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Defence to call new witness in Toronto van attack trial

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Nov 18th, 2020

Warning: Details of the trial are graphic in nature, discretion is advised


The defence of the man who killed 10 people in Toronto’s van attack continues Wednesday.

Alek Minassian has pleaded not criminally responsible to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder, with his defence team arguing that he lacked the capacity to rationally decide whether the act was right or wrong.

The defence said he should be found not criminally responsible for his actions that day due to autism.

He has admitted in court to planning and carrying out the attack.

On Tuesday, the cross-examination of Alek Minassian’s father, Vahe or “Vic” as he’s known, centered around whether or not he actually witnessed his son display that emotion following the attack.

The defense’s ‘not criminally responsible’ case rests on its claim that the accused lacks the ability to empathize and to understand the impact his actions have on the world.

The Crown pressed Vahe on Tuesday, alleging that he changed his opinion on whether Alek cried to help his son evade responsibility for his actions.

Vahe earlier admitted that at his initial meeting with forensic psychiatrist, Dr. John Bradford, he told the doctor it looked like Alek was crying in the interrogation video.

During Monday’s testimony, however, Vahe told the court after watching the video again, he realized his son wasn’t actually crying, but was merely talking to himself.

Vahe also testified earlier that his son claimed he didn’t do anything wrong, showed no remorse and offered no apology for the attack.

Alek’s state of mind at the time of the attack is the only issue at play in trial.

Woman who killed stepson Randal Dooley to appear before parole board

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Nov 18th, 2020

A Toronto woman convicted of killing her seven-year-old stepson is expected to present her case to the Parole Board of Canada today.

Marcia Dooley is to address the board roughly 10 months after she was granted four unescorted, five-day absences from prison to help prepare her for life in a halfway house.

At the time, the board said Dooley had followed the rules while out on escorted absences from the minimum-security facility, and should be given a chance to become familiar with the routine and community at the halfway house.

The panel nonetheless imposed several conditions, including that she not take a position of trust over minors and that she refrain from contacting any of her stepson’s relatives or her accomplice, her husband Edward (Tony) Dooley.

Dooley and her husband were convicted in 2002 of second-degree murder for the death of Tony’s son, Randal.

They were both sentenced to life in prison, with Marcia Dooley able to apply for parole after 18 years and her husband after 13.

Alleged getaway driver charged with murder in homicides of 12-year-old boy, 2 others

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Nov 18th, 2020

Toronto police have charged a 27-year-old man in connection with three separate homicides in 2020, including the recent shooting death of a 12-year-old boy who was struck by a bullet in the neck while shopping with his mother in North York.

CJay Hobbs, of Toronto, was arrested earlier this week in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He is alleged to be the getaway driver in the deaths of 12-year-old Dante Andreatta, 21-year-old Dimarjio Jenkins and 27-year-old Hamdi Zakarie.

Insp. Hank Idsinga says Hobbs has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Just before 2:30 p.m. on November 7, 2020, police said more than 30 rounds were fired at a moving vehicle in the area of Jane Street and Stong Court near Finch Avenue West.

Two men and a 17-year-old male from the targeted vehicle were injured. They have since been released from hospital.

The 12-year-old boy, Andreatta, who was walking in the area with his mother at the time when he was shot, died less than a week later in hospital.

Two suspects, 24-year-old Rashawn Chambers and 25-year-old Jahwayne Smart, were arrested and are facing 30 charges, including one count of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.

Jenkins, a popular Toronto rapper known as “Houdini” was shot to death on May 26, 2020 at 375 King Street West. Two other people were also shot in the same incident, but survived.

Zakarie was shot and killed on October 1, 2020 on Patika Avenue. Police say he was standing outside of his vehicle putting his baby in a rear seat when suspects opened fire from a vehicle. He died at the scene.

“This arrest would not be possible without the diligent and dedicated work of Homicide investigators, as well as support from the Centralized Shooting Response Team,” Idsinga said.

