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Previously friendly Ford sinks teeth into Adamson BBQ: ‘You need to shut down’

MICHAEL TALBOT | posted Thursday, Nov 26th, 2020

Toronto police and bylaws officers were back at Adamson Barbecue Wednesday but it wasn’t for the ribs.

For the second straight day the Etobicoke restaurant drew the attention of the authorities — and a motley crew of supporters — for defying the province’s lockdown orders that forbid indoor dining.

Owner Adam Skelly is now facing a total of nine charges over the last two days.

Municipal Licencing and Standards and Toronto Public Health both laid new charges Wednesday, as did the province under the Reopening Ontario Act.

Skelly is scheduled to appear in court on March 19, 2021. Police say nobody in the large crowd that congregated at the restaurant was charged.

No more Mr. Nice Guy for Ford

Premier Doug Ford was criticized on Tuesday for what some considered a lenient stance on Skelly’s defiance.

“I can’t get angry at any businessperson, they’re hurting right now,” he said.

But a day later he changed his tone.

“People are dying because of COVID-19 and he just wants to say forget it and have everyone down there? It is absolutely irresponsible and ridiculous,” Ford fumed.

“I was nice to the guy yesterday,” he added. “But buddy, let me tell you something, you need to shut down. You’re putting people’s lives in jeopardy.”

Police vow action

Skelly’s Etobicoke BBQ joint did close later Wednesday afternoon, but it’s not yet clear if it did so out of compliance with orders, or simply because for the second straight day it ran out of food. Either way, Toronto police Supt. Domenic Sinopoli said the closure made their jobs easier.

“Police did contemplate dispersing the large crowd but they came to an understanding with the owner that he would close down the business.”

“At the end of the day this a public health crisis,” he added. “The fact that there were so many people congregated in one location, particularly without any facial coverings, is of concern to us.”

Skelly hasn’t confirmed reports that he plans to open again on Thursday, but Sinopoli said if he did, action would be taken.

“We are in a position to stop him if he opens tomorrow, the next day and so forth. The strategy will change from day-to-day depending on what we’re faced with.”

When earlier asked who would have the authority to shutter the restaurant for its flagrant flouting of lockdown rules, Toronto councillor Mark Grimes, who represents Etobicoke-Lakeshore, seemed unsure.

“Probably the Toronto police I would say, but again, that’s a legal issue we are looking at now … this may go to the Supreme Court,” he said.

The slow-cooked drama began on Monday night when Skelly posted a message on his business’ Instagram page saying he would open for full-service Tuesday.

He followed through on that vow, drawing dozens of maskless patrons who dined on his fare inside the restaurant at 7 Queen Elizabeth Blvd.

Adrian Ghobrial reported live from the chaotic scene on Wednesday afternoon. Watch as he’s confronted by store owner Adam Skelly below:

Police and city bylaw officers attended the scene Tuesday, but allowed the restaurant to remain open, with police saying dispersing the large crowds would have posed a public safety risk.

Later Tuesday, the restaurant was ordered to close by Toronto’s medical officer of health. “Investigations require the gathering of all the facts before enforcement action can be taken,” the City said in a release. “The City has now taken enforcement action, and the restaurant is closed.”

But Skelly took to Instagram again on Tuesday night, saying he would open on Wednesday from 11 a.m. until his food sells out.

About half a dozen officers headed back at the location Wednesday morning. Upon entering the premises, a flood of Skelly’s supporters began chanting “Freedom! Freedom!”

A few hours later, several city bylaw officers arrived.

The restaurant has become somewhat of a mecca for anti-maskers, conspiracy theorists and COVID-19 deniers.

Indoor dining was banned in Toronto and Peel on Monday as part of provincial lockdown orders for the two COVID-19 hotspots.

Restaurants are still allowed to offer take-out and delivery

Psychiatrist set to testify for defence as Toronto’s van attack trial resumes

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 26th, 2020

A psychiatrist is expected to testify for the defence Thursday in the murder trial for the man who drove a van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk killing 10 people.

