caused by changes to voting systems, but appeared undeterred as turnout appeared it would easily surpass the 139 million ballots cast four years ago.

Certain Miss Vickie’s potato chip brands recalled due to glass in bags

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Nov 4th, 2020

Miss Vickie’s Canada is voluntarily recalling a number of brands and bag sizes of its Kettle Cooked Potato Chips after pieces of glass were found in the bags.

The affected potato chips were sold in Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and internet sales.

The bags were sold through food vending machines and retail locations such as grocery stores and Costco. The package sizes range from multipacks of 24 grams all the way up to 500 grams

“A small number of consumer concerns related to this matter have been reported to date. One minor dental injury has been reported to-date,” Miss Vickie’s said in a statement. ” Our organization is working closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to coordinate the recall.

A complete list of the products, sizes and UPC codes can be found on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.

Consumers are urged to either dispose the affected product or return it to the point of purchase for a full refund.

Canada faces political, economic instability after uncertain U.S. election result

MIKE BLANCHFIELD, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Nov 4th, 2020

Canadian business leaders and political analysts say the morning after election day in the United States brings more political and economic uncertainty for Canada.

American voters — and their northern neighbours — must wait to learn whether they will be getting four more years of an inscrutable Donald Trump or beginning a new chapter with Joe Biden.

The U.S. presidential election remained unresolved Tuesday night, offering no certainty over who would occupy the foreign office most important to Canadian interests.

The cliffhanger had Canadian political observers saying it was too early to know what Canada would be facing for the next four years.

It also meant Trudeau government, as expected, withheld all comment because there was nothing definitive to comment on.

Bessma Momani, an international affairs specialist at the University of Waterloo, says Trump, who many feared would want to declare a premature victory, might expect Canada to say something.

“A big challenge for Canada now is that Trump may want to declare victory before all votes are counted and expect allies to send in their congratulations,” said Momani.

“For those who don’t, like Canada who will want to wait this out, Trump will take this very personally (and) be punitive on trade matters.”

In the wee hours of this morning, Biden preached patience and said everyone must wait for the ballots to be counted. Not long after that, Trump essentially declared himself the winner and said he would take his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Perrin Beatty, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said uncertainty is not good.

“From a business perspective, people want to know what to expect for the next four years,” he said.

“But we’re simply going to have to wait.”

Early Tuesday night, Biden made strong showings in Republican strongholds of Texas and Ohio. He also came out strong in Florida, a vote-rich state in the U.S. electoral college with 29 of the 270 votes needed for victory, but Trump caught up and The Associated Press declared him the winner in all three of those key states.

The neck-and-neck race intensified.

“It looks like we may be headed to the dreaded scenario: A close race that ends up in the courts, which gets to choose the winner,” said Fen Hampson, an international affairs expert at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.

“And it will breed political uncertainty, which isn’t good for Americans or Canadians at a time when our economies are reeling from COVID-19.”

For Americans voting in Canada, the delay was also frustrating.

Houston-born Jennifer Phillips, 30, voted by mail from Vancouver in her native Texas after moving to Canada last year.

“Americans know that issues like COVID, climate change, the global economy, require U.S. participation and leadership. So you know, what happens in America impacts the world,” said Phillips.

Living in Vancouver, she says she has breathed the smoke that has drifted northward from the California wildfires.

“We need a president in office that realizes that things need to change and accept science,” she said.

Democrats push to extend control of House for two more years


Democrats pushed Tuesday to cement control of the House for two more years with perhaps an even larger majority, banking on anxiety over the pandemic, suburban indignation with President Donald Trump and a fundraising advantage.

Early results weren’t conclusive in heatedly contested districts from New York and Virginia to Texas and Arizona. But in one noteworthy but unsurprising finish, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has espoused unfounded QAnon conspiracy theories, won a vacant seat from an overwhelmingly Republican district in northwest Georgia.

Greene, whom Trump has called a “future Republican star,” has alleged an “Islamic invasion” of government offices and expressed other racist views. QAnon asserts that Trump is quietly waging a battle against pedophiles in the federal bureaucracy and Democratic Party. Greene has since backtracked from her embrace of QAnon.