“Our work does not stop here and we will continue to find those responsible and provide the families with the answers they deserve.”

Hobbs is expected to appear in court on Wednesday.

Exams cancelled for secondary students in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Nov 18th, 2020

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) has cancelled exams for all secondary students for both semesters of the 2020-2021 school year.

In a letter to parents posted on their website, HWDSB Director of EducationManny Figueiredo says students from grade nine to 12 will instead be graded on assignments and learning activities throughout the semester and “any final activities that demonstrate overall learning.”

Teachers will use their professional judgment to decide on the appropriate activities that best allow students to demonstrate their learning, and scheduled exam days will be used to provide additional opportunities for students to complete assignments,” he said.

The board said the decision was made in accordance with The Ministry of Education’s guidelines allowing school boards to modify how students will be evaluated, taking into account attending school during the “uncertainties of a pandemic.” They added that the move was based on feedback from students, staff as well as parents.

Changes to graduation requirements

Graduation requirements have also been changed due to the challenges presented by the pandemic.

Instead of 40 hours of community involvement, student will have to complete just 20. In addition, students graduating in this school year will not be expected to complete the Ontario Secondary School Grade 10 Literacy Test (OSSLT). The test will be administered in the spring of 2021 for grade 10 students and those graduating in future years.

Grade 9 students will still have to take the EQAO math test because they are testing a new format this year. However the results of the test will not be part of a student’s final course mark “unless the student and teacher agree.”

Police arrest 3 teens in bakery shooting that injured 6

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Nov 17th, 2020

Two 16-year-old boys and an 18-year-old man are facing a slew of charges in connection to a brazen drive-by shooting at a Toronto bakery that injured six people last September.

Emergency crews were called to the scene at Eglinton and Oakwood avenues, west of Allen Road, around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, September 2, 2020.

According to police, a black vehicle drove past a 24-hour bakery and someone in the vehicle began firing numerous shots.

At the time, Toronto Police Superintendent Shaun Narine said the 24-hour bakery was open and filled with customers, adding that investigators were treating it as a “gang-related and targeted event.”

Narine said a group of people had gathered under the front alcove of the bakery to take shelter from heavy rain at the time of the shooting. He stressed that it is “not a gang-related location” and that some of the people gathered in the crowd were believed to be innocent bystanders.

The six victims ranged in age from 30 to 69 years old. Luckily, none of their injuries were life-threatening.

Illia Ayo, 18, of London, is facing numerous charges, including aggravated assault, discharge firearm recklessly and unauthorized possession of a firearm.

Two 16-year-old boys, who can’t be named, are facing similar charges.

Human remains found in Hamilton belong to man abducted in Toronto in 2018: police

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Nov 17th, 2020

Hamilton police say human remains found in a Hamilton park last month belong to a man who was abducted in Toronto in the spring of 2018.

Jammar Allison, 26, was last seen on June 1, 2018 at around 10 p.m. in the Rexdale Boulevard and Highway 427 area.

Following an investigation, police said Allison was forced into a dark Caravan with tinted windows by three unknown suspects at a parking lot at 680 Rexdale Blvd.

He had not been seen since.

In October 2019, a single bone was discovered by a citizen in Windemere Basin Park in Hamilton. The bone was sent for forensic testing, but investigators were not able to determine the identify of the deceased person at the time.

On October 6, 2020, more human remains were found in the same park.

This time, dental records were used to identify the deceased as Jammar Allison. Police say he was the victim of a homicide.

Toronto police had been investigating Allison’s disappearance as a kidnapping. The Hamilton police major crimes unit has now taken over the homicide investigation

Canada surpasses 300,000 COVID-19 cases, more than 100,000 in past month

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Nov 17th, 2020

Canada reached a troubling milestone on Monday, surpassing 300,000 total COVID cases since the pandemic began earlier this year, and health experts are alarmed — but not surprised — by the rapid growth we’ve seen over the last few weeks.