CityNews reporter Adrian Ghobrial is covering the trial, follow his tweets below:

 

Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

The defence argues the 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., should be found not criminally responsible for his actions on April 23, 2018, due to autism spectrum disorder.

On Monday, the judge gave the Crown and its experts a few days to review a number of interviews a psychiatrist hired by the defence did with Minassian.

Another psychiatrist has testified that Minassian’s autism spectrum disorder left him fixated on mass killings and vulnerable to the ramblings of an American mass murderer.

Court has heard that Minassian told various doctors his motivation for the attacks ranged from notoriety to revenge against society for years of rejection by women to anxiety over starting a new job.

Toronto police confirm person of interest in deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman

ROB GILLIES, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 26th, 2020

Toronto police said Wednesday that they have identified a person of interest in the killing of Canadian drug company billionaire Barry Sherman and his wife nearly three years ago.

Police Constable Jenifferjit Sidhu confirmed a report by the Toronto Star that a person of interest had been identified but not arrested.

Sherman, who founded generic drugmaker Apotex Inc., and his wife, Honey, were found dead in their Toronto mansion on Dec. 15, 2017. The two were hanging by belts from a railing that surrounds their indoor pool and were in a semi-seated position on the pool deck.

Sherman, 75, was known for litigiousness and aggressive business practices as he developed Apotex, which had a global work force of about 11,000. In “Prescription Games,” a 2001 book about the industry, he mused that a rival might want to kill him.

The couple was among Canada’s most generous philanthropists, and their deaths shocked Canadian high society and the country’s Jewish community. They made numerous multimillion-dollar donations to hospitals, schools and charities and had buildings named in their honour. They hosted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a Liberal Party fundraiser in 2015.

The day after the bodies were found, some prominent news media outlets quoted unidentified police officials as saying the deaths appeared to be a murder-suicide. That upset the couple’s four adult children, who then hired their own team of investigators and a pathologist, who conducted second autopsies on the Shermans.

Police later said publicly they believed the Shermans were murdered.

Friends and family say the couple had been making plans for the future. They had recently listed their home in Toronto for 6.9 million Canadian dollars and they were building a new home in the city.

Sherman faced legal action from cousins who said they had been cut out of the company over the years. A judge dismissed the claim just months before the couple was found dead.

Ontario to release updated COVID-19 projections after locking down Toronto, Peel

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Nov 26th, 2020

Ontario health officials are expected to release new COVID-19 projections on Thursday.

It will be the first time they have released such data since sending the province’s two biggest virus hot spots — Toronto and Peel Region — into lockdown earlier this week.

Two weeks ago, the province unveiled modelling that showed Ontario could see as many as 6,500 new daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-December unless steps are taken to limit the spread of the virus.

It said the province would reach 2,500 new daily cases by that time if the growth rate was at three per cent, or 6,500 if the growth rate was at five per cent.

At the time, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, one of the experts behind the projections, said a five per cent growth rate was “slightly optimistic.”

Premier Doug Ford announced he would lower thresholds for imposing stricter COVID-19 measures under the province’s colour-coded restrictions system the following day.

Auditor general to release report on Ontario’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Nov 25th, 2020

Ontario’s auditor general is set to release a report today on how the province has handled the COVID-19 pandemic so far, including how it has made decisions during the global health crisis.

The special report issued by Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk will look at emergency management in the context of the pandemic, as well as outbreak planning and decision-making.

It will also include an audit of government processes related to COVID-19 testing, case management and contact tracing.

The report is set to be made public this morning.

The report comes a week after Lysyk released a series of environmental value-for-money audits.

In those documents, she found the province may not meet its greenhouse gas emission targets because reducing fossil fuel use has not been a “cross-government priority.”