Scores of both parties’ incumbents from safe districts were easily reelected. Victors included the No. 3 House leaders of each party: Democrat James Clyburn of South Carolina and Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

Republicans were hoping to oust some of the 29 Democrats in districts Trump won in 2016, mostly freshmen, in districts ranging from upstate New York to rural New Mexico.

But nearly all Democratic incumbents in potentially vulnerable districts were outspending their GOP challengers, often by vast margins. Democrats were also aiming millions at Republican-held seats from areas around Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Indianapolis, and even GOP strongholds like Little Rock, Arkansas, western Colorado and Alaska.

Both parties’ operatives agreed that the GOP was mostly playing defence and would be fortunate to limit Democratic gains to a modest single digits. Democrats control the House 232-197, with five open seats and one independent. It takes 218 seats to control the chamber.

Hanging over the contests were the coronavirus pandemic and the wounded economy, which voters ranked as top concerns, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate. The virus has killed 232,000 people in the U.S. and cases are rising in nearly every state, while millions have lost jobs.

Should Democrat Joe Biden defeat Trump and Democrats win the Senate majority, the party would fully control the White House and Congress for only the second time since 1995. They last held the presidency, Senate and House in 2009 and 2010, the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

A larger Democratic majority would make it easier for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to pass party priorities that include expanding health care coverage and creating jobs with new infrastructure projects. After a two-year run as one of her party’s most effective counterpoints to Trump, the 80-year-old Pelosi is all but certain to serve two more years running the House.

On an Election Day conference call, Pelosi expressed certainty that Democrats will “solidly hold the House.”

A handful of outspoken progressives from safe Democratic districts in New York and elsewhere are assured of winning their elections, making intraparty showdowns likely about how aggressively to pursue a liberal agenda. Even so, moderates seem certain to outnumber the progressives.

For Republicans, a failure to move significantly toward retaking the House – let alone losing seats – would trigger a reckoning about why they remain trapped in the chamber’s minority. A major question would be how to regain suburban voters who have fled the GOP in droves, largely in reaction to Trump’s embrace of racially insensitive appeals, frequent reliance on falsehoods and policies on immigration and social justice that many moderates view as harsh.

As in 2018 when they grabbed House control, Democratic ads emphasized pledges to make health care more accessible, preserve coverage for pre-existing conditions and shield voters from Republicans out to terminate those requirements. Many Republicans say they want to dismantle Obama’s health care law while retaining its coverage for pre-existing conditions, but they’ve not presented a detailed proposal for doing that.

The pandemic has only amplified Democrats’ focus on health care. Trump’s repeated false statements downplaying the virus’ severity have also given Democrats political fodder.

Another GOP disadvantage was that they were defending 35 open seats of lawmakers who didn’t seek reelection, resigned or lost party primaries. There were just 13 Democratic-held vacant seats caused by departures, including one death _ Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights hero.

This year’s House elections were projected to cost a record $7.3 billion in spending by candidates’ campaigns and outside groups, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. By mid-October, candidates’ campaigns alone had reported raising $1.7 billion, another record.

Unfortunately for the GOP, the money wasn’t evenly distributed.

All 29 House Democrats in districts that Trump carried in 2016 outraised their GOP challengers, according to an Associated Press analysis of Federal Election Commission reports covering campaign finance through mid-October. In 19 of those races, the Democrats’ edge was 2-1 or more.

The imbalance was nearly as stark among the 42 Democrats who party leaders dubbed “Frontliners” because they seemed vulnerable, qualifying them for extra campaign help. Of that group, 40 amassed more money than their Republican opponent, including 26 who stockpiled at least double their amount.

In contrast, of the 53 Democratic seats that Republican leaders named as takeover targets, Democrats raised more money in 49 races.

Democrats even had an advantage, though less so, among the 37 GOP-held seats they picked as offensive targets. Though most of these seats are held by Republican incumbents, Democratic challengers outraised their GOP rivals in 21 races.

Looking to offset the imbalance, outside GOP groups like the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund poured millions into tight races in New York, Texas, Georgia, California, Florida and elsewhere.

But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the party’s House Majority PAC responded in kind, often leaving such spending closely matched.

Should Democrats retain the House majority, it would mark only the second time in a quarter century that they’ve controlled the chamber for two consecutive two-year Congresses. The first period ran from 2007 through 2010, Pelosi’s initial run as speaker.