The marker comes less than a month after the country reached 200,000 overall cases on Oct. 19. It took about four months for Canada to leap from 100,000 to 200,000, suggesting that even as some cases are being resolved, the spread is quickening.

Total COVID-19 cases are different from confirmed active cases. Canada had roughly 50,000 active cases as of Monday afternoon, while nearly 240,000 had recovered and more than 11,000 have died.

Caroline Colijn, an infectious disease modeller and epidemiologist with Simon Fraser University, said the growth trajectory is worrying.

“We’ve seen this with Europe and the U.K. and U.S., and now across Canada — the pattern is very consistent,” she said.

“This is something that can overwhelm the health-care systems in western democracies. And it can do it very rapidly.”

Colijn projected Canada would reach the 400,000 total case milestone by early December, if the current trajectory holds up.

Canada was averaging about 4,500 new daily cases over the past week, and Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer, said Friday that daily case counts may climb to more than 10,000 by early December.

Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease expert with the University of Alberta, says “widespread restrictions” are needed in order to prevent the skyrocketing spike projected by Colijn and other COVID modellers.

He said government and public health policymakers need to put forward clear, concise and aggressive measures, and continue to “emphasize that people really need to change their plans and minimize their in-person interactions.”

“Because it’s really only a matter of time — and we’re talking weeks, not months — before ICU’s become totally overwhelmed and are unable to provide even the most basic care to people,” he added.

While the jump from 100,000 total cases to 200,000 took place from June to October, a period that coincided with the large-scale re-opening of businesses and schools nationwide, Colijn said the more recent accelerated spike may signify more.

She believes some people became complacent with pandemic restrictions in the final weeks of summer, and so they worried less when cases began rising in the fall among younger people who generally don’t get very sick.

The problem, however, is that COVID continued to spread, infecting more vulnerable people and putting hospitals in danger of reaching full capacities.

“People really relaxed, they went indoors and so that just accelerated the spread,” she said.

Some Canadians’ opinions on the dangers of COVID may be tainted by how relatively well the country handled the first wave, added Schwartz.

People were cautioned about overextending hospital resources back in March, and when the system wasn’t strained to the extent experts anticipated — largely because of early lockdown measures — some may have developed a false sense of security.

“It’s like Y2K, where we were told something big would happen and it didn’t,” Schwartz said.

“But seeing what’s going on now, with hospitals filling up across the country, ICU (admission) going up, and the rate of new infections continuing to accelerate, it’s extremely troublesome… And it is quite clear this (perspective) needs to change very rapidly.”

Dr. Andrew Boozary, the executive director of health and social policy at the University Health Network, says other factors contributing to community transmission need to be addressed.

It can be hard for someone to obey stay-at-home orders if they don’t have access to stable housing, he said. A low-income worker without paid sick leave, for example, may not be able to self-isolate with symptoms if it means missing out on a paycheck.

“We need to ensure that social policy protections can take place for prevention,” Boozary said.

“If we don’t do all these things, and do them in a way that’s coordinated, we’ll continue to keep lapsing.”

Canadians are entering what experts call a crucial period of the pandemic, with the Christmas holidays and winter season only six weeks away.

They say the escalating COVID-19 growth rate needs to be slowed in order to avoid reaching more grim milestones in the near future.

“Many of us have been worried about winter because of the inability of people to be outside and what that can mean,” Boozary said.

“This is not the place we want to be.”

Minassian’s father to continue testimony at Toronto van attack trial

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Nov 17th, 2020

Warning: Details of the trial are graphic in nature, discretion is advised

The father of the man who killed 10 people in Toronto’s van attack will continue his testimony on Tuesday.

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

The defence says he should be found not criminally responsible for his actions that day due to autism.

Vahe Minassian told the court on Monday his son has not shown remorse or apologized for his actions.

He says his son told him he hasn’t done anything wrong.

Alek Minassian’s state of mind at the time of the attack is the only issue at play in trial after he admitted to planning and carrying out the attack.

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