1 in 3 Toronto schools, nearly half of Brampton schools, have active COVID-19 cases

CYNTHIA MULLIGAN AND JESSICA BRUNO | posted Wednesday, Nov 25th, 2020

One in three Toronto public schools have an active case of COVID-19 – more than double the provincial average being touted by Ontario’s education minister as he promotes the government’s school safety strategy and the picture worsens at other boards in pandemic hot spots.

In Toronto’s public board, 35 per cent of schools, some 206 facilities, have at least one student or staff member who are reported as actively sick with COVID-19. Of Toronto’s Catholic schools, 40 per cent – or 79 institutions — have active cases. In Brampton, 48 per cent of all schools, both public and Catholic, have active cases.

Toronto and Peel are in lockdown so it’s no surprise they have more cases than the provincial average, but the premier has acknowledged it’s concerning.

“It is definitely setting off alarm bells,” Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference Tuesday.

The government has consistently said it is safer for students to be in school, and that the priority is to keep them open. It has never mentioned that cases in locked-down regions are significantly higher than the provincial average, which is 14.6 percent. Four schools are currently closed due to outbreaks.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce stood in the legislature Monday and insisted schools were safe.

“Parents want the facts. Here’s a fact that I think would instill a level of confidence: if they knew that 99.95% of students are COVID-19-free, that 99.92% of staff are COVID-19-free, that 99.7% of staff have never had COVID-19,” said Lecce. “Our leadership in public health and our school boards are working together to flatten this curve, to reduce the risk and to keep our kids safe, and that is a good thing we should celebrate in this province”

In Brampton, 61 public schools and 28 Catholic schools are reporting 122 and 89 cases, respectively. In the public board, 51 schools beyond Brampton are reporting a further 78 cases. Of those, 46 schools are in Mississauga, four schools are in Caledon, and one is in Bolton.

In the Dufferin-Peel Catholic board, 37 schools outside of Brampton are reporting a total of 61 cases. All but one of those schools is in Mississauga, with the lone other location in Caledon.

Brampton’s percentage of schools with active COVID-19 cases exceeds the proportion in its school boards in large.

The rate across Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board, which includes Mississauga, Caledon, Bolton and Orangeville, is 43 per cent, with a total 65 of its 151 elementary and secondary schools reporting active cases. In Peel’s public board, which serves Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, the rate is 44 per cent, or 112 of the boards 257 schools.

CityNews has used the latest information posted on all the boards’ own websites to compile this data.

The premier said today that he was not downplaying cases at schools: “numbers don’t lie, they are out there.”

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has said several times it is important to keep schools open for children’s mental health, and while students and staff are bringing COVID-19 into schools, it’s not being spread inside them. Provincial Minister of Health Christine Elliott echoed that today, adding she would re-evaluate the situation if needed.

“If the circumstances change and there’s a huge increase in the number of cases in schools, we might have to take another look at it,” Elliott said.

Ontario has started deploying rapid testing in long-term care homes and rural communities. Ford called it a game-changer and suggested if schools needed testing, it could happen. University of Toronto epidemiologist Colin Furness says he doesn’t believe schools need to close, but he says those inside should be tested regularly.

“We should be doing surveillance testing broadly in the province, we should have been doing that since April. By surveillance testing, I mean you don’t test people who show up at hospital looking sick, that’s diagnostic testing. Surveillance testing means you go and test people at risk,” he explained.

“We should be testing teachers because they are also in high-risk positions, and if want to know what’s going on with COVID in schools, test teachers,” he added, “But Ontario has been very resolutely committed to not doing surveillance testing. We are not trying to control transmission with testing, we are controlling with lockdowns. I think that’s unfortunate.”

City shuts down Adamson BBQ in Etobicoke after it flouted lockdown rules

MICHAEL TALBOT AND MICHAEL RANGER | posted Wednesday, Nov 25th, 2020

After a full day of flouting COVID-19 lockdown rules by serving diners indoors, the City of Toronto says it has now closed Adamson Barbecue in Etobicoke.