FAQ: The 2020 U.S. election, explained

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Nov 4th, 2020

The senate, the house, the popular vote, the electoral college … you may not understand it all but there’s an explanation for everything.

Below you’ll find a list of “explainers,” pieces by the Associated Press that describe the answers to the questions you may have about the U.S. election.

Alleged racism highlights diversity divide in rural Ontario

TINA YAZDANI AND MICHELLE LEPAGE | posted Tuesday, Nov 3rd, 2020

Canadians are leaving large cities like Toronto for smaller towns during COVID-19, according to a study by Remax, but the cheaper housing comes with a heavy price for some racialized families.

People of colour (POC) say they’ve been the target of racism in their new communities and have been made to feel unwelcome and unwanted.

One man, who spoke to CityNews anonymously, moved to a new subdivision in Beaverton, Ont., where his family could afford to buy a house. Since moving to the community, he believes his family has been targeted because they are one of the only POC families in the neighbourhood.

He says it started with some typical neighbourhood disputes — one neighbour wasn’t picking up after his dog, leaving it on the family’s front lawn — but has since escalated significantly. The family claims they’ve been harassed and verbally abused with racial slurs.

“They say you are not a Canadian. He’s calling me a f****** Black Indian,” the man said. “They are telling us ‘get out from here. Don’t live here, get out’.”

Another South Asian family that moved to the community from Toronto this year has had a similar experience.

“[Neighbours are] calling us all types of racial slurs,” says one member of the family, who also preferred to remain anonymous. “We can’t even just come out and drink a little bit of coffee without them trying to instigate and start to bully.”

“In Toronto, we hear all about racism … but we fail to look at how it is up north, the real, actual racism. There are families here going through this and it’s very sad, heartbreaking,” he said.

The families called police but said they did not issue any tickets and only spoke with the neighbours. CityNews spoke briefly with neighbours who denied all claims and did not want to be interviewed.

The local councillor, Ted Smith, visited the neighbourhood to offer his support to the families, but said there isn’t much he can do beyond raising awareness.

“This is a community that we feel is welcoming and it’s very disappointing. No form of racism is tolerated,” said Smith.

Smith said the vast majority of Beaverton is friendly to newcomers but there is room to improve.

Tracking diversity outside Toronto

These alleged acts of racism are highlighting the rural-urban divide when it comes to diversity in rural communities. In an effort to help other families looking to move out of the city, two Toronto researchers have started a project called Ninety Minutes From Toronto.

Drawing from Census Canada data, news reports, municipal websites and by talking to locals, Audra Williams and Haritha Gnanaratna are collecting information about small towns and cities within 90 minutes of Toronto.

“I want people to be able to live somewhere they’re going to feel like they have a community,” said Williams.

The project started after Williams and Gnanaratna began asking themselves if it was worth working so hard to afford living in Toronto during the pandemic since the businesses they wanted to go to were closed and they couldn’t visit their friends either.

“There was no centralized information dump for this kind of stuff,” said Gnanaratna. “Well, there is now.”

The information includes the total BIPOC population in each town or city, and other factors like LGBTQ support, pride events and BLM support, to help people make an informed decision before they choose to move out of the city.

Town of Aylmer declares state of emergency ahead of ‘ anti-masking freedom march’

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Nov 3rd, 2020

The town of Aylmer, Ont., has declared a state of emergency ahead of a rally scheduled for this weekend.

The declaration, signed by mayor Mary French, says the emergency went into effect at 2 p.m. Monday “as a result of the potential for civil unrest and service disruptions relating to protests and demonstrations regarding COVID-19 directions, recommendations and orders set out by the Province of Ontario and Southwestern Public Health.”

Aylmer police said in a tweet that the move was in direct response to an “anti-masking freedom march” planned for Nov. 7.

The rally dubbed a “lawful public freedom march” was billed as a family-friendly event and was to take place at the East Elgin Community Centre parking lot.

The rally was to be the second of its kind — the first was held on Oct. 24 — with a focus on what organizers believe to be restrictive government policies and advocating for freedom.

Aylmer has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Oxford, Elgin and St. Thomas counties thus far, with 89 of the 337 cases reported by the Southwestern Public Health Unit on Monday coming from the town.

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