In a release, the City said bylaw officers, public health inspectors and police attended the restaurant at 7 Queen Elizabeth Blvd., earlier Tuesday to conduct an investigation after learning it had advertised that it would open to diners.

“Investigations require the gathering of all the facts before enforcement action can be taken,” the City said in a release. “The City has now taken enforcement action, and the restaurant is closed.”

Police and city officials arrived at the restaurant on Tuesday morning after owner Adam Skelly posted a message to his business’ Instagram page on Monday night saying he would open the Etobicoke location at 11 a.m. on Tuesday for full dine-in services.

He followed through, opening the doors to dozens of customers, many without masks.

At the time, police said they couldn’t shut the restaurant down, fearing for public safety.

“By the sheer number of people that are here right now, we don’t have the ability to go and physically remove everyone at this point and it would be unsafe to do so,” Toronto police Insp. Tim Crone said.

“We understand the level of frustration (about another lockdown), however, the overriding consideration always has to be public safety.”

Toronto and Peel Region entered the lockdown stage of the province’s COVID-19 response framework on Monday.

The new restrictions mean all indoor and outdoor dine-in services at restaurants and bars are prohibited. Establishments can still offer take out or delivery services.

Premier Doug Ford was asked about the restaurant’s defiance on Tuesday.

“They have to follow the rules,” he said. “There can’t be rules for one group and not the other … If we let everyone open we’re going to be in worse shape.”

He then added: “I can’t get angry at any businessperson right now, they’re hurting.”

Meanwhile, tempers began to flare out front of the restaurant between people on seemingly opposite sides of the mask debate.

“Top to bottom this thing stinks, it reeks of corruption.”
– Adam Skelly, Adamson BBQ

Skelly feels that small businesses and restaurants are being unfairly targeted by the provincial government’s new lockdown restrictions.

Comments on Skelly’s anti-lockdown post were mixed, with some criticizing the move of going against restrictions while others voicing their support. In the video Skelly said messages from those who back his stance gave him motivation to go forward with the plan of opening.

“This is a risky move and you guys gave me the gas to do it.”
– Adam Skelly, Adamson BBQ

An increased number of officers have been deployed in recent weeks to crack down on businesses found not to be compliant with pandemic regulations.

If a person or business is not found compliant with orders under the Reopening Ontario Act, they could be ticketed with a fine of $750 under the act.

Where prosecuted without issuing a ticket and on conviction, individuals could be fined up to $100,000, and directors and officers of a corporation could be fined up to $500,000.

Any individual convicted of an offence under the Reopening Ontario Act could also receive a term of imprisonment of up to one year.

The maximum fine for a corporation convicted of an offence under the Reopening Ontario Act is $10,000,000.

RELATED: Hudson’s Bay will keep Queen Street location closed during lockdown

Adamson Barbecue operates three locations in the GTA, two in Toronto, though the Instagram post only mentioned the intention to open the Etobicoke location on Tuesday.

The Etobicoke location is located in the Gardiner and Royal York Road area and according to the Adamson Barbecue website is normally only open Thursday to Sunday during lunch hours.

Ontario expected to release guidelines for celebrating holidays amid COVID-19

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Nov 25th, 2020

The Ontario government is expected to spell out its guidelines Wednesday for celebrating the upcoming holidays as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Toronto and Peel Region are currently under the grey or lockdown level in the province’s tiered COVID-19 alert system, with those restrictions to stay in place at least until the week of Christmas.

Public health measures under the lockdown level include a ban on indoor gatherings except with those in the same household, as well as closing down restaurants for all but takeout and delivery.

The province’s top doctor said earlier this week it seemed unlikely the situation would improve in those regions enough over 28 days to warrant moving them to the red alert level, which is one level lower.

Five other regions — Hamilton, Durham, Halton, York and Waterloo — are currently classified as red zones, which caps social gatherings at five people indoors and 25 outdoors.

Ontario’s most recent modelling showed the province is on track to see up to 6,500 new daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-December, though those projections are expected to be updated Thursday.

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